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Top 5 Kansas City Chiefs Quarterbacks of All Time

I am a former sports editor and currently serve as a historian with the Society of American Baseball Research and manage a valet operation.

Hall of Famer Len Dawson holds numerous franchise passing records for the Chiefs.

Hall of Famer Len Dawson holds numerous franchise passing records for the Chiefs.

Who Are the Best Chiefs Quarterbacks of All Time?

Throughout a 61-year history, the Chiefs have a rich tradition at the quarterback position, and some of that history continues to be made as Kansas City employs one of the best QBs in the current NFL landscape. From one of the most accurate passers of the 1960s to several strong starters who helped the Chiefs make the playoffs 15 times between 1986 to 2017 to Patrick Mahomes’ back-to-back Super Bowl appearances in 2019 and ‘20, Kansas City has been home to several prominent quarterbacks. In this article, I’ll count down the best of the bunch.

Selection Criteria

This is a list of the top five quarterbacks in the history of the Chiefs, as well as two honorable mentions. Also included are some quarterback trivia, franchise records, and a list of all quarterbacks to start at least one game for the team. The criteria used to develop this list include:

  • Single-Season Honors (MVP, All-Pro, Pro Bowl, league leader, etc.)
  • On-Field Success (winning percentage, winning seasons, playoff appearances, etc.)
  • Longevity (years with the Chiefs, percentage of career with the team, etc.)

Only games played with the Chiefs are factored into this list, so while Warren Moon is a prime candidate for a list about the Houston Oilers, his single start with the Chiefs in 2000 won't make the cut here.

5. Trent Green (2001–06)

  • Playoff Appearances: 2003 and ‘06
  • Pro Bowl: 2003 and ‘05

The Chiefs gave up a first-round draft pick to acquire Trent Green, and they were rewarded with two playoff berths in his six productive seasons. Green didn’t miss a start over his first five seasons in Kansas City, and that streak was only broken after he suffered a severe concussion in Week 1 of the 2006 season. He returned to action in Week 10 and went 4–3 down the stretch to get the Chiefs into the postseason. Green is second all-time in Chiefs history after completing 1,720 of 2,777 passes for 21,459 yards and 118 touchdowns, but he was unable to secure a playoff win for Kansas City. As a starter, he posted a record of 48–40.

Trent Green: Chiefs Statistics

YearGGSRecordCompAttComp%YdsTDInt

2001

16

16

6–10

296

523

56.6

3783

17

24

2002

16

16

8–8

287

470

61.1

3690

26

13

2003

16

16

13–3

330

523

63.1

4039

24

12

2004

16

16

7–9

369

556

66.4

4591

27

17

2005

16

16

10–6

317

507

62.5

4014

17

10

2006

8

8

4–4

121

198

61.1

1342

7

9

4. Joe Montana (1993–94)

  • Playoff Appearances: 1993–94
  • Pro Bowl: 1994
  • Legacy Honors: Hall of Fame (2000)

Joe Montana didn’t spend that much time with the Chiefs, but he was wildly successful while in Kansas City. Montana was acquired in a trade with the 49ers prior to the 1993 season, and that trade was influential in the free-agent acquisition of running back Marcus Allen that same year. The transformed offense led the Chiefs to their first division championship since 1971, and they advanced to the AFC Championship game. Montana led Kansas City back into the playoffs in 1994—the team’s fifth straight postseason appearance—but the Chiefs were ousted in the opening round and he retired after the season. Montana missed seven games over his two seasons, but he completed 480 of 791 passes for 5,427 yards and 29 touchdowns in his brief stay (which included a 17–8 record as a starter).

Joe Montana: Chiefs Statistics

YearGGSRecordCompAttComp%YdsTDInt

1993

11

11

8–3

181

298

60.7

2144

13

7

1994

14

14

9–5

299

493

60.6

3283

16

9

In a 2017 game against the Jets, Alex Smith had a 79-yard pass and a 70-yard rush, but the Chiefs lost.

In a 2017 game against the Jets, Alex Smith had a 79-yard pass and a 70-yard rush, but the Chiefs lost.

