Chiefs coach Vermeil to retire after season
By ADAM TEICHER
The Kansas City Star
Dick Vermeil told his players and staff in a tearful message Saturday night that he will retire as the Chiefs’ head coach at the end of the season.
That means today’s game against Cincinnati could be his last.
Lynn Stiles, the Chiefs’ vice president for football operations, told The Star that Vermeil informed the players at a previously scheduled team meeting at an Overland Park hotel. Speculation has been thick all week that Vermeil would retire after today’s game, but he closely guarded his plans until Saturday night.
The Chiefs could reach the playoffs by beating the Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium and having the Detroit Lions beat the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Stiles was in the meeting Saturday. He said Vermeil appeared at peace with his decision.
“I know so,” Stiles said. “It’s not a think.
“He referred to (the fact) ‘I did not want the highs and lows of winning and losing to determine what I do.’ It’s the right thing for him to do, for his family, and it’s the right thing to do for the organization.”
Vermeil declined an interview request, preferring to spend what could be his final night as a head coach with players, staff, family and friends.
Stiles described the meeting as emotional. Vermeil develops closer relationships with his players than most coaches. He remains friends with players he coached several years ago.
“Every man in that room I guarantee will not forget what just happened,” said a red-eyed Stiles. “Each man in his own right has a relationship with Dick Vermeil, and I dare say most of them can’t look back and say they’ve had this kind of relationship. I guarantee they haven’t had it in the National Football League.”
Replacement candidates could include New York Jets coach Herman Edwards, Chiefs offensive coordinator Al Saunders, Washington defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.
The 69-year-old Vermeil coached the Chiefs for five seasons and will take a 43-36 regular-season record into his final game. The Chiefs won the AFC West championship in 2003, but lost their playoff game to the Indianapolis Colts at Arrowhead Stadium. That was the only time Vermeil guided the Chiefs into the playoffs.
Vermeil’s Chiefs were among the elite offensive teams of their era. With an offense led by Saunders, the Chiefs were usually among the league leaders in points and yardage and consistently stocked the AFC’s Pro Bowl team with stars like halfbacks Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson, tight end Tony Gonzalez and offensive linemen Willie Roaf, Will Shields and Brian Waters.
But the Chiefs were able to make the playoffs only the one time because of a deficient defense. After the defense underperformed in 2002, pressure mounted on Vermeil to fire the defensive coordinator, Greg Robinson.
Vermeil, ever loyal to his assistants, stayed with Robinson in 2003. The Chiefs won their first nine games, but lost four of their next eight, including the playoffs, after their defense collapsed.
Vermeil accepted Robinson’s resignation after the season and brought in an old hero, Gunther Cunningham, to coach their defense the following year. But Cunningham, who guided many of the great Chiefs defenses of the 1990s, was unable to make any difference.
The Chiefs were again woeful on defense in 2004 and, despite high expectations entering the season, finished a disappointing 7-9.
This season, the Chiefs were at one time 8-4, but December losses in Dallas and New York left them relying on the help of others to make the playoffs.
Should put an interesting spin on LJ's draft status next year.