The American Football Alliance (AFL) was a bald seven years old and still did not accept what it wanted.
The league’s clubs had enjoyed success, and every aggregation except two still remained in its aboriginal city. Not a distinct authorization had attenuated or folded, and amplification was on the border in Miami and afresh afterwards Cincinnati. Best teams fabricated money. The fan abject added every season, and added and added baddest players were aing the league.
But yet, the AFL still did not accept what it capital most: respect. That is, account from the Civic Football Alliance (NFL).
The older, added accustomed NFL had tradition, the best players, franchises amid in the better markets, and the ambience of able football allure on its side. The NFL had teams in Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Detroit, admitting the AFL featured clubs in abate markets such as San Diego, Oakland and Buffalo.
Several cities spurned the AFL aback offered an NFL franchise. Minnesota was originally accepted one of the eight allotment AFL memberships but anchored for the NFL on the eve of their first-ever academy draft. Atlanta was accepted an AFL authorization but chose the NFL aback pressured to accept leagues.
The AFL additionally went afterwards NFL veterans whose affairs had asleep and were still advised acceptable abundant to contribute. Both leagues had a gentlemen’s acceding not to assurance abroad players currently beneath contract. But, the academy abstract was accession matter. The AFL offered added money to the best draft-ready players and active alert as abounding as the earlier league.
This, obviously, collection up amateur contracts. Way up. Suddenly, a business war accidentally had been created amid the two leagues. And the owners did not like it – in both leagues. Aback the amateur players began to get bigger deals than the veterans, this created problems aback affairs expired.
The banking blend that both the NFL and AFL brought aloft themselves was about to change in the mid-1960s. Beneath the blind of abstruse meetings, assembly from both leagues formed out a alliance acceding which focused on 10 issues. The highlights included a championship d amid the two alliance champions afterwards the 1966 season, a accepted academy abstract and interleague preseason amateur alpha in 1967, and a complete alliance with all 10 AFL teams aing the NFL alpha with the 1970 season.
The championship d originally was alleged the “AFL-NFL Championship Game” and was afterwards renamed the “Super Bowl” for the third d in the series.
The approaching alliance meant that 1969 would be the final year for the AFL. And the Kansas Burghal Chiefs would draft out the aftermost candle.
The Chiefs were the best acknowledged authorization in the AFL. They had won the alliance appellation in 1962 (as the Dallas Texans) and afresh in 1966 to go forth with their three analysis crowns. Their accumulated win-loss almanac for the aboriginal nine years was an alarming 81-47-5. Three Super Bowls had been played already, and the Chiefs had been the AFL adumbrative in one of them.
Their arch drillmaster from the inception, Hank Stram, was a adept aptitude evaluator. The authorization was able to nab abundant academy athletes as able-bodied as players from smaller, abstruse schools (including the atramentous colleges) and NFL castoffs whose abeyant had yet to surface.
Running aback Abner Haynes (North Texas State), article Jan Stenerud (Montana State), TE Morris Stroud (Clark Atlanta University), RB Stone Johnson and DT Buck Buchanan (Grambling State), QB Len Dawson (cut by the Cleveland Browns), LB Willie Lanier (Morgan State), CB Jim Marsalis (Tennessee State), RB Mike Garrett (drafted annular 20), CB Emmitt Thomas (Bishop College), RB Jack Lee Hill (Southern University), punter Jerrel Wilson (Southern Miss), WR Otis Taylor (Prairie View), DT Jerry Mays and QB Mike Livingston (Southern Methodist), RB Ed Podolak (Iowa), WR Chris Burford (drafted Annular 1 by Chiefs, Annular 9 by NFL Browns), WR Gloster Richardson (Jackson State) and OG Dan Klepper (Omaha) were all acceptable illustrations of the amateur appraisal accomplishment of the Chiefs’ advanced office.
From the AFL’s beginning analysis until 1967, the alliance championship d consisted of the two analysis winners squaring off for the title. Alpha in 1968, the second-place analysis teams would additionally accomplish the playoffs as well.
For all the success the Chiefs’ authorization enjoyed, the aggregation had accomplished the playoffs in abandoned three seasons, acceptable the AFL appellation twice. The 1968 band aggregate the Western Analysis acme with their acrimonious rivals, the Oakland Raiders, with both teams recording 12-2 records. Afresh the Raiders ashamed K.C. in the playoffs 41-6.
The AFL had Broadway Joe Namath and the high-flying New York Jets beginning off their Super Bowl win over the NFL’s Baltimore Colts at the cessation of the 1968 season. The inferior alliance had assuredly won article of accent – and accomplished it with its ample bazaar aggregation arch the way. Abounding alleged the AFL win a fluke, and if those aforementioned two teams had boxlike off 10 times the Colts, these assemblage said, would win nine.
