Our readers have spoken. You have overwhelming (only 1 vote for the 1969 team) voted the 2019 Super Bowl LIV champion team the best team in franchise history, which is hardly a surprise. However, is this recency bias or is it legitimately the best team? I am going to analyze both teams and give my personal opinion.
Before I get into the analysis, I want to dig into some of the best teams that were not successful in the playoffs. The Chiefs have had a lot of really good teams fail to win even a single playoff game. The first two teams that come to mind are the 1997 team and the 2003 team. Both of these teams finished 13-3. The 1997 team, anchored by Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas, allowed the fewest points in the NFL that season and had the 4th most sacks. The 2003 team finished 2nd in offensive yards and 1st in points. The 2003 offensive featured one of the best offensive lines in NFL history with Hall of Famers Willie Roaf and Will Shields, as well as Brian Waters who was probably the most underrated guard of the era. In addition to those Hall of Famers, Tony Gonzalez recorded 916 yards and 10 touchdowns. Priest Holmes also set the single-season touchdown record (which was broken 2 years later by Shaun Alexander).
Some good teams that did win a playoff game or several but couldn’t quite reach the Super Bowl were the 2018 team who finished first in yards and points setting a franchise record for points in a season with 565, which is also the 3rd most in NFL history. However, due in part to a struggling defense, the team won a single playoff game. The 1993 team, led by Hall of Famers Joe Montana, Marcus Allen, Derrick Thomas, and a rookie Will Shields managed to make the AFC Championship and is underappreciated in its place in franchise history.
First up in the analysis, I’m going to start with an underrated part of the NFL: special teams. The 1969 team had Hall of Fame kicker Jan Stenerud. If you compare Stenerud’s numbers to kickers today, his numbers are terrible. However, kickers weren’t as accurate in the 60s and 70s. Stenerud led the AFL that season with a 77.1% field goal percentage. For comparison, 2nd place was 68.1% and AFL kickers were 66.8%, making him 10.3% above the average. Compare that to Harrison Butker who was 89.5% which was good for 6th in the NFL, 7.6% behind first place. The Chiefs punter in 1969 was Jerrel “Thunderfoot” Wilson who averaged 44.4 yards per punt that season, which was 3rd in the AFL and .2 yards behind 1st place. The Chiefs’ punter in 2019 was Dustin Colquitt who finished 27th in the league with a 44.3 average, 5.3 yards behind first place. So when you compare the statistics to what they were compared to the rest of the league, the 1969 team has the edge in special teams.
Next, I will compare the coaches. Hank Stram was the coach of the 1969 team. Stram was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003 and won more games than any AFL coach in the 60s. After the Chiefs, he had a brief unsuccessful coaching stint with the Saints with Manning family patriarch Archie as his quarterback, going 7-21 in those 2 seasons. Andy Reid is without a question a future Hall of Fame coach and has been successful everywhere he’s coached. He is the only coach in NFL history to win 100 games with two franchises. Just comparing their success in jobs outside of the Chiefs, I have to give Andy Reid the nod.
Next, I’m comparing offense. The Chiefs 1969 team had 1 Hall of Famer on offense, quarterback Len Dawson. The 1969 team finished 2nd in the AFL in points scored with 25.6 points per game despite Len Dawson missing half the season due to an injury, which isn’t much by today’s standards but that was quite a bit in that era. The 2019 team finished 6th in points scored. While it’s too early to know how many Hall of Famers that team had, arguably the only player on offense that is already a Hall of Famer is Travis Kelce. Don’t get me wrong Patrick Mahomes has accomplished a lot already in his career and is on pace to be a future Hall of Famer, but can we honestly look at his career and if it ended early for some reason that he would be a Hall of Famer? I cannot answer that question with a yes yet. Despite that, I have to give the edge to the 2019 team on offense.
Finally, let’s look at the defense. The Chiefs 2019 team began the season struggling on defense allowing 23.9 points per game through their first 10 games. Then the team turned it around, allowing 11.5 points per game down the stretch in the final 6 games. One comment about this defense being completely and totally honest, I’m not sure there was a single Hall of Famer on that defense. Tyrann Mathieu and Chris Jones have had good careers so far, but can we call them Hall of Famers? I don’t believe you can. Mathieu probably is the closest and might be a fringe Hall of Famer with another All-Pro season. The 1969 defense is probably the most underrated in NFL history. This defense alone has 6 Hall of Famers, Bobby Bell, Buck Buchanan, Curley Culp, Willie Lanier, Johnny Robinson, and Emmitt Thomas. The Chiefs were first in points allowed by 45 points allowing only 12.6 points per game in an AFL that saw teams scoring an average of 21.2 points per game. The Chiefs had 2 shutouts and only allowed 20+ points 3 times. The better defense is by a large margin the 1969 team.
So with all this analysis in mind, who is the best team in franchise history? What if I told you I was the sole vote for the 1969 team in that poll? I think it’s the 1969 team not only with the analysis I’ve provided but the number of Hall of Famers on that team. Best case scenario, the 2019 team winds up with 5 Hall of Famers, Mahomes, Kelce, Mathieu, Butker, and Andy Reid, potentially 6 if we include Clark Hunt as a contributor. However, in the end, I think only Mahomes, Kelce, Reid, and Hunt make it. The 1969 team had 7 players, the coach, and the owner at the time in the Hall of Fame making a total of 9 Hall of Famers.
There’s nothing wrong with some recency bias and I do believe that is why the 2019 team won by a large margin. Watching the Chiefs win the Super Bowl was an amazing feeling. I still cry watching highlights, especially with Damien Williams’s game-clinching touchdown run. However, when digging deep into the statistics, I’m sorry to say this but the 1969 team was the better team. With that being said, I’m not saying anybody is wrong in thinking the 2019 team is better because everyone is entitled to their own opinion.