Back in May the NFL writers and editors at CBSSports.com gathered together to discuss the key figures and moments of every NFL franchise in the Super Bowl era. Before long we were discussing every team's best and worst moments, along with their most-hated players and coaches, as well as some of the more bizarre things each team has been involved in. That spirited discussion produced this series -- the Good, Bad, Ugly and, sometimes, Bizarre moments for every team. We continue with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Len Dawson and the Chiefs win Super Bowl IV
If Joe Namath's guarantee had never happened, Len Dawson might've gone down in football history as the most famous quarterback to come out of the AFL. Although every football fan seems to remember the Jets' shocking 16-7 upset over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, the same can't be said for Dawson's Chiefs, which is too bad, because they pulled off an upset that was almost as big the next year.
Going into Super Bowl IV, no one thought the Chiefs were going to win. That year's Super Bowl was the final one before the NFL merger in 1970 and as the AFL representative, most people thought the Chiefs were going to get blown out by Minnesota.
The Vikings and their Purple People Eater defense were favored to win by 12 points, and although that's not as big as the 18-point spread in Super Bowl III, it still stands as one of the largest spreads in Super Bowl history.
If Dawson was intimidated by the Purple People Eaters, he never showed it. The Chiefs quarterback completed his first two passes of the game for a total of 37 yards, and after that, the rout was on. The Chiefs embarrassed the Vikings by scoring on four of their first five possessions and jumping out to a 16-0 lead.
Dawson completed 6 of 9 passes for 83 yards during that span, a performance that helped set up three first-half field goals by Jan Stenerud and a second quarter touchdown run by Mike Garrett.
Dawson would also throw a 46-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to ice the 23-7 win. Dawson's performance would earn him Super Bowl MVP, which was a huge deal for Dawson, because just days before the game, he had been named in a gambling probe, although he was never found guilty of anything.
Forty-six years later, the Chiefs' win in Super Bowl IV is still the biggest highlight in franchise history, and Dawson's still the biggest offensive star that the team's ever seen. You could make a strong case for Tony Gonzalez as the team's most famous offensive player ever, but unfortunately for Gonzalez, his success in Kansas City never translated to any postseason wins. Gonzalez went 0 for his career in the playoffs during his 12 seasons in Kansas City.
Not Dawson though.
The Hall of Famer led the Chiefs to five playoff wins from 1962 to 1969, which is even more impressive when you consider that the Chiefs have only won a total of four playoff games since then.
The crazy thing about Dawson is that his career in Kansas City almost never happened. After playing at Purdue, Dawson was drafted by the Steelers with the fifth overall pick in the 1957 NFL Draft.
The Steelers ended up trading for former Lions quarterback Bobby Layne in 1958, which made Dawson expendable. He would last one more season with the Steelers before being dumped after a three-year career where he only started exactly one game, which happened to be a loss.
After leaving Pittsburgh, Dawson signed with the Browns, but things didn't get much better there: Dawson only started one game in two seasons. In June 1962, Dawson asked for his release from Cleveland and was granted it by coach Paul Brown.
One month later, Chiefs coach Hank Stram called up Dawson and asked him if he wanted to come to Dallas (From 1960-62, the Chiefs were the Dallas Texans).
Stram had been on Purdue's coaching staff while Dawson was in college, so the quarterback jumped at the chance to play for someone he was familiar with. Dawson signed with the Chiefs/Texans in July 1962, and the rest is history.
From 1962 to 1971, Dawson would lead the team to three title game appearances and a total of five playoff berths. One of those title game appearances came in 1962, when Dawson led the Texans to a double overtime win over the Oilers in the AFL title game.
Dawson would also lead the Chiefs to an appearance in Super Bowl I, a game where he's probably best remembered for something that didn't even happen on the field.
Len Dawson smokes a cigarette & drinks a Fresca at halftime of Super Bowl I (Credit: Billy Ray/TIME) pic.twitter.com/POLvcBHAgr— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) February 8, 2016
Although halftime cigarettes are now generally frowned upon by the NFL, let's all take a second to reflect on the 1960s, when halftime cigarettes were awesome and probably somewhat encouraged.
Anyway, the Chiefs' didn't win Super Bowl I, but Dawson did turn them into a contender, which was a big deal for a team that was about to make the jump from the AFL to the NFL.
The Chiefs postseason record during Dawson's career was 5-3. Since Dawson's retirement in 1975, the Chiefs have gone 4-14 in postseason play, including 1-8 since 1994. Let's just saying it's been a depressing four decades since Dawson's retirement.
The tragic death of Derrick Thomas
Ask any Chiefs fan over the age of 30, and they'll probably be able to tell you where they were the day that Derrick Thomas died. The unexpected and tragic death of Thomas came just 16 days after he was paralyzed following a car accident in January 2000.
Thomas' death cut short a Hall of Fame career and left the NFL world in shock.
On Jan. 23, 2000, Thomas was headed to Kansas City's airport so he could catch a flight to St. Louis for the NFC title game that was set to be played between the Rams and Buccaneers. Thomas never made it to the airport, though.
At some point during his trip, Thomas lost control of his car on the icy roads of Kansas City. According to police, not only did the car flip over three times, but Thomas was thrown from the vehicle.
Although the accident left Thomas paralyzed, it looked like he was going to survive. The Chiefs linebacker was transferred to a hospital in Miami, where he began therapy right away. On Feb. 8, Thomas was going through a round of therapy when tragedy struck: The Chiefs' legend suffered a massive blood clot in his lungs, which caused a pulmonary embolism.
''He had just been transferred from his bed to the wheelchair,'' Neurosurgeon Frank Eismont told the New York Times in 2000. ''He muttered a few words to his mother like, 'I don't feel very well,' and then literally one or two seconds later, she looked at him and his eyes were rolled back."
