As reporters rummaged for perspective Sunday in the ashen Chiefs locker room following their troubling 26-10 loss to Tennessee, reserve offensive lineman Jeff Linkenbach submitted this trite-but-true tidbit.
“A lot of times, it’s never as bad as you think,” he said. “And it’s never as good as you think on the opposite end.”
Linkenbach joined the team only in March, so he couldn’t have known how apt his words were.
Never as bad as you think now is what passes for a rallying cry after the season opener devolved into a perception-altering reality check of the second-year regime’s progress.
It’s hard to think of a day’s work that could more radically have shifted a sense of where a team stands.
But much of the false feeling of stability simply was a lingering impression inherited from last season’s jump-start away from the appalling 2-14 2012 season to 11 wins and a playoff berth.
It’s plain now, less because the Chiefs lost than the way they did, that there was some fool’s gold sprinkled over that revival.
And maybe in a way the Chiefs are victims of the John Dorsey-Andy Reid brain trust’s own initial success.
For one thing, the euphoria of the turnaround accelerated expectations of fans.
Perhaps it even inflated the Chiefs’ own confidence in what they had.
Why else would they let so many free agents bolt, only to be left rejiggering an entire offensive line and vulnerable in the secondary. Why else would they not make drafting a receiver the top priority?
Economics and long-term development were part of those decisions, of course, as they evidently were in the decision to cut kicker Ryan Succop in favor of rookie Cairo Santos.
That move may or may not prove wise in the long run, but it played out to miserable symbolism on Sunday as Succop made four field goals for Tennessee while Santos was hitting uprights on both of his attempts and was fortunate to have one carom through.
Of course, economics and the long view are valid, even crucial, parts of what the Chiefs have to think through in all they do.
But suddenly the equally precious present seems to be in worse shape than expected, and it’s hard not to think that’s related to the unique events of last season.
The “Charmed Chiefs,” we took to calling them during the 9-0 start that since has faded to seven losses in the last nine games.
Nothing wrong with catching some breaks now and then. Especially here. Few teams and fans were due more good fortune.
It also would be wrong to say the Chiefs didn’t make plenty of their own, like by creating 36 turnovers and scoring 11 touchdowns with special teams and defense and by turning the ball over only 18 times.
Those are all earmarks of good football, but they also masked that the Chiefs just weren’t as good as you might have thought.
If you do the forensics now, you can see it more clearly.
It wasn’t just that a cushy early schedule was highly conducive to success. It also was such circumstances as the Chiefs going through a remarkable stretch of taking on backup quarterbacks because of injuries to opponents’ starters while suffering few injuries of their own … and literally getting a few bounces you could only shake your head over.
They took advantage of this, and they built on it.
Remember, they were good enough to dominate Indianapolis into the third quarter of their playoff game, and who knows what winning that might have led to?
As (Andrew) Luck had it, though, it wasn’t to be.
They earned everything they did. And it came at a vital time for the franchise and its fans.
Yet the warp-speed resurgence warped assumptions, mine included, about the rebuilding of the damaged infrastructure.
Had the Chiefs made fine incremental progress last season, winning, say, four more games than the year before, there probably wouldn’t be the same distress signals sounding now over one measly, crummy loss and a grim schedule ahead.
So it seems that everything is different now than a year ago.
If the opener is any indication, for instance, it sure doesn’t seem they can count on any breaks at all this time around:
Not after a game they started minus three starters (suspended Dwayne Bowe and Donald Stephenson and injured Marcus Cooper) and featured the deflating Achilles’ tendon injuries to Derrick Johnson and Mike DeVito.
But in other ways, this is just year two of a job that never was going to be simple or easy or fast if it was going to be built to last.
It’s just that Chiefs fans now have to hope and believe things aren’t as bad as they appear … instead of getting to shrug off the nagging idea from last year that maybe things aren’t as good as you think.
To reach Vahe Gregorian, call 816-234-4868 or send email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @vgregorian. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.