There isn’t much room in football locker rooms for guys who like to cry. Yet Dick Vermeil never seems to have trouble placing himself inside the NFL’s sweaty sanctuaries, sobbing about how much he loves his players. Maybe his knack for turning losers into winners has something to do with his acceptance.
Let’s review the record on football’s most notorious crybaby:
Philadelphia, 1975. Eagles finish 4-10. The next year they hire a 39-year old named Dick Vermeil to be their new mentor. Five years later they finish 12-4 and find themselves in the Super Bowl.
St. Louis, 1996. Rams finish 6-10. In January they hire Vermeil, a TV analyst who’d been out of coaching for 15 years. Three years later they finish 13-3 and win the Super Bowl.
Kansas City, 2000. Chiefs finish 7-9. In January they hire Vermeil, who decides again (this time after only one year instead of 15) that retirement isn’t much fun. Three years later they’re 6-0, and well on their way to the playoffs.
Add to that impressive resume Kansas City’s comeback win over Green Bay on Sunday. Wait, don’t just add it. Put it at the top. This may have been the most improbable, if not greatest– Super Bowl W’s tend to trump in that department — win of Vermeil’s career.
Entering the contest, the Packers had won 56 straight games when leading by 10 or more points at home. Against the Chiefs, they held separate leads of 14 and 17 points.
Entering the contest, the Packers were 17-0 when Ahman Green rushed for more than 100 yards in a game. He ground out 139 yards against KC’s porous defensive front.
Entering the contest, the Chiefs were 7-10 when Priest Holmes failed to rush for more than 100 yards in a game. He gained just 81 yards against the stingy Green Bay D, most of it coming in overtime.
Entering the contest, the only team Brett Favre had never beaten (outside the Packers, of course) was the Kansas City Chiefs.
Add to all that the fact that the Packers had whupped the previously undefeated Seahawks at Lambeau the week before, and the Chiefs were faced with a recipe for disaster. Mix in a blocked Morten Andersen field goal on the opening drive of overtime and you’ve got more than disaster, you’ve got defeat cooked to taste.
But the football gods rewarded the Chiefs for their valiant effort in coming back from 14-0 and 31-14 deficits. They gave Kansas City a fumble from Ahman Green on the next play. Just eight seconds after that Trent Green hooked up with Eddie Kennison for the 51-yard game-winning strike. In a stunning flurry of action the Chiefs had won, 40-34, and assumed their throne as the only undefeated team in the AFC.
How much of the credit for Kansas City’s renaissance should go to Vermeil?
All of it.
It was Vermeil who orchestrated the acquisition of Green, Holmes, and wideouts Johnny Morton and Eddie Kennison. It was also Vermeil who made their names recognizable to the average fan. He is the reason the Chiefs are no longer the “three yards and a cloud of dust” team they were under Marty Schottenheimer and Gunther Cunningham. His offense’s ability to stretch the field puts a premium on speed. Now that he has that speed, and the accurate passer he needs to implement it in Green, there is seemingly no stopping KC from scoring. He has also put speed on defense, and the results have been noticeable, despite yesterday’s lackluster effort.
When Vermeil’s Rams won the Super Bowl in January of 2000, a lot of people gave the credit for their meteoric rise to Mike Martz, the “genius” whose schemes had allowed Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and the Ram receivers to take the league by storm. Now it seems that credit was misplaced. Though Martz took the Rams back to the Super Bowl in 2002, his team has begun to deteriorate. Meanwhile, Vermeil’s Chiefs are the team that most resembles the ’99 Rams, with a 6-0 record to match. And with only two of their remaining 10 games against teams with records currently above .500, they should be sitting on a first round bye and home field advantage by playoff time. From there, it could be a short road to Kansas City’s first Super Bowl since January 1970.
Vermeil may be known for tears, but rest of the league should be crying.