Few NFL teams can match the rich history of the Kansas City Chiefs. That history continues to get richer as the franchise has captured its third Super Bowl win in five years with a 25-22 overtime victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII.
The Chiefs have had many great teams over the years. Some of those teams won champions, while others came up just short. This year's team has joined the 1969, 2019 and 2022 teams as world champions. They are also the ninth team (and first in 20 years) to repeat as champions.
So, where do the 2023 Chiefs rank among the franchise's best teams? Let's just say they're right up there with the best of them, as you'll see below.
Before we get to my rankings, it should be noted that it's almost impossible to compare current teams with ones that played over 50 years ago. The advent of free agency and the salary cap has completely changed how rosters are formed. You also can't ignore evolution and the physical changes that exist now compared to a half-century ago.
With that in mind, when comparing teams of different eras, I choose to look mostly at the talent that exists on each roster, with the understanding that team's today can't build teams like that anymore. Coaching, strength of opponents and enduring legacy are also considered when making lists like this
6. 2020 Chiefs
Injuries on the offensive line were the biggest reason why Kansas City came up short of successfully defending its title. Without solid protection, Patrick Mahomes spent most of Super Bowl LV running away from Buccaneers defenders.
It was a completely different night for Mahomes' counterpart, Tom Brady, who surgically dissected Kansas City's defense to the tune of three touchdowns on 21 of 29 passing.
5. 1966 Chiefs
- Overall record: 12-3-1
- AFL champions
Like the '69 team, the '66 Chiefs had loads of talent. That talent allowed them to roll through the AFL during the regular season before stomping the Bills, 31-7, in the AFL Championship.
Kansas City put up a good fight against Vince Lombardi's NFL champion Packers in the first half of Super Bowl I. The Chiefs actually outscored the Packers in the second quarter and faced a modest 14-10 halftime deficit.
The second half, however, was a different story. The turning point occurred early in the second half when Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson (who was under heavy pressure) threw an interception to Willie Wood that was returned 50 yards to the Kansas City 5-yard line. The Packers scored a touchdown on the next play en route to a 35-10 win.
In defeat, the Chiefs earned the respect of the Packers, including Hall of Fame defensive end Dave Robinson. Robinson said that the Chiefs' lack of consistent competition was perhaps the biggest reason why they weren't able to hang with the Packers in the second half.
"It wasn't so much their fault as it was the rest of the AFL," Robinson told CBS Sports in a 2020 interview. "The defense weren't that strong in the AFL, and so they had never experienced the things we did and the type of football we bring. We had an advantage right there, that was the big thing going for us.
"After they had inner-league play, the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders showed their true mettle, and they became very very good teams. All they need was inner league play so they had that experience playing against better defenses."
4. 2022 Chiefs
- Overall record: 17-3
There isn't a gaudy stat that you can go to define the greatness of the '22 Chiefs. Instead, it's the fact that they proved that they can still be world champions without the playmaking ability of Tyreek Hill, who was traded to the Dolphins the previous offseason.
The '22 Chiefs showed their resolve by getting past Joe Burrow and the rest of the defending AFC champion Bengals to get back to the Super Bowl. They did so after receiving a gritty performance by Mahomes, who played that game and the Super Bowl with a painful ankle injury.
Depth at the skill positions was a big reason why the Chiefs won last year's Super Bowl. They had 11 different players catch touchdowns from Mahomes, who put together a season for the ages. He is now the only player in history to win regular-season and Super Bowl MVP in the same year on multiple occasions.
3. 2023 Chiefs
- Overall record: 15-6
- Defeated AFC's top-two seeds on the road
Defense is a big reason why the current Chiefs are ranked ahead of the '20 team. Led by Chris Jones, George Karlaftis and Trent McDuffie, this year's Chiefs squad finished the regular season with the second-ranked scoring defense. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's group showed how good it is in the postseason, when they held the Ravens to 10 points and the 49ers to field goals late in Super Bowl LVIII.
The offense picked up its play this postseason, particularly a receiving corps that underwent heavy criticism during parts of the regular season. Rookie Rashee Rice stepped up, along with veteran Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Mecole Hardman, who spent part of the season with the Jets, came up with the game-winning touchdown pass in Super Bowl LVIII.
The Chiefs offense continued to receive stellar play this season from Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Isiah Pacheco and an offensive line that's been led by Pro Bowlers Creed Humphrey and Joe Thuney. Mahomes further added to his legend in Super Bowl LVIII by becoming the fifth starting quarterback with at least three Super Bowl wins.
2. 2019 Chiefs
- Overall record: 15-4
- First team to overcome 10-point deficits in three straight playoff games
As noted above, the 2019 Chiefs made a habit of overcoming sizable deficits in the playoffs. They trailed the Texans 24-0 in the divisional round before Mahomes led a run of 41 unanswered points. Mahomes threw five touchdowns in that game, including three to his favorite target, Kelce.
After putting 51 points on Houston, the Chiefs scored 35 against a tough Titans defense in the AFC Championship. Mahomes and Co. scored 31 in the Super Bowl against a formidable 49ers defense that included three touchdowns in the game's final seven minutes.
The ability to score in bunches was one of the things that made the '19 Chiefs so good. But the team also had an underrated defense that held Derrick Henry -- who destroyed the Patriots and Ravens in the previous two playoff rounds -- to 69 yards on 19 carries in the AFC title game.
1. 1969 Chiefs
- Overall record: 14-3
- Boasted AFL's second-ranked scoring offense and top-ranked scoring defense
The Chiefs' rich history includes being the final AFL team to defeat the NFL and the second to do in the Super Bowl. Kansas City's 23-7 win over the NFL champion Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV was the final game played before the league merger.
This team featured eight Hall of Famers, not including a gold jacket head coach (Hank Stram) and owner (Lamar Hunt). Six of those Hall of Famers played defense, which is one more Hall of Famer than the Steelers had on their legendary 1970s defenses.
Led by Hall of Fame linebacker Willie Lanier, the Chiefs defense allowed 6, 7, and 7 points in three playoff wins. With the defense stifling opponents, Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson did more than enough to lead the Chiefs to their first Super Bowl win. Dawson won Super Bowl MVP honors after throwing the game-clinching touchdown pass to Otis Taylor, whose career is also worthy of Hall of Fame consideration.