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Archive for Sunday, October 7, 2001

Vermeil settling in routine

October 7, 2001

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— Dick Vermeil's to-do list has changed drastically from a year ago.

Instead of power-washing the barn on his Pennsylvania ranch, he is designing power sweeps in Kansas City. Greasing the tractor has given way to tracking guys like Brian Griese. Scouting for duck season has been replaced by scouting Eagles and Cardinals.

If quitting the NFL cold turkey left Vermeil with football withdrawal, three games as head coach of the Chiefs have provided the perfect elixir.

"I missed being the leader. I missed feeling important. I felt a little bit empty," Vermeil said. "My to-do list every day, I was embarrassed to read it back to myself, because there was nothing meaningful and I didn't feel like I was accomplishing anything."

Vermeil, 64, retired as an accomplished NFL head coach after leading the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl victory in the 1999 season.

When the daily routine became mundane, Vermeil jumped at an invitation from his longtime friend, Chiefs president Carl Peterson. The two coached together at UCLA and later helped the Philadelphia Eagles to a Super Bowl appearance in 1980.

"I'm not really surprised when somebody gets back into coaching, because guys will get away from coaching for one or two years and they get used to working those 16-to-18-hour days," said Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, whose team faces Kansas City today.

"Sometimes retirement sounds good, and you do it for a year or two and you really miss the competition."

In hindsight, Vermeil said he never would have left St. Louis if he knew he would still be in the NFL today. While the Rams continue to be among the league's elite, Kansas City (1-2) remains a franchise in need of a breakthrough.

The Chiefs have missed the playoffs in three straight seasons, and they have advanced to the AFC championship game just once since winning their only Super Bowl title in 1970.

The early returns under Vermeil have not exactly caused fans to book early plane tickets to New Orleans, site of the Super Bowl on Feb. 3. Kansas City lost its first two games before beating the inept Washington Redskins last week.

"It was frustrating the first two weeks," quarterback Trent Green said. "We anticipated doing much better in those first couple weeks. Where we really killed ourselves is the defense was on the field too long, and offensively our production on first and second down wasn't good enough."

After ripping the Redskins for 546 total yards 20 more than their first two games combined the Chiefs will get a better idea of their standing in the AFC West today. They face a Broncos (2-1) team they have beaten four straight times.

"I think that they have studied us really hard," Griese said. "They've worked really hard on us, and they've done a good job defensively."

The Chiefs had more information than normal as they prepared this week. Kansas City defensive coordinator Greg Robinson spent six seasons in the same role for Denver before Shanahan fired him in January.

"You can look at this one of two ways," Green said. "Either we're going to have an advantage because Greg knows how to attack Mike, or Denver's going to have an advantage because Mike knows how to attack Greg because they've faced each other in practice every day."

Even without Robinson's inside knowledge, Vermeil still pours over scouting reports and game plans like a law school grad studying for his first bar exam.

The film sessions used to run until 6 a.m. until Vermeil finally burned himself out after seven seasons with the Eagles in 1982. While not exactly on banker's hours, he has learned to leave the office at a more reasonable hour.

"My curfew is no later than 1 o'clock at the latest," he said. "Most of the time I leave the office by midnight."

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