Before They Were Chiefs: A History of the Dallas Texans

In 1952, brothers Giles and Connell Miller bought the assets of the NFL’s New York Yanks (who were teetering on the brink of financial extinction), including the players and moved them to Dallas, Texans.  There, they became known as, of course, the Dallas Texans.  Because the players were part of the sale, they were considered a relocated franchise.  They played their home games at the 75000 seat Cotton Bowl, which was the home field of the Southern Methodist University Mustangs.    Their opening game, a 24-6 loss to the New York Giants at the Cotton Bowl, set the tone for the 1952 season, which turned out to be a disaster.  Financially speaking, things were no better for the team than they had been in New York.  As it turned out, the team played only four home games in Dallas.  The last?  A 27-6 loss at the hands of the Los Angeles Rams.  Pitiful attendance figures caused the league to move their last two home games out of Dallas, but they retained the Dallas Texans name even though they became a travelling team.  In a “home” game at the Rubber Bowl in Akron, Ohio, they tallied their only win of the season – a 27-23 upset of the Chicago Bears.  The Texans finished the 1952 campaign with a 1-11 record.  It turned out to be their only season as the team went bankrupt and their assets (also including the players) were sold to Baltimore-based businessman Carroll Rosenbloom, the owner of a new NFL franchise he would name the Colts.  However, the Colts (who moved to Indianapolis, Indiana in 1984) do not claim the Texans as part of their history.

Lamar Hunt was the son of legendary oilman H.L Hunt and had been a walk on player on the Southern Methodist University football team.  He graduated from SMU with a degree in Geology in 1956.  In 1958, he applied for an expansion franchise in the NFL, but was turned down.  The following year, he attempted to buy the NFL’s Chicago Cardinals and move them to Dallas, but he was turned down a second time.  The Cardinals ended up moving to St. Louis instead.  In August of 1959, Hunt got together with Houston oilman K.S. “Bud” Adams and formed the American Football League.  Hunt owned the Dallas team, which he named the Texans (now the Kansas City Chiefs) and Adams owned the Houston franchise, which he dubbed the Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans).  Six other owners were recruited:  Barron Hilton, son of legendary hotelier Conrad Hilton (who owned the Los Angeles Chargers), Wayne Valley (who owned the Oakland [now Las Vegas] Raiders), Harry Wismer (who owned the New York Titans [now the Jets]), Ralph C. Wilson, Jr (who owned the Buffalo Bills), Bob Howsam (who owned the Denver Broncos) and Billy Sullivan (who owned the Boston [now New England] Patriots).  People thought they were foolish and taking a big risk in starting the new league. They took it and ran with it and dubbed themselves “The Foolish Club”.  The new league began play in 1960.  In the meantime, the NFL had softened its stance on expansion as oilman Clint W. Murchison was granted an expansion franchise in Dallas, which he named the Cowboys. Titans took a jab at Lamar Hunt’s father legendary Texas oilman Haroldson Lafayette (“H.L.”) Hunt, Jr. telling him that he bought his son a football team as a toy.

With their cities and ownership groups in place the teams were now ready to take the field.  The Texans made what was considered, at the time, to be an unconventional choice for their first-ever head coach.  Bud Wilkinson, the legendary University of Oklahoma head coach and former New York Giants assistant Tom Landry declined.  Interestingly enough, Landry would accept the job with the intra-city rival Dallas Cowboys.

The Texans then settled on a longtime collegiate assistant named Hank Stram.  Stram had been an assistant at Purdue (which he attended as an undergrad and served on the coaching staff while Len Dawson was there), Notre Dame, SMU (where he coached Lamar Hunt) and Miami (Fla.) where he installed a multiple offense that helped the team finish with 6-4 record in 1959.  One of the team’s first-ever draft choices was Wide Receiver Chris Burford out of  Stanford.  They also drafted a quarterback from SMU named Don Meredith (who would end up playing for the Cowboys and would later go on to broadcast immortality on Monday Night Football).  The team had a decidedly Texas flavor with which their new legion of fans could easily identify.  Cotton Davidson from Baylor became the team’s first-ever starting quarterback.  The team also picked up linebacker Sherrill Headrick from Texas Christian and all purpose runner/receiver Abner Haynes from North Texas.  The season started off badly as the Texans lost to the Los Angeles Chargers 21-20 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 10, 1960.  They proceeded to lost three of their next five and after six games, their record stood at 2-4.  After a Week Seven bye, the team beat the Denver Broncos at Bears Stadium 17-14 and went on a serious tear after that.  They won six of the final eight games and finished their inaugural season with a record of 8-6.  The team started off fine in 1961.  They won three of their first four games, but then the wheels came off as they suffered a six game losing streak.  Included in that losing streak was a bizarre 28-21 loss to the Boston (now New England) Patriots at Boston University Field.  A potential game tying touchdown from Cotton Davidson to Chris Burford was knocked down by a fan who had run onto the field and the officials apparently hadn’t seen what happened.  The team then won three of their final four games.  All three wins came at the Cotton Bowl.  They finished their second season in Dallas with a record of 6-8.

1962 turned out to be one of the greatest seasons in franchise history.  The Texans signed the man who would become one of the faces of the Texans/Chiefs franchise as they signed little used backup Len Dawson.  Cotton Davidson would end up being traded to the Raiders for the number one overall AFL draft choice in 1963, which turned out to be Pro Football Hall of Famer Buck Buchanan. From 1957 to 1961, Dawson had been a little used backup in Pittsburgh and Cleveland in the NFL and had made just two starts.  In his first full-fledged starting opportunity, he really came into his own as he started all 14 games, threw for 2759 yards and 29 touchdown and led the Texans to an 11-3  record and the AFL Championship.  He capped off his brilliant season by winning the AFL MVP Award.

In the AFL Championship Game, which was played at Jeppesen Stadium in Houston, Texas on December 23, 1962, the Texans met the Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans) who had won the AFL’s first two championships.  Early on, the Texans were making it look easy as they jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead on the strength of a Tommy Booker field goal and two touchdowns by Abner Hayes.  The second half was a different story as the Oilers came roaring back.  Fullback Charlie Tolar scored on a  1 yard touchdown run and George Blanda’s extra point tied the game at 17, setting up overtime.  The first 15 minute overtime period saw no scoring at all by either team, which made a second overtime necessary.  At 2:54 into overtime number, Tommy Booker kicked a 25 yard field goal to give the Texans a 20-17 win and the city of Dallas its first pro football championship.  The fans of Dallas went wild.  However…..their joy would short-lived.

Despite their 1962 title, it had become apparent that Dallas couldn’t support two pro football teams and one of them had to go.  Lamar Hunt had been exploring opportunities to move his team to another city.  potential locations on his list included Miami, Seattle, Atlanta and New Orleans (all of whom would eventually end up with pro franchises).  Hunt was in negotiations with Kansas City, Missouri and he had extracted a guarantee of 35,000 season tickets from Kansas City mayor H. Roe Bartle.  On May 22, 1963, Lamar Hunt announced that the team was moving to Kansas City.   The Texans had decided to leave Dallas to the Cowboys.  Mayor Bartle was the founder of the Tribe of Mic-O-Say honor society of the Boy Scouts of America because of this, his nickname was “Chief”.  The team began play at an expanded Municipal Stadium in 1963 as the Kansas City Chiefs.

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