With a victory this weekend in Super Bowl XII, the Chunky Chickens will reserve their place among the greatest teams in YFFL history. A whopping 867 points, 11 regular season wins, a 110-point game, and two MVP Candidates are numbers few can attest to. However, the 2004 Chickens weren't assembled overnight. Year after year of disappointment finally paid off as young draft picks matured and a timely trade proved to be the missing link.
Ryan Longwell is the longest tenured Chicken. Joining the Chickens way back in 1997, Longwell has provided a steady leg for Mike through the years and ranks 10th all-time among scoring kickers. Championship teams seem to always have a reliable kicker to fall back on and Longwell is no exception.
With a kicker in place, the Chickens looked for a QB to build around. An aging Dan Marino wasn't going to be the Chickens QB when the millennium rolled around. In the 1999 draft, Mike patiently waited until the second round to draft Donovan McNabb just behind Greg Clark, Ron Rivers, Cecil Collins, Madre Hill and Bubby Brister. By selecting McNabb in the second round and Ricky Williams in the first, Mike had secured the building blocks he was looking for. It was the first of three consecutive successful drafts for Mike and the Chickens.
A year later, Mike returned to the draft looking to improve at the skill positions. The Chickens had the first overall pick and didn't hesitate to select Jamal Lewis first overall. Lewis has been one of the more productive players drafted first overall and has been a key contributor to the Chickens vaunted running attack. Later in the 2000 draft, the Chickens drafted Joe Horn in the third round just behind Az-Hakim and Charles Johnson. Kinsman has watched Horn grow into one of the league's better WRs and in 2004, Horn had his most productive year yet scoring 82 points.
With McNabb, Lewis, Horn and Longwell the Chickens were well on their way. The 2001 draft might have been the first sign of things to come for the once-storied franchise. Mike drafted LaDainian Tomlinson with the fifth pick in that year's draft. Tomlinson was surprisingly the third RB taken as Michael Bennett and Garrison Hearst were drafted first and second. Mike was able to grab another marquee RB in the second round when he selected Kevan Barlow. Barlow won't play this weekend but has been a key member of the Chickens for years now. In the third round, Mike got his hands on Drew Brees, the first of three young QBs that would find a place on the Chickens in the following years.
By 2002, Mike felt he had a championship team. Most of the league agreed. Then a funny thing happened...the NFC West got competitive. Almost out of nowhere, the UCornn Huskers reeled off 14 straight wins and won the YFFL Championship leaving the Chickens to wait for 2003. In 2003, it was different teams but the same result for the Chickens as the Beans and the Brothers shocked everyone and ran away with the NFC West. The Chickens, despite having one of the league's premier lineups, finished in dead last. If this was an E! True Hollywood Story, this is the part when the Chickens hit rock-bottom.
In the Summer of 2004, Mike knew something had to be done. Jerry Rice was aging, he had four great RBs but only three could play every week. Joe Horn was good but not good enough to be the go-to WR. Mike and the Chickens needed a new face. The Terrell Owens trade to the Eagles was just what Mike needed...McNabb and Owens would certainly take fantasy football hostage. Within weeks, the deal was done. Ricky Williams was traded to the Orangutangs for Terrell Owens. Antonio Gates, the final piece of the puzzle, was added in the 2004 draft and suddenly the YFFL was staring at the greatest lineup it had ever seen: McNabb, Tomlinson, Lewis, Owens, Horn, Gates, Longwell and Barlow.
Who knew Mike had a "five year plan"?