AFL Origins - 1970s - 1980s - 1990s - 2000 to present - Arrowhead Stadium
Hunt was elected President of the AFL on January 26th. Minneapolis officially withdrew from the AFL on January 27th. An ownership group from Dallas was awarded an expansion NFL franchise on January 28th to begin play that season in direct competition with the Texans. That same day, AFL owners approved the two-point conversion rule which was utilized for the AFL's 10-year existence, a rule that wouldn't resurface in the NFL for 34 more years. On January 30th, Oakland replaced Minneapolis as the eighth AFL outpost. In another ironic twist, the Chicago Cardinals franchise which Hunt had attempted to purchase a year earlier received permission from the NFL to transfer to St. Louis on March 13th. Perhaps the most important moment in the AFL's formative years came on June 9th when the league signed a five-year television contract with ABC that paid each club $112,000 during the '60 season.
The Texans set up offices in the Mercantile Securities Building, while Foss headquartered the AFL offices out of Dallas, as well. The Texans shared the Cotton Bowl for three seasons with the NFL's Cowboys. Reserved seats were $4, general admission $2 and high school students paid $.90 that initial season. Don Rossi served as the team's General Manager until November when he was succeeded by Jack Steadman. The Texans conducted their inaugural training camp at the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, NM. The club embarked on a whirlwind preseason barnstorming tour that featured road games in Oakland, Tulsa, Boston, Abilene and Little Rock. An announced crowd of 51,000 at the Cotton Bowl witnessed a 24-3 victory vs. Houston (9/2) as the club concluded a perfect 6-0 preseason record.
The initial regular season victory in team history came by a 34-16 count at Oakland (9/16) thanks to 88 rushing yards, a TD and two FGs from FB Jack Spikes (TCU). In addition to Spikes, the Texans also had a strong home-state identity with QB Cotton Davidson (Baylor), LB Sherrill Headrick (TCU) and RB Abner Haynes (North Texas State). Haynes led the league with 875 rushing yards and nine TDs, as well as combined net yards (2,100) and punt return average (15.4). Haynes' combined net yardage mark remained a franchise record until 2001. Thanks to Haynes, the Texans had a flashy, high-scoring club, which finished the year at 8-6 as three close losses kept the squad from challenging for the division title. The Texans averaged 24,500 for their home games, the highest average in the league.
Don Klosterman joined the franchise as Director of Player Personnel and a wealth of college talent was infused into the franchise's veins. The Texans and the NFL's Dallas Cowboys both drafted LB E.J. Holub (Texas Tech), described by many scouts as "the best football player in America." Holub decided to play for the Texans, joining three future Chiefs Hall of Famers - DT/DE Jerry Mays (SMU), TE Fred Arbanas (Michigan State) and T Jim Tyrer (Ohio State) - as part of the club's draft class. The club moved its training camp to Hunt's alma mater of SMU and started the regular season at 3-1 before hitting a six-game losing skid, the longest such streak of Stram's tenure with the franchise. One of those losses was a 28-21 decision in a Friday night contest at Boston (11/3) which featured a bizarre ending as a raincoat-clad fan knocked down a potential game-tying TD from Davidson to E Chris Burford on the game's final play. The team rebounded to claim wins in three of its final four contests to finish 6-8, marking the club's second straight finish behind the Chargers in the AFL West standings.
Stram was named Coach of the Year and RB Curtis McClinton (Kansas) was named the ' 62 AFL Rookie of the Year. Haynes became the franchise's first 1,000-yard rusher, concluding the season with 1,049 yards and an AFL-high 13 rushing TDs.
The Texans clinched their initial AFL Western Division Championship in November and finished with an 11-3 regular season record. Dallas won the '62 AFL Championship when K Tommy Brooker connected on a 25-yard field goal during the second overtime of the title game, giving the Texans a 20-17 victory at Houston (12/23). Spanning an elapsed time of 77:54, the game still stands as the second-longest contest in pro football history as the franchise claimed its first of three AFL titles.
Goin' To Kansas City
Despite the Texans championship season in '62, the Dallas market simply could not sustain two professional football franchises. In early '63, Hunt had taken scouting trips to cities such as Atlanta and Miami. Kansas City Mayor H. Roe Bartle learned of Hunt's interest in a new home for the Texans and extended an invitation for Hunt and Jack
Steadman to move the franchise to Mid-America. After the duo visited Kansas City on an incognito basis, an ambitious campaign took shape to deliver on Bartle's guarantee to Hunt of tripling the season-ticket base the Texans had enjoyed in Dallas. Kansas City's mayor, nicknamed "Chief," also promised to add 3,000 permanent seats to Municipal Stadium, as well as 11,000 temporary bleacher seats. Along with Bartle, a number of other prominent Kansas Citians stepped forward to aid in the efforts, putting together more than 1,000 workers to sell season tickets. On May 22nd, Hunt announced he was moving the franchise to Kansas City. Hunt and Stram initially planned on calling the relocated team the Kansas City Texans, but thanks to the insistence of Steadman, the team was officially christened the Chiefs on May 26th, in part to honor the efforts of Bartle. During their inaugural season in Kansas City, the Chiefs charged $7 for box seats and $6 for reserved seats at Municipal Stadium.