For the 1969 season, the Chiefs entered the year with a faculty of purpose – and some austere changes.
The backward 1960s was a time of agitation in the United States, a time of apostasy and the adeptness to catechism those in authority. Able football was no different. Untraditional hairstyles, drugs, loud music, cool clothes, drugs, the amaranthine war in Vietnam, consciousness-expanding music, bedraggled facial hair, drugs, free-love and “down with the establishment” were the trends.
Unless you were a affiliate of the Chiefs.
Stram didn’t appetite any allotment of this accretion counterculture lifestyle. In the summer of 1969, the arch drillmaster arise a letter to his players advertence that any anatomy of facial beard was not to be tolerated. Hairstyles could not be any best than the hem of the helmet while sideburns had to be akin with lengths no best than his own. In addition, the aggregation would abrasion uniformed atramentous jackets and gray pants for all alley trips, complete with white shirts and analogous atramentous ties.
The aggregation would alike band up for the civic canticle in a beeline band in jersey afterwards order. The ataxia was complete in the choir accumulation instead of the accepted annular arrangement. For his efforts, Stram was generally referred to as “Little Caesar.”
But for all his accurateness and rules, the Chiefs were the best racially assorted aggregation in all of able football. Drillmaster Stram cared for one affair only; that was aptitude and an alacrity to do abundant things on the field. Roommates were not alleged by color, but by arena positions. And Stram didn’t affliction if players didn’t like it.
The 1969 analysis began able as the Chiefs acquaint a 6-0 preseason almanac which included four victories adjoin NFL clubs. Afterwards acceptable their aboriginal two regular-season amateur by a accumulated 58-9 score, the analysis looked awfully bright.
However, starting QB Len Dawson suffered a baby bond aperture in his larboard knee. Adjoin the Cincinnati Bengals the afterward week, the aggregation absent 24-19 with advancement QB Jacky Lee at the helm. Added importantly, Lee suffered a afar shoulder.
After the loss, second-year advancement QB Mike Livingston took the reins, begin his accent and guided the band to four added victories including a 24-0 annihilation over the Houston Oilers. This amplitude would afterwards be listed by NFL Network as the sixth-greatest Cinderella adventure in pro football history.
In Ceremony 8, Dawson alternate to advice defeat the Buffalo Bills 29-7. Then, aloof two canicule afore arena the boss Jets at Shea Amphitheater in New York, his ancestor anesthetized away. Dawson played an alarming d throwing three TDs as the Chiefs spanked the Jets, 34-16.
The blow of the analysis the Chiefs won two and absent two, with both losses at the easily of the hated Raiders. At season’s end, Oakland had won the division, announcement an absorbing 12-1-1 almanac while KC acquired additional abode at 11-3.
The league’s new playoff architecture which accustomed second-place teams to authorize for the playoffs (for a new absolute of four teams) breathed new activity into the Chiefs’ postseason prospects.
However, that aboriginal playoff d was adjoin the Weeb Eubanks accomplished Jets. The arresting Super Bowl champions were led by the alliance co-MVP Namath. The Jets aperture abandoned was account the amount of acceptance as it featured WRs Don Maynard and George Sauer, additional RBs Emerson Boozer and Matt Snell.
The d was predicted to be high-scoring, but afterwards three quarters, the account was 6-6 with Kansas City’s credibility advancing on two Stenerud two acreage goals. Dawson afresh tossed a 61-yard bang to Taylor and on the afterwards control and afresh begin Richardson for the ambitious score. Afterwards two abstracted arresting stops, the acceptable account became a hard-fought Chiefs’ victory. The bad account was that the club was now destined to face their absinthian rivals already afresh – and on the alley in adverse confines.
54,443 assemblage awash Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum for the 1969 AFL Championship Bold on January 4, 1970. The Raiders exuded confidence, accepting defeated the Chiefs 27-24 and 10-6 already this analysis and acceptable seven of the aftermost eight meetings.
As if to advance a theme, Oakland boasted the added bisected of the co-MVP accolade with their own quarterback, Daryle Lamonica, who aloof happened to be accession backstab alliance MVP. In addition, Raiders arch drillmaster John Madden had been alleged the AFL Coach-of-the-Year.
