From Super Bowl IV to Super Bowl LIV: Fifty years of the Kansas City Chiefs

I am sure you are already aware of this but the Kansas City Chiefs are in the Super Bowl.

It has been a long time coming too. The last time the Chiefs made it to the big game Richard Nixon was President of the United States, Andy Reid was 12-years-old and Patrick Mahomes’ father hadn’t even been born yet!

However after 50 years of pleading to the football Gods, the Kingdom can finally rejoice again because they are back and better than ever.

But you know what they say, it’s about the journey not the destination. So in the build up to Super Bowl LIV on Sunday, why not take a moment to reminisce on some of the franchise’s defining moments from 1969 to now.

1970 – The Chiefs’ only ring

Dawson & Co

At the climax of the 1969 season the Chiefs battled it out against the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV.

Of course the Chiefs were underdogs coming into this game as a member of the inferior AFL conference. In the end they managed to silence the critics with a convincing 23-7 victory, awarding us our first and only Super Bowl title to date. A dominant Len Dawson led offence, combined with a smothering defence, proved to be too much for Minnesota.

The game also saw the birth of one of the most iconic phrases in NFL history. The “65 toss power trap” call from head coach Hank Stram resulted in the Chiefs’ first touchdown of the game and began to hammer the nail into the Vikings’ coffin.

1972 – The founder is enshrined

Lamar

Lamar Hunt is widely regarded as one of the founding fathers of the modern NFL. As well as creating the American Football League back in 1959, Lamar also founded the Kansas City Chiefs organisation the following year.

Since 1985 the AFC Championship trophy has been named after him and the Chiefs won it for the first time this season.

His influence, not only on the franchise but on the sport as a whole, made him a perfect candidate for the hall of fame in 1972.

1974 – tHANK you

After the 1974 season the legendary Hank Stram stepped down from the head coaching position. During his 14 seasons with the team, Stram’s excitable energy led the team to an AFL Championship title, two Super Bowl appearances and our only Super Bowl victory.

It’s pretty safe to say that he had a huge impact on some of the franchise’s best moments.

Stram would go on to be conducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003, forever cementing his legacy in the NFL.

1983 – Bobby rings the Bell on Hall of Fame career

Bobby Bell

The defensive end / linebacker hybrid and Chiefs’ legend Bobby Bell was selected into the pro-football hall of fame in 1983.

During his 11 year career from 1963 to 1974 Bell totalled 26 interceptions. He was also selected to nine consecutive pro-bowls and made six consecutive all-pro appearances.

1987 – The fourth Chief receives his gold jacket

Dawson

One year after his former teammate Willie Lanier, Len Dawson was inducted into the pro-football Hall of Fame. Dawson’s most memorable moment came in 1970 when he lead the Chiefs to victory in Super Bowl IV. His performance awarded him the Super Bowl MVP title.

Len Dawson played for the organisation for 13 seasons; totalling 28,507 yards and 237 touchdowns during this span.

Number 16 will go down as one of the greatest players to ever don a Chiefs jersey.

1989 – DT becomes a Chief

DT 3

Six years after one legendary Chiefs linebacker was immortalised in Canton, another began his journey on the team.

In the 1989 NFL draft Kansas City selected Alabama linebacker Derrick Thomas fourth overall.

Here’s a fun fact: the two players drafted either side of Thomas were running back Barry Sanders and cornerback Deion Sanders.

During his 11 seasons at the pro-level DT totalled 641 tackles, 126.5 sacks and 41 forced fumbles.

His domination over NFL offences didn’t come without its fair share of accolades either.

He was his class’ defensive rookie of the year, a two time all-pro in back-to-back years and was also selected to nine consecutive pro-bowls.

His ability to get to the edge and crash into the opponent’s backfield was hard to defend and even harder to replicate. One of his signature moves of swatting the ball out of the quarterback’s hands as they wind up to throw will always be iconic.

1990 – A whole lotta sacks

DT 2

On 11th November 1990 Derrick Thomas set the NFL record for most sacks in a single game, an achievement that still stands to this day.

He brought down Seattle Seahawks quarterback Dave Kreig seven times over the course of the game. One of his fumble sacks which was recovered for a defensive score was also the team’s only touchdown of the game.

Despite Thomas’ efforts the team went on to lose the game 17-16. Regardless, it will still go down as one of the greatest solo performances by any player in NFL history.

1991 – A return to postseason success

In the wild card round of the 1991 playoffs the Chiefs took down the Raiders 10-6.

This may not sound like the most exciting game but it marked a huge moment for the organisation. Prior to the game the Chiefs had never won a playoff game at Arrowhead stadium.

