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QB Series Chapter 17: Battered but not Beaten

Montana takes Chiefs to the AFC championship

*This is another in a season-long series on the Kansas City Chiefs search for a franchise quarterback. It appears weekly on Thursdays throughout the 2015 season.

Joe Montana's mojo was quick to catch on for fans and players alike in 1993, although he struggled through multiple injuries, making David Krieg, now the backup, valuable in an entirely different way.

Learning his third offense in as many years, Krieg suffered through a 30-0 drubbing by Houston early on, but when the Chiefs met the Bears at Arrowhead later that year, Krieg had started five times, the same as Montana.  He had finished three of Montana's starts as well. The Chiefs were leading the AFC West at 7-2 past the halfway point and he could take some credit for that.

The West Coast offense and the team's still great defense made the Chiefs a compelling story around the NFL like never before. Wherever the team went, interest peaked.


Montana made the Chiefs a compelling story like never before

Montana had qualities above and beyond knowledge of the West Coast offense. He was a gritty performer, well-liked by his teammates in the locker room, and someone with just the right temperament to lead a franchise in desperate need of a savior at the sport's key position.

In the bleakest of circumstances, he could always be called on to be calm and collected.  If mistakes occurred on his part or his teammates, he simply put them aside and went on to the next play.

That was never more evident than in the playoff games following the 1993 season when he brought the team back against Pittsburgh and Houston, the latter perhaps the best team in the NFL at the time.

Again, Krieg's contributions cannot be overlooked. Against Pittsburgh, Montana was injured and his return was questionable. In his place, Krieg led the team to an important touchdown before Montana returned.

While the narrative of Montana's injury in the AFC championship game in Buffalo made headlines and irresistible reading, and the outcome of the game represented an appropriately moving fulfillment of what happens when you lose a quarterback of Montana's stature, reality was something different.  The Bills were about to play in their fourth Super Bowl and were playing at home in another conference championship.  Even with Montana there was no assured outcome given the quality of Buffalo's roster and experience in big games, not to mention where the game was played.

Montana probably knew that the following year would be his last in pro football but it took nothing away from the excitement the season offered fans. While it never reached the heights of the previous one and ended with a first round loss in Miami in the playoffs, it was one of the Chiefs most exhilarating on record.


Bono became Montana's backup in 1994

Krieg didn't make it to 1994, replaced by Steve Bono, for the obvious reason that he knew the West Coast offense, was younger and less costly.  He also was a close friend of Montana's.

Clearly, he was no Montana, so the question remained whether the team could fashion another trip to the playoffs and on to a Super Bowl with him at the post.  The Chiefs were still at their peak powers in 1995, but whether Bono could "manage" the offense to the extent Montana had and go beyond was still be determined. 

Then there was the quarterback in waiting, Matt Blundin. What was his future and what would be the future of the Chiefs going forward without Joe Montana?

Next time: Back…Up

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