|1971 Kansas City Chiefs season|
|General manager||Jack Steadman|
|Head coach||Hank Stram|
|Home field||Municipal Stadium|
|Division place||1st AFC West|
|Playoff finish||Lost Divisional Playoffs (vs. Dolphins) 24–27 (2OT)|
|Pro Bowlers||QB Len Dawson|
WR Otis Taylor
G Ed Budde
OT Jim Tyrer
DT Curley Culp
DT Buck Buchanan
LB Bobby Bell
LB Willie Lanier
CB Emmitt Thomas
K Jan Stenerud
P Jerrel Wilson
The 1971 Kansas City Chiefs season was the franchise's 2nd season in the National Football League, the 9th as the Kansas City Chiefs, and the 12th overall. They improved from a 7–5–2 campaign in 1970 to record a 10–3–1 mark and win the AFC West division championship, the Chiefs' first division title since 1966 and last until 1993. The Chiefs tied with the Miami Dolphins for the best record in the AFC and were tied for the third-best record overall in the NFL, trailing only the 11–3 marks of the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings.
The Chiefs playoff loss to the Miami Dolphins remains the longest game in NFL history at 82 minutes and 40 seconds. Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian kicked a 37-yard field goal with 7 minutes and 20 seconds left in the second overtime to win the game.
Most of the pieces of the team which won Super Bowl IV two years earlier were still in place. Left defensive end Jerry Mays retired after the 1970 season, with Marvin Upshaw taking his spot, but the other 10 defensive starters were the same as they were two years prior. Middle linebacker Willie Lanier was a unanimous All-Pro selection following the season, and would likely have been named NFL Defensive Player of the Year had not Viking defensive tackle Alan Page become the second defensive player to win the league's Most Valuable Player award. Outside linebacker Bobby Bell, defensive tackles Buck Buchanan and Curley Culp, and cornerback Emmitt Thomas joined Lanier on the AFC Pro Bowl squad following the season. Bell, Buchanan, Culp, Lanier, and Thomas are all members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
On offense, Robert Holmes was traded to the San Diego Chargers midway through the season, leaving Wendell Hayes to assume the fullback duties next to third-year pro Ed Podolak, who had become the starting halfback when Mike Garrett was traded to San Diego in 1970. Morris Stroud, the tallest player in NFL history at 6-foot-10, and Willie Frazier, acquired from San Diego, alternated at tight end for the retired Fred Arbanas, but the rest of the offensive line, save for center Jack Rudnay, remained the same from the Super Bowl winning team. Rudnay assumed the starting center spot in 1970 over veteran E. J. Holub. At wide receiver, rookie Elmo Wright, the Chiefs' first-round pick in the 1971 NFL Draft from the University of Houston, assumed the slot opposite all-pro Otis Taylor, as Frank Pitts had moved on to the Cleveland Browns. Taylor earned selection to the Pro Bowl, along with guard Ed Budde, quarterback Len Dawson, and tackle Jim Tyrer.
Kansas City's special teams remained among the league's elite units, thanks to the combination of kicker Jan Stenerud and punter Jerrel Wilson, both of whom were named to the Pro Bowl. Podolak and Warren McVea handled the bulk of the return duties.
The season was the last for the Chiefs in Municipal Stadium, as owner Lamar Hunt and general manager Jack Steadman were overseeing the construction of Arrowhead Stadium, located at the junction of Interstate 70 and Interstate 435 in Jackson County, Missouri, at the eastern edge of the Kansas City city limits. Arrowhead, along with Royals Stadium, being constructed for the Kansas City Royals of Major League Baseball, would form the Truman Sports Complex, bucking the trend of multi-purpose stadiums in vogue at the time.
The season ended as the Miami Dolphins won the longest game in National Football League history on Christmas Day, defeating the Chiefs 27–24 in double-overtime on a 37-yard field goal by Garo Yepremian in the last football game in Municipal Stadium, as well as the last game for safety Johnny Robinson, who was an original member of the Dallas Texans in 1960. Coach Hank Stram often called the 1971 Chiefs the franchise's best-ever squad, and this loss haunted Stram for the rest of his life, even after his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003. Stram died July 4, 2005 at age 82. Others who are in the Hall of Fame from this squad are owner Hunt (who died December 13, 2006, at age 74), quarterback Dawson, and kicker Stenerud.
