Rich Gannon on The Rich Gannon Effect
The Kansas City Star
I talked to him after the column was already up. Gannon chuckled a few times when I explained my theory, that the Chiefs’ Grbac-over-Gannon mistake has so scarred Kansas City sports fans that they expect every personnel decision to be the wrong one, every player who leaves to go on to stardom.
I call it something like what a city’s normal backup quarterback syndrome would be like with Lance Armstrong’s chemist: surly, self-assured, righteous, and legendarily dominant. Gannon wouldn’t take full credit for it, but he said he still hears about the Grbac decision all these years later.
“Gets brought up all the time,” he says. “Especially when I see some of the guys I played with. John Alt, (Tim) Grunhard, all those guys. I thought it was a really bad decision then, but what am I going to do? I wanted us to win.”
Gannon says he’s since learned that there was much more debate within the coaching staff than he knew about at the time. Certain coaches pushed for Gannon, others for Grbac.
Marty Schottenheimer, then the head coach, had the final say and has talked to Gannon about it in the years since. We know how the thing turned out, of course. Gannon went on to make four Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl with the Raiders.
Grbac’s time in Kansas City is perhaps best (worst?) remembered for a 14-10 playoff loss to Denver at home after the 1997 season in which the Chiefs went 13-3. Grbac was hurt the second half of the regular season, only playing one game between Nov. 3 and the playoff game in January.
Grbac’s numbers from the playoff game are good — 24-for-37, 260 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions — but the memory is of a virtual meltdown in the final minutes.
“Marty, he’s fairly stubborn,” Gannon says. “He makes a decision and he sticks with it. My concern was (Grbac’s) conditioning. He hadn’t played. And conditioning was a huge factor in that game.”
I’m sure Gannon has been asked this question a million times, but I asked it again anyway: how would things have been different if he was the quarterback instead of Grbac?
“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s so easy to say we would’ve won it all, but I’ll tell you this: that was one of the best teams I’ve ever played on…
“One thing I know for sure, we were dominant at home. We were so tough to beat at home. Our defense that year was dominant. If you get to the Super Bowl, anything can happen, obviously, but we were good enough to win that year for sure.”