Joe Montana’s time with the Chiefs wasn’t long: two seasons, 29 games, counting the playoffs. But Montana had an impact in Kansas City after the 1993 blockbuster trade that brought him from the San Francisco 49ers.
The Chiefs won a division title in 1993 — their first season with Montana at quarterback — for the first time in 22 years. That season they advanced as far as the conference title game for the first time since the Chiefs won Super Bowl IV following the 1969 regular season. They haven’t been past the divisional round of the playoffs since.
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It has been 25 years since the trade. Here are three things about the deal you might not know:
Chiefs players were at least initially in awe of their new teammate. Kansas City’s starting quarterbacks over the previous two seasons were a collection of journeymen: Steve DeBerg, Mark Vlasic and Dave Krieg. So the Chiefs were more than a little curious about Montana, 36 at the time of the trade, when he arrived in Kansas City for offseason practice. “When Joe first came in, we had already started our offseason program, the portion where players could practice by themselves without coaches,” said Carl Peterson, then Chiefs president and general manager. “The defense would practice for 45 minutes, just 7-on-7 stuff, and then the offense would practice for 45 minutes. On Joe’s first day, when the defense was done and it was time to switch to offense, not one defensive player left the practice building. They all sat down around the perimeter to watch because they wanted to see Joe Montana play. That’s what those guys thought of the trade. It gave everybody hope we could win a championship. That’s why it was such a special time.”
If the Chiefs hadn’t acquired Montana, they wouldn’t have picked up Marcus Allen, either. The Chiefs and another future Pro Football Hall of Fame player, running back Marcus Allen, had discussed a free-agent contract before the Montana trade. The trade was the catalyst for finishing the deal. “As soon as I got the trade done with Joe, Marcus called me,” Peterson said. “He told me now that we had Joe, he wanted to be a Chief, too. So some other good things happened as a result of that trade.” Allen wound up playing five seasons for the Chiefs and twice was selected the team’s MVP.
The other player acquired in the trade lasted in Kansas City only as long as Montana did. The trade took a long time to complete and was agreed upon only with the draft looming as a deadline. Peterson and 49ers general manager Carmen Policy had reputations as tough negotiators. “He told me at the start, ‘This won’t be easy because I’m a stubborn Sicilian,’ and I said, ‘You’re right, it won’t be easy because I’m a stubborn Swede,’” Peterson said. The 49ers initially asked for first-, second- and third-round draft picks. “I said, ‘You’re crazy with that. You’re out of your mind,’” Peterson said. The 49ers finally agreed to send Montana, a third-round pick plus a player to the Chiefs for their first-round choice, No. 18 overall. The player was safety David Whitmore. He played two seasons for the Chiefs, with 19 games and 17 starts.