Hank Stram was a Character

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I found this video the other day, and really enjoyed it for the job it did describing Hank Stram as a person.  I knew Stram was a nice dresser, and had heard him called a “cocky” and a “peacock,” but this video takes things a bit further.  I also found it very interesting that the Super Bowl IV film is still the most popular super bowl film in the NFL Films lineup.

Todd Tobias (789 Posts)

Todd Tobias's interest in the American Football League began in 1998, when he wrote my master's thesis about Sid Gillman. He created this site to educate and entertain football fans with the stories of the American Football League, 1960-1969. You can follow Todd and get more AFL history on Twitter @TalesfromtheAFL.

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10 Responses to Hank Stram was a Character

  1. Bert Lawlor says:

    When you look closely at the SBIV highlites, you can get a sense of how poor the field conditions were that day. I guess it had rained quite a bit in NO leading up to gameday. No FieldTurf or drainage systems like what we have nowadays.

  2. 1967 says:

    A Chiefs fan since they arrived in Kansas City 1963, I loved (to hate) Stram, various reasons/moments. Perhaps it’s only fitting that aft Superbowl IV was recorded for posterity (posterior his showing according to some) MIN Vikings and the NFL at large too got a sense of Stram.

    Long was he derided variously for not utilizing “the best talent in all pro football”, according his detractors. In retrospect, that argument has merit mine eyes. Still, one can’t argue with the success he had: undisputed World Championship, two Superbowl appearances and three AFL Titles. One can argue that his Chiefs left some number of Championships un-won, same sentiment of course fans any team can embrace vis a vis their own team.

    What isn’t debatable is that one can get a sense of why the MIN Vikings felt so trashed by Stram’s comments/jibes when the Superbowl IV film was released.

    Even aft Superbowl III, NFL Films had not so covertly tried softening the blow their favored league’s loss via creative editing, the cinematic record. 1970’s merger complete and the adversaries now members one big gooey mess of a single league, it was for Hank Stram a matter ‘deja vu’ all over again, rubbing it in via the mouth his same as running up a score, no different the final analysis.

    Stram’s rationale might have been ‘payback’ of a sort to the NFL, in general…
    NFL Films, Tex Maule, Vince Lombardi & their ilk essentially trashed the Chiefs & AFL pre & post game (yes I know – “the media made me do it” – sure Vince, and they made you keep throwing deep on the Chiefs too well into the 4th quarter of Superbowl 1, still trying run it up with your team ahead 25 points.)

    Stram ran up the score vs the Chiefs back in ’76 after he returned to KC as the Head Coach of the Saints. Facing his old team (and a number of the same players he’d once coached there) for the first time aft being fired by Lamar Hunt 1974, Hank’s team threw a 2 yard td pass in lieu taking a knee time expiring which is akin to rubbing some salt into Hunt/Steadman et al so to speak. An extra td for good extra measure the final: Saints 27 @Chiefs 17.

    My opine as a Chiefs fan, Stram was no better or worse than the aforementioned people re: the Superbowl IV antics, affirming just how much antagonism existed between the NFL and AFL. That it was not confined to but the Superbowl just as true… winning with ‘class’ indeed a rare quality no matter the league or man, no saints among these referenced ranks.

    Some people might call it passion…this fan 1967 is not among them. That such conduct seemingly goes with the territory an grim reality; no surprise that as the years have passed it has gotten worse/more pronounced. The players/coaches of yesteryear appear tame compared the likes today’s cast: Richard Sherman the Seahawks latest example though certainly not alone; makes this fan long for the days Starr, Unitas & Dawson, good sports (least for public consumption) if not saints.

    Perhaps Grantland Rice was a silly dreamer nod his ‘Alumnus Football’ “not that you won or lost – but how you played the Game.” Move over Grantland… I still prefer a pen & a dream to a chest thump, sky point and the gum beating masses.

    • paul seaton says:

      I’ve also felt over the years that Stram & the Chiefs could’ve and/or should’ve won at least 1 more AFL and 2 AFC titles with the talent they had during the late 60s & early 70s… Losing the 20-19 game to New York in ’68 cost them an out-right division (and AFL) title, the tie in the Oakland “brawl” game in ’70 also cost them the division, and the Christmas day loss in ’71 cost them the AFC.
      Even at that, it is hard to knock him & the team too hard as they DID win the most AFL league titles and the most games.
      Stram “chirping” during SB IV doesn’t bother me at all (neither does running the score up on Chicago in the ’67 exhibition game) after the BS that was spouted by the nfl “elitists” after SB I and even SB II, they needed to eat some “crow” and Stram was just the person to do it.