3. Alex Smith (2013–17)

  • Playoff Appearances: 2013 and 2015–17
  • Pro Bowl: 2013 and 2016–17

After several strong seasons with the 49ers, Alex Smith was traded to the Chiefs for a second-round draft pick and promptly pushed Kansas City to the playoffs in four of five seasons. That included a victory in the Wild Card round of the 2015 postseason—the first playoff win for the Chiefs since 1993. Kansas City returned to the postseason for the next two seasons, but they took narrow losses in the first round despite decent efforts from Smith. In the 2016 season-opener, he helped the Chiefs overcome a 21-point deficit against the Chargers by throwing two second-half touchdowns and rushing for the game-winning score in overtime in what was then the largest comeback victory in franchise history. He missed just four starts during his time with the Chiefs and ranks in the top five all-time for Kansas City with 17,608 yards and 102 touchdowns on 1,857-of-2,436 passing. His record as a starter was 50–26.

Alex Smith: Chiefs Statistics

YearGGSRecordCompAttComp%YdsTDInt

2013

15

15

11–4

308

508

60.6

3313

23

7

2014

15

15

8–7

303

464

65.3

3265

18

6

2015

16

16

11–5

307

470

65.3

3486

20

7

2016

15

15

11–4

328

489

67.1

3502

15

8

2017

15

15

9–6

341

505

67.5

4042

26

5

Patrick Mahomes signed the richest contract in American sports history prior to the 2020 NFL season.

Patrick Mahomes signed the richest contract in American sports history prior to the 2020 NFL season.

2. Patrick Mahomes (2017–present)

  • Playoff Appearances: 2018–20
  • All-Pro: 2018
  • Pro Bowl: 2018–20
  • Major Awards: MVP (2018) and Bert Bell Award (2018)

As the future face of the NFL, Patrick Mahomes was given a 10-year, $477 million contract prior to the 2020 season to keep the young star in Kansas City. That came after an MVP win in 2018 and a Super Bowl championship the following season, which was the first title for Kansas City in 50 years. During his MVP campaign, Mahomes became the second quarterback to throw for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in a single season (after Peyton Manning). He’s led the Chiefs into the playoffs in three straight seasons and has a 6–2 record and 17 touchdown passes in the postseason. He was brilliant during the 2019 postseason, throwing five touchdowns in the opening round and claiming Super Bowl MVP honors after firing two TDs in a 31–20 win over the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV. Mahomes suffered the first double-digit loss of his professional career in Super Bowl LI, a 31–9 loss to the Buccaneers. Thus far in his career, Mahomes has completed 1,114 of 1,687 passes for 14,152 yards and 114 touchdowns. He’s thrown just 24 interceptions, a rate of 1.4%, and posted a 38–8 record.

Patrick Mahomes: Chiefs Statistics

YearGGSRecordCompAttComp%YdsTDInt

2017

1

1

1–0

22

35

62.9

284

0

1

2018

16

16

12–4

383

580

66

5097

50

12

2019

14

14

11–3

319

484

65.9

4031

26

5

2020

15

15

14–1

390

588

66.3

4740

38

6

Len Dawson's bust is seen in the gallery at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Len Dawson's bust is seen in the gallery at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

1. Len Dawson (1962–75)

  • Playoff Appearances: 1962, ‘66, 1968–69, and ‘71
  • All-Pro: 1962 and ‘66
  • Pro Bowl: 1962, ‘64, 1966–69, and ‘71
  • Major Awards: AFL MVP (1962), NFL Man of the Year (1973), Super Bowl IV MVP
  • Legacy Honors: Hall of Fame (1987) and Chiefs No. 16 Retired

Len Dawson was the first legend in Chiefs history, and he’s still remembered as the best quarterback in franchise history. He led the NFL in completion percentage in seven of his eight seasons with the franchise (Dawson’s first season came in 1962 with the Dallas Texans, who became the Chiefs in 1963). Dawson helped the Texans win the AFL championship in 1962, and he later led the Chiefs to a championship in Super Bowl IV. On the way to his Super Bowl title, Dawson had missed several games of the regular season after suffering a knee injury in Week 2. He went 3–2 down the stretch and then helped the Chiefs upset the favored Vikings to finish off a perfect postseason run in the final game that featured an AFL team. Earlier in his career, he was the losing quarterback in Super Bowl I.

His career-high 30 touchdowns in 1964 stood as a single-season record for the Chiefs until 2018. Dawson is the franchise’s career leader in every major passing category after completing 2,115 of 3,696 passes for 28,507 yards and 237 touchdowns. His 93 career victories are almost double the total of any other Kansas City quarterback, and as a starter, he went 93-56-8 for the franchise.

