Note: This article is the last in a five part serious counting down the 50 greatest players in team history.
I’ve finally completed the journey. Yes, here they are, the top 10 players in franchise history. Enjoy!
10. Johnny Robinson (S/HB, 1960-1971): Robinson was an original member of the Texans and an integral part of the team for more than a decade. He began his career in Dallas as a halfback, teaming with Abner Haynes for two seasons. He produced good numbers on offense, rushing for 658 yards and six touchdowns on 150 carries and catching 77 passes for 1,228 yards and nine scores. Robinson moved to free safety for the 1962 season, and looked like he had been playing there his entire life. Robinson finished his career as the third leading interceptor in AFL history with 43, and had 57 career interceptions, ranking him second in team history. Robinson was named to AFL All-Star team six times and was named to the AFL’s all-time team by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His final game for Kansas City was the double-overtime playoff loss to the Dolphins in 1971.
9. Jim Tyrer (T, 1961-1973): One of the best offensive tackles of his time, Jim Tyrer anchored the Chiefs line for 13 seasons. His blocks were crushing, and the success of the Chiefs running game during the 1960s and early 1970s was largely attributed to his play. He was selected to the AFL All-Star team and Pro Bowl nine times, and his consistent, outstanding play landed him a spot on the all-time AFL team. Tyrer was named AFL Offensive Lineman of the Year in 1969 and played in 180 games for the franchise. Tragically, Tyrer was not successful in his life after football. Following a series of business failures, he committed suicide in 1980.
8. Otis Taylor (WR, 1965-1975): Highly sought after following a stellar college career at Prairie View A&M, Taylor chose the Chiefs–who selected him in the fourth round of the 1965 AFL draft–over the NFL in 1965. He had a productive rookie season, but really exploded in 1966, catching 58 passes for 1,297 yards and eight touchdowns. His magnificent 46-yard touchdown catch and run against the Vikings in Super Bowl IV iced the game for the Chiefs and established a lasting legacy for his greatness. His best overall season was in 1971, when, game after game, he made seemingly impossible plays. Taylor finished the ’71 season with 57 receptions for 1,110 yards and eight touchdowns. Taylor led the Chiefs in pass receptions five times–1966-67 and 1970-72–and played in three Pro Bowls. He owns the Chiefs career records for receiving yards (7,306), receiving touchdowns (57), and 100-yard games (20). Taylor played in a total of 130 games for the Chiefs, and following his retirement in 1975, spent several years as a scout for the team.
7. Deron Cherry (S, 1981-1991): From free agent punter to the best free safety in the AFC, Deron Cherry became one of the best players in the history of the Chiefs. Two years after making the Chiefs in 1981, Cherry was named to his first of six straight Pro Bowl appearances when he picked off seven passes and displayed superior tackling and coverage skills. Cherry was so good that he was selected to the Chiefs 25-year all-time team in 1987, four years before his retirement. When he retired following the 1991 season, he left the numbers of a Hall of Famer: 927 career tackles, 50 interceptions, 15 fumble recoveries, and three touchdowns. Following his retirement, Cherry became part of an ownership group for the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars. But he’ll always be a Chief.
6. Jan Stenerud (K, 1967-1979): The Chiefs, who had suffered with a mediocre kicking game for a couple of seasons, selected Stenerud in the third round of the AFL’s 1966 future draft. He joined the Chiefs in 1967 and was an immediate sensation, kicking 21 field goals and scoring 108 points in his rookie season. For 13 seasons Stenerud starred with the Chiefs. Three times he made five field goals in a game; he also kicked at least one field goal in a string of 16 consecutive games. Stenerud owns or shares nine Chiefs records, including field goals attempted in a career (436) and a season (44), and consecutive games played (186). Stenerud was named to the AFL All-Star game and Pro Bowl as a member of the Chiefs five times and was the kicker on the NFL’s 75th anniversary all-time team. He played a total of 19 seasons in the NFL, finishing his career with the Packers and the Vikings. Stenerud was the first pure placekicker to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the fifth Chiefs player to make it to Canton. He is regarded by many football historians and writers as the best placekicker in pro football history.
