In the final game in AFL history, the Chiefs became the league's only three-time champions, defeating the Raiders by a 17-7 count at Oakland (1/4). Making the victory even more satisfying for the Chiefs was the fact that the Raiders players had to sheepishly walk out of the stadium with the luggage they had packed for New Orleans and Super Bowl IV. During the days preceding Kansas City's clash with the heavily-favored Vikings, unsubstantiated media reports associating Dawson with a known gambler hounded the Chiefs quarterback. The night before the game, Ed Sabol of NFL Films approached Vikings coach Bud Grant about being miked for the game. Grant declined, but Stram accepted. As both the Chiefs and the cameras rolled, Stram clamored for his team to run "65 toss power trap" and to "keep matriculating the ball down the field." The Chiefs used the game as a crusade for the American Football League and wore "AFL-10" patches which referred to the league's 10-year existence. The Chiefs used three Stenerud FGs and a Garrett TD run to take a 16-0 halftime lead. A dynamic 46-yard TD pass from Dawson to Taylor in the third quarter sealed the victory as Dawson was named the game's Most Valuable Player. Perhaps the grittiest performance of the day came from S Johnny Robinson, who registered two interceptions and a fumble recovery despite playing with three broken ribs. At approximately 5:20 PM, the final seconds ticked off the clock at Tulane Stadium as the biggest moment in Kansas City sports history came to a peak as the Chiefs were crowned World Champions by claiming a 23-7 victory in Super Bowl IV (1/11). A victory parade ensued upon the club's triumphant return to Kansas City the following day.
Replicating the success of '69 proved a difficult task for Stram and company. RB Mike Garrett, who was the club's all-time leading rusher at the time, was traded to San Diego and replaced in the lineup by RB Ed Podolak. Despite a 44-24 win at Baltimore (9/28) in just the second-ever telecast of ABC's Monday Night Football package, the Chiefs owned a 3-3-1 record at the season's midpoint. One of the season's pivotal junctures came in a 17-17 tie vs. Oakland (11/1). The Chiefs were ahead 17-14 when Dawson apparently sealed the win, running for a first down which would have allowed Kansas City to run out the clock. While on the ground, Dawson was speared by Raiders DE Ben Davidson in an infamous incident that cost the Chiefs a victory and further inflamed the already heated Chiefs-Raiders rivalry. WR Otis Taylor retaliated and a bench-clearing brawl ensued. Offsetting penalties were called, nullifying Dawson's first down. The Chiefs were forced to punt and Raiders K George Blanda eventually booted a game-tying FG with 0:08 remaining. That tie ultimately cost the Chiefs a tie with Oakland for the division crown as Kansas City finished the year with a 7-5-2 record, while the Raiders went 8-4-2.
The '71 Chiefs were regarded by many as the finest squad ever assembled by the franchise, including Lamar Hunt. "I always thought that our best team was the peak of our best team, our '71 squad,"; Hunt recalled. The '71 Chiefs fielded perhaps the most complete squad in franchise history, featuring a team-record 11 Pro Bowl performers. Offensively, WR Otis Taylor led the league with 1,110 receiving yards. In just his third pro season, Podolak surpassed RB Abner Haynes as the all-time leading ground gainer in team history. The longstanding linebacking trio of Willie Lanier, Bobby Bell and Jim Lynch was the league's best. The offensive line was headlined by G Ed Budde and T Jim Tyrer, while the defensive front featured a pair of Pro Bowlers in DTs Buck Buchanan and Curley Culp. Both K Jan Stenerud and P Jerrel Wilson represented the squad in the Pro Bowl, as well. The '71 squad became the first in team annals to register two Monday Night Football wins.
After bolting to a 5-1-1 start, the club went 5-2 during the second half of the season to finish the year at 10-3-1. A 16-14 victory vs. Oakland (12/12) gave the franchise its initial AFC West title.
The great promise of the '71 campaign ended dramatically in the longest game in NFL history, an AFC Divisional Playoff Game played on Christmas Day. It took 82:40, but a 37-yard FG from Dolphins K Garo Yepremian finally ended this epic as Miami claimed a 27-24 double OT win in the final football contest played at Municipal Stadium. Podolak accounted for an incredible 350 combined net yards, a figure that remains an NFL postseason record. The baton of power in the AFC was officially passed to the Dolphins, who went on to appear in three consecutive Super Bowls. It would be the Chiefs last playoff appearance for 15 years, effectively signaling the conclusion of the franchise's glory days.
