The Kansas City Chiefs will compete against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV — an opportunity to win their second Super Bowl. But did you know the team wasn’t always called the Chiefs and they didn’t always play in Kansas City? Let’s look back at the history of the franchise.
Who were the Chiefs before they were the Chiefs?
Prior to moving to Kansas City, the Chiefs were an American Football League (AFL) franchise known as the Dallas Texans, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Texas oilman Lamar Hunt founded the AFL and was also the owner of the Texans.
The Texans were one of the best teams in the league. They won the 1962 AFL championship over the Houston Oilers. The game was notable for lasting 77 minutes and 54 seconds and needing not one, but two overtime periods. It was the longest pro football game ever played up at that point.
How the Chiefs came to Kansas City
The team moved locations when Hunt decided he no longer wanted to compete with the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. According to then-Texans (and later Chiefs) general manager Jack Steadman, it wasn’t a feasible arrangement for the two franchises, reports the Kansas City Star:
“If we were playing in the Cotton Bowl on a Sunday, the Cowboys were televising against us … Then we’d turn around and do the next Sunday: They’d play (at home), and so we’d TV against them … It just wasn’t working. It was not going to work.”
Kansas City wasn’t the only location Hunt considered. New Orleans was also a strong possibility. But Hunt made a deal with the city of Kansas City: If they could sell 25,000 season tickets from the months of April through May preceding the 1963 season, Hunt would move the team there. The team sold a record number of tickets to solidify the move.
One problem remained: The team name. Calling yourself the Texans only works if you actually play in Texas. So the franchise went about redefining itself. The team opened it up to a fan submission. Forty-two Kansas City fans submitted the name Chiefs.
The team itself had 10 internal options, including the Chiefs, Drovers, Mokans, Mules, Pioneers, Plainsmen, Royals, Stars, Stockers, and the Texans. As odd as it may sound, there could have been an NFL where the Kansas City Mokans competed in the AFC West against the Chargers, Raiders, and Broncos.
But there isn’t. The Chiefs’ name stuck, which is what they’ve been called ever since.
How the Kansas City Chiefs changed the NFL
The Chiefs changed the league in a number of ways. Hunt was one of the most influential in the development of the AFL. Once this league established itself as a legitimate threat to the NFL, they reached an agreement to play in the Super Bowl.
The Chiefs appeared in the first Super Bowl and won Super Bowl IV. It was teams like the Chiefs (and Joe Namath’s New York Jets) that showed the NFL the AFL could compete. This led to the two leagues merging, shaping the NFL into the monolith it’s become today.
Another way the Chiefs impacted the league was by moving out of Dallas. If they’d never moved, it’s impossible to predict how it would’ve affected the league. Could they have competed with the Cowboys for attention over a long-term period of time?
The Texans were a great team. They won a championship the year before they left town. If they continued winning, they may have challenged the Cowboys for Dallas supremacy. Remember, this is before they were “America’s Team.” The Cowboys had yet to establish any dominance.
But the Texans didn’t stay put, and it’s probably good that they didn’t. Now, the Chiefs have one of the best fanbases in the NFL. And the team may soon reward that fanbase with another Super Bowl win.
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