Jamaal Charles just kept scoring touchdowns last week against the Oakland Raiders, one after another. Until he had scored five during a 56-31 Chiefs win.
“Wow,” I kept saying to myself as Charles ripped through whatever that was Oakland was doing defensively. “This guy is good.”
Later, I started thinking about just how good. Where does Charles rank among the all-time great skill-position players in Chiefs history?
Two things before we start to figure that out.
Charles is only 27. There should be some prime years left, although you never know with a running back. Still, Charles is on the cusp of passing Priest Holmes as Kansas City’s all-time leading rusher.
Second, the Chiefs don’t have that many players to choose from when picking the top skill position players in team history, which dates back to 1963 and 1960 if you count the franchise’s three years in Dallas as the Texans.
Kansas City’s all-time leading passer, Len Dawson, ranks only 47th in NFL history.
The Chiefs’ No. 1 rusher, Holmes, ranks 42nd in league history.
And the leading wide receiver, Otis Taylor, ranks 106th among all receivers.
The issue here wasn’t limiting this list to 10 players, it was finding 10 who are worthy.
But it’s been done. So without further ado, let’s see where the ascending Charles belongs in this Top 10 list of greatest Chiefs offensive skill players.
1. Len Dawson, QB, 1962-75 — He led Kansas City to a win in Super Bowl IV after an 11-3 season in 1969. His 28,507 passing yards and 237 touchdowns are far and away the most in Chiefs history. He stayed in Kansas City after his playing career to do television work and is the long-time radio analyst of the Chiefs. No player is more identified as a Kansas City Chief than Dawson.
2. Tony Gonzalez, TE, 1997-2008 — How good would Gonzalez look in a Chiefs uniform this season? Instead, he left Kansas City as a free agent after the 2008 season to play for Atlanta, where it appears his longstanding wish to play in a Super Bowl will go unfulfilled. Gonzalez hauled in 916 passes good for 10,940 yards and 76 touchdowns as a Chief and continued his high level of play in Atlanta. He’s probably the best tight end in NFL history and it’s too bad he didn’t choose to end his career in Kansas City, where he is an icon.
3. Priest Holmes, RB, 2001-07 — Injuries curtailed a career in its prime in 2004, when Holmes was 31. He had rushed for 1,555 yards in 2001, 1,615 in 2002, 1,420 in 2003 and had gained 892 yards in only eight games in 2004 when he was hurt and had to sit out the rest of the season. During that 54-game span, Holmes rushed for 5,492 yards and 70 touchdowns. He was incredible.
4. Jamaal Charles, RB, 2008-present — Charles has rushed for 5,717 yards during his Kansas City career and averaged an all-time high of 5.6 yards per carry. He’s having an MVP-type season in 2013, but might have been even better last season. But nobody notices when your team is 2-14. They notice when your team is 11-3. Charles, though, isn’t a big back. And he missed most of the 2011 season with an injury. If he can stay healthy — and it’s a big if — Charles could continue to move up this list.
5. Otis Taylor, WR, 1965-74 — What long-time Chiefs fan doesn’t love Taylor? He was Dawson’s favorite target and the best receiver on two Super Bowl teams. Taylor caught 410 passes for 7,306 yards and 57 touchdowns while in Kansas City. His average of 56.6 yards per game is just one fewer yard than Gonzalez.
6. Trent Green, QB, 2001-06 — Nobody benefited more from Dick Vermeil’s high-octane offensive scheme than Green, who passed for 21,459 yards and 118 touchdowns in his six seasons with the Chiefs, the first five of which he was the starter. Green topped 4,000 passing yards in three consecutive seasons from 2003-05. His 4,591 yards in 2004 are the 30th most in NFL history for a single season.
7. Larry Johnson, RB, 2003-09 — I know, Chiefs fans, Johnson could drive you crazy. But when he was right, as he was in 2005 and 2006, he was one of the best backs in the league. Johnson rushed for 1,750 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2005, then 1,789 yards and 17 TDs the next season. They’re two of the top 25 single-season rushing yardage totals in NFL history. But too often, Johnson was either injured or disinterested.
8. Abner Haynes, WR, 1960-64 — An original Chief — or Texan, actually — Haynes produced a lot in his five seasons with the franchise, rushing for 3,814 yards on 794 carries.
9. Christian Okoye, RB, 1987-92 — Okoye didn’t make it to the NFL as a rookie out of Azusa Pacific until he was 26. He had his best season in Kansas City in 1989, rushing for 1,480 yards and 12 touchdowns.
10. Dwayne Bowe, WR, 2007-present — I know, I don’t believe it, either. But Bowe — and I’m not making this up — is in at least one way the most productive receiver in Chiefs history. His 62.3 career yards per game is No. 1 all-time. You can look it up.