The last original member of the '60 Dallas Texans departed on July 12th when S Johnny Robinson announced his retirement at training camp. Meanwhile, QB Len Dawson ended speculation about his retirement by signing a two-year contract. Hunt became the first AFL figure to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on July 29th.
The Chiefs lost a 20-10 decision vs. Miami (9/17) on Opening Day at Arrowhead in front of a crowd of 79,829. Municipal Stadium hosted its final pro sporting event as the Royals defeated the Rangers by a 4-0 count (10/4). A standing-room-only crowd of 82,094 fans was in attendance for a 27-14 victory vs. Oakland (11/5), the largest "in-house" attendance total for an NFL contest in Arrowhead's history. After a 5-3 start, a three-game losing streak effectively eliminated the club from playoff contention. An 8-6 record was good enough for only a second-place finish in the AFC West behind Oakland. LB Willie Lanier became the first Chiefs player to receive the prestigious NFL Man of the Year Award.
The defense kept the club in virtually every game thanks to a nucleus that still included the bulk of the squad's Super Bowl IV starters. QB Mike Livingston started in a 23-13 Opening Day loss vs. Oakland (9/16), but Dawson returned to rally the club for three consecutive wins to get the club off to a 3-1 start for a third consecutive year. Inconsistency and injuries took their toll down the stretch, though. Dawson made his final start of the year in a 23-14 loss at Buffalo (10/29) and was replaced for the remainder of the year by Livingston, beginning a string of three straight seasons in which both players split time at the position. Livingston led the club to three straight wins, putting the team in first place in mid-November with a 6-3-1 record. A 1-2-1 ledger over the season's final month ended the club's postseason aspirations as the team finished the year in a second-place tie with Denver at 7-5-2. Dawson became the second Chiefs player in as many years to win the NFL Man of the Year Award.
The AFC-NFC Pro Bowl was held at Arrowhead on January 20th with the AFC claiming a 15-13 win thanks to five FGs from Miami K Garo Yepremian. While the club's sparkling new facility was drawing rave reviews, the Chiefs roster was beginning to show its age. The result was the team's first losing season in 11 years as the club was unable to string together consecutive victories during the year, a first in franchise history. Many of the club's key players were entering the twilight of their careers: Dawson was 39, T Jim Tyrer was 35, LB Bobby Bell, DT Buck Buchanan and G Ed Budde were 34, T Dave Hill was 33 and WR Otis Taylor was 32. One of the year's few bright spots in the 5-9 season was CB Emmitt Thomas, who led the league with a franchise-record 12 INTs. The final game of the '74 campaign marked the final time all five of Kansas City's Pro Football Hall of Fame players from the club's Super Bowl era took the field together with Stram. Including Lamar Hunt and five future Vikings Hall of Famers, an amazing total of 12 Hall of Fame inductees were involved in that '74 game. That 35-15 loss vs. Minnesota (12/14) provided an anti-climatic conclusion to Stram's illustrious coaching career in Kansas City and was also the final game in a Chiefs uniform for eight-time All-Pro LB Bobby Bell. Three days later, the only head coach in franchise history was relieved of his duties on December 27th after compiling a 124-76-10 regular season record with the club.
San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Paul Wiggin was named the second head coach in franchise history on January 23rd. A former Pro Bowl defensive end for the Cleveland Browns, Wiggin inherited the unenviable task of rebuilding a squad whose pool of talent had been largely depleted due to age and a number of ill-fated trades that had left the club devoid of first-round draft choices in '73 and '75. After an 0-3 start to the season, Wiggin directed the Chiefs to three straight wins, beginning with a convincing 42-10 victory vs. Oakland (10/12). The highlight of the season was a 34-31 upset win at Dallas (11/10) on Monday Night Football. But the club could not maintain that success. Owning a 5-5 record heading into the homestretch of the season, injuries to a number of key players crippled the team. The team dropped its final four contests of the year to finish at 5-9 for the second consecutive season. The regular season finale at Oakland (12/21) marked the final games in the Hall of Fame careers of Dawson and Buchanan.