      • 1967 says:

        Comments to include, “there has always been something missing with this team” and similar sentiments were voiced via Chiefs players the 60’s before they found success in KC 1966 forward.

        Pundits too.

        Stram’s schemes were questioned – “with all that talent, if he’d just play ‘football’, and not try to be so cute” were heard (not sure if that was reference the feeling Stram should been playing Lombardi’s ‘three yards & a cloud of dust’ football or Gillman’s ‘wing it here & there, everywhere’ philosophy, but, that was the inference I interpreted. If on the other hand inference is Stram wasn’t much of a Coach, the record his indicates otherwise.

        I suspect ‘those other teams have some players too/are trying to win’ was a factor Chiefs not being ‘as successful’ as some folks believed they might/should have been, but again that is a lament every team doesn’t win the Championship.

        If it was just a simple matter of the bigger, stronger, faster team and players winning, would be no need play the game, just toss rosters & resumes on the field. As the Green Bay Packers demonstrated ad nauseam better than any, the bigger, stronger and faster individuals do not necessarily equate being better ‘team’, as in the one that wins.

        Period 1966-1971 the Chiefs heydey, I (as a biased KC fan) could argue they might have won as many 6 straight Championships – and why not? They had the talent, they had the experience & they had the size, strength and speed, too. Coaching? Ditto. Perhaps what they didn’t have was the market cornered on resolve, fate and/or motivation.

        Coaching moves/situational game philosophy too, arguably I can point out moves Stram made hindsight that I disagreed with, as all good Monday Morning QBs can/always do.

        Do recall thinking Otis Taylor was ‘under’utilized, Jan Stenerud ‘over’ and that critical mistakes at critical times prevented KC from one or more Championships they could/would/should have won.

        Upshot: Stram in hindsight may have inhibited KC.

        An example – Stram played percentages having Stenerud try a FG near end of regulation, 1971 playoff game vs MIA (Jan made Pro Bowl over Yepremian that year but the Dolphin actually had the better season.) Stenerud missed the FG but my opine, the wrong choice was made pre-kick.

        You play to win, not merely prevail. As George Patton said his famous ‘speech’ (selectively edited herein)

        “An army is a team. It lives, eats, sleeps and fights as a team. And we have the best team. I don’t want any messages saying ‘I’m holding my position.’ We’re not holding a g***amned thing. We’re advancing constantly & not interested in holding anything except the enemy’s balls.”

        “We’re going to hold him by his balls & we’re going to kick him in the ass – twist his balls & kick the living s**t out of him all the time. Our plan of operation is to advance and keep on advancing. We’re going to go through the enemy like **** through a tinhorn.”

        To wit, right before the attempt Stram had KC run the ball in an attempt to place it more advantageous spot the field for Jan/run down the clock. Based upon Stenerud’s ’71 season as well Stram’s history a similar situation – disastrous. Vs SD in 1967 Hank did the same thing late in a game @KC. With an first down deep in SD territory, instead trying to score a td Hank had KC run the ball a couple times, center it more favorably afield, the clock down to 19 seconds the process.

        Stenerud’s 24 yard FG try missed wide left, the Chargers won 17-16 & KC’s repeat title hopes went the way the dodo bird. Were it (for example) the Raiders in those two similar situations 1967 & 1971, odds are OAK would have gone for the td (as in the jugular – their philosophy.) This an example reason I feel Stram/Chiefs philosophy as it were sometimes was not aggressive enough.

        Affirming said, aft a poor 1970 season when KC failed repeat as Champions, Stram was quoted as saying “we must be on the attack” in 1971, nod his too conservative approach/reliance on Stenerud / FG’s. That year, Otis Taylor had one of his greatest seasons, but in the end of course Jan missed another FG (several in fact that game). While you win and lose as a team, Stram’s choices in the aforementioned instances proved errant; the Chiefs descended from there into football mediocrity.

