KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — There are only seven players left on the Kansas City Chiefs roster who've been with the team since the 2008 season, who have enjoyed scant few highs and unimaginable lows.
In that time span, there have been four coaching changes. There's been two seasons in which the Chiefs went 2-14, matching the franchise mark for futility. There was a murder-suicide involving a teammate and a fan revolt that came to symbolize a lost season a year ago.
Yet for Jamaal Charles, Brandon Flowers and the rest of those hardy souls, all those years of disappointment have been worth it now that Kansas City is back in the playoffs.
"The last couple years, we've been through all kinds of situations, losing seasons, tragedy. It opens your eyes a lot," said Charles, the Chiefs' Pro Bowl running back. "You see so many people work hard, we deserve this. We've wanted this and now we're here."
As the Chiefs prepare to visit Indianapolis for a wild-card showdown Saturday, there's an unmistakable bond that seems to unite the longest-tenured players in the organization.
Linebacker Derrick Johnson and punter Dustin Colquitt were drafted in the same class in 2005, so they're actually on their fifth coach: Dick Vermeil, Herm Edwards, Todd Haley, Romeo Crennel and now Andy Reid, who has guided Kansas City to an 11-5 record in his first season in charge.
Linebacker Tamba Hali is the only player left from the 2006 class, which means three players still remember the sting of losing a wild-card playoff game at Indianapolis that season.
Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe is the only player left from the 2007 draft, so in a span of six seasons, those four players put together a forgettable record of 29-67.
But things started to turn around when Flowers, Charles and left tackle Branden Albert were drafted in 2008. They went 2-14 their first season and 4-12 the next, but wound up going 10-6 and losing a wild-card playoff game to Baltimore after the 2010 season.
At that point, those three figured only good days lay ahead.
"Every day that goes by we have to cherish because next year could be totally different. I experienced that," said Flowers, the Chiefs' Pro Bowl cornerback. "I went to the playoffs a couple years ago, thought we had a young team and we'd be there every year. This is my first time back."