Buchanan officially hung up his spikes in February, while Dawson announced his retirement on May 1st. Off the field, Jack Steadman was promoted to President and Jim Schaaf was named General Manager in August. On the field, Kansas City's fortunes didn't improve in the second year of the Wiggin regime. The club dropped three straight home games before suffering a 50-17 setback at Buffalo (10/3), opening the season at 0-4 for the first time in team history. The team registered a 3-1 record during a successful midseason stretch, but could not maintain that momentum. After lingering in Dawson's shadow for eight seasons, QB Mike Livingston was firmly entrenched as the team';s starter, becoming the first signal-caller to start every regular season game since Dawson in '68. Even though he played well and rallied the squad for wins in two of the season's final three games, the Chiefs still ended the year with their third consecutive 5-9 record. RB MacArthur Lane was the club's top offensive threat, becoming the only player in franchise history to lead the league in receptions (66). One of the club's final ties to its glory days was severed when the dismantling of Municipal Stadium began on April 13th. A portion of the site was later developed into a community garden.
On the field, the Chiefs suffered their worst season ever, winning just twice and undergoing a midseason coaching change. An 0-5 start doomed the squad with a 44-7 loss at Cleveland (10/30) effectively sealing Wiggin's fate. Despite the club's record Wiggin was still a popular figure in Kansas City, but was nonetheless relieved of his duties on Halloween, marking the only in-season coaching switch in team history. Wiggin concluded his tenure with an 11-24 record. Defensive backs coach Tom Bettis was named interim coach and claimed a 20-10 victory vs. Green Bay (11/6) in the club's initial contest under his direction, but it was the only victory of his brief head coaching tenure. The team endured a six-game losing streak to conclude the season at 2-12. Bettis and the remainder of the coaching staff assembled by Wiggin were released on December 19th one day after a 21-20 loss at Oakland (12/18) in the regular season finale. Marv Levy, the former head coach of the CFL's Montreal Alouettes, was named the fourth head coach in franchise history on December 20th. The heart and soul of the Chiefs once-vaunted defense departed when roommates Lanier and Lynch, who both joined the club together as second-round draft picks in '67, retired following the '77 campaign. Baltimore later acquired Lanier's rights in a trade, but failed to lure him out of retirement.
THE LEVY ERA
Levy's systematic restocking of a relatively barren defensive roster began with a '78 draft class that included a pair of future Chiefs Hall of Fame enshrinees in DE Art Still (Kentucky) and LB Gary Spani (Kansas State). Another tie to the club's Super Bowl IV team was cut when RB Ed Podolak, who was the club's all-time leading rusher at the time, retired on June 15th. Perhaps Levy's most unconventional tactic in rebuilding the Chiefs was installing the Wing-T offense. "It was a situation where we took over a team that had the worst defensive record in the history of the National Football League,"; he later explained. "We wanted to keep that defense off the field, so we ran the ball 60 times a game." The "78 Chiefs ran and ran often, posting franchise records with 663 rushing attempts and 2,986 ground yards. Levy's squad ran the ball a staggering 69 times in a 24-23 Opening Day win at Cincinnati (9/3), the most rushing attempts in an NFL contest since '48. Five different players had 100-yard rushing games during the year, including RB Tony Reed who finished the season with 1,053 yards to become the team's first 1,000-yard back since '67. Despite the squad's Opening Day success, the club lost 10 of its next 11 games, including a pair of OT decisions. However, the team showed signs of improvement with the defense recording a 23-0 shutout vs. San Diego (11/26) as the club concluded its first 16-game schedule with a 4-12 mark.
Kansas City owned a pair of picks in the first round of the draft, selecting DE Mike Bell (Colorado State) and QB Steve Fuller (Clemson). By the season's third game, Fuller had supplanted QB Mike Livingston as the club's starter. With Fuller at the helm, the Chiefs owned a 4-2 record after six games, but a five-game midseason losing stretch sullied that effort. Despite finishing fifth in the AFC West for a second straight season, Kansas City's 7-9 record was a notable accomplishment considering the fact that the division's other four clubs all posted winning records for a second consecutive season. The Chiefs lost a 3-0 decision at Tampa Bay (12/16) in one of the most water-logged contests in franchise annals. As both clubs struggled to move the ball under monsoon-like conditions, a late, fourth-quarter FG by the Buccaneers averted the NFL's first scoreless tie since '43.