Analysis

Thursday Tribute: Len Dawson

The first and model quarterback for the franchise. the legacy of Dawson has remained in his records, success, and honor.

Throughout the history of football, few players have the impact that quarterback Len Dawson had for the Chiefs organization.

In his fourteen years with the franchise, Dawson accomplished feats that have still yet to be broken. When examined, it is clear that Chiefs Kingdom was formed in part to Dawson and the championship teams led by the late head coach Hank Stram and late founder Lamar Hunt.

The relationship between Stram and Dawson didn’t begin in Kansas City. It also wasn’t in Dallas either for their solo year together on the Dallas Texans.

Once Dawson chose to attend Purdue University, he would be linked with Stram and the Boilermakers. Throughout his four years at Purdue, there were flashes of greatness.

None bigger than when No. 19 Purdue upset No. 1 Notre Dame, 27-14 at Notre Dame. After three years of playing, Dawson took his talents to the National Football League.

It didn’t take long until the Pittsburgh Steelers took Dawson with the fifth overall pick in the 1957 NFL Draft. Despite the early draft selection, the Steelers rarely used the Boilermaker throughout his three years in Pittsburgh.

The next stop on this NFL journey would be back in his home state of Ohio. The Cleveland Browns traded for Dawson.

Opportunities were hard to come by, especially with 25-year-old quarterback Milt Plum on the roster. In the 1960 season, Plum threw 21 touchdowns with only five interceptions. The next season, Dawson started only one game with Plum starting the rest of the season.

Through five seasons, Dawson only started two games, it was time for a change. That change was going to the American Football League. Remember Dawson was headed to the Dallas Texans, where he would go on to have a career that eventually suited him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

At this time, Stram was the head coach of the Texans. Dawson would go 11-3 in the regular season and win the AFL Championship in his first season starting. He would also be named a First-Team All-Pro.

Next season, the Dallas Texans would move up north to play in Kansas City, Mo. Their first season as the Chiefs was one to forget. They had a championship hangover and went 5-7-2. The Chiefs would continue to be mediocre for the next season.

During that time, Dawson would pass for seventy-seven touchdowns along with fifty-one interceptions. He would also get selected a Pro Bowl in the 1964 season, according to Pro Football Reference.

In the 1966 season, the Chiefs would be led by Dawson with his twenty six touchdowns and then interceptions. One thing we must keep in mind is the time, teams ran the ball much more than they do now.

The Chiefs would win the AFL Championship that season against the Buffalo Bills. They would win another championship in 1969 against the Oakland Raiders, 17-7, according to profootballhof.com.

The Chiefs even made a run all the way to the first-ever Super Bowl. The Chiefs would face the Vince Lombardi led Green Bay Packers. Dawson would get outplayed by Super Bowl MVP Bart Starr.

The Chiefs would go on to win Super Bowl IV over the Minnesota Vikings 23-7. This is despite being underdogs in the game. The Super Bowl MVP was given to Dawson.

By the end of his career, Dawson had appeared in five championship games and went 4-1 in them. Bringing home four titles as a leader for a franchise is a rare feat. There will be other important players and personnel I will cover later from this time period.

Dawson helped create a lively culture for the Chiefs. Even though they couldn’t get back to championship status for 50 years, the fan base stayed loyal, passionate and most importantly loud.

The most interesting record Dawson held was the single-season passing touchdown record. He set it with 30 touchdowns in the 1964 season, according to Pro Football Reference. The record held up for 54 seasons until quarterback Patrick Mahomes passed it in 2018.

Dawson does hold the record for most passing yards and touchdowns in franchise history. Dawson is a Hall of Famer, was a leader on a championship team, and a true pioneer for the quarterback for football in the beginning stages of the Super Bowl era.

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