Sam Mellinger

Marcus Peters is gone. The Chiefs have some explaining to do.

Clark Hunt, Andy Reid and Brett Veach deserve an opportunity to explain, because as it stands right now they have cloaked their franchise with failure.

That word is not used without thought. That word is not used without intent.

The Chiefs on Friday agreed to trade Marcus Peters to the Rams, reportedly for draft picks. Without hearing from the men who made this decision, the explanation that makes the most sense is one lacking in guts, ambition, commitment to success, and realism.

A difficult situation presents itself, and the Chiefs hit the eject button.

Starting with Reid being hired and paid more than any NFL coach who has not won a Super Bowl, the Chiefs have branded themselves as a place for second chances, where strong personalities are welcomed and supported.

Here, then, they failed with their strongest-willed and one of their best players. This was supposed to be their edge. Let players show their personalities. Get the most out of them. Except with Peters, the Chiefs failed to do it, apparently allowing the situation to become so untenable they traded him without a strong market of interest.

Again, Hunt, Reid, and Veach should be allowed to explain. This has all the markings of the Chiefs pushing Peters out, but there is always a chance the trade return was so overwhelming the Chiefs couldn’t resist. So these words are an initial reaction, not the final judgment. Still, the following is true:

Peters plays one of the most important non-quarterback positions in football, creates more turnovers than anyone else in the league, and just turned 25 in January with a year left on his rookie deal plus up to three more years of club control.

And he’s gone. For what?

The Chiefs traded a cheap, young star at a premium position despite the limited leverage of just two teams interested.


For draft picks? So they have an opportunity to select Peters’ replacement? That’s not the action of a successful franchise.

That’s the action of a franchise with more blown leads than wins in playoff games.

One more time, maybe there is a better and more sensible explanation, but here’s what it looks like at the moment: Hunt, who cowered when given the opportunity to stand up for his players’ rights last fall, wanted the headache gone.

He has been outspoken about wanting players to stand for the anthem, and talked Peters into staying in the locker room for the song. Hunt is a conservative man by nature, and it’s not a stretch to believe he wanted one of the NFL’s least conservative players off his team.

Because the other explanations don’t make as much sense.

The Chiefs want you to believe they are serious about winning and just traded one of their best players.

The Chiefs are trying to get younger and just traded a 25-year-old star.

The Chiefs’ secondary was awful last year and they just dumped (by far) their best cornerback.

The Chiefs retained a defensive coordinator who was exposed in 2017, deciding it was more about a lack of talent, and just shipped off one of the league’s most productive and dangerous defenders.

The Chiefs’ defense emphasizes creating turnovers, and they just traded the man who has created more turnovers than anyone else since he entered the league.

The Chiefs, in other words, have a disconnected vision of their future, or no serious expectations of success this season, or both.

Peters is not without his faults. Obviously. He is hyper competitive, which is his greatest strength right until the moment it becomes his greatest flaw. You don’t know when he’ll draw a personal foul, but you can expect at least a few every season.

Reid is by reputation one of the league’s great players’ coaches, and along with Terrell Owens, Peters is one of just two players Reid has suspended in 19 years. Peters’ protests during the national anthem angered a loud portion of the Chiefs’ fan base, and despite handing out turkeys and coats in Kansas City last year, the drama was never going fully away.

There is little doubt he was unhappy in Kansas City. Some of this was inevitable, because the player and his adopted home were so different. Peters could have asked to be traded, but his only leverage was a threat to sit out (which would mean not being paid, and not accruing service time toward free agency) or to not sign an extension (but the Chiefs could’ve controlled him for up to four more seasons).

The Chiefs were not against the clock here. They had time on their side.

The Chiefs could have supported the player, could have worked with the player. They could have found common ground. They could have defended the player against unfair public criticism, if that’s what it took.

Good organizations do that. The Chiefs traded the player. Organizations whose last Super Bowl appearance is old enough to be a grandfather do that.

One more time for the people in the back: Hunt, Reid, and Veach deserve the opportunity to explain. Chiefs fans deserve that, too. Maybe there is something that brings it all together.

But at the moment, only two explanations come to mind that make more sense than Hunt wanting the player out.

The first is that Peters had somehow become such a problem that he was breaking the locker room, and the organization made the advance decision to deal him now before he made more money and his trade value slipped.

That would have to account for the Chiefs players upset by the trade, require something much worse than what’s known so far, and be a tacit admission of failure by a coach hired in part because of his ability to get the best out of strong personalities.

The second apparent explanation would be that the Chiefs are fully embracing a rebuild, and selling off all valuable parts while they reset around quarterback Patrick Mahomes. If that’s the case, then more big trades should be expected.

There are varied holes in this logic, too, from the Chiefs having a good roster already to the NFL’s established history of teams winning with quarterbacks on rookie contracts.

But, at least it would be something.

At least it would be something that didn’t leave the sinking suspicion that the Chiefs just caved to the ugliest parts of their fan base and the weakest part of human nature by avoiding discomfort even as it sets them back competitively.

Sam Mellinger is a Kansas City Star sports columnist: 816-234-4365, @mellinger