On Saturdays through May, Arrowhead Pride contributors list (and explain) their top five Kansas City Chiefs of all time.
My top 5 all-time Chiefs
- Edge rusher Derrick Thomas
- Tight end Tony Gonzalez
- Quarterback Len Dawson
- Guard Will Shields
- Linebacker Bobby Bell
To me, the first name on this list is pretty straightforward. There is no name more intertwined with the Chiefs than Derrick Thomas. He lit up the league right from the moment he stepped on the field, terrorizing opposing quarterbacks on his way to winning Defensive Rookie of the Year. He followed that impressive season by doubling his sack total, breaking a franchise and league record. His legacy as a player and a person will live on forever through the Chiefs’ Derrick Thomas award, the Derrick Thomas Academy and his Third and Long foundation.
The rest of this list is far trickier. I tried to be as objective as possible — looking at both the football accolades and legacy of each player — while trying my best to contextualize their performances. Additionally, I wanted to make zero assumptions about what happens in the future. Heck, as I write this, it’s unclear whether fans will even get to watch football in person this fall. So it seems wrong to rank a player based on what we expect him to continue to do — when injuries, tragedies or a global pandemic could occur at any minute.
With that said, the next name on the list is one of just two Chiefs who were inducted into the Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. (I’m ignoring players like Marcus Allen who only played a few seasons on the team). Tony Gonzalez is the best tight end of all time. He’s got more NFL career records than most tight ends have touchdown receptions. He may not have ended his career with the Chiefs — or had much postseason success — but the latter is an additional reason I rank him so highly. Gonzalez didn’t have Patrick Mahomes passing him the ball or Andy Reid scheming him open. For arguably every year he was on it, he was the best player on the team — and the only other Chief who can make that claim is likely to be Derrick Thomas.
Not much needs to be said about Len Dawson. He was the best quarterback in the league for quite some time, a Super Bowl MVP — and was the subject of one of the best photos in NFL history.
Will Shields didn’t miss a single game in his 14-year, Hall of Fame career. Not. A. Single. Game. He is one of the best offensive linemen of all time, went to 12 straight Pro Bowls and was selected as an All-Pro seven times — three times on the first team and four times on the second. His impact was likely greater than appreciated at the time — especially with what we now know about running back production. While Priest Holmes is certainly a Chiefs legend, the reason many will remember his name is likely due more to Shields.
While I have only seen highlights of Bobby Bell, his career accolades match up with the best Chiefs players of all time. He is tied with Tony Gonzalez and Johnny Robinson with six first-team All-Pro selections. He was a finalist for the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, made the NFL’s All-Decade and Top 100 team — and won a Super Bowl. Knowing all of this, it may seem strange to have him this low on the list — but context matters. Was Bell one of the best to ever play? Absolutely. But it will always be hard to discern his contributions to the team when he had the fortune of playing alongside fellow Hall of Famers like Willie Lanier, Johnny Robinson and Buck Buchanan. In fact, I had trouble deciding which of the four to include on this list.
Honorable Mention: Jamaal Charles. Placing Charles’ career in context is hard. During his career, he did not have a great offensive line — in fact, he arguably never even played with a good offense. On a pure skill level, I truly believe he is one of — if not the — greatest running back of all time. He was the lone bright spot on a lot of dark, dark years. But sadly, unlike many other Chiefs, he just couldn’t stay on the field long enough to litter the record books with his name. And thus... he remains an honorable mention here. But I will not be forgetting his name anytime soon.
How perfect is this list?
This poll is closed
- Derrick Thomas (21 points)
- Patrick Mahomes (19)
- Len Dawson (16)
- Tony Gonzalez (8)
- Will Shields (6)
- Jamaal Charles (6)
- Derrick Johnson (3)
- Eric Berry (3)
- Bobby Bell (2)
- Travis Kelce (2)
- Willie Lanier (2)
- Alex Smith (1)
- Jan Stenerud (1)
- Jamaal Charles was the best of all running backs — Matt Stagner
- Derrick Johnson squeaks in the top five — Ron Kopp, Jr.
- Without Bobby Bell, the team’s story is incomplete — Kent Swanson
- Jamaal Charles was the king of the Game Pass Era — Tom Childs
- Jan Stenerud turned placekickers into weapons — John Dixon