Coach Levy's systematic restocking of a relatively barren defensive roster began with a 1978 draft class that included a pair of future Chiefs franchise hall of famers in defensive end Art Still and linebacker Gary Spani. Running back Ed Podolak, who was the club's all-time leading rusher at the time, retired in the offseason on June 15.
Perhaps Levy's most unconventional tactic in rebuilding the Chiefs was installing the Wing-T offense. "It was a situation where we took over a team that had the worst defensive record in the history of the National Football League," Levy explained. "We wanted to keep that defense off the field, so we ran the ball 60 times a game." The 1978 Chiefs team ran and ran often, posting franchise records with 663 rushing attempts and 2,986 ground yards. Levy's squad ran the ball a staggering 69 times in a 24–23 Opening Day win at Cincinnati on September 3, the most rushing attempts in an NFL contest since 1948. Five different players had 100-yard rushing games during the year, including running back Tony Reed, who finished the season with 1,053 yards to become the team's first 1,000-yard back since 1967. Despite the squad's Opening Day success, the club lost 10 of its next 11 games, including a pair of overtime decisions. However, the team showed signs of improvement with the defense recording a 23–0 shutout against San Diego on November 26 as the club concluded its first 16-game schedule with a 4–12 mark.