Today would’ve been quarterback Len Dawson’s 88th birthday. Dawson was originally a first-round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1957 NFL Draft. He is undoubtedly one of the league’s all-time greats and perhaps one of the most underrated of his generation playing in the era with Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr and Baltimore Colts QB Johnny Unitas in the 1960s. Dawson only played in Pittsburgh for three years from 1957-59 before going to the Browns for another two seasons. However, he truly left his mark on the Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs the majority of his career from 1962-1975.
There are so many accomplishments to choose from when discussing Dawson’s career. Here are just a few notable ones:
1. All-time franchise leader in passing yards
Dawson is currently the all-time leading passer in Chiefs history with 28,507. That record will be broken by Patrick Mahomes during the 2023 season at some point given how much the NFL has evolved into a pass-first type of game. Mahomes currently has 24,241. Nonetheless, it took 48 years for that record to fall. Dawson’s most passing yardage in one season was 2,879 in 1964, which for back then was quite impressive. For context, he has more passing yards than the great Joe Namath: 239-173. Granted, Dawson played longer than Namath but it’s still amazing given the era they played in.
2. Four-time champion and Super Bowl IV MVP
All Len Dawson did was win during his career. He was a three-time champion in the AFL (American Football League) in 1962, 1966, and 1969. However, his most crowing achievement came the following season. Dawson and the Chiefs won Super Bowl IV and he was named MVP of that game. Dawson completed 12 of 17 passes for 142 yards, one touchdown, and an interception in an upset victory over the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings. In an interview with Sports Illustrated back in 2015, he was asked about his most vivid memory of that game, he said “65 Toss Power Trap” which was the Chiefs’ most famous play during the Len Dawson era. Check it out here. The victory for the Chiefs in Super Bowl IV is one of the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history and Dawson was a big part of it. Shortly thereafter in 1970, the AFL-NFL merger would occur. The commemorative football pictured above
3. All-time franchise leader in touchdown passes
Much like the all-time record for passing yards, Dawson’s current record for most passing touchdowns is in jeopardy. Dawson finished his Chiefs career with 237 passing touchdowns which is a franchise record. Dawson had an incredible five-year span in the American Football League leading the league in touchdown passes in four of five seasons from 1962-1966. His high mark for touchdown passes in a season was 30 in 1964.
4. Hall of Fame Inductee in 1987
On top of being a Chiefs Hall of Fame inductee in 1979, he was also inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987. That class included the likes of former Miami Dolphins running back Larry Csonka, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Joe Greene, and Oakland Raiders offensive lineman Gene Upshaw. Not a bad class at all.
To sum it up, Dawson had one hell of a career and will never be forgotten in Chiefs history but he’s one of the all-time greats in football history.