Guest column: The best Chiefs NOT in Canton and why they deserve to be there

photo courtesy of Kansas City Chiefs

Clark Judge

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Each weekend this offseason a guest columnist weighs in with thoughts on the NFL – past, present or future. Today we feature former Chiefs’ beat writer and Hall-of-Fame voter Bob Gretz, who makes a passionate argument for the Pro Football Hall of Fame to include more Kansas City Chiefs from the AFL decade. Gretz’s column dovetails neatly with our launch of an AFL Call for the Hall, an exercise over the next month that will – with the help of respected voters – determine the best 10 players from the AFL era and, hopefully, get them the recognition that Canton has not).

They were the American Football League’s most successful franchise.

Over the AFL decade, the Dallas Texans-Kansas City Chiefs of league founder Lamar Hunt won more games (92 including playoffs) than any of the eight original clubs, with three AFL titles (1962, 1966 and 1969), two Super Bowl appearances and a victory in Super Bowl IV against Minnesota in what was the league’s final game.

Key contributors to that success have been honored by the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Hunt (1972), head coach Hank Stram (2003) and players Bobby Bell (1983), Willie Lanier (1986), Len Dawson (1987), Buck Buchanan (1990), Jan Stenerud (1991), Emmitt Thomas (2008), Curley Culp (2013) and most recently Johnny Robinson (2019) have been inducted. Only the Oakland Raiders come close to equaling the Chiefs delegation in the Hall from the AFL days.

After Robinson’s induction last year, chances are slim more Chiefs of that era will crack the historical logjam at the front door of the Hall. But there remain players that deserve consideration. The franchise had seven names on the All-Time AFL Team as voted by the Hall-of-Fame selectors. Only two have been inducted: linebacker Bell and safety Robinson.

The other five did not receive extended discussion in deliberations when they became eligible for the Hall. Offensive tackle Jim Tyrer reached finalist status once (1981), but guard Ed Budde, tight end Fred Arbanas, defensive end Jerry Mays and punter Jerrel Wilson never made the final conversations for induction.

Tyrer and Budde are the only offensive linemen from the all-time team not in the Hall. Tackle Ron Mix, guard Billy Shaw and center Jim Otto all had their admission tickets punched. Why not Tyrer and Budde? They were often honored during their playing days: Tyrer was a nine-time selection for the AFL All-Star Game and Pro Bowl in 13 seasons. Budde was an eight-time choice for those honors over 14 years. Tyrer and Budde deserved more consideration than they were given in the process.

But the most forgotten Chiefs’ players have been Mays and Wilson. In 10 seasons, Mays was selected for the AFL All-Star Game or Pro Bowl seven times. He played 140 regular season games and was the starter at left defensive end in the team’s three AFL championship victories, plus Super Bowls I and IV. Mays was considered one of the major on-field leaders of those teams.

Wilson’s career has been completely glossed over by the Hall voters, who selected just one punter for induction: Ray Guy. Wilson’s numbers are equal to or better than Guy’s. Wilson’s career average: 43.3 yards in 217 games; Guy’s career average: 42.4 yards in 207 games. Over 15 seasons, Wilson finished among the league’s top five punters 13 times, including leading the AFL in punting with a 45.4-yard average in 1965, and then ranking No. 1 in the NFL with a 45.5-yard average in 1973. Wilson was also a backup running back and receiver in those days of smaller rosters.

There’s no doubt Wilson was a field-position weapon for Stram’s defense, one of the few in pro football history with multiple Hall of Famers at all three levels of the unit (Culp and Buchanan on the line, Bell and Lanier at linebacker and Thomas and Robinson in the secondary.)

Offensively, Arbanas and wide receivers Chris Burford and Otis Taylor deserve another look. They seldom produced the types of receiving numbers expected from those positions over the last 30-40 years. But with their careers largely in the 1960s, they were among the game’s best pass catchers.

In 10 seasons, Arbanas caught 198 passes in 118 games, with 34 touchdowns in an era when the tight end was more blocker than receiver. Burford was among the top 10 catchers during his eight seasons in the AFL. Taylor also ranked among the top 10 in receptions, yards and TD catches during a decade in the AFL-NFL.

In 1971, Taylor led the league with 1,110 receiving yards. In fact, he was the only receiver in the league to top the 1,000-yard mark that year. Compare that to the 2019 NFL season when 29 receivers were over 1,000 yards, including three tight ends.

Jim Tyrer, Ed Budde, Jerry Mays and Jerrel Wilson should be on any list of AFL players that have been forgotten in the voting for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Comments (3)
No. 1-3
brian wolf
brian wolf

What no comments ?

Do I always have to pick up the mantle ?
... haha

Did some commenting earlier on the excellent AFL player breakdown and HOF merits discussed in the article put out by the guys at Pro Football Journal today ...

They agree on more Chiefs making the Hall but not EVERYBODY and made no bones about it ...

Thats what so disappointing about the Chiefs from 1966 - 1974 when HC Stram was dismissed -- the team should have accomplished a lot more.

Despite Dawson's greatness in the AFL, he was average in the NFL, despite going 4-1 in Championship games, which put him in the HOF.

Stram relied on him too much in the early 70s, which is justifiable considering the teams great 1971 season but I believe Stram felt if he could run the ball enough and play excellent defence, Dawson would take care of the postseasons, but other than his excellent game against Miami, which kicker Jan Stenerud couldnt close, the Chiefs couldnt get it done and needed a young QB to take over, which they couldnt do.

With Dawson aging, and the Chiefs too conservative on offence, WR Otis Taylor caught the ball less, and was the focus of every secondary but I felt had a HOF career regardless.

I feel Tyrer, Budde and Taylor have excellent cases but then there is Abner Haynes ...

His play, talent and all purpose yardage should put him in the Hall, but imagine what he could have done had he stayed with the Chiefs ?

Instead, he takes a stand against racial prejudice during the 64/65 AFL All Star game in New Orleans and gets blackballed off the team.
Getting traded to Denver in 1965 for an unknown linebacker.

In commentary from The Tales Of The AFL website, great AFL WR and KC Chief Chris Burford believed the Chiefs front office (Hunt/Steadman/Stram) didnt hold animosity towards Haynes for the All Star Game Incident, and believed it was simply a football/business decision but would Stram really give up a player that he and the team needed and admired so much ?

I dont believe so ...

Once again, true or not, I blame Jack Steadman ...

WMcCoy
WMcCoy

Mays,Budde & Taylor definately should have been in years ago...I always thought that Wilson should have gone in before Guy, but now I'm not sure when another punter will get in...As for Tyrer the circumstances of his death in my opinion is what has kept him out.

Chiefsfan
Chiefsfan

Thank you for recognizing something that many of us have felt was a "miscarriage of football justice" for decades. I do have to reveal that Jerry Mays was my cousin, so I'm not impartial in my feelings and comments. Not only was Jerry an outstanding football player and dedicated to his team and league, but he was a leader. He was the defensive captain, he helped raise spirits when they were low and quell tempers where they were high. Jerry was many times the first on the field to break up a fight and the first to shake hands with the opposing team members after a game whether the Chiefs (of Texans) won or lost. During a play, he'd knock an opposing player down, then extend a hand to help them up, patting them on the back. He was fierce, loyal, kind, soft-spoken, intelligent - all the qualities that most of us are looking for in leadership. But apparently none of that is taken into account when nominating someone to the Hall of Fame.


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