He was 33.
Thomas left an enormous legacy on the field. The linebacker spent 11 years with the Chiefs after the team made him the fourth overall pick in the 1989 NFL Draft. In his just his second season with the Chiefs, Thomas racked up 20 sacks, which at the time, was the fifth highest single-season total in NFL history (It's now tied for 10th).
Thomas' 1990 season included an unheard of game against the Seahawks, where he tallied seven sacks, an NFL single-game record that still stands to this day. Thomas also racked up six sacks in a 1998 game against the Raiders, which is tied as the second highest single-game total in NFL history.
The nine-time Pro Bowler racked up a total of 126.5 sacks during his 11-year career, which is the 16th highest total in NFL history. If the 33-year-old had played five more seasons and averaged five sacks per season, he would've finished fourth on the NFL's all-time sack list.
Thomas' 11-years of dominance was honored in 2009, when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Chiefs would also deal with tragedy again in 2012. In December of that year, linebacker Jovan Belcher committed suicide at the team's facility, just hours after shooting and killing his girlfriend. In 2014, a neuropathologist discovered that Belcher had CTE after examining his brain.
Scott Pioli is a massive failure
When the Chiefs originally hired Scott Pioli in January 2009, they had high hopes for their new general manager, and you can't really blame them. After all, Pioli arrived in Kansas City from New England, where he had spent nine seasons (2000-08) as a vital member of the Patriots' front office.
Pioli helped put together three Super Bowl winning teams in New England and the Chiefs were hoping that he would be able to to do the same thing in Kansas City. Pioli never came close to matching his success in New England though: He was basically a disaster from the start.
In his first 60 days on the job, Pioli hired an unproven coach (Todd Haley), traded for an unproven quarterback (Matt Cassel) and then traded away the Chiefs most proven commodity (Tony Gonzalez).
It was almost like Pioli was writing a book on how not to run an NFL team.
Before being hired by Kansas City, Haley had never been an NFL head coach. As for Cassel, the Chiefs decided to give him a $63 million contract -- that included $28 million in guarantees -- even though he had only been a starter for one year and had never proven in any way that he might be good over the long term.
The trade that sent Gonzalez to Atlanta is actually the only defendable thing that Pioli did during his first two months on the job. Pioli didn't exactly have a choice because Gonzalez had asked to be traded.
All three of these moves went down in a span of 50 days, and things didn't get much better after that. In his first draft with the team, Pioli and the Chiefs spent the third overall pick on defensive end Tyson Jackson, who spent five not-so-productive years in Kansas City.
Pioli basically had three strikes on his resume before he even got to his first regular season in Kansas City, which is a lot strikes for one offseason, let alone your first offseason with a team. If the Chiefs were smart, they would've sent Pioli and Cassel back to New England before the 2009 season started.
During Pioli's four years in Kansas City, the Chiefs would make the playoffs once (2010). Unfortunately for Pioli though, he'll mostly be remembered for the other three seasons when the Chiefs went 4-12, 7-9 and 2-14.
Alex Smith throws zero TD passes to his wide receivers for a whole season
In what will likely go down as one of the most bizarre records in NFL history, Alex Smith managed to go an entire season without throwing a touchdown pass to a wide receiver. Yes, it seems impossible, but make no mistake, Smith pulled it off.
The Chiefs quarterback threw 18 touchdown passes that season and none of them went to a wide receiver.
So who did they go to?
Well, Travis Kelce and Jamaal Charles each caught five. People on the Chiefs' roster named Anthony also had a big season as Anthony Fasano (4) and Anthony Sherman (1) combined for five touchdown catches. The other touchdown passes in 2014 went to running backs Joe McKnight and Knile Davis.
If you wore the jersey of a Chiefs wide receiver to Arrowhead Stadium in 2014, there's a good chance you went home crying every week.
The bad news for Smith is that this record might end up being what he's known for after he retires because there's a good chance it's going to stand for the rest of time. Before 2014, the 1981 Saints and 2004 Giants held the record for fewest touchdown catches by a wide receiver. Both teams finished the season with two.
The 1964 Giants, 1960 Redskins and 1950 Steelers all did the same thing as the Chiefs and didn't throw a touchdown pass to a wide receiver. However, those three teams didn't play a 16-game schedule, so the Chiefs accomplishment was slightly more impressive (or embarrassing, depending on your point of view).
The good news for Smith is that he did eventually end up throwing a touchdown pass to a wide receiver. In Week 3 of 2015, Smith ended a 659-day drought when he threw a touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin.
Maclin probably kept the ball, but only because I'm sure he thought it was going to be the only touchdown pass he ever caught from Smith.
On the other hand, there's a good chance that no one will remember Smith's bizarre season if he can do what Len Dawson did in 1969: Lead the Chiefs to a Super Bowl win.
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More Good, Bad, Ugly and the Bizarre
Where's your favorite NFL team? Check the schedule below
- June 29: Chicago Bears
- 30: Detroit Lions
- July 1: Green Bay Packers
- 4: Minnesota Vikings
- July 5: Houston Texans
- 6: Tennessee Titans
- 7: Jacksonville Jaguars
- 8: Indianapolis Colts
- July 11: Carolina Panthers
- 12: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- 13: Atlanta Falcons
- 14: New Orleans Saints
- July 15: Pittsburgh Steelers
- 18: Baltimore Ravens
- 19: Cincinnati Bengals
- 20: Cleveland Browns
- July 21: Arizona Cardinals
- 22: Los Angeles Rams
- 25: Seattle Seahawks
- 26: San Francisco 49ers