The 1969 Super Chiefs

There have been some very good teams in the history of the Kansas City Chiefs, but only one great team. 

When I originally ran my survey to find some perceptions on which team Chiefs’ fans thought was the greatest ever, I was pretty sure it would easily be the 1969 version, the franchise’s only Super Bowl champion. I was wrong. The ’69 group received just 45% of the vote. The 1971 team received 21% of the votes as the Chiefs greatest team ever, and the 1993 Joe Montana Chiefs received 26%.

How is that possible?

After initially being baffled, it was easy to figure out. Sports fans romanticize losing teams more than winning teams, and usually love a team that didn’t win it all more than the one that did. I’ve heard from fans, former players, and others that felt the ’71 team was better than the 1969 champs. Why? They lost a game they should have won, that’s why. The 1993 team lost the AFC Championship game, but the team had one of the greatest QBs ever—and the fact that they played just 20 years ago as compared to 45 might have something to do with it as well. In addition to the three teams I listed in the survey, a couple of people voted for the 1997 team, another Chiefs’ team that failed to win a playoff game.

I could go into detail about why the 1969 team is the best, but I’ll keep it brief. In no particular order, here’s the main laundry list of why this was a special and great team.

  • The team overcame losing its starting QB for half the season.
  • The defense gave up just 20 points in 3 post-seasons games.
  • They beat the defending world champs in the first round of the playoffs.
  • They beat the Raiders, finally, after losing to them 7 out of 8 times.
  • The won the Super Bowl.

It’s a simple list. Check out my Chiefs Encyclopedia or SUPER CHIEFS books for more stuff, but really, being the franchise’s only champion is why the 1969 Chiefs are the best-ever. As for the other three teams named in the survey, no. I loved the ’71 team, but something was missing from that team, whether it was a drive and hunger to win or just a couple more star players to put it over the top.

I love the "Choir Huddle" used by the Super Chiefs, and I've used several different photos of it in my books. This is a shot from Super Bowl IV.

I’ve always thought the “Choir Huddle” used by the Super Chiefs was cool. This is a shot from Super Bowl IV.

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For the most part, I watched Super Bowl IV by myself. For some unknown reason, my mom made my dad take her and my sisters shopping during the game. Shopping. For whatever reason, Dad followed the marching orders that day. A month earlier he had taken me to the Chiefs’ Buffalo game at Municipal Stadium, a cold wonderful memory, one of the best times I ever had with my dad.

The night before the game, when I heard Jimmy “The Greek” explain why the Vikings would humiliate the Chiefs in SB IV, I was pretty upset. But by the end the game and the Chiefs had easily won, I learned a lesson about experts and their opinions.

My family returned from the shopping expedition in the fourth quarter, so I had to share the glory of the win with them anyway. Over the years I’ve thrown the Super Bowl shopping spree in my mom’s face, always laughing about it, still never getting an explanation of why she decided that that Sunday was a shopping day that had to be done with my dad.

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Here’s one of the sections from my SUPER CHIEFS book, Dawson talking about the bogus gambling allegations that had been levied at him a week earlier, and Stram remembering how the team had been before the Super Bowl I loss.

The Champions

In the crowded locker room following the 23-7 win against the Vikings, shouts and hugs were everywhere—it was a totally euphoric atmosphere. Television and newspaper reporters interviewed anyone and everyone, moving from player to player.

“This is a much greater thrill than anything that has ever happened,” Lamar Hunt said in the middle of the celebration. “This is it.”

Sitting alone was Otis Taylor, and the great receiver could not control the wave of emotions that swept over him. He was crying.

Len Dawson had conquered the unfair gambling allegations, completing 12 of 17 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown. It had been a hard year for the future Hall-of-Famer—the knee injury, losing his father, then the ridiculous gambling accusations.

On this day, he was named MVP of Super Bowl IV.

“No, the gambling thing didn’t give me any extra incentive,” Dawson said to the reporters. “How could it? I approached this game as a big game, as an opportunity to be the best. You don’t need outside motivation.

“Winning a game like this is a big thing because if you win you don’t have to explain anything. We’ve been explaining our Green Bay game (losing Super Bowl I) for three years.”

And then there were the questions asking Stram to  compare this team to the one that lost to the Packers.

“I was criticized then,” Stram said of the Super Bowl I loss. “Our defense wasn’t that good then. But I don’t have time to gloat now. I will just hold to my philosophy, and that includes winning with grace and style.

“On that long bus ride from Long Beach to Los Angeles for the first Super Bowl, the team was quiet and preoccupied. They were afraid of the game, of coming into the presence of greatness—the Green Bay Packers. They still respect the Packers, but today they were relaxed and easy and laughing on the way to the stadium.”

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