Len Dawson: Chiefs Statistics

YearGGSRecordCompAttComp%YdsTDInt

1962

14

14

11–3

189

310

61

2759

29

17

1963

14

13

5-7-1

190

352

54

2389

26

19

1964

14

14

7–7

199

354

56.2

2879

30

18

1965

14

12

6-4-2

163

305

53.4

2262

21

14

1966

14

14

11-2-1

159

284

56

2527

26

10

1967

14

14

9–5

206

357

57.7

2651

24

17

1968

14

13

11–2

131

224

58.5

2109

17

9

1969

9

7

5–2

98

166

59

1323

9

13

1970

14

12

5-5-2

141

262

53.8

1876

13

14

1971

14

13

9-3-1

167

301

55.5

2504

15

13

1972

14

12

7–5

175

305

57.4

1835

13

12

1973

8

6

3-2-1

66

101

65.3

725

2

5

1974

14

8

3–5

138

235

58.7

1573

7

13

1975

12

5

1–4

93

140

66.4

1095

5

4

Who Is the Best Chiefs Quarterback in History?

For the time being, Hall of Famer Len Dawson is the best quarterback in Chiefs history, but as long as Patrick Mahomes continues to produce as he has throughout the early portion of his career, he’ll undeniably become the top quarterback in franchise history. Mahomes has already established a base with two Super Bowl appearances in three seasons as a starter, and with his contract in hand, it’s only a matter of time before his accomplishments surpass Dawson’s.

Honorable Mentions

While I have listed the greatest quarterbacks in Chiefs history above, I’ve listed a couple more players worth mentioning below.

Bill Kenney (1980–88)

Bill Kenney was a reliable quarterback for the Chiefs for nine seasons, notably breaking out in 1983 and helping Kansas City into the 1986 postseason. In the only season he started 16 games, Kenney made the 1983 Pro Bowl and posted career highs after completing 346 of 603 passes (which both led the NFL) for 4,348 yards and 24 touchdowns. His completion and yardage totals stood as team records until 2004, while his 603 attempts still hold the top spot for a single-season mark. In his career, Kenney completed 1,330 of 2,430 passes for 17,277 yards and 105 touchdowns, and he compiled a 34–43 record as a starter.

Steve Deberg (1988–91)

Steve Deberg led the Chiefs to back-to-back postseason appearances in 1990 and ‘91, but he only won one playoff game. He enjoyed his best season with Kansas City in 1990, when he threw for 3,444 yards and a career-high 23 touchdowns while leading the NFL with a 0.9% interception rate. During his four seasons, Deberg completed 934 of 1,616 passes for 11,873 yards and 67 touchdowns, and he posted a 31-20-1 record as a starter.

FAQs

Below are some frequently asked questions about Chiefs quarterbacks, as well as trivia and records about the team’s quarterbacks.

How Many Starting Quarterbacks Have the Chiefs Had?

In total, the Chiefs have used 39 starting quarterbacks throughout their 61-year history. Eight of those starters never won a game, including Brodie Croyle, who was 0–10 in occasional appearances from 2007 to ‘10. Hunter Enis (2–0 in 1960) and Nick Foles (1–0 in 2016) are the only undefeated Chiefs quarterbacks, while Eddie Wilson played to a 24–24 tie against the Boston Patriots on November 17, 1963, in his only start for Kansas City.

Who Is the Current Starting Quarterback for the Chiefs?

Patrick Mahomes is the starting quarterback for the Chiefs. He has led the team to back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, and his backup is Chad Henne.

Who Was the First Quarterback for the Chiefs?

Before moving to Kansas City, the Chiefs were the Dallas Texans from 1960-62. Cotton Davidson was the starting quarterback in the franchise's first game. Once in Kansas City, the first quarterback was Len Dawson.

How Many Quarterbacks Have the Chiefs Drafted in the First Round?

The Chiefs have selected four quarterbacks in the first round of the NFL Draft, and it’s not likely they will draft another for many years.

  • 2017: Patrick Mahomes (10th overall)
  • 1983: Todd Blackledge (7th overall)
  • 1979: Steve Fuller (23rd overall)
  • 1964: Pete Beathard (2nd overall)

Chiefs Quarterback Records

Below are Chiefs franchise records among quarterbacks.

