Having known only harmony and prosperity through their unforeseeable 9-0 start, the Chiefs finally seemed to absorb a disturbance in The Force this week when receiver Dwayne Bowe was arrested for allegedly speeding and possessing more than 10 grams of marijuana.
And, horrors, it was in the lead-up to the colossal showdown tonight at 8-1 Denver, the first NFL game in 44 years between two teams with records of 9-0 and 8-1 or better. How could the Chiefs possibly go on or cope?
The more you think about it, the more silly it is to think the flap over Bowe is anything more than a blip or a triviality in the big scheme of things, and not just because he’s still going to start.
This doesn’t mean they’ll beat Denver. Maybe they will; maybe they won’t.
But is an accusation of juvenile behavior against one of their own really going to disrupt a voraciously hungry core of players that less than a year ago suffered true tragedy off the field and has absorbed chaos seemingly all around it for the last few years?
Is this apparent lapse supposed to make them cower into some kind of “woe is us” mentality after all the true anguish?
Of course not. The Chiefs might be vulnerable, but they’re not fragile.
And that fortified mind-set is as worthy a point of contrast as any just after the midway mark of a season that already has exorcised the ghastly recent past and made the future seem shimmering.
Simply put, there is an unmistakable serenity around the franchise now, a spirit that has been cultivated on multiple fronts and one that ultimately matters.
“You’ve got to have players who can play, first and foremost,” said first-year general manager John Dorsey, who declined to speak directly about Bowe. “But this is a close-knit locker room. And when you have close locker rooms, you always find a way to win a game or two when adversity strikes. And this bunch can do that.”
Dorsey considers the 9-0 start “wonderful,” and he’s eager to see how his team matches up against the Broncos.
Yet as he spoke to the state of the team Thursday, he also remained conscious of all this being in the embryonic phase and invoked the concept of “learn from the past, live in the present and build for the future.”
“Nine and oh: Everybody keeps harping on that, but it’s a moment in time,” he said. “I think it’s our fiduciary responsibility to never be satisfied.
“The only way you’ll be satisfied is knowing down the road that you were able to help create a program, not a one-year fix, but a year-in, year-out, year-in, year-out type of program, OK? And knowing at the end of the day that you left it better than you got it, then that’s meaningful.
“It’s like a game: How you are at the start and how you are at the finish.”
These Chiefs, of course, are quite different at the start of this regime than they were at the finish of the last. And while that’s been evident on the field, levers had to be pulled behind the scenes to make it so.
In the wake of what might have been considered too much unchecked influence bestowed upon former GM Scott Pioli, the reclamation started with CEO and chairman Clark Hunt wisely rejiggering the organizational structure to have president Mark Donovan, first-year coach Andy Reid and Dorsey all on the same tier reporting directly to Hunt.
“It’s Mark’s job, my job and Andy’s job to take that vision and turn it into something and do it in a way that truly represents the values and the culture of the Kansas City Chiefs,” Dorsey said.
Part of that has meant demonstrating anew that everyone at One Arrowhead Drive has a stake in the Chiefs’ success, something that had eroded in the trap-door turnover under Pioli.
That helps explain why it matters so much that Dorsey engages in what he calls “walk-around management,” as he learned in “the school of Bob Harlan,” the former Green Bay Packers CEO and chair.
“Everybody in the organization understands that if everybody does their little part in this, we can make it better for those players because they’re going to represent us on Sundays,” Dorsey said. “That’s kind of neat to see.”
And see it he does.
There Dorsey might go, walking out to the practice field and chatting with its caretakers.
And here he might wander up, with a cup of tea, ready to plop down and hear you out, regardless of whether you have a direct or indirect hand in the product on the field.
“There’s no reason to sit behind a desk all day,” he said. “What it is is communication. It’s the ability to see how everybody’s doing, check up on them, just say, ‘Hey, how you doing?’ I think that’s important. I think all successful organizations have that line of communication.”
Nowhere is that more on display, of course, than on the field.
The team has been infused by the keen scouting eye of Dorsey, the credibility and steadiness of Reid and the chemistry between the two that started in their days together in Green Bay and was sustained long-distance over the last 14 years.
“Mine is the easy part, you know what?” said Dorsey, who remains a scout at heart and used much of the bye week to visit college campuses and games. “Let’s get the best possible players to allow this coaching staff to mold them into the Kansas City Chiefs. That’s how we go about this thing. You understand the strengths and weaknesses of your team, and you try to improve that roster day-in and day-out.”
That’s the jumping-off point for the nucleus of veterans that has meshed with a roster of about 30 newcomers to come alive in a new way under Reid, an absolute player’s coach, and his like-minded staff.
“He treats them like men, he tells them the truth (and) there’s not a pretentious bone in his body, as you well know,” Dorsey said.
Never mind that some have labeled the Chiefs as pretenders because they’ve flourished despite flaws, including an offense that often has been left groping for the end zone.
That criticism doesn’t bother Dorsey at all. Honest.
“You’re going to hate to hear this, but I just worry about the next week,” he said, smiling. “That’s just outside noise. They’re not in this building.”
And this season, those who are there are more than equipped to shrug off the Bowe-type follies and embrace this moment in time.