KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Dwayne Bowe was on vacation when he learned he'd be signing a career-changing contract that moves him from the one percent to the 0.1 percent, and good for him. He deserves both. Earned it all.
After news of his five-year contract agreement broke, the star receiver went on social media to thank the Chiefs for “the call that changed my life,” and it was so very Bowe: camera angled up, what looks like a beautiful beach setting in the background, and Bowe on his cellphone, in sweatpants and a shirt with a word you don't say around polite company.
No matter how his career ends — and he's one catch, 1,578 yards and 18 touchdowns from the franchise records for receivers — Bowe's career obituary in Kansas City will touch on his knucklehead tendencies.
His explanation on his different nicknames, from “D-Bowe” in normal life to “The Show” for a great game to simply “The” for a dominating performance. The suspension for performance enhancers, which he blamed on a mistake by his grandmother. The pointing at the back of his jersey after catches, even while the Chiefs are being blown out. A newspaper once quoted a league source calling Bowe “the single biggest (idiot) in the NFL,” and he earned the title.
Mostly, that is all history and the power of first impression. Focus on the more recent — as Bowe, now 28, has grown older — and you see that he has earned this chance.
Bowe could've been a problem last season. No NFL player likes taking the franchise tag, and Bowe did it for what turned out to be the league's worst team. His quarterbacks were bad and worse, defenses worried little about anyone besides him and Jamaal Charles, and Bowe was still a terrific teammate. When a report surfaced that he wanted out of Kansas City, he shot it down to The Star with immediacy and clarity.
His mistakes are mostly cosmetic. The profane T-shirt in his Twitter and Facebook posts Monday. The picture he sent out last December honoring Jovan Belcher and misspelling his teammate's name.
What he hasn't done is anything that might hurt the team. Not since he went public about his teammates' habit of “importing” women, anyway. You don't hear coaches grumbling about Bowe not staying in shape, or not being focused on football, or showing up to meetings late.
Scott Pioli has been an easy and deserved target for criticism for a lot of things, but he was a big part of this. Pioli made it clear that D-Bowe was gone, poof. They simply called him Dwayne, and made it clear he would have to work. Pioli and his coaches expected Dwayne to earn his keep, and Bowe responded with the best seasons of his career — including the league lead with 15 touchdowns in 2010.
You can argue that Bowe has been minding his manners with this contract in mind, but everybody in the NFL is playing for their next contract.
Keep in mind that Bowe's production — in the last three years he's ninth in touchdowns and 12th in catches and yards among all NFL receivers — has come with some of the worst quarterbacks in pro football. If you have a weak stomach you might want to skip the rest of this sentence, but here is a list of the starting quarterbacks since Bowe's arrival in Kansas City: Damon Huard, Brodie Croyle, Tyler Thigpen, Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko, Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn.
They range from decent backups to private-sector employees, and Bowe is still the Chiefs' only reliable offensive player besides Charles. Alex Smith will be Bowe's first experience with a good quarterback.
Bowe isn't one of the best five receivers in football. Might not even be one of the best 10. But he's in that debate, and the truth is the Chiefs didn't have much choice in this. They needed Bowe more than he needed them.
There is some risk in giving Bowe a pile of money, but there is more risk in letting him walk. There are no perfect players, and the Chiefs are much better with Bowe's quirks than without his talents.
If nothing else, it's nice to see the Chiefs making decisions based on football ability rather than manufactured agendas.