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The San Francisco to Kansas City Express

Feb 28, 2013 at 8:55 AM

So now that the Alex Smith to Kansas City trade is all but complete, I thought it would be fun to look at one of the NFL's more bizarre phenomenon's – the seemingly never-ending flow of former 49ers quarterbacks to Kansas City. Try as I might, I could find no other example of this occurring between any other clubs in the history of the NFL. It's almost as if it is some kind of cosmic destiny that ensures that our former starting QB will eventually find their way to Arrowhead. However as I did some research, one thing was common. Alex Smith notwithstanding, every one of our former signal callers that has made the switch has led the Chief's to a playoff appearance and in all but one example, earned a Pro Bowl nod. So while Chiefs' fan's may or may not be thrilled to receive our former no. 1 pick, if the following history is any indicator, he will provide for them at least some short term hope.

Steve DeBerg (1988-1991)
The only one of the pipeline not to go directly to Kansas, having been replaced by some kid named Joe Montana in San Francisco, (name rings a bell) he found his way to Kansas via Denver (replaced by some other young kid named John Elway) and then Tampa Bay (where they replaced him with some other guys named Steve Young and Vinny Testeverde). It seemed like he was always fated to be the "bridge guy" – the one you sign to keep your team competitive while you develop the next, well… Joe Montana.

That being said, Kansas City formed the backdrop for the most successful and longest tenure with any one team that DeBerg enjoyed. Twice he guided the Chiefs to the playoffs (89-90) and in 1990, he posted the NFL standard for lowest interception percentage in a single season, throwing 23 touchdowns versus just 4 interceptions. He was however replaced in 1991 by Dave Krieg.

Joe Montana (1993-1994)
So remember back in the late 80's and early 90's there was this thing in San Francisco that involved some kind of controversy with quarterbacks…. Unless you were either a. living under a rock, or b. not yet born, you can't help but remember the years that nearly tore the city in two. Living legend Montana, who had been in and out of the lineup for many years, was eventually replaced by Steve Young. So where did the erstwhile legend Montana end up? Yep, you guessed it, Kansas City.

Much like DeBerg before him, Montana led the Chiefs to a decent level of success. Having missed almost the entire two seasons prior, Montana found his magic touch again, leading the Chiefs to a 13-3 record, and two come from behind performances en route to the AFC Championship game, the team's first playoff appearance since 1970. He was also selected to his final Pro Bowl. In 1994, he again led them to the playoffs, while along the way outdueling Steve Young and John Elway in two classic performances. While he wasn't the same player he was in San Francisco, he still had the touch, but injuries and age crept up to him, and he retired in 1994, to be replaced by…

Steve Bono (1994-1996)
Traded to Kansas from San Francisco after the 1993 season, Bono again backed up Montana in KC. Following Montana's retirement in 1994, Bono became the starting quarterback for the 1995-1996 seasons. Not to be outdone by his long time mentor, Bono also led the Chiefs to the playoffs, via a 13-3 record and AFC West division title, and was himself named to the 1995 Pro Bowl.

Perhaps one of the more enduring memories Chiefs fans have of Bono was a 76 yard touchdown run against the Cardinals, then an NFL record for quarterbacks. In 1997 he was handed his release from the team when he was replaced by the newly signed…

Elvis Grbac (1997-2000)
Grbac had understudied with Steve Young in San Francisco, and during that time, had shown some promise in limited starting spells with the 49ers. In 1997 he was considered a hot free agent commodity, a man who the 49ers couldn't afford to keep on the bench and was ready for his shot. Enter… wait for it… the Kansas City Chiefs (tell me you didn't see that coming?).

Again, like his predecessors, Grbac enjoyed a decent level of success in Kansas. In 2000, he enjoyed his best season as a pro, throwing for 4169 yards, 28 touchdowns and a Pro Bowl berth while guiding the Chiefs to the NFL's best 13-3 record and a playoff berth. He would leave Kansas City for the Baltimore Ravens prior to the 2001 season (rumor has it the Ravens are in talks to re-sign him in place of Joe Flacco…I'm kidding… I think).

And now, Alex Smith is set to continue the line. He may be a stop gap until the next best thing but with the exception of Montana, he is equally talented as most of these players were at the time they were sent there. Given what the Chiefs have reportedly given up for him, I think Andy Reid has high hopes that he can duplicate some of the success he enjoyed in San Francisco for the past two years. He certainly looked like he was progressing into a Pro Bowl caliber player prior to his injury. I would like to thank him for his dedicated years of hard work, extreme professionalism and wish him all the luck in Kansas… as long as he isn't playing the 49ers...
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • Roy Prasad
    It has happened many, many times before.
    Mar 2, 2013 at 11:52 PM
    Response: Thanks for the link, although of all these teams, the Chiefs seem to have gotten the best returns for their investment.
  • Kim Gaudioso
    Right on :) I like Alex Smith I think the Chiefs need him and will make a big difference next year ;)
    Feb 28, 2013 at 11:23 AM
  • Mizzou9er
    Good article. Growing up in kansas city, MISSOURI, not in KANSAS(sorry that bothers me when you say just kansas because the Chiefs are in KC, MO) as a lifelong 49ers fan has been lonely. I love that my two teams have this connection. Also, being a missouri tigers fan, I love how they have gotten a couple good Tigers(the Smith brothers) Aldon was my favorite player coming out of college and it was a dream come true when they drafted him. I hope they consider Sheldon Richardson in the draft.
    Feb 28, 2013 at 9:47 AM
    Response: Thanks for the response. Certainly did not mean to offend. From what I have seen from Sheldon Richardson, he most definitley could be a successor to Justin Smith who would be a great mentor for him. He'd need some work but I'm sure Jim Tomsula can coach him up.

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