Three highly-touted draft choices began their tenures with the club in '63. Hunt's trade of Davidson landed the number one overall selection in the AFL Draft which Kansas City used to select Hall of Fame DT Buck Buchanan (Grambling). Ironically, the Raiders would later draft Hall of Fame G Gene Upshaw in '67 for the express purpose of blocking Buchanan. The Chiefs tabbed G Ed Budde (Michigan State) with their own number one selection, while stealing another future Hall of Fame inductee, LB Bobby Bell (Minnesota) in the seventh round. Buchanan, Budde and Bell all became starters on their way to a combined 526 games with the team. The first appearance of the Chiefs in Municipal Stadium attracted just 5,721 fans for a 17-13 preseason victory vs. Buffalo (8/9). Tragedy struck the club when rookie RB Stone Johnson (Grambling), who was a sprinter in the '60 Olympics in Rome, suffered a fractured vertebra in his neck in a preseason game vs. Oakland (8/30) in Wichita, KS. He died 10 days later on September 8th and his jersey number 33 was subsequently retired.
On January 29th, the AFL and NBC signed a landmark five-year, $36-million television contract beginning with the '65 season. The Chiefs began the year with a 2-1 mark before dropping three consecutive games as several of the team's best players, including LB E.J. Holub, TE Fred Arbanas and S Johnny Robinson, missed numerous games with injuries. Arbanas missed the final two games of the year after undergoing surgery to his left eye, in which he suffered almost total loss of vision. RB Mack Lee Hill (Southern), who signed with the club as a rookie free agent and received a mere $300 signing bonus, muscled his way into the starting lineup and earned a spot in the AFL All-Star Game. The club rounded out the season with two consecutive wins to close the season at 7-7, finishing second in the AFL West behind San Diego (8-5-1). An average of just 18,126 fans attended each home game at Municipal Stadium, prompting discussion at the AFL owners' meeting about the Chiefs future in Kansas City.
Bidding Wars, Merger Talks & Glory Days
The AFL and NFL had been openly competing for talent for years, but that bidding war for players heated up for the Chiefs in '65. Kansas City made RB Gale Sayers (Kansas) their first-round draft pick, but Sayers eventually signed with the Bears.
The club suffered a devastating blow when RB Mack Lee Hill suffered torn ligaments in his right knee in the next-to-last regular season game of the year at Buffalo (12/12). Following what was expected to be a routine surgery on December 14th at Menorah Hospital in Kansas City, Hill died from what was termed "a sudden and massive embolism." Hunt called Hill's death "the worst shock possible." Beginning the following year, the club annually bestowed the Mack Lee Hill Award on its top rookie or first-year performer in honor of this fallen young star. Just days after Hill's unexpected death, the mourning Chiefs defeated Denver (12/19) to finish the year with a 7-5-2 record.
The escalation in player salaries paid by the two leagues eventually led to a series of clandestine meetings between Hunt and Tex Schramm of the Cowboys that began in April at Love Field in Dallas. While merger groundwork was being laid, the Chiefs engaged in more subterfuge during the '66 draft. DE Aaron Brown (Minnesota) was highly coveted by many clubs, including the NFL's Steelers. The Steelers couldn't locate Brown on draft day since he was already aboard a flight with Hunt, who carried out the first mid-air signing in team history. Despite being drafted in the 20th round of the AFL Draft, the Chiefs signed Heisman Trophy RB Mike Garrett (USC) who earned AFL Rookie of the Year honors. Plans for the AFL-NFL merger were officially announced by NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle on June 6th.
The Chiefs started the season at 3-0, including a 32-10 win at Oakland (9/18) in the first contest played at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. A crowd of 43,885 attended the Chiefs home opener vs. defending AFC Champion Buffalo (10/2), the largest ever to witness a sports event in Kansas City at the time. The Chiefs dropped a 29-14 decision to the Bills, but after the contest, Stram and Buffalo head coach Joe Collier negotiated a trade in the middle of the field. Kansas City got K Mike Mercer for a fifth-round pick, solidifying one of the few weaknesses on the squad. Dawson led the league in passing, while Taylor became the first 1,000-yard receiver in franchise history, registering 1,297 yards. The Chiefs finished three games in front of Oakland to claim an AFL West title with an 11-2-1 record, setting the stage for the franchise's second trip to the AFL Championship Game.
