By early January 1970, Tom Flores and the American Football League were about finished. Tom was in his 10th and final season of pro football, finishing his career as a backup quarterback to Len Dawson and the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs were one of football’s most powerful teams but the haughty NFL still looked down on them and the AFL despite the fact the New York Jets had upset the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III the year before. Now, on January 11, 1970, the Chiefs would have a chance to even the Super Bowl score with the NFL in what would be the final game in AFL history.
A long-planned merger of the two leagues was set to fully commence the next season so this was the final moment for the AFL and a special one for Flores, who is one of only 20 players to have played in the AFL for all 10 years of its existence.
Flores had regrets over the end of the AFL but had more significant things to worry about that week when it was announced on NBC’s Huntley-Brinkley News Hour that Dawson’s name had come up in a Justice Department sting operation targeting a Detroit gambler coincidentally named Donald Dawson.
In today’s “5 Games’’ podcast, Tom Flores recalls the pressure he, Dawson and the Chiefs were under that week and during their Super Bowl IV confrontation with the heavily-favored Minnesota Vikings, the NFL’s champions.
“It was awkward,’’ Flores said of the cloud hanging over Dawson, who was interviewed by NFL Security before being cleared to play. “We didn’t know what was going on behind closed doors. But we knew they were watching.’’
All week the weather was so frigid the fountain in front of the Fontainebleau Hotel where the Chiefs were staying in New Orleans was frozen solid. Eerie things seemed to be happening everywhere.
But Tom Flores was sure of one thing.
“We had a very innovative scheme,’’ Flores said. “Watching film, they were pretty vanilla. They didn’t adjust much to anything. (Their defense) didn’t move at all. We didn’t take anything for granted but they weren’t going to make a single adjustment…I thought there’s no way we’re going to lose this game.’’
In the second installment of this week’s “5 Games’’ podcast, Tom Flores recalls that historic week, the final days of the AFL and the significance of the Chiefs having 13 players on their roster from historically black colleges plus a Chicano backup quarterback while facing a team with only one player from a historically black college and their own Chicano quarterback, Joe Kapp.
To hear it all just click on either of the links below.