Chiefs fans want Green to succeed even more than they want a baseball team for whom a mugging of the first-base coach isn't the highlight of the season. Kansas City wants to love Trent Green. It wants to embrace him like it embraced the funky cow art that grazed city streets last summer, not shun him like it has the teddy bears this season.
It's not that Green has big cleats to fill. He's following Steve Bono and Elvis Grbac, two of the most gutless professional athletes ever to call Kansas City home.
Brian Griese, the Denver Broncos' quarterback, is replacing a legend who is more revered in the Rockies than snow. "Brian came into a situation where he replaced not just a franchise quarterback but the franchise quarterback, John Elway," Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe told ESPN.com. Rich Gannon plays in front of Oakland fans who wear spiked dog collars, carry medieval weaponry and speak Cro-Magnon. "I don't allow my wife and kids to come to any home games," Gannon recently said in a radio interview. Laid-back San Diego Chargers fans think a quarterback is what the kid at McDonald's gives you when you order a burger.
Grbac and Bono made Green's job here easy. Grbac was booed more at Arrowhead Stadium than Pete Banaszak and Ben Davidson combined. He immediately angered locals when he showed up at press conferences wearing a Cleveland Indians baseball cap. Grbac's most famous line as a Chief -- "I can't throw it and catch it, too" -- made him as popular as barbecued quiche.
Steve Bono, whom Grbac replaced, was even more despised. Bono got off on the wrong spatula when he compared Kansas City restaurants unfavorably with his favorite haunts in San Francisco. He played with all the personality of one of those marinated, fried Asian freshwater eels he was so homesick for. The guy was painful to watch and even more dreadful to listen to.
It is difficult to exaggerate the eagerness of Chiefs fans awaiting Green's arrival. Here was a native Missourian who played high-school ball in St. Louis and wore a Super Bowl ring on his finger from his years with Dick Vermeil's Rams. He was handsome, unlike Bono and Grbac. He spoke in sentences, not grunts. He looked into the camera, not at the cobwebs in the corners of the ceiling. His eyes were clear, not glazed. He smiled easily.
"I watched and learned how to deal with the fans and the media when I was in Washington," Green told me shortly after arriving in Kansas City in spring 2001. "I've heard that Kansas City can be a tough place for a quarterback, but I don't think I'll see anything here I haven't already dealt with."
Facing crowds that had lost their patience with him, Green rescinded those comments two weeks ago when he said on WHB 810 that Kansas City fans are unlike any he's encountered.
Sunday he showed how easy his job really is. All Green had to do last season was hand the football to Priest Holmes, throw a third-down pass or two to Tony Gonzalez and not break the forty-year-old franchise record for interceptions in a season. He couldn't do it. He lobbed more errant balls at the opposition than the Royals bullpen does.
Despite his 24 interceptions last season, we still did not give up hope. Chiefs fans excused Green's poor play on his bad knee, which we are now told is healed. It doesn't help that the Chiefs' defense gives up more ground than the Democrats, but Green isn't what we were told he was -- the next Joe Montana.
So far, he isn't even Joe South Dakota.