The "Savior From St. Louis" has been acting as though the Chiefs' problems with salary excesses are a big surprise to him. "Honestly, I wasn't aware of the shape we were in [with the salary cap]," Vermeil said shortly after taking the Chiefs head coaching position. How could a control freak who has coached two teams to the Super Bowl take the Chiefs job and not know the team needed to whack $31 million from its payroll to satisfy the NFL? What were he and general manager Carl Peterson discussing on Vermeil's farm in Philadelphia last January -- whether the Chiefs cheerleaders should wear kilts this season?
We were led to believe that Vermeil was different, that he was a straight shooter who worked on a higher character plane than most people in the NFL. We haven't seen that during his first two months on the job.
One thing Vermeil wasn't doing in January was telling the Rams that he was about to void his three-year retirement contract and take the Chiefs head coaching job. Yet it appears that Vermeil would like to hold former quarterback Elvis Grbac to a standard the coach couldn't meet. "[Grbac] could have told us he wanted out three weeks ago, and he chose to wait until the last moment," bemoaned Vermeil after Grbac informed the Chiefs he was not interested in re-signing with the club. "The agent [Jim Steiner] told us that Elvis told him three weeks ago that he did not feel good about coming back to the team. But [Steiner] didn't say anything because he said he was hoping Elvis would change his mind. I'm bothered by the integrity of what happened. I don't appreciate the ethics on this one."
Integrity and ethics. Those are the same qualities St. Louis fans were questioning in Vermeil when he headed west to replace Gunther Cunningham. "When [Vermeil] retired, he stated it was explicitly for family reasons and he wouldn't want to coach any team but here," said an unhappy John Shaw, the Rams' president.
It is fairly obvious that Peterson never gave Gunther Cunningham the preferred three-week warning -- the former Chiefs coach found out on the Internet that he'd been canned. "He has not been fired," Chiefs spokesman Bob Moore said when asked on January 3 whether Cunningham had been fired. "I do not anticipate anything happening today. I'm not sure that anything will happen at all." Cunningham was fired two days later. While searching for integrity and ethics, maybe Coach Vermeil and Peterson should add the word "hypocrisy" to their list.
When USA Today asked Vermeil whether he was a candidate for the Chiefs position, he said, "It's not ethically right for me to say." There's that word again. Ethics. Vermeil seems to be confused as to whether it is ethical to tell people that you're going to sign with a team or whether it is ethical to not tell people if you're going to sign with a team. Let's hope this guy's game plan doesn't have as many holes in it as his code of ethics.
The Chiefs' own Web site, www.kcchiefs.com, stated that the salary cuts the Chiefs made in releasing such veterans as Grbac, James Hasty, Chester McGlockton, Donnell Bennett and Kimble Anders were planned far in advance. "The Chiefs have been preparing for this day for some time. Assistant general manager Denny Thum presented management with a plan to navigate the cap as early as the first week of November, and team officials have been closely following it since." This comment appeared on the site March 1 -- the day after Grbac was released.
Peterson mismanaged the salary cap and allowed the Chiefs to fall into a money pit. Peterson and Vermeil are now forced to pay the price. It would help if they would be honest about the problem. "There are no secrets in this league," Vermeil said recently when discussing free agents. The same can be said about his new football team. The sooner Vermeil understands that, the sooner he'll earn our respect.