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The Legacy of the Position: Chiefs, Offensive Tackle

While the needs vary each year, the NFL Draft brings hope and optimism to every single franchise. Many view this hope as being for the fortunes of the franchise and in a lot of ways they are correct. New faces to the organization can spark championship dreams. But there is another kind of hope that needs to be discussed. The hope is that that player lives up to the standards set before him by those who once stood in his shoes for the franchise. According to numerous reports, including Pro Football Focus, the Kansas City Chiefs need to add depth to their offensive tackles, especially after Orlando Brown Jr. left for the Bengals this offseason. Let's take a look at their illustrious history of the position and the standards that have already been set.

The Lineage

So much of what the Chiefs expect of their tackles begins with Jim Tyrer, their great left tackle of the 1960s. In 13 years with the organization, Tyrer was invited to seven AFL All-Star Games, two Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro six times.

On the outside, the hulking left tackle from Ohio State was the complete package. He could out-technique the best pass rushers in the game while clearing room on the ground for running backs such as Mike Garrett and Curtis McCinton. But beneath the surface lay demons that no one, not even the great blindside protector himself, knew about.

He tried to put his life together after retiring in 1974 as a member of the Washington Redskins, he really did. But by 1980, after several business ventures went belly-up, Jim Tyrer had had enough and finally snapped, killing his wife and himself. Shaken awake by the commotion, their oldest son, then 17, hid underneath his bed for hours, convinced that there was an intruder in his home. From that fateful night onward, Jim Tyrer's story has been told more as a cautionary tale rather than one of inspiration and he has yet to even be mentioned in the Pro Football Hall of Fame since 1981, his first year of eligibility.

The Chiefs wasted little time finding Jim Tyrer's replacement, plugging Mark Herkenhoff in the starting lineup in 1976 and watched him blossom as a mainstay for the next decade. Still, he never went to the Pro Bowl as the team began to fall back to earth after a decade of dominance.

After Herkenhoff's retirement in 1985, the team found his replacement two years later in John Alt. The "Monumental Minnesotan" was just as the doctor ordered at a time right before the Chiefs began to make some serious changes to its roster. During his decade as the team's regular starter, he helped pave the way for international sensation Christian Okoye (a truly herculean marvel at running back) and block Joe Montana's blindside. He found a way to earn a Pro Bowl invitation in both systems with 1992 and 1993 being the dividing line between the eras. When it was all said and done, by the time he retired in 1996, John Alt had played in the second most games in franchise history (179), right behind Jim Tyrer's 180 games.

The Chiefs have always prided themselves on featuring long-tenured left tackles who can be a mainstay during periods of transition and turmoil. But sometimes they luck into having a great left tackle for just a couple of years. A tackle such as Willie Roaf. After establishing his Hall of Fame credentials in New Orleans over the past decade, Roaf traveled to the Midwest in 2002 where he helped give coach Dick Vermeil one last gasp of success at the sport's highest level.

In his four years as a Chief, Willie Roaf paved the way for Priest Holmes and Kansas City's powerful running game. Along the way, he added four more Pro Bowls and two All-Pro nods to his impressive resume before retiring after the 2005 season.

The Chiefs didn't know what they were getting when they drafted Branden Albert in 2008. the guard from Virginia had decent height and moderate weight to dominate, but playing left tackle is a world all on its own compared to the rest of the offensive line. While protecting a right-handed quarterback's blindside, they routinely have to go up against the league's best pass rushers. They don't have the luxury of being stuck in a pit of humanity and are often left to fight the elements on the outside by themselves.

Isolated among giants, Branden Albert worked diligently at his craft. He worked through the dreadful 2-14 and 4-12 campaigns of 2008 and 2009 respectively. He gained a measure of confidence when his team made a surprising turnaround in 2010 and won the AFC West for the first time since 2003. Surely, he must have felt flustered when the team finished 2-14 for the second time in his career in 2012, not knowing that there was light just around the corner.

All of Albert's hard work paid off in 2013 when Andy Reid took over as the Chiefs' new head coach. Kansas City began the year winning their first eight games and made it to the playoffs where they lost to the Colts in a truly wild finish. The year was not a lost cause though as Branden Albert was invited to his first and only Pro Bowl. It was a bittersweet sendoff for the man who had seen so much in such a short amount of time.

The following year, Eric Fisher took over the left tackle spot. Selected first overall in the 2013 Draft, the prospect from Central Michigan took some time to acclimate to the NFL and never became the bonafide Hall of Famer all first-overall picks are expected to become. Still, he went to two Pro Bowls and won the Super Bowl in 2019 before leaving after 2020.

In stepped Orlando Brown Jr. His father had been an excellent player for the Browns and Ravens more than a decade earlier and Brown very much looked the part, having already been to the Pro Bowl twice with Baltimore before moving to Kansas City in 2021. The 6'8" 363 pound athletic marvel turned out to be exactly what the Chiefs needed in their hunt for a second Super Bowl title in the Andy Reid era. Brown continued his great play while a Chief, being invited to two more Pro Bowls and helping his team win the Super Bowl in 2022.

The Standard

As illustrated, the Chiefs have had quite a rich history with offensive tackles. While the organization has had some lean years in the past, their consistency at the position has often reaped benefits down the line. So who will the Chiefs select in the 2023 NFL Draft? Will they take Tennessee's Darnell Wright, a lineman who seems to be a natural pass protector? Or will they have the patience to develop Maryland's Jaelyn Duncan? We shall see this coming weekend.

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