A memorial for the Chiefs quarterback and broadcaster
Jarrod Thurman @JarrodChiefsFCS
Former Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson passed away on (08/24/2022) at the age of 87. His death was unfortunately expected since his family confirmed he had begun hospice care on August 12th.
Legend has it, the 7th son of a 7th son is brought good fortune. Dawson was the 7th son of a 7th son. Dawson’s good fortune began in college where he was a 2nd team All-Big Ten selection as a senior at Purdue. He was also named a 3rd team All-American by United Press that season. While at Purdue he played for his future Chiefs head coach Hank Stram who was an assistant until 1955 at Purdue.
Dawson would be drafted in the 1st round by the Pittsburgh Steelers in a first round that also saw legends Paul Horning and Dawson’s future teammate on the Browns, Jim Brown get drafted. Dawson struggled to find success with the Steelers only making 1 start, playing in only 19 games and only passing for 96 yards. Dawson would then be traded to the Browns in 1960 but didn’t fair much better with one of the greatest running backs in NFL history only playing in 9 games with 1 start with the team and only throwing for 108 yards. He was subsequently released by the Browns.
Dawson would sign with the Dallas Texans in 1962, their final year in Dallas before they became the Chiefs. He would finally find his professional football fortune leading the AFL in passing touchdowns on the way to leading the franchise to their first of 3 AFL Championships. His 29 touchdowns that season remained the team record until Patrick Mahomes broke it in 2018 before surpassing Dawson’s mark again in 2020 and 2021.
The Chiefs would win their second AFL Championship in 1966 allowing them a trip to the newly formed AFL-NFL Championship game, later renamed the Super Bowl. They would be dominated by the Vince Lombardi-led NFL Champion Green Bay Packers 35-10. Three years later, the Chiefs would win their 3rd AFL Championship and meet the Vikings in Super Bowl IV defeating them 23-7 en route to a Super Bowl MVP award.
Dawson would play another six seasons before deciding to retire after the 1975 season after recording what was statistically his worst season with the Chiefs. His career passing touchdowns (237) and passing yards (28,507) marks remain franchise records to this day. While Patrick Mahomes will likely break both of these within the next 2 or 3 seasons, the fact that these records will stand for almost 50 years is a testament to Dawson’s accomplishments.
Dawson’s post-football career was in broadcasting. He hosted Inside the NFL for 24 years. He also worked for Kansas City’s ABC affiliate KMBC beginning in 1966 until 2009. He would also serve as an analyst for games on NBC for 6 seasons. After taking a 2 season break on game broadcasts, he would join the Chiefs Radio Network in 1985 where he would serve until 2016. From 1994 to his retirement from broadcasting he served with Mitch Holthus forming arguably the best announcer pairing in the NFL.
Dawson earned multiple accolades over his career on the field and off. He is a member of the Chiefs Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His number 16 has been retired. Joe Montana refused to wear 16 for the Chiefs despite getting Dawson’s blessing after he was traded to the Chiefs. The Chiefs honored Dawson’s broadcasting career by renaming their broadcast booth in his honor.
The death of Len Dawson is a sad time for Chiefs Kingdom. Condolences to his family and friends in this difficult time.