Using a dazzling I-formation offense and a smothering defense, the Chiefs claimed a dominating 31-7 victory in the AFL title game at Buffalo (1/1) on the same day that future Chiefs star Derrick Vincent Thomas was born in Miami, Florida. That victory propelled Kansas City to the first AFL-NFL World Championship Game, later renamed Super Bowl I. The term "Super Bowl" was coined by Hunt during a committee meeting, inspired by a "super ball" owned by his three children. Although not officially adopted until the third such AFL-NFL World Championship Game, the name Super Bowl was seized upon by the media and quickly became a part of the worldwide sports lexicon. At the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Chiefs met Vince Lombardi's powerful Green Bay Packers (1/15). The Chiefs played the Packers close for a half, trailing 14-10, but Green Bay took control in the final two quarters, winning the game by a score of 35-10.
The club's special teams got a boost with the addition of K Jan Stenerud (Montana State), who originally enrolled in school on a skiing scholarship and KR Noland "Super Gnat" Smith (Tennessee State). Interest in the team skyrocketed, forcing an increase in seating capacity at Municipal Stadium from 40,000 to 47,000. In June, Jackson County voters approved a $43 million bond issue for construction of a sports complex.
The first contest between AFL and NFL teams in Kansas City resulted in a commanding 66-24 Chiefs victory vs. Chicago at Municipal Stadium (8/23). Injuries again hit the club hard during the regular season as the Chiefs clawed their way to a 9-5 record.
A debate raged in Kansas City whether the club's new stadium should be built downtown or at a "remote" location. A location in Eastern Jackson County was chosen as the site and groundbreaking ceremonies took place in July with plans calling for a unique "rolling roof" design. The '68 Chiefs boasted one of the finest defenses ever assembled by the club, allowing a franchise-low 170 points (12.1 ppg). The nucleus of the defensive unit was clearly in its prime, producing six AFL All-Stars, including all three of the squad's linebackers. Offensively, Dawson led the AFL in passing for the fourth time. The Chiefs began the season with a 7-1 record and rattled off five straight victories to close the regular season at 12-2, sharing the AFL West crown with the Raiders and setting up an AFL Western Division Playoff Game. Kansas City lost a 41-6 decision at Oakland (12/22) in the club's first postseason outing since Super Bowl I as the Raiders advanced to the AFL Championship Game against the N.Y. Jets.
The Chiefs continued the momentum they built during the '68 campaign by posting a perfect 6-0 record during preseason play. Kansas City began the regular season with fourconsecutive road games for the only time in team history. After a decisive 27-9 win at San Diego (9/14), the club posted a 31-0 shutout at Boston (9/21), but Dawson sustained a knee injury against the Patriots. The once-optimistic picture for the Chiefs went from bad to worse the following week when backup QB Jacky Lee went down with a broken ankle in a 24-19 loss at Cincinnati (9/28). That injury left the team's most crucial position in the hands of second-year QB Mike Livingston, who took just five snaps as a rookie in '68. However, Livingston engineered a five-game winning streak, while getting plenty of help from the club's defense. The team's home opener at Municipal Stadium was played in a daylong deluge referred to as a "frog-strangler" by Chiefs radio broadcaster Bill Grigsby. The Chiefs and Oilers combined for 14 fumbles in a 24-0 Kansas City victory (10/12). Dawson returned to the starting lineup in a 27-3 win vs. San Diego (11/9) and guided the club to three wins in the season's next four games. Broncos coach Lou Saban was infuriated following the Chiefs 31-17 win vs. Denver (11/27). Trailing 24-17 late in the game, Denver attempted an onside kick that was recovered by LB Bobby Bell, who promptly returned that kick for a 53-yard TD. Livingston started the following week vs. Buffalo (12/7) for an again-injured Dawson, who returned for the regular season finale at Oakland (12/13). A 10-6 loss vs. the Raiders gave the Chiefs an 11-3 record, good for second in the division behind Oakland (12-1-1). In an AFC Divisional Playoff Game at the N.Y. Jets (12/20), Kansas City rode its dominating defense which produced a crucial goal-line stand en route to a 13-6 win over the defending Super Bowl champions to set up a rematch with the Raiders in the final AFL Championship Game.
- 2000 to present
- Arrowhead Stadium
Chiefs Hall of Fame