This is the first installment of several articles that will detail great teams that almost were. Why start with the '93 Chiefs? Two words: Joe Montana.
The year before, the 1992 Chiefs went 10-6 and reached the wildcard game, where they were shut out 17-0 by the Chargers. The leaders of those Chiefs were Dave Krieg, Barry Word and Christian Okoye (who suffered a terrible injury and finished a shell of his former self at 448 yards.), Willie Davis and JJ Birden.
In 1993, the Chiefs decided to make some changes. In one of the biggest stories of the decade, Joe Montana left the 49ers and took over the helm of the Chiefs. In addition, all-pro running back Marcus Allen escaped the clutches of Al Davis and the Raiders to give Joe a future Hall of Fame backfield mate. However, no attempt was made to give Montana any decent weapons in the passing game - and he was forced to do his best to elevate Birden and Davis.
The season produced many memorable games, including several that rank among the most memorable games of all time. For starters, fans were treated to two games featuring Elway vs Montana, both victories for the Chiefs and Montana. Secondly, Marcus Allen helped lead the Chiefs into 2 victories against the Raiders and Al Davis. Lastly, the Chiefs were able to beat the Chargers twice as well, avenging their Wild-Card shutout the year prior. Also, fans got a historic treat as Montana led the Chiefs over a young Favre and the Packers.
All in all, the Chiefs won 11 games, swept and won the AFC West, and hosted a Wild-Card game. Montana and Allen both made the Pro-Bowl, and Allen won comeback player of the year.
It was said that Montana and Allen were brought in for one reason - to win in the playoffs. And win they did. Their first game was a battle against the Steelers, a 27-24 overtime win. Joe was temporarily knocked out of the game, but returned to led the team to victory.
The second game was against Warren Moon and the Oilers. Again, the opposition scored first, giving the Oilers a nice 10-0 lead at the half. However, Joe Montana threw 3 second half touchdowns, and Marcus scored the clincher on a 21 yard run to seal a 28-20 win and a shot at the AFC Championship.
The Championship game was a matchup with the Bills, coming off yet another consecutive Super Bowl loss. However, as the third quarter started and the Chiefs were down 20-6, Joe Montana suffered a concussion and was replaced again by Dave Krieg. Krieg and Allen were able to get the Chiefs a touchdown to get in within a score, but the Bills added another 10 and the Chiefs lost, 30-13.
The 1993 season was almost a Super Bowl season for the Chiefs, and for many people, it left them excited beyond words for 1994. They would think about how close they were, how one player, here or there, would push them over the top. They knew both Marcus and Joe were on borrowed time, and they knew that if he just had a couple more weapons, a couple more seconds in the pocket, he could take them to the promised land.
The 1994 Chiefs were aggressive in pursuit of that end. They spent 2 picks on guards in '93, and in '94 shifted focus to the skill position players they desperately needed, hoping those guards could help protect Montana. They spent their first two picks on running backs to work with Marcus, drafting Greg Hill in the first and Donnell Bennett in the second. The third and fourth round picks were spent on receivers, (in my opinion it was criminal to make Joe Montana throw to JJ Birden and Willie Davis and not get Joe a decent receiver.) as they drafted Lake Dawson 3rd, and Chris Penn 4th.
The next 3 picks went to defense before the Chiefs drafted yet another running back, taking Fresno State's Anthony Daigle. Steve Matthews, a QB from Memphis was added soon after, presumably to learn from Montana and finally the Chiefs took a TE from Grambling, Tracy Greene, to try to add another skill position player for Montana. It was just a little late. Montana led the Chiefs to a 9-7 record and the playoffs yet again, however they were defeated in the wild card game by the Dolphins 27-17. The 94 was memorable for one other thing, one of the greatest regular season games ever as Joe Montana faced off against the 49ers and Steve Young and defeated them. In addition, Marcus Allen stayed perfect against the Raiders, and Montana once again out-dueled Elway with 393 passing yards and leading the Chiefs to a 4th quarter comeback classic on Monday Night Football.
Sadly, none of the high draft pick skill players panned out in their first year, and age and injuries took their toll on Joe Montana; he retired after the '94 season. While people will remember the great games of the '94 season, it was the '93 season were two Hall of Famers were given a second chance to show they still had it, and took their team just short of the promised land, leaving no doubters as to how good they were, and what it means to be a legend.