The Kansas City Chiefs are an American professional gridiron football team headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, that competes in the National Football League’s American Football Conference (AFC) (NFL). The franchise won three league championships (1962, 1966, and 1969) and Super Bowls IV (1970) and LIV (1971) as a member of the now-defunct American Football League (AFL) (2020).
When the AFL was founded in 1960, the team, initially known as the Texans and based in Dallas, was one of eight founding franchises. The Texans were owned by Lamar Hunt, who started the AFL by organising other prospective NFL owners who had been turned down by the established league after being chastised in an earlier attempt to buy the Chicago Cardinals.
Hunt hired Hank Stram as the Texans’ inaugural head coach, and in his first two seasons, Stram guided the team to two middle-of-the-pack finishes. Before the 1962 season, the Texans signed quarterback Len Dawson (a future Hall of Famer like Stram), and Dallas went 11–3, defeating the Houston Oilers in the AFL title game. Despite the team’s success, the Dallas market couldn’t support two football franchises (the other being the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys), so Hunt moved the Texans to Kansas City in 1963.
Until 1966, the newly renamed Chiefs finished in the middle of the AFL West standings. That season, they won 11 games and won the AFL championship. The Chiefs then lost 35–10 to the Green Bay Packers in the first annual AFL-NFL World Championship Game (later nicknamed the “Super Bowl” by Hunt), one of the most important occasions in gridiron football history.
The Chiefs won the AFL championship and advanced to the Super Bowl in 1969, with the league’s best defence, which included future Hall of Famers Willie Lanier, Bobby Bell, and Buck Buchanan.
The Chiefs defeated the Minnesota Vikings in the Super Bowl, which was the final game ever played by an AFL team before the two leagues merged in 1970. Kansas City returned to the playoffs in 1971 but then went through a phase in which the team finished with losing records in 9 of the 14 seasons from 1972 through 1985, missing the postseason in each of those years.
Marty Schottenheimer was hired as head coach in 1989, and linebacker Derrick Thomas was chosen. In his second season with the Chiefs, Schottenheimer led the team to a playoff berth, and in 1993, the Chiefs advanced to the AFC championship game, where they were defeated by the Buffalo Bills.
The Chiefs won an NFL-best 13 games in 1995, led by Thomas and defensive end Neil Smith, but were defeated by the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the playoffs. In 1997, the Chiefs tied for the league’s best record, but were upset in their first playoff game once again, this time by the division Denver Broncos.
After a five-year postseason hiatus, Kansas City returned to the playoffs in 2003 with a high-scoring offence led by running back Priest Holmes and tight end Tony Gonzalez. Once again, a strong regular season was followed by playoff disappointment as the Chiefs were defeated by the Indianapolis Colts at home.
After a series of moderately successful years, including a postseason berth (and first-round loss) in 2006, the team went on an abrupt downward spiral that culminated in a franchise-worst 2–14 record in 2008 and the hiring of a new front office and coaching staff, which helped Kansas City return to the playoffs after the 2010 season.
That recovery, however, was short-lived, as the team suffered through another coaching change late in Kansas City’s poor 2011 season, followed by another following the 2012 season. The talented Chiefs improved quickly under new coach Andy Reid in 2013, winning 11 games and securing a playoff berth
. The squad subsequently went on to lose their first playoff game, bringing the franchise’s postseason winless streak to 20 years. Following the 2015 season, the Chiefs broke their run by defeating the Houston Texans 30–0 before being eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by the reigning champion New England Patriots.
The Chiefs won 12 games in 2016, their greatest season in over a decade, to win the division, but lost in their first playoff game once again. Kansas City earned another division title in 2017, only to lose in their first postseason game.
The Chiefs had the most dynamic offence in the NFL in 2018, thanks to second-year superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes, as they matched for the best record in the league with a 12–4 record. Kansas City won their first postseason game but fell to the Patriots in overtime in the AFC championship game
. Injuries restricted Mahomes in 2019, and the Chiefs’ offence was less dominant as a result, but the team still won 12 games and hosted the AFC championship for the second year in a row. Kansas City won this time, and Mahomes led the Chiefs to their first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years.
They beat the San Francisco 49ers 31–20 after coming from behind in the fourth quarter. In 2020, the Chiefs continued to rule the league, winning a league-high 14 regular-season games.
The Chiefs narrowly overcame the Cleveland Browns in the playoffs before defeating the Buffalo Bills in the AFC championship game to advance to their second straight Super Bowl, where they were defeated by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.