We lost a legend today. Len Dawson has passed away peacefully in hospice care at the age of 87. The Chiefs quarterback, broadcaster, and icon led the team to Super Bowls I and IV, winning IV and getting Kansas City their first ever title in the newly formed National Football League. He spent 24 years in the broadcasting booth with Mitch Holthus, along with a few years along side Kevin Harlan as well during the early 90s. I want to go over a few of Lenny the Cool's best moments, like the nickname entails, the man was a legend not only in KC lore, but also in NFL lore as a trailblazer for the NFL/AFL merger. Let's go over just a few of his most notable accomplishments.
Winning Super Bowl IV "65 Toss Power Trap": In a game that will forever live not only due to the sheer number of Hall of Famers on this Chiefs team, but also because of Hank Stram's famous playcall still used as the name for the Chiefs main production company 65TPT. A play that will forever be associated with Chiefs football, Stram and Dawson were one of the most dynamic duos of the early days of the modern NFL, and with this play along with the overall performance of Dawson and Stram's masterful coaching, they cemented themselves as legends of the game.
Inducted Into the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Dawson was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987, marking the zenith of an already illustrious football career. He was inducted alongside the likes of Larry Csonka, Mean Joe Greene, Gene Upshaw, and Don Maynard. A man quoted as saying "I enjoy the competitiveness of [football]. I enjoy the money we make." put the official stamp of being competitive in football, being among the select few that have been enshrined to such a prestigious level. Lenny the Cool forever lives on in the halls of Canton, Ohio, and the hallowed corridors of Arrowhead.
The AFL Championship Wins: Dawson won 3 AFL championships with the Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs franchise. The first came in 1962 against the Houston Oilers. For those that don't know, the AFL was the precursor league to what we now know as the American Football Conference (AFC) The NFL (Now the NFC post-merger) was considered to be the superior of the two leagues, with greats such as Johnny Unitas, Sonny Jurgensen, Bart Starr, and others headlining what was the "big" league in professional football. Lamar Hunt, Len Dawson, and others a part of the Chiefs organization challenged this superiority, saying the AFL deserved an equal spotlight, and was part of why the two leagues merged to become the NFL as we know it. Teams like the Chiefs, Jets, Raiders, and Dolphins all showed that they can compete with the mighty NFL teams, so the NFL (with the help of Lamar Hunt being the key advocate) agreed to the merger, which continues to be one of the most historic mergers in sports history.
Where "Lenny the Cool" was Born: Smoking is bad for you kids, don't do it, but MAN have you seen a cooler sports photo than Len Dawson smoking during halftime of Super Bowl I? The rugged, rough and tough cowboy look continues to be one of the most iconic NFL/sports photos of all time and shows the attitude that Len Dawson had toward the game. He was one of the NFL's first true personalities, from his interviews to his photos to his play to just looking like a guy that could easily fit into West Side Story.
Credit: SB Nation
Finally, His Broadcasting Career: While many agree that Mitch Holthus and Kevin Harlan brought the energy to the Chiefs radio broadcasts, Lenny always seemed to have a story to tell. As he got older, his insight on the game deteriorated, but he still was a mainstay for his storytelling ability and his legend status. Not only did he do radio however, but he also did TV, hosting and directing the sports broadcast for KMBC9 and cohosting for HBO's "Inside the NFL". He would earn the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award for his accomplishments, and has had the TV booth at Arrowhead named after him. He is well known for both his playing and broadcasting career in tandem, and it's part of what has made his legacy so great.
Len Dawson was a big part of many Chiefs fans' lives. He's arguably the team's most legendary player (for the moment) and his broadcasting career was a KC TV staple. He will truly go down as one of the greatest Kansas City sports icons, for his suave, cool demeanor, his play on the field, or his illustrious career in media. Pick any single one and you've got a legend, but to have all three of those made Lenny that much more of a household name. May he Rest In Peace, and may his family, friends, and Chiefs Kingdom be comforted during this time. Cheers Lenny the Cool, put the hammer down in Heaven and say hi to Hank Stram, Joe Delaney, Derrick Thomas, and other legends no longer with us.
Burn Notice: 10/10 Lenny the Cool's stogie