5. Derrick Thomas (LB, 1989-1999): Thomas terrorized quarterbacks in the NFL for 11 seasons with his quick, tenacious pass-rushing techniques. Off the field, he gave of himself to the Kansas City community many times over, providing help and guidance to countless children and causes. Thomas joined the Chiefs as a first round selection in the 1989 NFL draft, and had a career that was highlighted with many outstanding performances, awards and honors. He was named the 1989 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, the 1989 Chiefs Mack Lee Hill Award Winner, the 1993 Edge NFL Man of the Year for his community work, and the 1995 winner of the Bryon White Humanitarian Award for service to his team, his community and country. One of his best seasons was 1990, when he led the NFL with 20.0 sacks, as well as playing the game of his career when he set an NFL single-game record with 7.0 sacks against the Seattle Seahawks. Thomas finished his career with a club record 126.5 sacks, the ninth highest total in NFL history. He also concluded his career with the franchise record for safeties with three, 45 forced fumbles and 19 fumble recoveries. He ranks fifth on the club’s all-time tackle chart with 728, and was selected to nine straight Pro Bowls. Shortly after the 1999 season, Thomas was involved in a serious automobile accident which left his legs paralyzed. Two weeks later he suffered cardiac arrest and died on February 8, 2000. He was only 33.
4. Buck Buchanan (DT, 1963-1975): Buchanan instilled fear in the opposing offensive lines he faced throughout his career with the Chiefs, his physical attributes so intimidating that other teams drafted bigger and faster offensive linemen specifically to block him. He was double and triple teamed, but many times that didn’t matter. Buchanan dominated play on the defensive line like no player in pro football had before him. Buchanan played in six consecutive AFL All-Star games, from 1964 through 1969, and in two Pro Bowls after the AFL and NFL merger in 1970. He was a star on both Super Bowl teams and was nothing short of spectacular in Kansas City’s Super Bowl IV triumphant. He was incredibly durable and never missed a game throughout the course of his career, playing in a total of 182 regular season games during his 13 year career. Buchanan retired after the 1975 season and later served as director of the Kansas Special Olympics and as an assistant coach with the New Orleans Saints and the Cleveland Browns. He was inducted into the Chiefs Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990. He died of cancer on July 16, 1992.
3. Bobby Bell (LB, 1963-1974): Possibly the greatest athlete ever to play for the Chiefs, Bell came to Kansas City as a seventh round pick in the 1963 AFL draft. So versatile and complete were his talents that he played quarterback, linebacker, center, and defensive tackle at the University of Minnesota. After two seasons as a defensive end, Bell settled into the left outside linebacker position and stayed there the rest of his career. In 12 seasons with the Chiefs he intercepted 26 passes and returned nine of them for touchdowns. Bell was selected to the AFL All-Star team and then the Pro Bowl for nine consecutive years. He was also named to the AFL’s all-time team by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Bell played in a total of 168 games for the Chiefs. He was inducted into the Chiefs Hall of Fame in 1979, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.
2. Willie Lanier (LB, 1967-1977): Lanier was selected by the Chiefs in the second round of the 1967 draft and he became the starting middle linebacker four games into his rookie season. His speed, quickness, durability, and size all contributed to his enormous success, but it was his heart and desire that propelled him to greatness. For his career, Lanier intercepted 27 passes, returning two for touchdowns, and also recovered 15 fumbles. He was named to the AFL All-Star team and the Pro Bowl eight seasons in a row. Lanier was also named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary all-time team in 1994. After playing in 149 games for the Chiefs, Lanier retired following the 1977 season. He was elected into the Chiefs Hall of Fame in 1984, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986.
1. Len Dawson (QB, 1962-1975): Dawson joined the Dallas Texans in the summer of 1962 after spending several seasons on the bench in Pittsburgh, and led the team to the ’62 AFL Championship. He was named the AFL’s player of the year by The Sporting News after the ’62 season, winning the passing championship as well as leading the league in completion percentage. Dawson would go on to win AFL passing titles in 1964, 1966, 1968, led in completion percentage six years in a row, from 1964 through 1969, and led in touchdown passes in 1963, 1965, and 1966. The Chiefs won three AFL titles and the Super Bowl with Dawson at the helm. Dawson still holds the club records for the highest career quarterback rating at 83.2, most passing attempts with 3,696, completions with 2,115, and 28,507 yards. Dawson was named to six AFL All-Star teams and to the Pro Bowl in 1972. He was the NFL Man of the Year in 1973, an award given to the league’s outstanding pro football player-citizen. Dawson retired after the 1975 season but continues to be involved with the Chiefs. He is a member of the Chiefs play-by-play radio broadcast team and is the sports anchor at KMBC-TV in Kansas City. Dawson was inducted into the Chiefs Hall of Fame in 1978 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.