When the KC Chiefs clash with the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV, the Chiefs will face their former first-round pick who played five seasons in Kansas City before getting traded to the 49ers this past offseason: Dee Ford.
After Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid had wrapped up his first season with the team, which saw the Chiefs go 11-5 in the regular season only to spectacularly blow a 28-point lead in the Wild Card game to the Indianapolis Colts, the Chiefs used its first-round selection on a defensive end from Auburn.
The Chiefs held the number 23 pick that draft, and with it selected Dee Ford one pick after the Cleveland Browns traded up to select Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. Ford, who played in parts of five seasons for Auburn, had just wrapped a senior season in which he collected 14.5 tackles for loss to go with 10.5 sacks as the Tigers went 12-2 (7-1) in head coach Gus Malzahn’s first year.
After crushing Mizzou in the SEC Championship Game, 59-42, with Ford picking up three tackles and 0.5 sacks, Auburn fell in the final BCS National Championship game to Florida State, 34-31 despite Ford’s two sacks of the Seminoles starting quarterback, Jameis Winston.
A couple months later, Ford landed in Kansas City with the Chiefs, his team from 2014-2018.
The first two seasons of Ford’s career were rather quiet as he picked only a combined 5.5 sacks. He broke out with 10 sacks in 2016 before appearing in only six games in 2017 due to injury.
Ford had a career year in 2018, which nicely coincided with his contract year. Not only did Ford play in all 16 games with the Chiefs, he also started every single one of them while appearing in 1,022 defensive snaps, which was 87% of the team’s total plays.
In 2018, he forced a league-leading seven fumbles while setting a career-high in sacks with 13. He also set career highs in combined tackles (55), solo tackles (42), tackles for loss (13), and quarterback hits (29).
But instead of Ford landing a long-term deal with Kansas City, the Chiefs slapped him with the franchise tag before trading him on March 13, 2019, to the 49ers for a second-round draft pick. Simultaneously, Ford and the 49ers agreed to a five-year, $85.5 million extension with over $33 million guaranteed.
His first season in the Bay Area was fine, if not a disappointment. Appearing in only 11 games, starting just two, Ford played nearly 1,000 fewer snaps as he was on the field for just 22% of San Francisco’s defensive plays. But in that short frame of time, he collected 6.5 sacks, forced two fumbles, and collected six quarterback hits.
Yet, the San Francisco 49ers exceeded expectations without him, finishing the season 13-3 before defeating a pair of NFC North teams en route to once again capturing the George Halas Trophy.
Now Ford, of course, faces off against his original team for the first time on the grandest of stages.
And, as you well know, things didn’t exactly end well for him while in Kansas City. In the Chiefs 37-31 loss to the Patriots in last season’s AFC Championship Game, a Chiefs interception that would’ve sealed the team’s victory was negated due to Ford lining up in the neutral zone.
That play has been on the tongue of many interviewers gathered in Miami this week, and it’s also clearly been on Ford’s mind. Over a week ago, Ford told USA Today, in part, that “[t]here’s no love lost nowhere” regarding his time with the Chiefs. He explained further that he loves the people in the Chiefs organization and knows that the feeling is reciprocated.
But at “Opening Night” of Super Bowl Week, he admitted it was tiresome repeatedly answering questions about that one play.
Right or wrong, for better or worse, it’s going to be that one play that forever defines Ford’s five seasons in Kansas City.
Regardless if the 49ers win on Sunday, regardless if the Chiefs win on Sunday, when football fans–especially those in Kansas City–reflect back on his years with the Chiefs, no one will remember Ford for anything other than a mental blunder that cost the Chiefs a chance against the Rams in Super Bowl LIII.
Well, unless he does it again on Sunday.