Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The Franchise 9: Kansas City Chiefs

Way back when I started this blog (five years ago today, by my reckoning, actually), I had an idea for a series about the building of a football Frankenset. I called it the Franchise 9. Here we are, 1826 days later and I still haven't finished the series. I'd better get on that. Plus, we are now down to one more game before this NFL season is in the books and I haven't had a single Franchise 9 post. So today, let's take a look at the page for the team that will be defending its championship in two weeks, the Kansas City Chiefs.


1. Len Dawson, QB (2011 Topps Super Bowl Legends)

Before there was Patrick Mahomes, Len Dawson was quarterbacking the Chiefs to a championship. To this day, Dawson leads all Chiefs in career passing yards, TDs, 1st-Team All-Pro nods, and Pro Bowls. Add to that a Super Bowl MVP, and he rightly deserves to be on this list. Patrick Mahomes may very well pass him, and do it very soon, but Dawson is tops in Kansas City annals.


2. Tony Gonzalez, TE (2006 Topps Chrome)

Before there was Travis Kelce, there was Tony Gonzalez. Interesting fact: the Chiefs are the only franchise for whom both top pass catchers (in terms of yards and receptions) in team history are tight ends. Kelce may very well pass Gonzalez, but Gonzalez was just as dominant during his time. For seven straight years, he was named to either the 1st or 2nd All-Pros teams. That's a run that will make it difficult for anybody to stake a claim for the greatest tight end of all time.


3. Will Shields, G (1993 Classic)

Gonzalez was an All-Pro for seven consecutive years. During the same span, Will Shields accomplished the same feat for five straight years. In all, Shields made six All-Pro teams and 12 Pro Bowls, all as a Kansas City Chief. He ranks second in team history in Pro-Football Reference's Approximate Value metric. He's also a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.



4. Bobby Bell, DE (1988 Swell Football Greats)

For six straight years, Bobby Bell was a first-team All-Pro. Are starting to notice a pattern here? Though on the opposite side of the ball from Gonzalez and Shields, Bell continues the streak of long All-Pro streaks for this team. Bell was part of the Chiefs' "Redwood Forest" defense. Traditional stats are hard for a defender of that era to come by, but Bell's career AV ranks fourth on the Chiefs.


5. Buck Buchanan, DT (1973 Topps)

Bell's teammate on defense, Buck Buchanan, had a streak of six consecutive All-Pro years. He was also an eight-time Pro Bowler and is enshrined in Canton.


6. Willie Lanier, LB (1972 Topps)

He didn't have the same streak as we've seen others have here, but Willie Lanier was an All-Pro in five of six seasons between 1968-1973. With another Hall of Famer in the front seven, the Chiefs defense of the late Sixties through the mid-Seventies was hard to run on. Beginning in the first year of the Super Bowl Era through Bell's, Buchanan's, and Lanier's tenure together, the Chiefs finished in the top five of run defenses five of eight years; the other three years finishing nine, eleven, and eleven.



7. Derrick Thomas, LB (1994 Score)

Derrick Thomas is the Chiefs' all-time leading sack master. With 126.5 sacks in 11 years, who knows how many more he could have piled up if his life hadn't been tragically cut short in a car accident? He still owns the single-game record for sacks, taking the Seahawks Dave Krieg down seven times in memory of his father on Veteran's Day. Though injuries hampered Thomas later in his career, he was still effective. In 1997, he was limited to 12 games and still managed 9.5 sacks. He earned a spot in the Hall of Fame.

8. Jim Tyrer, T (1972 Topps) 

It looks like I may have mistakenly put Tyrer out of order on this page. No matter; I'll change it in my binder, but I'm not going to re-scan it. Jim Tyrer may not be a household name, but know this: he is the Kansas City Chiefs all-time AV leader. According to Pro Football Reference, no player was more valuable to this franchise over the course of his career than Tyrer.  Part of that may be due to his longevity; he spent 13 years with the franchise, starting way back when they began as the Dallas Texans. But when you consider Tyrer himself made nine consecutive All-Pro teams, you know he was just the best at his position during his playing career.

9. Johnny Robinson, S (1990 Pro Set Super Bowl)

One more member of the Redwood Forest defense here, and another All-Pro streaker. Johnny Robinson was a first-team All-Pro six years in a row. His 57 interceptions are second in team history and his AV is fifth. With a track record like that, the only question I have about Robinson is why it took until 2019 for him to get a call to the Hall.

The Chiefs are one of those teams who have had so much success that it was hard to leave some players off the list. Hall of Famer Emmitt Thomas, All-Decade performers like Neil Smith and Deron Cherry, and great playmakers like Otis Taylor, Priest Holmes, and Jamaal Charles just didn't have a spot for them. And I've already mentioned Mahomes and Kelce, who will most certainly bump somebody off of this Franchise 9 if their careers continue on their current trajectories. This has been one of the most successful franchises in the league. We'll have to see if they add a third Super Bowl title next month.

Some notes on this series:

  1. This includes Super Bowl Era players only.
  2. The "nine" in Franchise 9 is to fill a page in a binder. There is no intent to fill a roster or even a starting lineup.
  3. A player can represent multiple teams.
  4. I tried to find a balance between steady producers with longevity and explosive players with shorter careers. Time with the team does count for something, as does impact with the team.
  5. For a link to Franchise 9 lists that I have already posted, click here.
  6. This is all subjective, so I'd love to hear whom you would choose!


  1. Well, Jan Stenerud is widely considered the best PK of all-time. But I know card collectors look down on kickers.

  2. It's true that no kickers made any of my lists, but they were considered. Stenerud wasn't as close to making this list as Morten Andersen was for the Saints or even Pat Leahy was for the Jets. There were just too many great players to choose from in KC.

  3. So many great players in franchise history but hard to argue. Deron Cherry came to mind right away but I can't argue with who you have on the page. Good post.

  4. Derrick Thomas was straight up scary. Loved watching his highlights. Neil Smith too.

    1. Love the choke hold he has on Harbaugh there! Thomas was super fast off the edge and just an absolute pass rushing menace! He's the only football player I ever had a player collection of.