A pair of former AFC West foes offered a taste of Arrowhead Stadium through the eyes of a visitor Tuesday afternoon on NFL LIVE. Host Trey Wingo asked ESPN analysts Mark Schlereth and Marcellus Wiley which stadium they believed was the toughest place for an opposing team to go into and leave with a victory.
Both answered with “Arrowhead.”
“I’ll base it on what I know and the toughest stadium in the National Football League to play in when I was playing, and I don’t think it’s changed much, is Arrowhead Stadium,” said Schlereth, a member of the Denver Broncos from 1995-2000. “It’s so loud and the fans sit right on top of you. You get in that offensive huddle, they’re going to town and you can’t hear the quarterback. When you head up to the line of scrimmage it is impossible (to hear).”
Schlereth went on to say that the Broncos actually eliminated seven-step drops from their playbook when visiting Kansas City.
“As a matter of fact, when went there we cut all seven-step drops out of our offense,” Schlereth recalled. “The quarterback can’t even run a seven-step drop. It was three-step and five-step drops, we’re going to live with that. We eliminated a third of our playbook on the passing side because we just couldn’t run those plays.”
Eliminating the seven-step drop might have made it tougher for Chiefs defenders to reach the quarterback, but Denver QBs were still sacked 16 times in Schlereth’s six games at Arrowhead.
Overall, Schlereth’s teams went 1-6 at Arrowhead over the course of his NFL career (1-5 with Denver and 0-1 with Washington).
Wiley played just three seasons for San Diego, but visited Arrowhead six times throughout his 10-year playing career with the Bills, Chargers, Cowboys and Jaguars. His overall record wasn’t much better than Schlereth’s, going 1-5 at Arrowhead.
“You’re just driving through the parking lot and you’re distracted by the sea of red,” Wiley remembered. “Then you start to smell the bar-b-q and you’re like, ‘come on coach, pull this bus over to the side for a minute.’
“But then you get in there, and I remember when they had Tamarick Vanover, we were up by (four) and he ran a kickoff back. Let me tell you, this was the only time I’ve ever played any sport on any level where I had to put in ear plugs. The noise was deafening.”
The return that Wiley remembers came during his rookie season in 1997 when Vanover took back a kickoff 94 yards to give the Chiefs a 16-13 fourth quarter lead. Kansas City would eventually go on to top Buffalo 22-16.
“You talk about Arrowhead Stadium, that noise and that fandemonium out there; it’s the best stadium by far,” said Wiley. “You remember one thing about the National Anthem when you’re at Arrowhead…and the home of the CHIEEEEEFFFS.’ Oh man, that’s three points on the board right there.”
This past November, longtime Broncos and Raiders LB Bill Romanowski appeared on Chiefs LIVE! to recap the Chiefs vs. Raiders game in Oakland. He also touched on Arrowhead being the toughest place for an opposing player to play.
“Arrowhead, oh my lord, does that place take it to another level,” Romanowski said. “I remember going there for the first time as a Bronco and everyone warning me about what it was like there. What you knew about it was that it was going to be physical. You had better bring your big-boy pads because, if you don’t, you were going to get your block knocked off.”
The NFL’s toughest venues were up for debate this week on ESPN.com’s Power Rankings. Arrowhead was rated the fourth-toughest stadium overall by ESPN’s team of NFL bloggers.
Ranking the Toughest Venues (ESPN.com NFL Bloggers)
1. Lambeau Field (Packers)
2. Heinz Field (Steelers)
3. Qwest Field (Seahawks)
4. Arrowhead Stadium (Chiefs)
5. Soldier Field (Bears)
6. Superdome (Saints)
7. Gillette Stadium (Patriots)
8. Metrodome (Vikings)
9. Lincoln Financial Field (Eagles)
10. Oakland Coliseum (Raiders)
The only writer to rank Arrowhead first overall was AFC East blogger Tim Graham.
Each of the stadiums listed in the top-10 are worthy, but in the eyes of three opponents from each of Kansas City’s division rivals, there’s no questioning that Arrowhead is the toughest place to for an opponent to play.