  • Career Yards: 28,507, Len Dawson (1962–75)
  • Single-Season Yards: 5,097, Patrick Mahomes (2018)
  • Single-Game Yards: 504, Elvis Grbac (Nov. 5, 2000)
  • Career Touchdowns: 237, Dawson (1962–75)
  • Single-Season Touchdowns: 50, Mahomes (2018)
  • Single-Game Touchdowns: 6, Len Dawson (Nov. 1, 1964), and Mahomes (Sept. 16, 2018, and Nov. 19, 2018)
  • Career Completion Percentage: 66.0%, Mahomes (2017–20)
  • Single-Season Completion Percentage: 67.5%, Alex Smith (2017)
  • Single-Game Completion Percentage: 86.4%, Smith (Oct. 16, 2016)

Chiefs Starting Quarterback History

**Statistics From Pro Football Reference**

PlayerFromToRecordCompAttComp%YdsTDInt

Cotton Davidson

1960

1962

11-13

330

709

46.5

4919

32

39

Hunter Enis

1960

1960

2-0

30

54

55.6

357

1

2

Randy Duncan

1961

1961

1-1

25

67

37.3

361

1

3

Eddie Wilson

1962

1964

0-0-1

70

140

50

994

4

3

Len Dawson

1962

1975

93-56-8

2115

3696

57.2

28507

237

178

Pete Beathard

1964

1973

1-1

110

254

43.3

1649

8

13

Jacky Lee

1967

1969

1-1

43

84

51.2

597

5

4

Mike Livingston

1968

1979

31-43-1

912

1751

52.1

11295

56

83

Tony Adams

1975

1978

1-6

163

319

51.1

2126

9

22

Steve Fuller

1979

1982

13-18

465

817

56.9

5333

22

32

Bill Kenney

1980

1988

34-43

1330

2430

54.7

17277

105

86

Todd Blackledge

1983

1987

13-11

364

742

49.1

4510

26

32

Frank Seurer

1986

1987

0-2

26

55

47.3

340

0

4

Doug Hudson

1987

1987

0-1

0

1

0

0

0

0

Matt Stevens

1987

1987

0-2

32

57

56.1

315

1

1

Steve DeBerg

1988

1991

31-20-1

934

1616

57.8

11873

67

50

Ron Jaworski

1989

1989

1-2

36

61

59

385

2

5

Steve Pelluer

1989

1990

1-1-1

28

52

53.8

315

1

1

Mark Vlasic

1991

1991

0-1

28

44

63.6

316

2

0

Dave Krieg

1992

1993

13-8

335

602

55.6

4353

22

15

Joe Montana

1993

1994

17-8

480

791

60.7

5427

29

16

Steve Bono

1994

1996

21-10

594

1075

55.3

6489

37

27

Rich Gannon

1995

1998

11-8

365

630

57.9

3997

23

11

Elvis Grbac

1997

2000

26-21

897

1548

57.9

10643

66

47

Warren Moon

1999

2000

0-1

16

37

43.2

228

1

1

Trent Green

2001

2006

48-40

1720

2777

61.9

21459

118

85

Damon Huard

2006

2008

10-11

404

657

61.5

4612

24

18

Brodie Croyle

2006

2010

0-10

181

319

56.7

1669

8

9

Tyler Thigpen

2007

2009

1-10

232

426

54.5

2649

18

13

Matt Cassel

2009

2012

19-28

854

1489

57.4

9549

59

44

Tyler Palko

2010

2011

1-3

84

140

60

831

2

7

Kyle Orton

2011

2011

2-1

59

97

60.8

779

1

2

Brady Quinn

2012

2012

1-7

112

197

56.9

1141

2

8

Chase Daniel

2013

2015

1-1

43

68

63.2

409

1

1

Alex Smith

2013

2017

50-26

1587

2436

65.1

17608

102

33

Nick Foles

2016

2016

1-0

36

55

65.5

410

3

0

Patrick Mahomes

2017

2020

38-8

1114

1687

66

14152

114

24

Chad Henne

2018

2020

0-1

30

41

73.2

277

2

0

Matt Moore

2019

2019

1-1

59

91

64.8

659

4

0

© 2021 Andrew Harner

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