This year it was new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, who rolled up in his own car inconspicuously at about 4:05 PM Thursday afternoon. Unshaven and clad in yellow athletic shorts that resembled something from his Georgia Tech days, Gailey looked more like a tourist than an NFL coach.
And of course, Gailey had no meticulously hand-painted sign welcoming the team to training camp, ala Edwards a year ago. After a quick interview, he disappeared inside the team’s brand new dormitory.
Seven minutes later five buses pulled up full of Chiefs players, coaches and executives. But there was no raucous crowd of fans ready to greet them, no HBO cameras capturing the moment and really, almost no pomp and circumstance at all.
Herm Edwards, almost symbolically, was the first Chief off the bus. But there was no interview given, only a few passing words as the head coach practically raced to his dorm room.
In fact, the rest of the Chiefs pretty much followed suit. By 4:20 PM the buses were gone and you wondered if anyone even knew an NFL team had just invaded River Falls.
Where were all the Chiefs fans?
I couldn’t help but compare this year’s arrival to the one we all saw last year on HBO. Most noticeably, one thing was missing – a larger-than-life character wearing Cowboy boots, a Stetson and walking around like he owned the place.
Yes, I’m talking about Jared Allen, now a Minnesota Viking. When the Chiefs got off the bus Thursday, there wasn’t a ton of energy. Maybe it was just the lack of fans, but it was almost boring.
Are the Chiefs a boring team without Allen? We won’t know the answer to that question until the regular season is in full swing. But either way, I think Kansas City will be just fine without that big Cowboy.
It might not feel that way to you Chiefs fans at the moment, but sometimes the best possible thing that could happen to a professional sports franchise takes the hardest toll on its fan base. I know, because I experienced just that almost exactly one year ago.
On July 30, 2007, the Texas Rangers traded their big-time superstar away for what seemed like nothing in return. Slugger Mark Teixiera, maybe the best young power hitter in baseball, was dealt to the Atlanta Braves for no-name catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and some minor-league prospects.
Now believe me, Chiefs fans, if you think you have it bad, try rooting for the Rangers. Like Kansas City, Texas hasn’t made many playoff appearances recently, and isn’t in the habit of winning postseason games, either.
But get this: my Rangers are one of only two major-league franchises to never - not even once since their inception in 1961 - win a playoff series. Hey, at least the Chiefs had some fun times with Joe Montana back in the day.
So trading Big Tex didn’t feel great. But a year later, the most amazing thing can happen – a fan’s perspective can do a complete 180-degree turn.
The Rangers are playing good baseball this season for the first time in awhile. They’ve been well over .500 for weeks now, and if they didn’t play in the same division as the Angels (the team with the best record in baseball) they might actually have a shot at the postseason.
But wait, it gets better. Despite losing Teixeira to Atlanta, the Rangers are almost completely outclassing the Braves in every meaningful offensive statistic.
Heck, Teixeira’s having a decent year (19 homers, 73 RBI .277), but it doesn’t compare to the career revival that Rangers’ slugger Josh Hamilton is experiencing this season (20 homers, 98 RBI, .305). Did I mention Hamilton is a hell of a lot cheaper?
And oh, by the way, Atlanta just happens to be five games under .500.
Does any of this seem familiar? Is Jared Allen not perhaps the best young player at his position in the entire league? Do Chiefs fans not feel glum today because he’s no longer wearing red? Is anyone wondering where KC’s pass rush is going to come from this season?
All of that has some degree of validity, but a year from now, we all might be looking back on the Jared Allen trade as the best thing that ever happened to the modern-day Kansas City Chiefs. Hey, if it can happen to one pro sports franchise that hasn’t accomplished anything meaningful in decades, it can happen to another.
In the meantime, you fans should come out from under the rocks in River Falls. There’s plenty of other players to get excited about, and another is hopefully on the way (Glenn Dorsey).
NOTES FROM RIVER FALLS
• Wideout Dwayne Bowe stated his goal for the upcoming season was approximately 1,300 receiving yards.
• Running back Larry Johnson said his injured foot was fully recovered and ready for two-a-days. Johnson thinks he can put up numbers similar to his pre-injury days (1,789 rushing yards in 2006) now that KC’s offense won’t be so predictable and is not only looking forward to seeing what backup runners Jamaal Charles and Kolby Smith can do when he’s out of the game, but believes they can prolong his career.