As if that wasn’t sweet enough, this game was also the team’s first postseason victory since winning Super Bowl IV back in 1969.

The glory didn’t last long however as they went on to lose to the Bills 37-14 in the divisional round.

1993 – From the Bay to the Kingdom

Joe Cool

After being sidelined for Steve Young, Joe Montana was desperate to get out of San Francisco. He demanded a trade that the Chiefs pounced on. 

A 1993 first round pick was all it took to grab the future hall of fame quarterback.

In his first season as a Chief Montana had more playoff victories than the franchise had managed over the last 20 years.

1993 – So close yet so far

Montana

The Chiefs made it all the way to the Conference Championship in the 1993 season only to be dismantled by the Buffalo Bills 30-13.

As well being Montana’s first season, it was also running back Marcus Allen’s first time in red and yellow. The dynamic duo helped the Chiefs to a 11-5 regular season record.

Wide receiver Willie Davis also played a huge role in the 1993 campaign as he totalled 17.3 yards per reception and seven touchdowns on the year.

This was also left guard Willie Shield’s rookie year. He replaced the injured starter David Szott in the first game of the season which marked the start of his fantastic career.

Meanwhile on the other side of the ball, defensive end Neil Smith set a career-high in sacks, with 15, which awarded him the only all-pro selection of his career.

The Chiefs failed to reach the Conference Championship again until 2018; Patrick Mahomes’ first season as a starter.

2003 – Holmes breaks Faulk’s record

Priest

In week 17 of the regular season Priest Holmes rushed for his 26th and 27th touchdowns of the year.

This score broke Marshall Faulk’s record of rushing touchdowns in a single season.

The score was later tied in 2005 by Seattle’s Shaun Alexander and then beaten the following year by the great Landian Tomlinson.

Holmes’ performance that season earned him both pro-bowl and all-pro honours.

2003 – The Human Joystick

Hall

In 2003 Dante Hall returned a career-high five kick/punt returns for touchdowns across the regular season and playoffs.

However there’s a couple of facts that make this achievement even more noteworthy.

Firstly, the four that Hall scored in the regular season came in four consecutive weeks against the Steelers, Texans, Ravens and Broncos.

On top of this he also averaged 91 yards on these touchdowns.

Hall will go down as one of the greatest return specialists of all-time. His nickname ‘The Human Joystick’ perfectly describes his ability to make defenders miss and weave through traffic.

2006 – Lamar passes away

Lamar 2

A year after his son, Clark, took over ownership of the franchise, Lamar Hunt sadly lost his battle with prostate cancer.

As I said earlier in the piece, Lamar will go down as one of the most influential figures in NFL history and the fact that his son is now continuing his legacy truly is a beautiful thing.

If he could see the team now I would like to think that he would be immensely proud of what they have achieved.

2008 – Gonzalez overtakes Sharpe

gonzalez

In week 4 of the regular season Tony G became the NFL’s all-time leader for receiving yards by a tight end.

What made this achievement even sweeter was that he overtook Shannon Sharpe who was a member of the divisional rivals Denver.

This season was also Gonzalez’s final year in Kansas City. As well as setting the record he also enjoyed pro-bowl and all-pro honours in 2008.

By the end of his career Gonzalez was the NFL’s all-time leader for receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns for a tight end. It’s understandable why people call him the greatest ever player at that position.

Since then only Antonio Gates has caught more touchdown passes as a tight end. (Gonzalez still holds the record for receptions and receiving yards though).

His play style revolutionised the tight end position. Gonzalez’s career as a whole paved the way for future stars like Rob Gronkowski, Jason Witten and our very own Travis Kelce. 

Instead of just being considered a last resort for a quarterback, Gonzalez made sure that defenders respected him as a legitimate number one receiver.

2008 – Kansas City steals Jamaal

charles

In the 2008 draft the Chiefs used the pick they gained from the Jared Allen trade with the Minnesota Vikings to select Jamaal Charles 73rd overall.

Kansas City’s GM Carl Peterson committed daylight robbery as the Texas running back was the tenth player at that position to be taken off the board. The only notable player to be selected before him is Matt Forte.

By the end of his career Charles had 5.4 yards/carry which is the fourth best all-time (amongst players with a minimum 6.25 rushes per game and 750 career carries).

He made some of the darkest days of being a Chiefs fan a whole lot brighter.

2013 – The dawn of the Reid era

Reid

After two consecutive negative seasons, finishing 7-9 and 2-14, the Chiefs decided that something had to change.

The front office managed to pry Eagles head coach Andy Reid away from Philadelphia to become the new head coach of the Chiefs.

