Ah, what a time to be a Royals and Chiefs fan. The reigning American League champions are picking up where they left off last season, while the gridiron gang across the parking lot has won 20 games in the last two years. Both franchises have been around since the ’60s, but rarely have they been this good at the same time.
Let’s break it down, starting in 1969 – the Royals’ inaugural season and the year the Chiefs won the Super Bowl.
Year: Royals / Chiefs; notable events (awards, postseason appearances, etc.)
1970: 65-97 / 7-5-2
1971: 85-76 / 10-3-1; Chiefs’ Otis Taylor wins AFC Player of the Year; Chiefs lose in divisional round vs. Miami
1972: 76-78 / 8-6
1973: 88-74 / 7-5-2
1974: 77-85 / 5-9
1975: 91-71 / 5-9
1976: 90-72 / 5-9; Royals lose in ALCS vs. New York
1977: 102-60 / 2-12; Royals lose in ALCS vs. New York again
1978: 92-70 / 4-12; Royals lose in ALCS vs. New York AGAIN
1979: 85-77 / 7-9
1980: 97-65 / 8-8; George Brett flirts with .400, wins MVP; Royals finally beat New York, but lose to Philadelphia in World Series
1981: 50-53 / 9-7; Royals lose in ALDS vs. Oakland
1982: 90-72 / 3-6
1983: 79-83 / 6-10
1984: 84-78 / 8-8; Royals swept in ALCS by Detroit; Chiefs’ Bill Maas wins Defensive Rookie of the Year
1985: 91-71 / 6-10; Bret Saberhagen wins Cy Young; Royals beat St. Louis in World Series
1986: 76-86 / 10-6; Chiefs finally make the playoffs again, lose in Wild Card round vs. Jets
1987: 83-79 / 4-11
1988: 84-77 / 4-11-1
1989: 92-70 / 8-7-1; Bret Saberhagen wins his 2nd Cy Young; Derrick Thomas wins Defensive Rookie of the Year; Christian Okoye wins Offensive Player of the Year
1990: 75-86 / 11-5; Chiefs lose in wild card round to Miami
1991: 82-80 / 10-6; Chiefs lose in divisional round vs. Buffalo
1992: 72-90 / 10-6; Chiefs lose in wild card round at San Diego; Dale Carter wins Defensive Rookie of the Year
1993: 84-78 / 11-5; Chiefs lose AFC Championship game at Buffalo (haven’t won a playoff game since)
1994: 64-51 / 9-7; Royals’ Bob Hamelin wins AL Rookie of the Year; David Cone wins Cy Young; Chiefs lose in wild card round to Miami
1995: 70-74 / 13-3; Chiefs lose in divisional round vs. Indianapolis as Lin Elliot misses 3 FG, Marty Schottenheimer wins Coach of the Year
1996: 75-86 / 9-7
1997: 67-94 / 13-3; Chiefs lose in divisional round vs. Denver
1998: 72-89 / 7-9
1999: 64-97 / 9-7; Carlos Beltran wins Rookie of the Year
2000: 77-85 / 7-9
2001: 65-97 / 6-10
2002: 62-100 / 8-8; Royals, the last franchise in MLB to not lose 100 games, hits the century mark in losses; Priest Holmes wins Offensive Player of the Year
2003: 83-79 / 13-3; Chiefs lose in divisional round vs. Indianapolis at Arrowhead in only playoff game in NFL history to feature zero punts; Dick Vermeil wins Coach of the Year; Royals’ Angel Berroa wins Rookie of the Year; Tony Pena wins Manager of the Year
2004: 58-104 / 7-9
2005: 56-106 / 10-6
2006: 62-100 / 9-7; Chiefs lose in Wild Card Round at Indianapolis
2007: 69-93 / 4-12
2008: 75-87 / 2-14
2009: 65-97 / 4-12; Zack Greinke wins Cy Young
2010: 67-95 / 10-6; Chiefs lose in Wild Card round vs. Baltimore
2011: 71-91 / 7-9
2012: 72-90 / 2-14
2013: 86-76 / 11-5; Chiefs lose in Wild Card round at Indianapolis, blowing the second biggest lead in playoff history
2014: 89-73 / 9-7; Royals sweep through American League Playoffs; lose to San Francisco in World Series
(Note that some seasons were shortened because of players’ strikes, lockouts, etc.)