Oakland bedeviled the aboriginal half, but the account was askance at 7-7 backward in the additional quarter. With the Raiders active amid in the third quarter, Chiefs’ CB Emmitt Thomas best off Lamonica and was tackled at Kansas City’s own 6-yard line. With a 3rd-and-14, Dawson dodged on-rushing defenders and floated a canyon from his own end area to which Taylor miraculously bent over-the-shoulder in bifold advantage for a aboriginal down.
The Chiefs collection the of the acreage for the ambitious touchdown on Robert Holmes’ five-yard run with beneath than four account larboard in the third. Stenerud would add a acreage goal, and miraculously the Chiefs had anchored their third AFL appellation with a 17-7 victory.
Madden would afterwards animadversion that Taylor’s t on 3rd-and-long was the aberration maker in the bound contest. It was additionally acclaimed how agitated the antagonism was. Chiefs CB Jim Marsalis aching a kidney, linebacker Jim Lynch bankrupt his belt while authoritative a abandoned tackle, assurance Johnny Robinson absurd several ribs and Lamonica had broken tendons in his hand.
The club was already afresh AFL Champions. But instead of charwoman out lockers, ticker band parades, albino toasts and actuality presented with the key to the city, the Kansas Burghal Chiefs had to get accessible to comedy arguably their best angry adversary to date: the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings. Of the NFL. The Purple People Eaters. Terror Twas the Norsemen. The Four Norsemen. The Atramentous and Blue Division.
And worse yet, the Chiefs abandoned had one ceremony to adapt for Super Bowl IV in New Orleans.
The Vikings had a memorable aegis spearheaded by its arresting line: Gary Larsen, Jim Marshall and approaching Hall of Famers, Carl Eller, and Alan Page. This agglomeration was nicknamed “The Purple People Eaters” and had as their motto, “Meet at the quarterback.” Amid them, they would ultimately amalgamate to comedy in 19 Pro Bowls. In fact, this 1969 season, all four men fabricated the Pro Bowl.
This aegis was the NFL’s stingiest, giving up the atomic credibility and atomic yards. It additionally registered 50 sacks.
On the added side, the Chiefs aegis was every bit as tenacious. LB Bobby Bell was a six-time AFL All-Star, three-time NFL Pro Bowler, was alleged to the AFL All-Time Team, afterwards alleged to the NFL’s All-1970s team, and the aboriginal Chief adopted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame (HOF) in 1983. DT Buck Buchanan would accomplish six AFL All-Star amateur additional two Pro Bowls, and afterwards be inducted into the HOF in 1992. Arresting end Jerry Mays would arise in the AFL All-Star d seven times and be afterwards alleged to the AFL’s All-Time Team.
LB Jim Lynch was alleged to one Pro Bowl. DT Curley Culp was alleged for one AFL All-Star aggregation and afterwards for bristles Pro Bowls. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2013. CB Emmitt Thomas went to bristles Pro Bowls. LB Willie Lanier was alleged to the AFL All-Star band twice, the Pro Bowl six times, and afterwards alleged to the NFL’s 75th Ceremony Team. Assurance Johnny Robinson was six times alleged to the AFL All-Star team, three Pro Bowls, appointed to the AFL All-Time Aggregation and has been inducted into four altered sports Hall of Fames.
Of that 1969 defense, nine players accept back been adopted to the Chiefs’ Hall of Fame.
The ceremony arch up to Super Bowl IV, the allowance makers anon fabricated the Vikings the bright champ and a 13-point favorite. The New York Times predicted a 31-7 Minnesota victory. The actuality that the antecedent year’s Super Bowl saw a huge AFL underdog topple a heavily-favored NFL band had little address on this game. Artlessly put, the AFL was already afresh actuality abandoned as a viable, aggressive pro football league.
Yet again, the league’s aptitude akin was actuality underestimated.
To accomplish things added difficult, a altercation was added to the Chiefs’ agenda. A adventure bankrupt on the NBC Network that Kansas Burghal quarterback Len Dawson and bristles added players were complex in a web of bookmakers. In the past, the NFL had several instances of players affiliated to adumbral characters and gambling, which in the league’s eyes represented a aperture of accessible trust. The NFL dealt with ceremony instance apace and unhesitatingly, usually with players actuality heavily fined and/or abandoned from the game.
The NFL had a aught altruism attitude aback it came to gambling, abnormally from players.
While the d itself brought a aggregation of media to New Orleans, this adventure saw hundreds added aback alight on the “Big Easy” absent a adventitious at a colossal adventure above-mentioned to the astronomic game. Dawson and Chiefs’ arranger Jim Schaaf alleged a columnist appointment to which Dawson took the podium, and said, “I accept accepted (one of the bookmakers) for about 10 years. My abandoned conversations with him in contempo years anxious my knee abrasion and the afterlife of my father. On these occasions, he alleged me to action his sympathy. These calls were amid the abounding I received. Gentlemen, this is all I accept to say. I accept told you aggregate I know.”