The loss to Miami began a nosedive in the Chiefs' fortunes. Kansas City backslid to 8–6 and 7–5–2 in 1972 and 1973, before falling to 5–9 and a tie for last in the AFC West in 1974, leading to Stram's firing following the season. Kansas City would not reach the playoffs again until 1986, did not host (or win) another playoff game until 1991, and did not win the AFC West division title again until 1993.
Main article: 1971 NFL Draft
|1||16||Elmo Wright||Wide Receiver||Houston|
|2||39||Wilbur Young||Defensive tackle||William Penn|
|4||94||David Robinson||Tight end||Jacksonville State|
|5||120||Mike Adamle||Running back||Northwestern|
|6||146||Kerry Reardon||Defensive back||Iowa|
|8||191||Mike Sensibaugh||Defensive back||Ohio State|
|198||Rick Telander||Defensive back||Northwestern|
|10||250||Bruce Jankowski||Wide receiver||Ohio State|
|11||276||Nate Allen||Defensive back||Texas Southern|
|12||302||Tony Esposito||Running back||Pittsburgh|
|14||354||Bruce Bergey||Defensive end||UCLA|
|15||380||Mike Montgomery||Defensive back||Southwest Texas State|
|16||406||Darrell Jansonius||Guard||Iowa State|
|17||431||Travis Hill||Defensive back||Prairie View A&M|
|1||at Baltimore Colts||W 10–7||1–0||Memorial Stadium||16,771||Recap|
|2||Atlanta Falcons||W 12–10||2–0||Municipal Stadium||37,403||Recap|
|3||at New Orleans Saints||W 27–7||3–0||Tulane Stadium||70,459||Recap|
|4||New York Jets||W 21–16||4–0||Municipal Stadium||37,650||Recap|
|5||St. Louis Cardinals||T 17–17||4–0–1||Municipal Stadium||36,743||Recap|
|6||at Dallas Cowboys||L 17–24||4–1–1||Cotton Bowl||74,035||Recap|
|1||September 19||at San Diego Chargers||L 14–21||0–1||San Diego Stadium||54,061||Recap|
|2||September 26||at Houston Oilers||W 20–16||1–1||Houston Astrodome||46,498||Recap|
|3||October 3||at Denver Broncos||W 16–3||2–1||Mile High Stadium||51,200||Recap|
|4||October 10||San Diego Chargers||W 31–10||3–1||Municipal Stadium||50,514||Recap|
|5||Pittsburgh Steelers||W 38–16||4–1||Municipal Stadium||49,533||Recap|
|6||October 24||Washington Redskins||W 27–20||5–1||Municipal Stadium||51,989||Recap|
|7||October 31||at Oakland Raiders||T 20–20||5–1–1||Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum||54,715||Recap|
|8||November 7||at New York Jets||L 10–13||5–2–1||Shea Stadium||62,812||Recap|
|9||November 14||Cleveland Browns||W 13–7||6–2–1||Municipal Stadium||50,388||Recap|
|10||November 21||Denver Broncos||W 28–10||7–2–1||Municipal Stadium||49,945||Recap|
|11||November 25||at Detroit Lions||L 21–32||7–3–1||Tiger Stadium||54,418||Recap|
|12||at San Francisco 49ers||W 26–17||8–3–1||Candlestick Park||45,306||Recap|
|13||December 12||Oakland Raiders||W 16–14||9–3–1||Municipal Stadium||51,215||Recap|
|14||December 19||Buffalo Bills||W 22–9||10–3–1||Municipal Stadium||48,121||Recap|
Note: Intra-division opponents are in bold text.
Main article: 1971–72 NFL playoffs
|Divisional||December 25||Miami Dolphins||L 24–27 (2OT)||0–1||Municipal Stadium||45,822||Recap|
|Kansas City Chiefs||10||3||1||.769||4–1–1||8–2–1||302||208||W3|
|San Diego Chargers||6||8||0||.429||2–4||4–7||311||341||L1|
Note: Tie games were not officially counted in the standings until 1972.