As you can see, years in which the Royals and Chiefs are both contenders have been few and far between. While the Chiefs were a force in the ’60s and early ’70s, the Royals were struggling out of the gate. As the Royals’ began to rise in the mid ’70s, the Chiefs started to decline. That trend continued through most of the ’80s, but the roles would be reversed in the ’90s. While the Royals started to stink after the ownership change, Marty Schottenheimer was building the Chiefs back into a powerhouse. But then, the 2000s weren’t very kind to either team. The few times the Chiefs made the playoffs they were unable to advance, and the Royals were an absolute joke, losing more games than any other franchise in that decade.
Hopes were high in 2012. Because the previous decade was such a disaster, the Royals had a stacked farm system from drafting in the Top 5 practically every year. Some of their top prospects seemed primed for a breakout year, but it didn’t happen. The young guns took their lumps and the team didn’t have any pitching. The Royals finished just 72-90.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, still had the same core that won the division in 2010. Todd Haley was out, Romeo Crennel was in, and 9 or 10 wins and a playoff berth seemed like a reasonable possibility. You know the rest. Everything that could’ve gone wrong went wrong and they finished 2-14.
Both teams had talent, but they were under-performing big time. The Royals and Chiefs each lacked leadership. Changes were imminent.
In the offseason before their 2013 campaigns, both teams made moves that would shape them into the contenders they are now. The Royals traded for James Shields and Wade Davis, and a few months later, the Chiefs hired Andy Reid and John Dorsey, who then traded for Alex Smith.
(I actually started this that offseason because I was so excited about the moves and the future for both teams).
It wasn’t just these players’ on-field production that excited me. The trades symbolized a culture change. Blind hope was turning into actual expectations. Kansas City had a new sports mentality – the Royals and Chiefs were both in win-now mode.
Both teams finally got the leadership to match the talent. James Shields swaggered into town with an infectious winning attitude. In addition to being a workhorse in his own right (logging 455 innings in two seasons), Shields had a positive impact on the whole pitching staff and in the locker room. As for the Chiefs, they found themselves a proven head coach and a charismatic quarterback. Reid’s resume speaks for itself; he had many good years in Philadelphia and brought plenty of postseason experience. Alex Smith is no stranger to the playoffs either. He led San Francisco to the NFC title game in 2012 and was a fumbled punt away from a Super Bowl.
Things have really come together nicely for both teams since these big acquisitions a few years ago.
For the Chiefs, it’s been three GMs in the making. Carl Peterson drafted stars like Derrick Johnson and Jamaal Charles. Scott Pioli brought in Justin Houston and Dontari Poe, among others. The current Dorsey/Reid regime deserves credit, too. The jury is still out on their drafting ability, but with the talent they inherited coupled with what they’ve acquired in trades and free agency, this team is ready to take the AFC by storm.
Right now, this is a 10-win team, in my opinion. That ceiling will continue to grow the next few years as Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers deteriorate. The Chiefs have arguably the best RB/WR/TE trio in the league with Charles, Maclin, and Kelce. They have the scariest pass rush in football with Houston and Hali coming off the edge. I know we’re in the heart of baseball season, but just thinking about how good the Chiefs can be gets me pumped!
Speaking of baseball, I was bracing myself for a letdown year after the magical run last season, but the Royals have been awesome in 2015. What’s the 76ers rebuilding motto right now, Trust the Process? I have to admit, I was losing faith in Dayton Moore’s process (especially after that underwhelming 2012 season), but since then, this team has been an absolute joy to watch.
Other small market teams should take notes from the Royals’ rebuild. They’ve done it with homegrown guys like Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer. They’ve had great international scouting, bringing in guys like Salvador Perez, Kelvin Herrera, and Yordano Ventura. They’ve made smart trades, getting Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar for Zack Greinke, along with the aforementioned Shields and Davis deal. Sprinkle all that in with a few other sneaky good additions – like Kendry Morales and Edinson Volquez this season – and you’ve got a winning ball club.
That’s all I’ve got for now. Has there ever been a better time to be a Kansas City sports fan? I don’t think so; especially when you factor in what Sporting is doing. Man, these are the days! I encourage fans to soak up these glory years and not take anything for granted. We’ve seen how easily things can go south for the Chiefs and Royals. This winning window won’t last forever, and doesn’t come around often, so enjoy every bit of it.
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