And with that, the adventure ended. None of the players were anytime subpoenaed and were afterwards austere of annihilation bent or iniquitous.
Another botheration for the Chiefs was the concrete action of All-Star assurance Robinson. His rib injuries connected throughout the ceremony and were ambiguous at best. Robinson was advised the best to anytime comedy his position and was the team’s interception baton in bristles altered seasons. His addition to the d was critical.
The day of the d was clouded and dreary. The armpit of the d was Tulane Stadium, an alfresco venue. The rain came bottomward in the aboriginal morning and afterwards the absolute burghal was beneath a tornado warning. Aback the Chiefs accustomed at the amphitheater and entered their locker room, a appropriate moment was cat-and-mouse for them: Stitched to ceremony jersey was a application commemorating the 10-year ceremony of the founding of the AFL.
The players were in awe and wore that application with pride. Their absolute alliance was like a brotherhood. They fought ceremony added every week, but additionally fought adjoin the actual alliance they would anon be aing to accretion account and acceptance as an equal. For years.
As for the game, the Vikings did not use tricks or try to appearance their offense. They artlessly ran the brawl bottomward the throats of added teams from all angles and dared opponents to stop them. The Chiefs’ apprenticeship agents noticed article that conceivably their NFL counterparts had missed: Vikings centermost Mick Tingelhoff was undersized at 235 pounds and although quick-footed, had agitation with added adenoids tackles.
DT Buck Buchanan stood 6’7” and advised 285. The added DT, Curley Culp chimed in at 265 pounds. The Chiefs were activity to agitate the Vikings run d by jamming the autogenous of the abhorrent line. Accession arresting tactic was triple-stacking linemen with linebackers and safeties. This aspect abashed the Vikings’ abhorrent band with so abounding defenders activity off in altered directions.
Yet accession tactic that Drillmaster Stram implemented was that aback the Chiefs had the ball, they double-teamed both Eller and Page, appropriately eliminating their All-World presence. With this one allotment of strategy, Kansas City’s aperture was able to move the brawl but had to achieve for three Stenerud acreage goals to go up 9-0 amid through the additional quarter. Afterwards the third FG, Vikings acknowledgment man Charlie West fumbled the alpha and the Chiefs recovered on the Vikings 19. All it took was three plays for RB Mike Garrett to acquisition the end area and accord the Chiefs an amazing 16-0 halftime lead.
The Vikings were able to drive the acreage in the third division and put calm a 69-yard drive that culminated with Dave Osborn scoring from the 4-yard line. That cut the Chiefs bend to 16-7 and fabricated the arrears a added acquiescent one for the heavily advantaged Vikings.
Kansas City’s acknowledgment didn’t booty continued – all one minute and 22 seconds, to be exact. The Chiefs collection from their own 22 to Minnesota’s 46 in bristles plays. On aboriginal down, the Vikings blitzed and Dawson acclaim swung a abbreviate canyon to Taylor who bankrupt the accouterment from the cornerback. He raced bottomward the acreage and stiff-armed assurance Karl Kassulke at the 10 afore activity in for the account and a 23-7 lead.
The Chiefs would ambush Minnesota three times in the fourth division forth with several sacks. The aegis smelled achievement and snuffed out any achievability of a Vikings comeback. For the day, Kansas Burghal had three interceptions, recovered three fumbles and affected six cher abhorrent penalties. The d ended, and abundantly Drillmaster Stram was hoisted assimilate the amateur of the men in whom he believed the most.
The Chiefs’ locker allowance was anarchic with multitudes of reporters. Several AFL coaches belted their way into the anarchy as well, absent to bless their league’s success, as able-bodied as congratulate Stram. NFL abettor Pete Rozelle presented authorization buyer Lamar Hunt and Stram with the championship trophy.
The President called. The end aftereffect was that the Chiefs had put their alliance in a 2-2 tie in Super Bowl wins with the accustomed league. The Chiefs had won the AFL appellation and now acclaimed their additional championship in the aforementioned analysis with acceptable Super Bowl IV.
The American Football League, all the coaches and owners, every accessories administrator and advanced appointment person, accepted and above players, scouts, ticket-takers parking associates and fans, assuredly had acquired what ceremony had been analytic for afterwards 10 continued years: respect.
And it was at that actual aforementioned moment that the alliance accomplished to exist.
Barry Shuck is a pro football actual biographer and a affiliate of the Able Football Researcher’s Association.
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