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When We Were Champions: Jacky Lee


If you're even a casual Kansas City Chiefs fan and you're asked who was the team's starting quarterback in its only Super Bowl win, you immediately, without even thinking, spit out "Len Dawson". If you lived in that era, or are an especially voracious young researcher, you may know that Mike Livingston was the Chiefs backup quarterback .

I doubt many of you know well the name of the third string quarterback during the Chiefs Super Bowl run - Jacky Lee.

Lee was drafted by the AFL's Houston Oilers in 1960 and backed up George Blanda for four seasons there. He then went to Denver for two seasons, back to Houston for another one and half and finally ended his career with two seasons in Kansas City. Lee is one of only twenty players who played in each of the ten season's the AFL existed.

Lee didn't just ride the bench while playing behind George Blanda in Houston. He played in every game in his first four AFL seasons, starting seven of them. A 1962 Sports Illustrated referred to Blanda and Lee as "the best set of quarterbacks in the AFL."

Here is a curious snippet from a 1966 SI issue:

Also missing is Quarterback Jacky Lee , who has returned to Houston after a two-year lend-lease deal.

A leased player? I'm probably showing my age here but I wasn't aware that players in the AFL were leased from team to team. Can you imagine if that was practiced today?

Jacky Lee is also quietly known for a monstrous game he had as an Oiler against the Boston Patriots in 1961. During the week leading up to the game, the Oilers' head coach Lou Rymkus was on the hot seat, prompting unrest in the ranks. Here's a snapshot:

For the Patriots game, Rymkus went with backup quarterback Jacky Lee. Ignoring a gathering fog that rolled in from the nearby Charles River, Lee completed 27 passes for an AFL-record 457 yards. Hennigan hauled in 13 of those passes to set another league mark. Still, Houston trailed 31-28 with five seconds left in the game. With the ball on the Boston 14-yard line, Rymkus sent Blanda in to attempt the game tying field goal.

In the Houston huddle, an Oiler player who had been benched by Rymkus offered advice. "Miss it George," he whispered to Blanda. "Teach the son of a bitch a lesson he'll never forget."

Incensed, Blanda grabbed the player by the jersey. "Don't ever say that to me again." Blanda's ensuing field goal was good and the Oilers left Boston with a tie.

Jacky Lee left his second tenure in Houston to spend part of the 1967 season and the full 1968 and 1969 seasons in Kansas City. He started two games in KC and played in nine of them.

My closing thought is...doesn't Jacky Lee look a lot like Peyton Manning?

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