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Chiefs Strange Quarterback History With The 49ers

The Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers have one of the more unique histories of familiarity between two franchises. Whenever either franchise has a player that has not met expectations, has fallen out of favor, or needs to be moved to make room for a younger player, the Chiefs, and the 49ers always seem to be there for each other. That goes especially true for the quarterback position.

Whenever the 49ers had a spare QB they needed to get rid of, or if the Chiefs were desperate for a new starter, there appeared to be an exceedingly open line of communication between One Arrowhead Drive in Kansas City and the San Francisco front office. That being said, let’s take a look at the lengthy history of quarterback history between the 49ers and the Chiefs.

Modern-Day Connection Led To Mahomes

The Chiefs and 49ers have had six different quarterbacks play for each franchise. Alex Smith is the most recent of the San Francisco castaways that found his way to Kansas City, having been traded for a second-round pick back in March of 2013. Smith was replaced by Colin Kaepernick in 2012 after suffering a concussion during the best statistical year of his career to that point. Kaepernick led the 49ers that year to a Super Bowl appearance and it left Smith without a starting role.

The 49ers would trade Smith to Kansas City for a second-round pick in the off-season. Smith, along with new head coach Andy Reid, would solidify a quarterback room that had been in flux for years. Smith would go on to play five seasons with the Chiefs and made the playoffs four times. He developed a reputation as one of the best game managers in the league, yet it seemed that there was a ceiling to how far an Alex Smith-led team could go in the playoffs.

After the Chiefs drafted some guy named Patrick Mahomes, the writing was on the wall that Smith’s days in Kansas City were numbered. To his everlasting credit, Smith became one of the best mentors for Mahomes at the tail end of his Chiefs tenure. Smith led the Chiefs in his final season with the team to the playoffs one last time, then it was time for Mahomes to shine. The rest, as they say, is history.

Historical Connection Goes Way Back

This was not the first time a 49ers backup got sent to KC, but it certainly was the best in recent memory. Before Smith arrived in Kansas City, the Chiefs had taken fliers on a few 49er quarterbacks with mixed results. Elvis Grbac and Steve Bono were both San Francisco backups before they came to Kansas City and they certainly do not have the gleaming reputation that Alex Smith has. Elvis Grbac signed a free-agent contract with Kansas City in 1997 after spending four years as Steve Young’s backup.

Grbac would replace Steve Bono after Bono spent two years at the helm. Chiefs fans were happy to get rid of Bono, despite his decent level of success, due to one of the most garbage food takes you will ever see. Grbac had a decent start to his tenure but got hurt after starting the first nine games of the season. Rich Gannon was Grbac’s replacement and performed phenomenally in his stead, winning five consecutive starts. When Grbac came back for the final regular season game, there were several questions posed about who should be the starter going into the playoffs.

That decision would go down in infamy as head coach Marty Schottenheimer tabbed Grbac to be the man. Even though Grbac had a decent stat line in that 1997 Divisional Round game against John Elway and the eventual Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, the loss was placed mainly at his feet. Grbac was only able to muster 10 points and was not able to convert an opportunity to win the game in the closing seconds.

That 1997 Playoff game went down as one of the biggest gut punches in Chiefs playoff history. It ruined the relationship with Rich Gannon, who went on to become MVP and appear in a Super Bowl with the Raiders. Grbac’s name became mud in the eyes of Chiefs fans despite putting up decent numbers as a starter. It was also the last time Marty Schottenheimer coached a playoff game with the Chiefs and further sullied the reputation of one of the most beloved head coaches the Chiefs have ever had.

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Stars Shine Bright In San Fran And KC

Arguably, the most famous of the San Francisco-Kansas City connection would be the signing of Joe Montana. Montana was traded to Kansas City on April 20, 1993, after it was becoming more and more clear that the 49ers and their fans were ready for Steve Young to take the reins. Joe Montana was the highest-decorated quarterback of the 1980s, having won four Super Bowls, three Super Bowl MVPs, and two NFL MVPs. It was assumed that the legendary quarterback was well past his prime after missing nearly two straight seasons due to injury.

“Joe Cool” made it his mission to prove the doubters wrong when he got to Kansas City. Even though he was hurt for part of that 1993 season, he, along with Schottenheimer, was still able to generate some much-needed energy into Arrowhead Stadium. Montana and company led the Chiefs to their first division title in 22 years and went on to make the AFC Championship for the first time since 1970. Montana would lead another playoff run the next season in 1994 and stayed relatively healthy, starting all but two games.

Unfortunately, it was an early exit, losing 27-17 to the Dan Marino-led Miami Dolphins. That game would be the last that saw Joe Montana throw a football as he retired during the next offseason. Montana’s short stint with the Chiefs is still looked on quite favorably as it seemed to indicate to the world that the Chiefs were finally back as a serious franchise. Even though Schottenheimer led the Chiefs to three straight playoff appearances, Montana’s arrival gave the Chiefs an air of legitimacy that had not been present since the days of Hank Stram.

Under The Radar Connections

There were two other quarterbacks who played for both San Francisco and Kansas City, but they did not generate the fanfare as their successors. Steve DeBerg was Joe Montana’s backup in the early 80s who found himself in Kansas City in 1988. DeBerg’s tenure in Kansas City was certainly his best as a professional. He led the Chiefs to two playoff appearances and won the 1991 Wild Card Game against the Los Angeles Raiders.

While DeBerg put up big passing numbers and touchdowns, he also turned the ball over an inordinate amount of times. This inconsistency led many fans and members of his coaching staff to pull their hair out. He would leave the Chiefs after the 1991 campaign.

The last quarterback to mention was the only one that went from Kansas City to San Francisco and it is probably a guy you have never heard of. Bob “The Goose” Gagliano was a Chief in 1982 and 1983 but only threw one pass with the team. He would bounce around the league for a few years before joining the 49ers in the strike-shortened 1986 season. Gagliano did start a game that year, throwing for 150 yards without a touchdown in a win.

Chiefs And 49er’s History Needs To Be Appreciated

The Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers will meet again this Sunday afternoon and they have quite a bit of history together, both on and off the field. As someone who enjoys the history of the game, I find it very interesting to find parallels between the two franchises. The connections between Kansas City and San Francisco are strong and have a rich history.

Some of those connections helped the Chiefs franchise develop as one of the better-run teams whereas others have led to the team taking a few steps backward. The Chiefs are currently in the best position they have ever been in as a franchise. The San Francisco 49ers have played a big part in the Chiefs’ story, on and off the field.

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