The AFL Chiefs an NFL Dynasty?
It could have happened with three more player signings
The Kansas City Chiefs were the best team in the American Football League, winning the most games and the most championships during the league’s 10-year history.
But the Chiefs could have been better. Much, much better.
Frustrated that he was unable to land an NFL franchise for his hometown of Dallas, Texas oil man Lamar Hunt decided to start his own league in 1960 – the AFL. He would bring the sport to football-starved cities Dallas, Boston, Buffalo, Denver, Houston and Oakland in addition to Los Angeles and New York – and his teams would compete with the NFL for the same players coming out of college.
You needed deep pockets to play this game – and few had deeper pockets than Hunt. The drafts became annual bidding wars and Hunt became the NFL’s greatest nemesis.
Safety Johnny Robinson was the third overall pick of the 1960 draft by the Detroit Lions, He signed with Hunt’s Dallas Texans. Fullback Jack Spikes was the sixth overall pick of that same draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, He also signed with the Texans. So did guard Ed Budde, the fourth overall pick of the 1964 draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. But by then the Texans had moved to Kansas City and become the Chiefs.
Hunt’s franchise also won bidding wars for second-round NFL draft picks E.J. Holub (Dallas) and Fred Arbanas (St. Louis) in 1961, Outland Trophy-winner Bobby Bell (Minnesota) in 1963 and Heisman Trophy-winner Mike Garrett (Los Angeles) in 1966. Bell and Robinson are now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and both Arbanas and Budde joined them on the all-time AFL team.
But it’s the players that the Texans – and later Chiefs – did not sign that could have turned AFL dominance into an NFL dynasty. Three of their draft picks were named to the NFL’s 100th anniversary team: defensive tackle Bob Lilly, running back Gale Sayers and quarterback Roger Staubach. All three have busts in Canton.
Imagine Lilly lining up next to fellow Hall of Fame defensive tackle Buck Buchanan in the 1960s … and Staubach quarterbacking the Chiefs in the 1970s with the same flair as he did the Cowboys that decade. He took Dallas to four Super Bowls, winning twice. Ed Podolak set an NFL playoff record with the Chiefs in 1971 when he gained 350 total yards on runs, receptions and kick returns against the Miami Dolphins. Imagine how many yards Sayers would have gained for the Chiefs on the same field that same day with the same blocking.
The Chiefs also lost out on linebacker Mike “Mad Dog” Curtis, a four-time Pro Bowler, to the Baltimore Colts. Imagine where he’d have fit in a linebacking crew that already featured two Hall of Famers, Bell and Willie Lanier. In addition, Texans/Chiefs draft picks Walt Garrison and Pettis Norman both went on to win Super Bowl rings with the Cowboys.
The Texans/Chiefs won 87 games in the 1960 decade and three AFL championships. They also won the last game ever played by Hunt’s league – the 1970 Super Bowl against the Minnesota Vikings. But the Chiefs were whipping the NFL long before they ever met them on the playing field.