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Len Dawson on the right.
Remember Joe Namath? Of course you do. Remember Len Dawson? Maybe not. However, they were equally important in showing the NFL that AFL teams were just as good.
Len Dawson began his career shakily, playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns and Dallas Texans all in his first six years, only producing one worthwhile season (Dawson threw for 2,759 yards and 29 touchdowns as a starter in Dallas). Then, he was picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs and his career took off. He passed for at least 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns for five straight years (significantly more impressive back then) and led the Chiefs to two Super Bowls.
Although they lost Super Bowl I to the powerhouse Green Bay Packers, which featured the likes of Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor and Ray Nitschke, the Chiefs defeated the Vikings in Super Bowl IV in what was one of the most important games in NFL history.
The year before, Joe Namath's Jets defeated the Baltimore Colts in a huge Super Bowl III upset. However, afterwards many made excuses for the win, saying Johnny Unitas hadn't played til the fourth quarter, and it was a one-time fluke. The next year, Len Dawson's Chiefs handily defeated the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV 23-7, firmly making the point that the AFL could compete with the NFL. Without Super Bowl IV to back it up, the Jets' win in Super Bowl III wouldn't have been nearly as important.
Of course, for some reason Joe Namath has gotten all the credit for showing up the NFL, and Len Dawson has largely disappeared from history. Dawson finished his career with 28,711 yards and 239 touchdowns, but he has been almost entirely forgotten despite his talent.