        KC was not Lamonica’s Raiders, Namath’s Jets or Hadl’s Chargers nor of course Patton’s men, but, in retrospect (and it’s only a guess) had a little more ‘go for the jugular’ mindset prevailed case that era’s uber-talented Chiefs teams, my opine is they at minimum could, perhaps should have won more games/Championships.

        • Howard says:

          While I am nowhere as much an expert on KC as you, I think you are a bit hard on Stram. He had a team with a great defense and an efficient offense. Especially during the “dead ball” era, the common theme was “defense wins games”.

          Stram relied on Dawson to control and manage the game. Which Dawson did expertly for any years. As you point out having talent helps, but it does not guarantee ultimate victory. From 1967 to 1971, the era of the best Chiefs teams; they had two strong challengers; New York and Oakland. All three teams were strong. Sure, the Chiefs maybe had another title that didn’t happen. But, they were playing against top teams. A bounce here, a dropped pass there, etc. The difference between hoisting a trophy, or going home.

          My point is that Hank Stram was a top coach. He won some titles; he lost some big games. But certainly, no one was as colorful as Stram.

          And, in addition he was perhaps the greatest radio color man of all time. He and Jack Buck were the gold standard of radio football coverage for many years. Not a bad showman at all!

          • 1967 says:

            More 1960’s memory comes flooding back to me: “Easy to be hard”, ‘Hair’, Three Dog Night and my Chiefs.

            Howard, you are agreeing/parroting everything I already said & most of what I said was just my reiterating what others have stated. That I (as others) may be too hard on Stram is but a prerogative each of us has – opinion.

            What separates one coach from another, one player from another, one team from another? I’m reminded the bible verse – “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.”

            Would the Packers have been the ‘PACKERS’ sans winning ‘as’ they did? What would Lombardi be sans, same? ‘Not’ what he is now, memory. He epitomizes a separation the greatest from the merely good if not as much the wheat from the chaff, and that is what I aspired to for mine Chiefs as most fans do, vicariously.

            There have been been many great coaches/players/teams, but only one level aspire to, one Champion a season & one description that distinguishes…a Champion among Champions.

            What of coaches such as George Allen, Bud Grant, Marty Schottenheimer & Marv Levy? What of player such as Joe Namath? Namath minus SB III is but an ‘average Joe’… ditto the others, minus their lack of ultimate success.

            Back to Stram/Chiefs, as I said it was ‘love/hate’ for yours truly, 1967… such a great memory January 1970, such regret the seasons other, adage those two saddest words ever ‘if only’, and too ‘what might have been’.

            Those that grasped their opportunities, teams (Packers, 49ers, Steelers), coaches (Lombardi, Walsh, Noll), and players (Starr, Montana, Bradshaw) reside a result the higher/highest echelon.

            Really, one might say (and I am saying) a certain envy permeates, a sadness as well an respect for what those few just mentioned accomplished. All the more sobering when one realizes that, mine own team and player faves therein (Otis Taylor, Johnny Robinson, Jim Tyrer among others, my case) are not now and perhaps will not ever be enshrined the ‘Hall of Fame’ wherein all deserve to be, according most observers/impartial reviewers.

            Perhaps the AFL/its members had/have a higher hill to climb – ditto Stram et al my purview. To whom much is given much is expected is what I am left with, review those halcyon days my Chiefs. The gist: it was theirs for the taking and they blew it – big time – my opine. That fact is an residual pain lingers this fans heart still today… how much more in the hearts same those intimately involved, Chiefs coaches, players, et al.

            To each their own: some are satisfied having placed/run the race; alas, I am not one of them whether for myself or where my Chiefs are concerned.

            Thanks for your take, Howard.

  3. Howard says:

    Nice comments by Stram’s son. Very touching. Hank’s dad was a tailor, and Stram always looked sharp.

  4. billd says:

    I was visiting the French Quarter in New Orleans in late June, 1976. It was a Saturday night and as I was walking down Bourbon Street late in the evening I saw this dapper dressed man walking toward me looking at the sites. That’s Hank Stram, I thought. So I called out ‘ hi Hank’. He extended his hand and I told him good luck for the upcoming season as head coach of the Saints. He thanked me and told me he hoped I enjoyed my visit. Class act all the way.

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