Arrowhead Stadium is known for its sea of red, but on Dec. 23, 2012, a fickle Kansas City crowd blushed red in embarrassment.
Bobby Bell, former Chief and NFL Hall of Famer, had something those Chiefs didn’t have: charisma.
Bell glided from suite to suite, greeting one fan with as much enthusiasm as the fan before. He eventually made it into the room I sat in. He took pictures, told jokes and provided entertainment—something that had been absent from Arrowhead all season.
This season, the Kansas City Chiefs are Bobby Bell.
The 2013 Chiefs are interesting, entertaining and charismatic. The difference is that this season’s buzz in Kansas City is built to last, and the expectations are that it will amplify into a league-wide noise as the years go on.
Despite a league-worst record last season, the talent makeup of the roster was the least of the Chiefs concerns. It’s not every season that a 2-14 team has six Pro Bowl players, making the team's mark from last year a deceptively bad one.
One glaring issue stood alone on Kansas City’s depth chart, though, and it just so happens to be the most important position: quarterback.
Acquiring Alex Smith from San Francisco in a trade should instill the consistency that has evaded the franchise for years. Smith's play with the 49ers over the past two seasons, coinciding with the arrival of head coach Jim Harbaugh in 2011, was synonymous with efficiency.
Chiefs quarterback coach Doug Pederson recently stated that he believes Smith to be the best quarterback in the NFL. While that probably is an overstatement, Pederson's confidence in Smith mimics the strong, successful relationship Smith had with Harbaugh. And Smith is still a drastic improvement over the Matt Cassel-and-Brady Quinn fiasco that cluttered the Kansas City pocket last season.
The concern isn't who will be throwing the football anymore, but rather to whom Smith will be delivering his passes.
Last week, the Chiefs again traded with San Francisco, exchanging the disappointing Jon Baldwin for A.J. Jenkins, a wideout who, like Baldwin, has failed to live up to the expectations that come with being a first-round pick.
With Baldwin out of the picture and Jenkins’ future up in the air, the recent news surrounding Dexter McCluster is even more concerning. According to 610 Sports Radio host Danny Parkins, McCluster is reportedly unhappy with his role, or lack thereof, and is “exploring all options, including trades.”
Dwayne Bowe stands alone as the sole threat at wide receiver. That’s reason for skepticism, especially in an Andy Reid offense that threw the football an average of 562 times a season during his 14-year stint with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Oddly enough, though, optimism still swarms in Kansas City, and it can be attributed to the overhaul in management. Narratives of redemption fill the air, and this time, it doesn't feel like the suits are blowing smoke.
General manager John Dorsey and Coach Reid have resuscitated hope in the Heartland, as each man brings a winning pedigree to a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game since January 1994.
Clark Hunt turned a new page in Kansas City with the hiring Dorsey and Reid last January. More importantly, all three men seem to be on the same page, which is a welcomed change from the Scott Pioli tenure.
The change within management hierarchy is one just as important as the personnel shift. Unlike Pioli, Reid and Dorsey both are ordered to report to Hunt, and Hunt has become more involved with the team on a day-to-day basis. A revamped management and coaching staff is inverse to that of Chiefs regimes past, when any semblance of success was speculated as a fluke and could not be trusted to carry over from one season to the next.
But this lack of consistency predates Pioli. Since 1997, a losing season has followed a playoff appearance in Kansas City four times (1997, 2003, 2006, 2010). It’s logical to believe the Chiefs could go 7-9 this season, but it isn’t insane to think that Kansas City will make a run at the playoffs in 2013—remember how the Colts rebounded from a 2-14 season in 2011 and nabbed a playoff berth last year—and in ensuing seasons.
Smith and Reid’s tag team for redemption paired with Dorsey’s determination to build a champion ensures the Chiefs are a sure-fire pick to be one of the NFL's more interesting teams in 2013.
You can follow Megan on Twitter at @meganKarmstrong.