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The best players on the worst Chiefs teams of all time.
Let’s continue to find the best players on the worst Kansas City Chiefs teams of all time.
In this five-part series, we are picking the best 11 Chiefs on both sides of the ball — as well as special teams and coaches — selected entirely from those who served on the worst Kansas City teams.
On Tuesday, we covered five offensive positions: wide receiver No. 1, left tackle, left guard, center and right guard. In this installment, we’ll select players for the rest of the offense: right tackle, tight end, wide receiver No. 2, quarterback and two running backs.
Let’s review the ground rules we’re using:
A player had to have at least 10 starts in a bad season.
The Chiefs had to have five or fewer wins in that season.
Just one player at each position, using a standard pro set offensive formation and a 4-3 defensive set.
RT – Jim Nicholson, 1976
Honolulu Star-Advertiser photo
Born and raised in Hawaii, Nicholson was selected in the ninth round of the 1973 NFL Draft. According to Pro Football Reference, Nichols had an adjusted value (AV) of 8 in 1976, which is higher than any other right tackle the Chiefs had in a qualifying year. Nicholson played in the NFL for six years — all of them in Kansas City. During that span, the Chiefs’ record was 28-60. No wonder his media photo looks like he’s forcing a smile.
Honorable Mention: Charlie Getty
TE – Tony Gonzalez, 2008
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With Gonzalez, we could have chosen either 2007 or 2008; the man was dominant in both seasons. If it hadn’t been for poor quarterback play, the Chiefs had the pieces to do some real damage in those years; with anyone but Damon Huard and Tyler Thigpen under center, the team could have made the playoffs.
But in 2008, they went 2-14 — which prompted Gonzalez to demand his now-famous exit from the Chiefs. Still, he put up 96 receptions for 1,058 yards and 10 touchdowns in his Kansas City swan song. A member of the Ring of Honor, he will always have a special place in our hearts.
SIDE NOTE: The night before a 2008 home game, I was on my way to a dinner party on the Plaza. Gonzalez walked out in front of my car. I wasn’t going fast — but I still nearly hit him. I would have been the Kansas City version of Mark Wahlberg in “The Other Guys” — when he accidentally shot Derek Jeter.
Honorable Mention: Fred Arbanas
WR2 – Dwayne Bowe, 2008
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Bowe went off in 2008. It was the first of three campaigns in which he would gain at least 1,000 yards. In 2008, he averaged 11.9 yards per reception while hauling in 86 catches for seven touchdowns.
What makes this stat line more impressive is that he did it while sharing targets with Gonzalez — and with Thigpen under center. In his prime, Bowe was a sure-handed, large-bodied chain-mover — one who excelled at high-pointing the ball and coming down with contested catches.
Honorable Mention: Chris Chambers
QB – Len Dawson, 1963
If you have good quarterback play, you generally win many games, which means the pool for this position is pretty thin. But the Chiefs drastically underperformed in 1963. Coming off an AFL Championship, the Dallas Texans moved to Kansas City to become the Chiefs — going 5-7-2 in their inaugural season.
Despite the team being light in the win column, Dawson still managed to pass for 2,389 yards and 26 touchdowns. Dawson is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame — and is arguably the best Chiefs quarterback (not named Patrick Mahomes) ever to play the game.
Honorable Mention: Bill Kenney
RB1 – Jamaal Charles, 2012
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Jamaal Charles played for 11 NFL seasons, averaging 5.4 yards per attempt. A former track star at Texas, he overcame early fumbling issues to become one of the most electric running backs in the league’s history.
Despite the Chiefs posting a 2-14 record in 2012, Charles put up over 1,700 yards from scrimmage. The highlight of the season came in Week 3. Down 12 points late in the third quarter, Charles outran the entire New Orleans Saints defense, ripping off a 91-yard touchdown run that started a charge to a 27-24 overtime win — in which Charles had 33 carries for 233 yards.
Charles is still the Chiefs’ all-time rushing leader. He serves as a global ambassador for the Special Olympics and is an all-time fan favorite.
Honorable Mention: Christian Okoye
RB2 – Tony Reed, 1978
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A dual-threat back, Reed gained over 1,500 yards from scrimmage in 1978, averaging 10.1 yards per reception. Of all rushers who eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark that season, Reed had the highest average per carry: 5.1 yards. Considering the era in which he played, this was quite an achievement. Four Hall of Fame running backs were in 1978’s top 10: Earl Campbell, Walter Payton, Tony Dorsett and Franco Harris.
After 1978, Reed was never able to replicate the same type of production — in part because the 1970s Chiefs deployed a running back by committee approach. In 1981, Reed was traded to the Denver Broncos — and a year later, he was out of the league.
Honorable Mention: Larry Johnson
Here’s where we are so far:
WR1 — Carlos Carson, 1987
LT — Jim Tyrer, 1963
LG — Brian Waters, 2009
C — Jack Rudnay, 1975
RG — Tom Condon, 1978
RT — Jim Nicholson, 1976
TE — Tony Gonzalez, 2008
WR2 — Dwayne Bowe, 2008
QB — Len Dawson, 1963
RB1 — Jamaal Charles, 2012
RB2 — Tony Reed, 1978
We’ll begin picking the defense in the next installment — selecting a cornerback, defensive end, defensive tackle and WILL and MIKE linebackers.