This change was a fresh start for the franchise and we haven’t seemed to have looked back since.

Reid’s appointment has led the team to seven consecutive winning seasons and we have only missed the playoffs once in that span as well.

2014 – Rushing past Holmes

Charles 2

In the 2014 season Jamaal Charles passed Priest Holmes to become the Chiefs’ all-time leading rusher.

This solidified and already great player as a franchise legend.

After two more seasons in Kansas City, Charles parted ways with the franchise to finish his career in Denver and then Jacksonville.

2014 – Justin Houston, sack artist

Justin

Number 50 had arguably the best season of his career in 2014. He finished the year with 22 sacks with placed him tied second all-time for single-season sacks alongside former Chief turned Viking Jared Allen and Mark Gastineau. 

Michael Strahan’s 2001 campaign is alone at the top of the leaderboard but he only has .5 more than Houston had in 2014.

2014 – Berry Strong

Berry

Eric Berry is widely-known as one of the best defensive backs in the franchise’s history.

After being selected fifth overall in the 2010 draft, he became the first Chiefs rookie to be selected to the pro-bowl since Derrick Thomas in 1989.

He went down with a torn ACL in week one of the 2011 season which saw him miss the entire year.

But number 29 didn’t stay down for too long. He came back in 2012 with another pro-bowl selection and picked up his third along with an all-pro selection the following season.

However late in 2014 all-pro safety Eric Berry was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma which forced him to step away from the game he loved once again.

After missing the majority of the season in 2014, Berry beat cancer and came back better than ever. In his 2015 and 2016 campaigns he received back-to-back all-pro votes and pro-bowl selections and also won the ‘2015 Comeback Player of the Year’ award.

This relentless pursuit to be great and come back stronger than before is why I consider him my favourite Chiefs player of all-time. He put absolutely everything he had and more into the franchise.

2017 – Veach takes the reigns in KC

Kansas City Chiefs v Dallas Cowboys

Spending the past two seasons as general manager of the Chiefs, Brett Veach has played a huge role in the franchise’s current success.

When he was the co-director of player personnel for the team it was Veach who went all-in on Patrick Mahomes ahead of the 2017 draft, and we all know how that panned out for us.

As well as the reigning MVP, Veach is also largely responsible for a whole host of significant upgrades to the team. Here are a few:

  • Replacing Bob Sutton with Steve Spagnuolo
  • Signing S Tyrann Mathieu
  • Trading 2019 first round pick to the Seahawks for DE Frank Clark
  • Trading Parker Ehinger to the Cowboys for CB Chavarius Ward
  • Trading QB Alex Smith for CB Kendall Fuller
  • Drafting S Juan Thornhill, WR Mecole Hardman, DL Derrick Nnadi, DL Khalen Saunders, CB Rashad Fenton, DE/DL Tanoh Kpassagnon and RB Kareem Hunt

It’s safe to say that the team is in a much better state because of him and his bold, confident personality. A lot of the success of this team can be boiled down to Veach’s excellent work.

2017 – The start of something special

The Chiefs were in need of a franchise-leading quarterback. They hadn’t selected a player from that position in the first round of the draft since Steve Fuller in 1979.

It was clear that Alex Smith had taken the team as far as he could and, as much as he was a consistently good Chief, it was time for change.

That’s why in the 2017 draft the Chiefs traded up 17 spots from 27th all the way to tenth overall in order to snatch Texas A&M’s Patrick Lavon Mahomes II.

He was considered a huge risk to take at ten, especially because National Champion Deshaun Watson was still on the board. However it’s something that Veach and company felt was the right thing to do and boy did it pay off.

After sitting his rookie season behind Alex Smith, Mahomes took the helm for the first time in the 2018 season. He went on to have one of the greatest ever seasons for a quarterback, totalling a whopping 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns.

He also took the team to two straight conference championships in the first two seasons of being a starter. What makes this achievement even more impressive is that they were also the first two times in franchise history that Arrowhead has hosted the AFC title game.

Mahomes’ talents have revolutionised not only the Chiefs’ offence but the NFL as a whole.

The next 15 years are going to be fun.

2019 – Get used to this feeling

AFC

That brings us to now where the Chiefs sit on the verge of their first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years. And what a 50 years it has been. The team has been on a rollercoaster ride of emotions with astounding highs and crushing lows.

Despite my greatest efforts I don’t think it was possible to capture all of the Chiefs’ memorable moments from 1969 to now. What did I miss out? Let me know on Twitter: @WiddowsonOwen

One thing is certain though, it feels great to be a Chiefs fan right now.

 

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