Len Dawson was the biggest fish to get away from Cleveland, igniting his career in the new American Football League. The Browns were not able to guarantee Dawson a starting job with Frank Ryan and Jim Ninowski on the depth chart. Paul Brown probably would have kept Dawson as third-string but probably chose to release Dawson out of a sense of fairness, with the intention of allowing him to continue his football career in the AFL.
At any rate, Dawson quickly became a star in the new league, finishing near the league lead in most statistical categories. He led the AFL in completion percentage seven of the eight seasons of the league’s existence.
Dawson played in the first Super Bowl, which was a game for the first half before the wheels came off and Dawson’s Chiefs lost to Green Bay. But the Chiefs got back into Super Bowl IV against the Minnesota Vikings, who had a record-setting defense that year.
Dawson had been injured most of the 1969 season, with 9 TDs and 13 INTs. That gets you benched today, but Dawson still made it to the AFL version of the Pro Bowl that year. Still, talk about boring. Everyone hoped for another Super Bowl with miraculous Joe Namath and the Jets, but the Chiefs beat them in the AFL playoffs. Hence, the Vikings were huge favorites versus boring Kansas and their recycled Cleveland quarterback.
There is only one slight problem with the narrative. The Vikings didn’t blow away the Chiefs in the Super Bowl. Instead, the Chiefs took the Vikings behind the tool shed and beat them up, much worse than the Jets had beaten Baltimore the previous year. Was it just bad luck? Well, how do you explain the utter humiliation of the Vikings Front Four? All four made the NFL Pro Bowl, but the Chiefs rang up 151 yards on 42 carries. That was a lot of real estate in those days.
Dawson was ruthlessly efficient, but never challenged and did not have to throw much. He threw the ball only 17 times all game long because the Chiefs were so thoroughly dominant there was no great need. He was the MVP by default.
One of the great things about this game was that Coach Hank Stram was wired for sound, and he is hilariously funny yet also insightful. Stram was a brilliant man, but also a bit of a nerd with a cornball, Yogi Berra-ish sense of humor. Some of the best quotes,
"“Just keep matriculating the ball down the field, boys!” “They didn’t know where Mike (Garrett) was. Didn’t know where he was! They look like they’re flat as hell.” ” Nice going, baby! The mentor! 65 toss power trap! I tell ya that thing was there, yes sir boys!”"
In addition to providing entertainment for us fans, Stram’s mike conveys the obvious truth that the Vikings could not cope with the Chief’s playbook.
Stram was able to read the brute-force Vikings like a book, whereas the Vikings were still trying to progress from DC Comics to Marvel.