January 28, 2020
In Part One of this series, I highlighted how the Kansas City and San Francisco communities are connected. Their football teams, the Chiefs and 49ers, are also historically intertwined.
One of the most obvious connections between the Chiefs and the 49ers is how they shared quarterbacks over the years. Steve DeBerg was the signal caller in San Francisco before Joe Montana. When Marty Schottenheimer came to town, DeBerg and Christian Okoye established “Marty-Ball” and led KC to the first playoff appearance since 1985 (when KC “backed into the playoffs”) and to the first legitimate playoff appearance since the NFL’s longest game on Christmas Day 1971.
The most visible San Francisco transplant was when KC retired “Marty-ball” for the West Coast offense. Enter Joe Montana and two of the most amazing years of football in Kansas City. Montana took KC to the AFC championship game for the first time, although the Chiefs had played in three AFL championship games.
Next in the line of shared quarterbacks was Steve Bono, who took KC to its first 13-3 season and started a trend of very disappointing playoff appearances. Elvis Grbac came next, leading KC to another 13-3 season, playing part in the great quarterback controversy with Rich Gannon, and ultimately leaving KC without a playoff win. The most recent San Francisco transplant was Alex Smith. The former Niner found his way to KC and helped Andy Reid build the foundation of the offense that will be competing in the Big Game this weekend.
If you know the last shared KC and SF quarterback, you’re a better fan than I am! Bob Gagliano was a journeyman backup quarterback. He played two seasons in KC before leaving for the upstart USFL. Eventually, he landed in San Francisco during the 1986 player strike, started and won one game, and was the only shared quarterback to go from the Chiefs to the Niners.
Speaking of upstart leagues like the USFL, the Chiefs and 49ers also share a unique origin story. Both teams got their starts as part of an upstart league, determined to compete against the NFL. In both cases, the competing league merged with the NFL. Three teams from the All-American Football Conference (AAFC) merged with the NFL in 1949, including the San Francisco 49ers. In 1970, following their victory in Super Bowl IV, the Chiefs and nine other teams from the AFL joined the NFL.
Interestingly, the Chiefs owe their iconic logo to the 49ers too. Lamar Hunt loved the idea of his football team being called the Texans—so much so that he considered keeping the name even after moving to Kansas City (the Kansas City Texans?). Fortunately, team president Jack Steadman talked him out of it; however, that meant that a logo featuring a silhouette of Texas would no longer do.
Apparently, Hunt was doodling interlocking letters of K and C, inspired by the interlocking letters of S and F on the 49ers’ helmets, leading to the logo we have today with KC inside an arrowhead. If you’re interested in more Kansas City sports history, I encourage you to explore the Library’s catalog and online resources, including the Kansas City Star archive.
Steven V. Potter
MCPL Director & CEO
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