The spring was marked by several notable trades as the club jockeyed to improve on its 4–11 finish in 1987. Todd Blackledge was traded to Pittsburgh on March 29 and 12-year veteran quarterback Steve DeBerg was acquired from Tampa Bay on March 31. The Chiefs moved up one spot in the first round of the draft to select defensive end Neil Smith with the second overall pick. Bill Kenney opened the team’s initial two games at quarterback, but was replaced by DeBerg for the second half against Seattle. DeBerg guided the team to a 20–13 win against Denver in his initial start as a member of the Chiefs. However, six losses and a tie followed as Kenney and DeBerg jostled for the QB job.
As the season drew to a close, it became apparent the winds of change were blowing across the organization. President Jack Steadman resigned on December 8, while general manager Jim Schaaf was relieved of his duties the same day. Steadman was later named Chairman of the Board. On the field, the Chiefs finished the year at 4–11–1 as questions swirled regarding head coach Frank Gansz’s future and who would fill the club’s leadership void. One day after the season’s conclusion, former Philadelphia Eagles and United States Football League executive Carl Peterson was named the club’s President/General Manager and Chief Operating Officer on December 19.