Vermeil took over at Arrowhead in January 2001 after Gunther Cunningham learned he'd been fired by reading it on the Internet. Cunningham, a connoisseur of four-letter words and smelling salts, finished his two-year reign at 16-16. Cunningham and his staff probably cost Lamar Hunt less each year than Napa Valley native Vermeil spends on brie.
Vermeil can change all that. Eight remaining regular-season games present him with a chance to be remembered here as fondly as he is on Missouri's east side.
But after a frustrating overtime loss at home to the Broncos on October 20, Vermeil sounded as hopeless as Woody Allen. On his weekly KCFX 101.1 radio show, a fan expressed undying faith in the coach and the team. Vermeil sighed and answered, "While I appreciate you're convinced that with me here we can win it all, I wish I felt that way right now." Vermeil apparently had little belief in the players he and Carl Peterson have assembled this season. "They may not put us in the playoffs right now, but they will end up using those negative experiences to get better," he said.
That kind of attitude coming from an overpaid coach halfway through his second season isn't just unprofessional. It's pissing on the tailgate fires of Chiefs fans everywhere.
Vermeil has one year left on his contract and has made it clear that next season will be his last in Kansas City. His plan is to use free agency and the 2003 draft to plug some of the gaping holes in the NFL's worst defense and make a Super Bowl run during his final year. For now, however, he's content to sit by the fireplace wrapped in a shawl woven of doubts, watching hopes for this season burn.
As The Kansas City Star's Jason Whitlock suggested on Monday, the Chiefs can win the Super Bowl this season. The team has the best weapon in the NFL in Priest Holmes, who leads an offense that will obliterate every scoring record in the franchise's forty-year history. What the Chiefs don't have is time.
Vermeil has two Pro Bowl offensive tackles in Will Shields and Willie Roaf, whose talents are declining with each snap. Morten Anderson, the Chiefs' 42-year-old place-kicker, is having a fabulous season -- but as the NFL's oldest player, how many game-winning kicks remain in the hamstring that cost the Chiefs a win over Denver? Trent Green has pieced together enough positives this season, but is he really worth re-signing for $10.5 million?
At the same time, there are no great teams at the top of the NFL -- just a load of wanna-bes in the middle.
"I learned a long time ago, when you take over a head coaching job where they haven't been winning, it always takes time," Vermeil said last week.
Bullshit. This year, washed-up Marty Schottenheimer walked into a San Diego job for a team that finished 5-11 and last in the AFC West in 2001. Schottenheimer doesn't believe in three-year plans. He has his 6-1 Chargers talking about playing at home in the Super Bowl in January.
Vermeil needs to stop trying to be a players' coach and start kicking some high-salaried ass. There's no need to high-five Eddie Kennison when he drops a pass or coddle the arsonists we call a secondary or incessantly tell us, "Greg Robinson is a damn good football coach!" Just keep winning, baby.