So, evidently, has a field-goal kicker named Mike Mercer, who labored for Minnesota and Oakland and was on the Buffalo taxi squad until early this season. Last year the Chiefs kicked only 13 of 30 field goals. Now Mercer has kicked 12 of 15 field goals, including one of 50 yards, and one of his misses was from 44 yards.
Important as it has been for the Chiefs to have a healthy Dawson and a reliable field-goal kicker, those factors pale beside the other two—the finding of a flanker and a rather unusual running back, who has four legs, four arms and two heads and would be leading the AFL in rushing if somebody could put him together.
Taylor unquestionably has made it as the flanker. He is 6 feet 2, weighs 211 pounds, has run the 100-yard dash in 9.6 and got a reputation last year as a rookie for the ferocity of his tackling on the specialty teams. Through the Chiefs' first 11 games Taylor has caught 48 passes for 1,058 yards and a 22-yard average, the best in either league. He is a strong and tricky runner as well as a good receiver. Against Miami, he participated in a rare play. With the line of scrimmage at the Kansas City 11, Taylor caught a Dawson pass 20 yards down-field, then cut across the field, weaving and twisting and breaking tackles. He covered so much grass that by the time he reached the end zone for a touchdown, Dawson had already run more than 90 yards down the field following the play and had crossed the goal line before Taylor did.
The running back is a different case because he is two people—Bert Coan and Mike Garrett. Stram uses one or the other as the whim strikes him. "I just play it by ear," he says. "It sort of depends on the situation. Coan is a slasher and is better at running into the designated hole. Garrett is a daylight runner. We can aim him at the hole, but where he will wind up running we have no idea. He bleeds yardage. We were fearful about his speed, but he has shown that he is plenty fast enough. He thrives on work. He gets better with each carry. He's tough, a great competitor, a great team man, a great blocker and faker. Coan is improving as a blocker, but he's tall and rangy and has a hard time getting into striking position."
Through 11 games, Garrett has rushed for 516 yards and a 5.6 average with touchdown runs of 77, 61 and 42 yards. Coan has 476 yards and a 5.5 average. Their combination of 992 yards makes the Kansas City running attack the most effective one in the AFL. Coan and Garrett could hardly be less alike. Coan is 6 feet 4 and weighs 220. Garrett is 5 feet 9 and weighs 195. Coan has been in pro football for five years, first with the Chargers and then with the Chiefs. Garrett is a rookie. Coan has been almost constantly injured, ever since a broken leg finished his college career at Kansas. Garrett has seldom been hurt.
In 1964 Coan decided during training camp that he'd seen enough of pro football. He walked out of camp and vanished. Later he came back and Stram accepted him. "Bert is no problem to coach," Stram says. "His biggest problem is the battle within himself. He got down on himself because he hadn't been able to play an entire season. He never uses an overabundance of words. When he came back, he just said he'd made a mistake. I would have had to be blind not to see his potential. You could watch him in practice and see that he was a beautiful runner. It doesn't take any coaching ability to kick a guy off the squad. The coach's job is to try to get the player to play as well as he can."
There were doubts about Garrett's size as well as about his speed. But those doubts never occurred to Garrett. "I always knew I could make it if I got the chance," he says. "But at first I really looked terrible. I'd run a hole too wide or too tight. I had to learn how to pick up the blocking. There are two or three ways to block on one play. Our 56 Power Trap and our 56 Quick Trap might look the same, but the blocking is different and I was confused. But I'm learning, and I like this system. Neither of us gets too tired. I never know when they're going to use Bert or use me, except in a crisis they'll go with the man who has more experience—and that's Coan." Garrett came in with a bonus that was reported as $200,000, but players on other teams have not overly abused him about it. That may be because he neither talks to nor listens to them. "The only time I say anything is if it's some player I've heard a lot about. Then I'll tell him what an honor it is to meet him," Garrett says.
The running of Garrett and Coan has relegated McClinton—a former Rookie of the Year in the AFL—to the role of blocker, although McClinton is a good fullback who can carry the running game if defenses jam up on Garrett and Coan. The receiving of Taylor has allowed Split End Chris Burford more freedom, and Burford is having one of his best years. All of them operate with a superior offensive line that includes All-AFL Tackle Jim Tyrer and the fine tight end, Fred Arbanas.
If the Chiefs have any weakness, it is at defensive tackle now that Ed Lothamer is out for the season with a shoulder separation. Lothamer's replacement is Andy Rice, a veteran of the Houston and Chicago taxi squads. But Rice plays between Buck Buchanan, a 287-pound tackle who usually draws two or three blockers, and Defensive End Jerry Mays. Charger Coach Sid Gillman says, "Put Mays at linebacker and he would eat up all the other linebackers in the league. He was all-league at tackle, and he's all-league at end. He's the most versatile defensive lineman in the league—quick, tough and intelligent." A tip-off to the quality of the Chiefs' defensive unit is that Rookie Aaron Brown, a No. 1 draft choice who, at 265 pounds, runs the 40-yard dash as fast as Garrett, has not been able to take over as a starter at end or tackle.