Archive for Thursday, October 23, 2003

Chiefs’ Vermeil under fire

Kansas City coach being blasted despite 7-0 start

October 23, 2003

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— The head coach was getting quite a grilling.

More than a few callers to his weekly radio show sounded downright angry, such as Bill:

"We made their backup quarterback look like the second coming of Joe Montana," Bill declared. "Why did we change with such a young kid? Why not put pressure on him?"

Then Roy put the poor old coach even further back on his heels:

"It looked like we had the receivers contained for three quarters and then moved into the prevent (defense). Why back off what was working?"

Finally, Barry got through:

"It looks to me like we could open up the running game by throwing the ball a little earlier in the game," Barry complained. "I counted 10 guys in the box in the line."

So exactly which NFL coach was taking all this heat? Bill Cowher of the 2-4 Pittsburgh Steelers? Marty Schottenheimer of the 1-5 San Diego Chargers.

No, Dick Vermeil of the 7-0 Kansas City Chiefs. Caller after caller to Vermeil's show Tuesday night seemed unhappy about one thing or another.

Luckily for Vermeil and his maintenance of a healthy blood pressure, it's nothing different from what he experienced more than 20 years ago when his Philadelphia Eagles became contenders. Compared with what happened in 1999 when his St. Louis Rams took off on their trip to the Super Bowl, it may not even be as bad.

"As soon as you get things going, then it isn't good enough," Vermeil said Wednesday, with a shrug of the shoulders.

"Same thing with the Rams -- 'Gee, you only beat 'em by 17 points. Well, the last time you played them you scored this.' It's human nature."

Vermeil's Chiefs are off to the best start in team history and are the only unbeaten team in the AFC. One might think this is the best time for a head coach to walk down the street and seek out public places.

But it's times like this when Vermeil takes special care to shun newspapers and tune out all the sportstalk radio shows.

To fully escape the constant nitpicking of a team that hasn't lost all season, however, he would have to hide from what he loves more than anything else in the world.

"My own sons," the coach deadpanned. "It's a real pain. They've got all the answers."

Nevertheless, after all these years of knowing how fickle fans can become, Vermeil has developed a thick skin. Or maybe it's scar tissue.

"I expect it. I don't resent it," he said. "I go on about my business."

But he has discussed the subject with his players, who have never experienced this peculiar downside to great success.

"I've talked to them about the intrusive pressure and the evaluation process," he said.

He held out his hand about head high, then began raising it slowly toward the ceiling.

"Once you reach this level it's no longer considered good," he said. "You've got to go to the next level to be considered good, and the next level. That's just the nature of it."

One reason for worry probably is the nature of the Chiefs' wins. Most were extremely close, such as the 17-10 win Monday night over Oakland that wasn't decided until the Raiders' Tim Brown was tackled one yard short of the end zone as time ran out.

Maybe fans would relax if the Chiefs could just blow out a few teams.

"Yeah," Vermeil said. "But we can't find any volunteers."

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