(Editor’s note: This story is part of The Star’s annual football preview, which will appear in three special sections in the Sunday, Aug. 28 print edition and also on KansasCity.com and The Star’s Red Zone Extra app.)
It’s been nearly 47 years since the Chiefs last won the Super Bowl, and to hammer home how long ago that was, let’s just consider the following facts:
In 1969, Gas cost 36 cents a gallon.
Jimi Hendrix was still alive.
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I’m only 32. But people often assume I’m older, because I look that way and I have an old soul. Hence my love for such 1970s films as “Superfly,” “Shaft” and “The Mack.”
To capture the spirit of how long it’s been since the Chiefs played in The Big Game, I’m going to preview the upcoming season with some sterilized quotes* from these films in a column format made famous by former ESPN writer Bill Simmons (thanks Bill!).
*If you don’t think I had to remove at least five different quotes from this piece during my self-edit, then you don’t know me, or these movies, very well.
Now, if you’ll allow my good friend Curtis Mayfield to set the mood for the “Superfly” section of the preview, let’s dive into this before The Man changes his mind about letting me pursue this column idea.
1. “You’re gonna give all this up? Eight-track stereo, color TV in every room ... that’s the American Dream.”
This iconic quote from Eddie to Youngblood Priest goes to Mike DeVito and Husain Abdullah, two productive Chiefs in their early 30s who retired earlier this year. DeVito even did so a month after stating his desire to keep playing.
Both had plenty left in the tank physically, but the concussion histories of each probably played a role. We’re in a new era for football.
2. “Look, I know it’s a rotten game, but it’s the only one The Man left us to play.”
Here’s another timeless quote from Eddie, and this one goes to Eric Berry, who has been one of the league’s best safeties for six years and doesn’t have a long-term deal to show for it.
Thus, he’s skipped training camp, the defense has gotten gashed on the run, and coaches and fans are hoping Berry returns before Game 1 (he should) and is as good as he would’ve been with camp-time under his belt (that’s debatable, at least early on).
It’s the Chiefs’ right to not pay Berry a long-term deal, but fans shouldn’t begrudge a player for doing all he can to protect himself/get his money in this dangerous sport.
3. “You better take real good care of me. Nothing, nothing, better happen to one hair on my gorgeous head. Can you dig it?”
This timeless walkoff quote from Youngblood at the end of “Superfly” is for Justin Houston, directed to the Chiefs. The edge rush is the Chiefs’ biggest question mark going into a season in which they want to make the Super Bowl.
But after handing Houston a $101 million contract last offseason, they better be extra, extra, extra careful when it comes to bringing this 27-year-old back too soon. He’s too good to risk, either in the short term or long term.
4. “That’s some cold (stuff), throwing my man Leroy out the window. Just picked my man up and threw him out the (damn) window.”
This comically brutal “Shaft” exchange goes to new backup quarterback Nick Foles, whose release by the Los Angeles Rams was televised on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” for the world to see.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher opened with some small talk — “How was your summer?” he asked Foles — before savagely telling him “we’re going to go ahead and release you.”
The joke might end up being on Fisher, though: Foles’ mechanics and accuracy have already improved in Kansas City, and it’s hard to imagine a better backup for Alex Smith than a still-young player with tons of starting experience and a familiarity with the coaching staff. Great, great signing — and for great money, too.
This line could also apply to several recent young draft picks who could end up being cut or traded thanks to the team’s increased depth, including quarterback Aaron Murray, receivers De’Anthony Thomas and Da’Ron Brown, running back Knile Davis, inside linebacker D.J. Alexander, tight end James O’Shaughnessy and defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches.
5. “I love you.”
“Yeah, I know. Take it easy.”
One of the funniest, cockiest exchanges in “Shaft” goes to Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali, who returned to the only NFL team they’ve ever known on lucrative long-term deals this offseason.
This defense — and the locker room — just wouldn’t be the same without these smart, wise vets, who are each coming off Pro Bowl seasons and will be in the team’s Ring of Honor one day.
6. “Watch your mouth, man.”
“I’ll say any damn thing I want.”
This iconic “Shaft” line goes to second-year cornerback Marcus Peters, an emerging star who is one of the most authentic players I’ve met in a long time. Marcus is interested in being great at football and representing his hometown of Oakland, and it’s refreshing to watch him conduct himself with candor and honesty. Never change, Marcus.
7. “I get 50 bucks an hour ... plus expenses.”
This “Shaft” line goes to former Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith, who created a huge void opposite Peters by bolting in free agency for Oakland, which handed him a four-year, $40 million deal. It might have been the right move for Smith, 29 — big corners typically don’t get better with age — but he will be missed this year.
8. “Oh, come on, John. Can’t you see that we can’t get rid of one without getting rid of the other? We gotta come down on both of them at the same time in order for this whole thing to work for the people.”
This seminal line from Olinga to Goldie in “The Mack” goes to the Chiefs’ coaching staff, which will need to get all three phases of the game operating at peak efficiency to achieve their Super Bowl dreams. The offense and special teams should be on point, but the defense — which has been leaky against the run and might feature an iffy edge-rush and young secondary — has much to prove without Houston.
9. “Next time you hear grown folks talking, shut the (heck) up, hear?”
This Pretty Tony line — and yes, Pretty Tony is definitely the Robert Horry of “The Mack” — goes to the Chiefs’ collection of alpha dog leaders who have been charged with maintaining a team-first culture for the last several months without Berry. The Chiefs took some character risks in this year’s draft, but all indications are that the kids have stayed in line. Between Alex Smith, Jeremy Maclin, Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson, Dontari Poe and even Dustin Colquitt, the Chiefs have enough strong voices in the room to make it work without Berry, though his absence has been felt.*
*Bonus: Two young players with the potential to develop into leaders, provided they keep maturing, are Travis Kelce and Marcus Peters. Both have the personality and game to be strong voices in the future as long they don’t get off track.
10. “I mean you know the rules of the game …. Now we can settle this like you got some class or we can get into some gangster (stuff).”
This line from Goldie to Pretty Tony goes to the Broncos, who remain the Chiefs’ biggest rival after some nasty, competitive games the last three years.
The fact the Broncos, who basically behaved like pirates in their Week 2 win over the Chiefs at Arrowhead, would accuse the Chiefs of dirty play after a 29-13 loss eight weeks later is the highest of high comedy.
And after the Broncos gloated over the Chiefs following their playoff win against the Patriots, as a lover of edgy football I’m looking forward to seeing more games between these two.
Actually, all this writing is making me look forward to regular-season football. And if you made it all the way through this column, I know you can absolutely dig that, sucka.