Archive for Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Chiefs’ Vermeil not worried about legacy

October 23, 2002


— Asked if he might extend his three-year contract with Kansas City, coach Dick Vermeil's answer is quick and to the point.


It's not surprising that Vermeil, 66, would not be interested in going beyond 2003. If the Chiefs can't find a cure for a terrible defense in the next 12 months, a wonderful coaching legacy could be in trouble of falling with a thud.

Until he got here, Vermeil's career was an unbroken string of success. His UCLA team beat top-ranked Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, then he coached Philadelphia to the Super Bowl and took St. Louis to the Super Bowl championship.

Hailed as one of the coaching fraternity's most respected elder statesmen, the likable wine connoisseur and his wife of more than 40 years retired to a beautiful home in the Pennsylvania woodlands.

But 21 months ago he let his old friend, Chiefs president Carl Peterson, talk him out of retirement. His three-year, $10 million contract provided financial security.

But it is coming at a steep price.

He finds himself with perhaps one of the finest offenses and definitely the worst defense in the league, with a 3-4 record and a two-game skid after losing double-digit leads two weeks in a row in the fourth quarter.

After a 37-34 overtime loss to Denver on Sunday, he is in no mood to think about coaching one day more than he has to.

"I tell you this, when I walked in my office Sunday after that game, saw my wife, and saw my coaching staff's wives it ain't worth it," Vermeil said Tuesday. "You're not the only one who suffers. You're not the only one who dies."

Money, he acknowledged, was an important factor in his decision to come out of retirement.

"I lost most of the money I made with the Rams. It cost me money to go to the Super Bowl," he said. "I gave my bonus money to my coaching staff."

When he was with the Eagles in the 1970, coaches were not making the enormous sums many make today. Looking back, he realizes that selling his services so inexpensively was wrong.

"I never coached football in my life because it was a way to make a living. It was my life. It's what I had to do," he said.

"It was my passion. But I wouldn't do it without being paid appropriately because I did that for seven years in Philadelphia. I ended up with nothing when I got all finished, other than a Super Bowl ring."

Without question, the Chiefs' offense is playing well enough to get Vermeil another Super Bowl ring. But the defense is ranked dead last among the 32 teams and has been all season.

There seems little hope for any quick improvement, even perhaps next year, Vermeil's final season in a lifetime of coaching.

Unless the Chiefs find a cure for their defense, the final stop on Vermeil's career might become his only failure. He says he does not worry about his legacy.

"First of all, the word 'legacy,' that's for guys with huge egos," he said.

"No one can ever take away the relationships that I've been able to establish with the teams that I've coached, and the victories, and the losses we've shared, the Super Bowls, the Rose Bowls, the high school championship games, losing the Junior College championship games.

"No one can take those experiences away from me. I don't need somebody telling me how good I am. I've never put myself in the upper echelon of anything other than I'm doing what I like to do."

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