History sometimes has a funny way of repeating itself. In Kansas City, that couldn't be more true.
The story of the Kansas City Chiefs trading for a veteran San Francisco 49ers quarterback who leads them to the playoffs in his first year in Kansas City has happened before, not just with current starter Alex Smith.
It was 20 years ago that the Chiefs made the trade to bring over Joe Montana, and this six-part Chiefs Kingdom series below chronicles that season, which had its highs and lows and culminated with a couple of games that showed why the Chiefs brought over the Hall of Famer.
Act 1- Joe Montana is traded to the Kansas City Chiefs
"I think Marty (Schottenheimer) had come to the realization that to advance further in the playoffs, you couldn't be the Marty-ball, pound-it-out offense, you had to get yardage in chunks," Kent Pulliam of the Kansas City Star (1977-2009) said.
"Kansas Citians, we always feel marginalized," Michael MacCambridge, author of "America's Game," said. "We always feel like the bigger cities get more attention. There was this good team. Where was our Sports Illustrated cover? Where was the NBC sports crew to talk to us about our team? Well suddenly all of that came at once with Joe Montana."
"[Joe Montana] had this ability to win," Chiefs CEO and Chairman Clark Hunt said. "He had this ability to bring his teams back."
"This was the roller coaster ride," Kevin Harlan, "Voice of the Chiefs" (1985-1993), said. "This was the jolt. We hadn't seen anything like that since Lenny (Dawson). I mean you never figured you were out of the game."
"I had to get used to it because the very first huddle I was in the huddle with Joe, I was sitting there staring at him like a little kid like, 'That's Joe Montana,'" Chiefs receiver JJ Birden (1990-1994) said.
Act 2 – Montana's start in KC
"It was a feeling that he might be over the hill," MacCambridge said. "He also had that painful, that bursa sack on his elbow, it looked like that somebody had slipped a grapefruit under his skin, it looked very painful so there was some question: was the old Montana magic there? I remember watching the opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers down in Tampa. There had been some flashes in preseason but still, nobody was sure how that was going to go."
"We had a great training camp, practices, and it was like 'OK, here we go. How are we going to mesh?'" Birden said. "How are we going to start out? And right away, we just came out the gate flying."
Act 3 – Pittsburgh Steelers Playoff Game
"The Chiefs playing the Steelers in the early 90s was like looking into a mirror," MacCambridge said. "Those games sometimes were like isometric exercise. Two teams trying to do the exact same thing to one another and so, I think fans going into that playoff game in '93 were a little bit concerned because they knew the Steelers personnel matched up pretty well."
"We really didn't think we'd fall behind the way we did," Chiefs receiver Willie Davis (1991-95) said. "But with the guy we had at quarterback and the weapons we had on offense, there wasn't any panic."
"If you go back and look at that game, the calmest person in Arrowhead Stadium is so clearly Joe Montana," MacCambridge said. "How often when you need it on fourth down, does it come through, does it happen just like you would draw it up in a movie? And this was one of those times."
"Those are the moments that built what has now become this Arrowhead behemoth of noise, this wall of emotion," Harlan said. "That's what this stadium was made for, for big games and big-time noise. To feel that electricity that goes through you is just—it's indescribable."
Act 4 – Prepping for Houston Oilers Playoff Game
"We knew were going to have to give Joe as much time as possible," former Chiefs center Tim Grunhard (1990-2000). "Joe knew he was going to have to get the ball out quickly, but we also knew he was going to get hit."
"They were talking about how they were going to put Joe out of the game and he's old and we're going to hurt him," Davis said. "He can't move and we just felt disrespected."
"They didn't have a lot of respect for us and we knew that Joe was going to be a difference maker," Grunhard said. "We just weren't sure how much."
Act 5 - Houston Oilers Playoff Game
"I remember the frustration on the sideline and Al Saunders and the coaches were just telling us to calm down," former Chiefs receiver JJ Birden said. "We're going to stay with our game plan. It's going to work. It's going to work."
"Really the biggest play of that game in my eyes, it was the play right before half," Grunhard said. "Just a little bit overthrown and it tipped off his hands and he missed it. We knew at that point that we could get him the time enough to throw the ball down the field. That might as well had been a touchdown because we all looked at each other and said 'Hey, we can do this.'"
"I was about to go back to the huddle to kick the extra point, but I saw Buddy Ryan there," former Chiefs tight end Keith Cash (1992-96) said. "I saw that poster of Buddy Ryan. All week, that's all we had been hearing about. I saw it and let it fly right between the eyes."
"I think Keith, when he did that I thought it kind of put a spark under everyone," Davis said.
"A message was delivered that this was still a game," MacCambridge said.
Act 6 – The comeback
"There was a huge hoopla with Joe and Marcus on the offense but in reality, like many of Marty's teams, it was a team that was built on defense," Pulliam said.
"I really don't think that this old man was going to be able to take that pounding he took and play the way he did," Davis said.
"(Buddy) Ryan's philosophy, which had worked, was apply pressure on the quarterback," MacCambridge said. "One of the things that distinguishes great quarterbacks in the NFL is that when you try to blitz, when you try to sell out and leave guys open, the great quarterbacks will burn you. Even though the Oilers offense comes back, at one point, I think it's 21-20, you just felt by that point, Montana's running the show. He's not going to lose this game."
"I just felt that there wasn't a whole lot that we could do wrong," Cash said. "Whatever coach called was going to work." "It had been so long since this franchise had any tangible verifying success in that setting," Harlan said. "You had remnants of the owner, Lamar (Hunt), who's still with us and Leonard (Dawson) who was broadcasting with Bill Grigsby. There were always these reminders around of what was once was. Finally there was some validation that yup, they had come back."