Franchise founder Lamar Hunt originally pursued both legendary University of Oklahoma coach Bud Wilkinson and New York Giants defensive assistant Tom Landry to lead his new team, but the former opted to stay at Oklahoma, while the latter went on to coach the NFL’s new Dallas Cowboys. Hunt settled on a relatively unknown assistant coach from the University of Miami (Florida) by the name of Hank Stram. Stram quickly garnered a reputation as one of the game’s most imaginative offensive minds and directed the franchise to three AFL titles and two Super Bowls putting together a string of nine consecutive winning seasons from 1965-73 and was honored for his record with enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003.
Kansas City record: 11-24-0 (.314)
San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Paul Wiggin was named the second head coach in franchise history on January 23, 1975. A former Pro Bowl defensive end for the Cleveland Browns, Wiggin inherited the unenviable task of rebuilding a team whose pool of talent had been largely depleted due to age and a number of ill-fated trades that had left the club devoid of first-round draft choices in 1973 and 1975. An 0-5 start to the 1977 season effectively sealed Wiggin’s fate and although he was still a popular figure in Kansas City he was relieved of his duties in-season, marking the only time in team history that this has occurred.
Kansas City record: 1-6-0 (.143)
Defensive Backs coach Tom Bettis was named interim coach of the Chiefs after Wiggin’s dismissal and claimed a 20-10 victory over Green Bay in the club’s initial contest under his direction, but it was to be the team’s only victory of his brief head coaching tenure. The team endured a six-game losing streak to conclude the season and he and his coaching staff were released at the season’s conclusion.
Kansas City record: 31-42-0 (.425)
Marv Levy, the former head coach of the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes, was named the fourth head coach in franchise history and his restocking of a relatively barren defensive roster began with a 1978 draft class that included a pair of future Chiefs Hall of Fame enshrines in Art Still and Gary Spani. Running out of the unconventional “Wing-T” offense, Levy wanted to keep his still young defense off the field. His offense ran up some impressive records in the process and he came close to returning the team to the playoffs in 1981 after increasing the Chiefs victory totals over three straight years. The 1982 players strike hit Levy’s team hard and he was released as head coach on January 4, 1983.
Kansas City record: 30-34-0 (.469)
John Mackovic, at 39-years, was the youngest man to ever hold the post of Chiefs head coach. His teams featured a high-flying aerial game behind quarterback Bill Kenney, but the ground game suffered due to the untimely death of running back Joe Delaney. Mackovic’s defining moment was the Chiefs’ return to the playoffs in 1986 for the first time since the playoff loss to Miami following the 1971 season. The Chiefs lost in the first round to the New York Jets and in the early weeks of 1987, Mackovic was suddenly replaced by his special teams’ coach Frank Gansz.
Kansas City record 8-22-1 (.274)
A popular figure among his players and considered to be one of the finest special teams coaches in all of professional football, Frank Gansz became head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs after originally resigning in early January to pursue a job as an offensive coordinator with another team. Like Levy, he quickly struggled as the result of a work stoppage due to player labor unrest. With a squad of replacement players, the Chiefs lost five consecutive games and were quickly out of the playoff picture. With Arrowhead attendance dwindling amidst a 4-11-1 record in 1988, new team general manager Carl Peterson eventually released Gansz following the 1988 season.
Kansas City record: 101-58-1 (.634)
With the hiring of Marty Schottenheimer, who had led the Cleveland Browns as head coach from 1984-88, the Kansas City franchise ushered in its second most prosperous period in team history. Retiring after the 1998 season, Schottenheimer’s record as head coach gave him the best winning percentage of any coach in franchise history. During his tenure, the Chiefs captured three AFC West titles and qualified for the playoffs seven times. He also produced a remarkable 18-3 record against the team’s long-standing rival, the Raiders.
Kansas City record: 16-16-0 (.500)
The team’s defensive coordinator under Schottenheimer and the man who helped develop the unit into one of the league’s strongest, the fiery Cunningham was a popular choice for new head coach. During his four seasons as defensive coordinator in Kansas City, his defense had allowed a league-low 16.4 points per game. His first year as head coach produced a 9-7 record, the best record of any rookie head coach in franchise history and the best mark of any first-year head coach in 1999. His team rallied for four wins down the stretch of his first season but lost a heartbreaking game to the Raiders knocking the Chiefs out of the 1999 playoff picture. A losing stretch of five games at the close of the 2000 season, however, spelled more trouble and he was removed in early 2001.
Kansas City record: 44-36-0 (.550)
After resting on the laurels of its defense under Schottenheimer and Cunningham, the Chiefs became an offensive juggernaut under Dick Vermeil, who returned to the sideline after a brief retirement following a Super Bowl victory as head coach of the St. Louis Rams. Vermeil’s five-year run as head coach in Kansas City was the third-highest victory total in team history and under his guidance the Chiefs established 34 single-season team records and 14 single-game team records, leading the NFL in total offense by averaging 380.9 yard per game from 2001-2005.
Kansas City record: 15-33-0 (.313)
After serving as a Chiefs scout and assistant coach with the team during the 1990s, Herm Edwards was hired as the franchise’s 10th head coach. He rejoined the club after a five-year stint as head coach of the New York Jets. In a remarkable turn of events on the season’s final weekend of the 2006 season, he found his team in the playoffs where they bowed to eventual Super Bowl champ Indianapolis. In what turned out to be his last season as head coach, Edwards had the dubious distinction of having to start three different quarterbacks in the season’s first three weeks (in a non-strike season) for the first time since the AFL-NFL merger. A four-game losing streak at the close of 2008 gave the team a 2-14 record and when new general manager Scott Pioli replaced Carl Peterson, Edwards was let go.
Kansas City record: 19-26-0 (.422)
Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley replaced Edwards as head coach on February 6, 2009 and by his second year had the franchise back as champions of the AFC West and playoff bound. For his efforts he received numerous coach of the year honors and he had his franchise poised for a long run of success with one of the youngest rosters in the entire National Football League.