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Ranking the Chiefs: when all is said and done, the franchise will be synonymous with one man

On Saturdays through May, Arrowhead Pride contributors weighed in on the five best Chiefs of all time. Pete Sweeney steps to the plate for the final swing.

Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

On Saturdays through May, Arrowhead Pride contributors list (and explain) their top five Kansas City Chiefs of all time.

The beauty of an exercise like ranking the five greatest Chiefs of all time is that there are no wrong answers. Over the course of the last two months, we have seen that. And what does that mean — the fact that nine contributors had nine very different takes?

It means the franchise had enough individuals that mattered — enough people that truly helped write the story of the Kansas City Chiefs. I know your list will be different than mine. That is the best part.

My top 5 all-time Chiefs

  1. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes
  2. Linebacker Derrick Thomas
  3. Tight end Travis Kelce
  4. Running back Jamaal Charles
  5. Quarterback Len Dawson

Before last year, Len Dawson, at more than 80 years old, stood tall as the only quarterback in franchise history to ever lead the Chiefs to a Super Bowl title. He was named to the All-AFL team four times and quarterbacked the Chiefs to three AFL championships. Through 49 years, no quarterback for the Chiefs could repeat what Dawson accomplished — and that, though unfortunate, provided staying power. The most important position in football is quarterback, and Kansas City’s conversation starts at No. 3 by default — in part because of Dawson’s stamp on the transition from the Dallas Texans and the team’s rebirth in Kansas City.

While the Chiefs were still searching for their quarterback over the last two decades, the team made a point of it to consistently feature premier players at the running back and tight end positions. While the rest of the team pushed through struggles, those positions created a sense of pride for Kansas Citians. And there were many good ones — players who had to be snubbed from this list. For numbers 4 and 3, I made my call for the best player at each position — and I have them placed ahead of Dawson because they find themselves in conversations for greatest all-time at their respective positions.

Jamaal Charles’ 5.4 yards per carry still tops career running back lists to this day, and in my opinion, Kansas City continues to be afforded the opportunity to watch the greatest tight end of all time each and every week. Travis Kelce currently ranks 13th in yardage for his career, but his 67.3 yards per game only trails Rob Gronkowski (68.4). Kelce has said he has the desire to play for as long as he possibly can, and he plays a position in which we have historically seen solid production, even past 30 — Kelce’s age today. If he stays healthy — and with Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid, he will at the very least be in the conversation. And in this scenario, he would have never had to leave for Atlanta to do so.

The Chiefs’ greatest defensive player is my only defensive player to make the list — though not without much consideration (see below for my honorable mentions). Derrick Thomas recorded 126.5 sacks over 11 seasons, and, in doing so, was one of the most dominant players Kansas City — and the league — has ever seen. He was tragically taken too soon at the age of 33, but had that not happened, we’re only left to wonder what his final numbers would have looked like. What if he was part of that 2003 team? How would that season have ended? Even after retiring, Thomas is one of those players who would have been a key part of the franchise until he was old and gray. It hurts thinking about that alternate universe.

And then there is Mahomes at number 1 — because he has to be. I could write the accolades I have typed a million times in articles here about the Chiefs quarterback, but you’re already well familiar with all of them. As long as he stays healthy, no player — on this list or otherwise — will accomplish more than Mahomes will as a Chief, be it championships, accolades and the love from the city that goes with it.

Honorable mention: Bobby Bell, Tony Gonzalez, Tyreek Hill, Priest Holmes, Derrick Johnson, Willie Lanier, Tyrann Mathieu, Willie Roaf, Will Shields, Otis Taylor


How perfect is this list?

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    Strongly perfect
    (154 votes)
  • 47%
    Somewhat perfect
    (376 votes)
  • 25%
    Somewhat imperfect
    (199 votes)
  • 7%
    Strongly imperfect
    (58 votes)
787 votes total Vote Now

Cumulative rankings (Arrowhead Pride)

  • Derrick Thomas (34 points)
  • Patrick Mahomes (29)
  • Len Dawson (17)
  • Derrick Johnson (10)
  • Jamaal Charles (8)
  • Tony Gonzalez (8)
  • Will Shields (7)
  • Travis Kelce (7)
  • Willie Lanier (5)
  • Bobby Bell (3)
  • Eric Berry (3)
  • Curley Culp (2)
  • Alex Smith (1)
  • Jan Stenerud (1)

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