When the NFL denied Lamar Hunt a franchise he did what any good sports fan would do, he started his own professional football league.
Hunt called his new venture the American Football League. In his home town of Dallas, he founded one of the AFL’s eight charter franchises, the Texans. His AFL, which would soon rival and eventually merge with the NFL, debuted in 1960.
While the Texans did quite well in Dallas, the city couldn’t sustain them and the Cowboys. So Hunt accepted an offer from the Mayor of Kansas City to relocate his team to Missouri. The team moved to Kansas City in 1963 and changed its name to the Chiefs.
The Chiefs were led by their eloquent and toupee-wearing head coach, Hank Stram. With Stram “matriculating” on the sidelines, the Chiefs won three AFL Championships, the most in that league’s history.
Thanks to his team’s dominance, Hunt became an integral part of the AFL-NFL merger. However, before the leagues officially merged they agreed to play an end of the year game called the AFL-NFL World Championship game. Hunt suggested a less clumsy name for this game, The Super Bowl.
In 1966, the Chief represented the AFL in the very first Super Bowl (although at the time it was still called the AFL-NFL World Championship). The Chiefs were stuffed by the heavily favored Green Bay Packers, 35-10.
At the conclusion of the 1969 season Stram and quarterback Len Dawson would return to the “Big Game,” but this time the results were much more favorable. Super Bowl IV saw the Chiefs, once again heavy underdogs, chop down the Minnesota Vikings, 23-7. They became the second AFL team to defeat an NFL team in the Super Bowl.
Following that 1969 season the two leagues officially merged. The Kansas City Chiefs were put into the West Division of the AFC along with their rivals the Oakland Raiders, the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos.
In 1971, the Chiefs lost a playoff game to the Miami Dolphins on Christmas Day, 27-24. The game went into double overtime lasting 82 minutes and 40 seconds. It was the final game the team would play at Municipal Stadium. It also marked the end of era. The Chiefs wouldn’t return to the playoffs for another 15 years.
The next year the team moved into Arrowhead Stadium and they’ve been there ever since. After the 2008 season, venerated Arrowhead underwent a $325 million renovation.
The Chiefs would become a dominant team again in the late 1980’s under head coach Marty Schottenheimer. The team immediately got better when they selected defensive end Neil Smith and linebacker Derrick Thomas in consecutive drafts. With those two anchoring the defense, Chiefs made the playoffs in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1997.
The 1993 and 1994 teams featured hall of fame quarterback Joe Montana and hall of fame running back Marcus Allen. While these teams were good, and perhaps their defense was great, they were never able to reach a Super Bowl and played in just one AFC Championship Game.
In 1997, the franchise drafted tight end Tony Gonzalez. Before leaving for the Atlanta Falcons in 2013, Gonzalez rewrote the record books for his position. During his run with the Chiefs, Gonzales established new milestones for tight ends with 102 receptions in one season, 916 career receptions and 10,940 career receiving yards. He also represented the Chiefs in 10 Pro Bowls.
The team was close to breaking through in 2003. Winners of their first nine games, the Chiefs finished the season 13-3. Coached by Dick Vermeil and quarterbacked by Trent Green, the franchise once again found themselves coming up short when it mattered the most. The Chiefs lost a shoot-out, 38-31, to the Indianapolis Colts.
After an abysmal 2008 season, the team finished 2-14, Scott Pioli was hired as general manager and team president. He brought in Todd Haley to coach the team and traded for former New England Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel.
While the team has been to just one AFC Championship game since the merger, they have a dedicated and passionate fan base. Arrowhead Stadium is annually rated as the toughest place to play in NFL.
While the team has produced several hall of famers, including Willie Lanier, Bobby Bell, Jan Stenerud, and Buck Buchanan, the team will always be known for the immense contributions of its owner, Lamar Hunt. His love for football was directly, or indirectly, responsible for the creation of 15 franchises. Every year the winner of the AFC Championship Game receives a trophy bearing his name.