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The ten greatest seasons in Chiefs history

10. 1986: breaking the bad streak

Prior to the ‘86 season, the Chiefs were downright bad. Kansas City was always in the bottom part of their division, and the team had not been to the playoffs since the Hank Stram era. In the 15 years since they last entered the playoffs, they only had two winning seasons. However, the 1986 season provided the team a glimmer of hope. 

Then-coach John Mavokic led the team to a 10-7 record, good enough to enter the wildcard. However, starting quarterback Bill Kenney could not start for the team and had to rely on Todd Blackledge. The Chiefs would lose to the New York Jets 35-15, ending their season. Even though it ended on a sour note, it showed some promise for the future of the organization, and was the prequel to what was the successful 90s era. 

9. 1971: Stram’s swan song

After the legendary head coach led the Kansas City Chiefs to a Super Bowl victory, 1971 would be the last year Hank Stram would take the team to the playoffs. Quarterback Len Dawson continued his legacy by reaching the Pro Bowl. Wide receiver Otis Taylor put out a great season as well, producing over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns. 

Pair that offense with a still stout defense and it leads to a divisional playoff appearance. Unfortunately, the Chiefs could not beat the Dolphins in overtime, losing 27-24. This season gave many fans flashbacks of the glorious Super Bowl winning team. Even with the playoff exit, this season only cemented Hank Stram’s legacy in the Hall of Fame. 

8. 2017: The padawan learns from the master Jedi

During the 2017 NFL Draft, Kansas City made a move that was unprecedented: the Chiefs would trade up to the 10th overall pick in the first round to take Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Even though there was criticism of his game, analysts and teams alike realized that Mahomes would start for Kansas City in a matter of years. Alex Smith knew his time as a Chief was numbered. 

However, instead of attempting to win the starting quarterback position back for the 2018 season, he coached up Mahomes while showing his marksmanship on the field. With the likes of Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill scaring all NFL defenses, Smith had a very solid season. Regardless, the Chiefs would allow the Tennessee Titans to come back and win 22-21 in the wildcard game. The ending to Smith’s time in Kansas City was bitter, but ultimately it was a turning point. Letting Mahomes sit and learn from the NFL’s best game manager allowed him to develop from a good quarterback to a superstar. 

7. 1993: The magic arrives to Kansas City 

Marty Schottemhiemer’s time with the Chiefs started off just right. He was leading the team to multiple winning seasons. Surprisingly though, he could not go far in the playoffs, exiting early in all stints. He realized that if he wanted to win big, he had to get a quarterback with poise and experience. 

Enter Joe Montana. The Chiefs made an ultimate decision to trade for the Hall-of-Fame quarterback, seeing him as the ultimate ticket to victory. Kansas City was not wrong. After leading the team to a 11-5 season, Montana eliminated the Steelers and Oilers to get to the AFC Championship game. However, the team could not handle the Bills. The Bills would dominate the Chiefs in a 30-13 victory. Montana coming to Kansas City was a great decision in hindsight, and the quarterback turned the Chiefs from a small market team to a big name. 

6. 1968: Motivation 

Hank Stram started to make a name for himself in 1968. After winning the AFL Championship and losing the Super Bowl, the Stram era began to reach its peak. Kansas City did not have the offense it wanted, but the defense carried the team. With players including Willie Lanier, Bobby Bell, Emmitt Thomas and Buck Buchanan, the defense was no joke. The Chiefs’ defense only allowed a total of 14 touchdowns in the entire season. 

After steamrolling past teams, Kansas City would go 12-2. Even though the defense was a top unit, it ended up crashing against the Oakland Raiders in the playoffs. This loss was the true motivation for Stram. Without it, the Chiefs would not have gone victorious the next season. 

5. 2013: The start of a new era

In 2012, Kansas City had an overall terrible season, going 2-14. Owner Clark Hunt knew that they had to adopt a winning team culture. So what did the Chiefs do? They brought in former Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid and General Manager John Dorsey. Reid was a household name in the NFL, having taken the Eagles to a Super Bowl. He also developed Donovan McNabb into a Pro Bowl quarterback and resurrected Michael Vick’s career. 

Dorsey was an unknown name at the time. Kansas City would then trade for Alex Smith, who was having a slow start to his career. After revamping the whole team, the Chiefs would end up going 9-0 to start the season. Kansas City would end the season 11-5, the team’s best record since 2003. This season was crucial in which it turned around the franchise from mocked to well-regarded. 

4. 2020: Mahomes attempts to dethrone the GOAT but ends up running for his life

Oh what a season to forget. After winning a Super Bowl, Patrick Mahomes went from project quarterback to a bonafide superstar. After Kansas City was able to bring in key contributors and sign new players, they were ready to run it back and win another ring. At first, it looked very possible. It seemed like no one could stop the electrifying offense and the bend-but-don’t-break defense. Chiefs’ fans were ready to see the team go back. After steamrolling every playoff opponent, the Chiefs faced the hardest task: beating Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

At first, it looked possible. But then, you realize that Patrick Mahomes had a concussion during the playoff run and the offensive line was in shambles. The offense had no chance to score against the stout Bucs defense. Add the fact that Brady was doing the usual, and it led to a disappointing end. With a great offseason, the Chiefs can once again attempt to return to the Super Bowl and become a dynasty. 

3. 2003: Unstoppable

Prior to the 2003 NFL season, the Kansas City Chiefs brought in the likes of Trent Green, drafted Priest Holmes and Tony Gonzalez, and solidified the offensive line. What did that lead to? Well, it would create one of the best offenses in NFL history. Then-coach Al Saunders controlled the offense with precision. Green and Gonzalez had perfect chemistry. Holmes simply ran through every defender possible, scoring a whopping 27 touchdowns in the same season. The offensive line even did its job right. 

Then there was the defense, and it was awful. Kansas City’s defense was allowing numerous points and could not compliment the offense at all. Regardless, the Chiefs still found ways to win. The team’s weakness would be its ultimate undoing, losing to the Colts 38-31 in the divisional round. Sure, the defense was horrific, but that offense was the one of dreams. 

2. 2019: Showtime Mahomes shines

Oh what a time to be a Chiefs fan. After seeing Mahomes light it up in the 2018 season, fans were optimistic about a Super Bowl run. Kansas City still had a potent offense, but had to retool most of the defense from the prior season to win games. Even with a midseason scare, the team would go on and win 12 games. 

Fans got to witness the greatest of the young star. In all three playoff games, the Chiefs were behind by multiple scores. However, the team did the impossible and pulled off comebacks in all of those games. When the Chiefs reached the Super Bowl, they faced adversity. Even then, they still won their second ring in franchise history. This season not only brought the Super Bowl back to Kansas City, but was the year the NFL realized that the Chiefs can become a dynasty. 

1. 1969: The first ever Super Bowl win

Before any of these seasons could come to fruition, it all started in 1969. Hank Stram (the very first KC head coach) was eliminated from the playoffs twice. However, he was motivated to win a title. With the help of Len Dawson, a terrific defense and a good coaching, the Chiefs were able to churn out a 11-3 record. 

The playoff matches, though, were the true test. The Jets and Raiders brought their A-game to the field. They challenged the team to win on multiple levels. Of course, the Chiefs succeeded. Then came the final test: the Minnesota Vikings. With a lockdown defense and a decent offense, Kansas City won its first Super Bowl. The final score was 23-7. Any season cannot beat the team’s first title run, which created a legacy in the process. 

camtkb@mail.umkc.edu

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