The best players on the worst Chiefs teams of all time.
Welcome to our fourth installment of the Kansas City Chiefs‘ all-time cellar dweller team!
In this five-part series, we’re 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.
Today’s position grouping promises to be the most hotly debated that we have covered so far. We’ll be selecting WILL (weak side) and SAM (strong side) linebackers, two edge rushers and two defensive tackles.
I must admit: I am fully enjoying the dissidence and disapproval of my selections that are occurring in the comment section. I mean, what good is being a rabid fan if you can’t argue the merits of a player who hasn’t put on pads in over a decade?
As always, here are the ground rules we will be 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.
Let’s continue to discover the best players on the worst Kansas City Chiefs teams of all time.
SAM LB – Tamba Hali, 2012
One way or another, I was hell-bent on making sure Tamba Time made this list. No other player better epitomizes the hard work and determination that it takes to succeed in the National Football League than Tamba Hali.
Originally drafted in the first round as a defensive end out of Penn State, Hali worked tirelessly to complete the transition to right outside linebacker. For his efforts, he was rewarded with five consecutive Pro-Bowl nominations.
He had a motor that did not quit. Most players have a highlight reel that’s made up of a handful of plays where they do something spectacular — like chase a player down from behind, or fight through a double team to sack the quarterback — but Hali did those things in every single game.
Week in and week out, he was the hardest working man on the field — which is why at the time, the co-founder of our site Joel Thorman noted that he was one of the most coveted players in the league.
I could write a whole series of articles waxing poetic about Hali. Instead, I’ll just leave you with this:
Here is the list of players that have more career sacks in Chiefs history than Tamba Hali:
That’s it. That’s the list. pic.twitter.com/nChZvvfBKI
— (@LanceTHESPOKEN) May 10, 2021
Honorable Mention: Donnie Edwards
WILL LB– Derrick Johnson, 2007
It feels wrong to be correcting an injustice from our last edition by committing an equally egregious omission this time around. But here we are, left with the choice of 2007 Derrick Johnson vs. 2012 Justin Houston.
I went back and forth on this one more times than I can count. There is no wrong answer to this scenario — which also means there is no definitively right answer, either.
I ultimately went with the leading tackler in Chiefs history.
While Houston had 10 sacks in 2012, Johnson had two interceptions, three forced fumbles, four sacks, and 18 tackles for a loss in 2007. There is no mistaking that Justin Houston is one of the best pass rushers in Chiefs history, but Derrick Johnson was the better all-around player in the qualifying years from which we chose.
We all know how great of a player Johnson was, but what some fans may not know is that he is a genuinely kind human as well.
Years ago, I managed an emergency shelter for at-risk youth. One weekend, Johnson invited the kids at our shelter and other surrounding facilities to a pizza party that he was throwing at the now-defunct NASCART Indoor Racing in Olathe, Kansas.
Johnson himself footed the bill and treated close to 100 at-risk teenagers to all-you-can-eat pizza and unlimited go-kart racing and arcade games.
What sticks with me about that night is that whenever a local news reporter or another adult would be vying for Johnson’s attention, he would politely say, “Excuse me, but I’m here to hang out with the kids.” Then he would walk away and go play video games with a kid who most likely lived his life moving from shelter to shelter with all of their belongings in a trash bag.
For Johnson, the party was not a publicity stunt. It was a chance to give a bunch of kids who had been dealt a bad hand the opportunity for a night of fun that they would not normally have. He was simply a good dude — doing good in his community.
Honorable Mention: Justin Houston
RDE – Jared Allen, 2007
The wild man from Idaho State, Jared Allen was a wrecking ball in human form. The only thing bigger than his sack numbers was his personality — like the time he hunted a wild hog with nothing but a knife.
And there was that wild boar hunt. Dogs ran down the hog and pinned it to the ground and his guide flipped it over, but Allen still had to release the catch dog while avoiding tusks that were sharp enough to rip off a kneecap, or worse, and then plunge the 10-inch knife into the hog. “You go armpit to armpit with it,” he says.
He was a violent sack artist, who utilized his six-foot-6 frame to make quarterbacks wish they had taken up badminton instead.
Allen was an All-Pro in 2007 with 15.5 sacks. Not bad for a fourth-round pick.
Honorable Mention: Wilbur Young
LDE – Art Still, 1978
The second overall pick in the 1978 NFL Draft, Still was a towering human being at six feet 7. He had 14.5 sacks in two separate seasons. In his rookie year, he compiled 6.5 sacks.
With 74 career sacks, he trails only Justin Houston, Neil Smith, Tamba Hali and Derrick Thomas for the most career sacks by a Chiefs player.
A Chiefs Hall of Honor inductee, he was named the team MVP in 1980 and 1984. The team still recognizes Still as the second-leading tackler in franchise history, trailing only the great Derrick Johnson.
In his day, Still was a fierce run defender who enjoyed blowing up the opposing team’s quarterback on a regular basis.
Honorable Mention: Mike Bell
DT – Buck Buchanan, 1963
Hall of Famer Buck Buchanan left a legacy everywhere he played. A monster at six feet 7 and 270 pounds, he was an All-American at Grambling — and the first overall pick in the 1963 AFL Draft.
Each year, the Buck Buchanan Award is awarded annually to the most outstanding defensive player in the Division I football championship cubdivision.
For a man his size, Buchanan was extremely athletic — and possessed the ability to range sideline-to-sideline and wreak havoc on quarterbacks who had the unfortunate task of trying to avoid being crushed by him.
Known for his long arms, he batted down 16 passes in 1967 alone.
Check out this video at the 55-second mark, where Buck admits that he enjoys “wearing a mustache,” despite it being forbidden by head coach Hank Stram at the time.
It seems like he would have fit in just fine with today’s team.
Mustache Monday: Who wore it best? pic.twitter.com/EKsj2oqLiJ
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) August 2, 2021
Honorable Mention: Dontari Poe
DT – Jerry Mays, 1963
A member of the Chiefs Hall of Honor, Mays may be the best Chiefs player who is not enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This could be partially due to the fact that like many AFL players of his era, he snubbed the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, opting instead to play closer to home in Dallas, “I loved the AFL,” Mays once said, “It was a part of me. I was AFL from start to finish.”
The team captain of Kansas City’s Super Bowl IV championship team, Mays also won three AFL titles, was named to seven Pro-Bowls and was a two-time All-Pro. In his 10-year professional football career, Mays never missed a start, playing in 147 straight games.
At six feet 4 and 252 pounds, he was undersized in comparison with other members of the Chiefs defensive line — but he made up for his lack of size by being a bulldog on the field. He was an expert at shedding blocks.
When asked about Mays’ playing style, former teammate Johnny Robinson said, “He went all-out all the time. He was dedicated; he gave 100 percent in practice; he gave 100 percent every time he played.”
Honorable Mention: Bill Maas
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
- SS — Bobby Hunt, 1963
- FS — Deron Cherry, 1988
- RCB — Emmitt Thomas, 1974
- LCB — Brandon Flowers, 2009
- MLB — Willie Lanier, 1975
- SLB — Tamba Hali, 2012
- WLB — Derrick Johnson, 2007
- RDE — Jared Allen, 2007
- LDE — Art Still, 1978
- DT — Buck Buchanan, 1963
- DT — Jerry Mays, 1963
In the next installment, we’ll pick special teams and coaches: kicker, punter, head coach, defensive coordinator, offensive coordinator.