It’s not a tough record to beat.
Priest Holmes holds Kansas City’s franchise record for career rushing yards. His number is 6,070. That’s good for fifth lowest in the league, ahead of only Tampa Bay, New England, Carolina, and Houston. The number itself isn’t that special. What is special is how he did it and how quickly he did it–63 starts in 65 games, over half of which came on the wrong side of an injury that would have ended the careers of most backs. He did it all with limited natural ability too. At no point in his career was he the fastest or strongest back on the team, but he was always the smartest and the best prepared.
In light of everything the Chiefs have been through since with Holmes’s replacement, it’s hard to remember exactly how maligned the holy one was by the team’s fans. Mercurial by nature, Priest infrequently granted interviews, made few public appearances, and never traveled with the team while injured. The latter isn’t altogether uncommon–Andy Reid, for instance, doesn’t allow his injured players to travel with the team under any circumstance–but it rubbed a lot of fans the wrong way. His decision to sit out an entire season in 2006, claiming the need to further rehabilitate from a midseason injury in 2005, rubbed fans the wrong way too, particularly when he announced in October of 2007 that he planned to return. Fans felt Priest had let the team down. He had, in their estimation, placed his own desires over the team’s needs, holding out for longer than needed, knowing full well the offense was struggling in his absence.
Chiefs fans would give anything right now to have a tailback who could best be described as mercurial. The adjectives most commonly applied to Holmes’s replacement, Larry Johnson, are far less flattering. Some are mild: off-putting, unmotivated, lazy, self-absorbed, childish. Some are more behavior-specific: misogynistic, homophobic, abusive, felonious. Others yet are unprintable in most media sources, but if George Carlin was alive today, I’m sure he’d campaign on journalists’ behalf for the right to use some of those descriptors, especially given that some of them are so deadly accurate.
Aside from team and position, Larry Johnson has little in common with Priest Holmes, both on and off the field. Holmes was a limited athlete who thrived in a league of more capable players by flexing the muscle between his ears. Johnson is a physical specimen who uses his athleticism as a crutch for poor preparation. Holmes was a respectful, law abiding individual who understood how to keep his complicated personal life (children by three different women, namely) personal. Johnson assaults women with everything from his bare hands to vodka tonics to loaded firearms. Holmes, when injured, was seldom seen with the team, but was seldom seen elsewhere either. Johnson dances with bottles of champagne at a nightclub on a broken foot.
I’m of the Charles Barkley train of thought when it comes to athletes being role models. It shouldn’t be required or even expected of them. They are not paid to be examples for our children. They are paid to run, throw, hit, and catch. While the capacity to do those things shouldn’t carry with it the burden of unrealistic social responsibility, it shouldn’t excuse unlawful behavior either. But it does. Take away the contract and the two Pro Bowl appearances, and Johnson wouldn’t have had the opportunity to post those inflammatory remarks to Twitter after last Sunday’s game–inmates just don’t get that much computer time. He has the contract and the Pro Bowls, however, so he retains the opportunity to further embarrass himself and the organization that cuts his paychecks, and he’ll be damned if any of us is gonna deny him that opportunity.
This most recent incident, irksome as it may be, shouldn’t have been the last straw for anyone, Clark Hunt included. Anybody who had not previously identified that Johnson doesn’t give a damn about redemption is either unobservant or blinded by misplaced loyalty.
Whether or not he remains a member of the Chiefs is inconsequential to me. There will always be a handful of players on this team that I simply don’t like. The uniform is not sacred. The record is, however. The record, however easily surmountable it may be, should not rest in the hands of so nefarious a character even for a day, let alone a decade. Priest won’t hold it forever, but for now it’s rightfully his and should remain as such. Whether it be Clark Hunt, Scott Pioli, or Todd Haley, somebody needs to step up and protect the face of this franchise. Cut the guy. Bench him. Make him return punts. Put him in as a special teams blocker. Use him in any way you see fit.
Just don’t put the ball in his hands. It only takes another 75 yards for him to leave an indelible stain on the organization. Don’t let that happen. There is no room in the hearts of even the most sinful of Kansas Citians for a man of such ill repute.
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