It took a while, but the Chiefs have finally decided it is time to make some changes - "time to change the dynamic," says head coach Romeo Crennel - ostensibly in demurring acknowledgement that the vital signs of this year's team are sinking fast and this once proud professional football franchise is in deep and desperate straits.
The Chiefs parted ways Monday with cornerback Stanford Routt, who was signed in the offseason as a free agent from Oakland, and Crennel announced that he was relinquishing the defensive coordinator duties so he can devote full time to his head-coaching responsibilities.
Routt was signed as the replacement for defensive back Brandon Carr, who the Chiefs lost to free agency after last season. The Chiefs didn't believe, as a matter of affordability, they could keep defensive left tackle Branden Albert and their other cornerback, Brandon Flowers, and still retain Carr. So they let Carr go to the Cowboys. All I can say, in retrospect, is that it was a bad decision to let Carr walk, and it was probably an even poorer decision to lead us, the fans, to believe that Routt would make us quickly forget about Carr.
Oakland apparently didn't think much of Routt, or the Raiders wouldn't have let him go in the first place. He wasn't terrible, perhaps, but he certainly wasn't that good either, and clearly not equal in talent or ability to what the Chiefs gave up in Carr, who is now starting for the Cowboys..
General manager Scott Pioli did make another personnel move on Monday, bringing back defensive tackle Shaun Smith, who played for the Chiefs in 2010 and was picked up and subsequently let go by the Tennessee Titans. To me, the Smith acquisition is more of a make-good on the part of the Chiefs. Smith played well when he was here before, and there was a lot of criticism when the Chiefs' management allowed him to get away following the 2010 season.
Getting back to Crennel's decision to give up the defensive coordinator role, you've got to wonder what possessed him to think he could do both jobs. I mean, didn't we have this same issue under former coach Todd Haley, who wanted to handle the offense and call the plays while also serving as head coach. That didn't work out very well, either. In fact, Haley's poor judgment in thinking that he could do both jobs equally well largely contributed to his downfall and ultimate dismissal. Crennel was on the sidelines as the Chiefs defensive coordinator at the time and witnessed all that, which makes it even more questionable why he didn't learn from the leadership mistakes made by his predecessor.
If you ask me, I think both Crennel and his former boss are better suited and feel more comfortable in the coordinator's role, which is why both men were reluctant to give it up. They probably both felt they were in better control of their head-coaching destiny if they were also calling the shots in their respective specialty areas.
Crennel's rationale for why he has now decided to delegate the defensive coordinator job to linebackers coach Gary Gibbs, or at least what he said in explaining the move to reporters at his weekly press conference on Monday, is: "A young player sees you on the other side (as head coach) all the time, and he never sees you on this side. Then he can begin to assume, ‘He doesn't care about us over here.'
"That's not the case and never has been the case, but if that's the perception of one player then I need to change that perception," Crennel said.
Gibbs is a veteran defensive coach and will do a good job heading up the Kansas City defense A former defensive coordinator at New Orleans, Gibbs has been coaching the linebacking corps of the Chiefs for the past four seasons. He was the head coach at Oklahoma from 1984-89 and played there in the early 1970s for Barry Switzer.
Crennel took over for Haley, on an interim basis, 14 games into the 2011 season. The Chiefs won two of the final three games under Crennel, including wins over Green Bay and AFC West archrival Denver, and there was a good feeling that Crennel might be just the right guy for the Chiefs and the man that could get things turned around with this team. The players liked him, the fans were highly supportive of him, and the Chiefs' management got on board and removed the "interim" tag, anointing the 31-year NFL veteran as the man to lead the 2012 edition of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Unfortunately, something unexpected and utterly unacceptable happened between the end of the 2011 season and this season. Like a year ago, the Chiefs started out the season with two blowout losses, but unlike last season when they lost their first three games and then rebounded with four consecutive wins, they have continued to lose and lose bady.
Except for an overtime win against New Orleans, the Chiefs have lost seven of eight games this season to reach the midseason mark with an NFL-worst 1-7 record, and are the first team since back before the NFL started keeping comprehensive stats that has not held a lead in any game it has played this late in the season, save for the game-winning field goal in OT at New Orleans.
What is almost inexplicable about all of this is that, up to now, no one in the Chiefs' organization was willing to own up to the fact that the team was in complete disarray and was on a track to become the worst team in the history of the 53-year-old franchise. Crennel and Pioli both admitted the responsibility for the team's poor performance was theirs, but neither seems to be able or wants to take any immediate action to correct the wayward course the Chiefs are on.
Let's hope they don't think that the Chiefs' fan base and the team's critics in the media are gullible enough to think that the minor moves made on Monday will make any real difference or have any appreciable impact in the team's play on the field.
For all of Crennel's expertise and accomplishments as one of the best defensive minds in the business, the Chiefs haven't been much to jump up and down about defensively in the three years he has been here. In fact, this season, they have given up almost twice as many points as the opposition, which goes a long way toward explaining why they have never led in a game in 32 quarters of action this season.
I, like a great many Chiefs' fans, like Romeo Crennel as a person. I respect what he has accomplished in his long NFL career, and can understand and appreciate why the players like to play for him. But I'm sorry, he is not well suited as a head football coach for the Chiefs or any other NFL team. He should stick with what he does best: creating defensive schemes and game plans and coaching the defense.
Right now, all the Chiefs' are doing about the many problems that face the organization on and off the field amounts to nothing more than moving around the deck chairs on the Titanic. It doesn't matter who the head coach is, if he doesn't the talent or enough of the the right players in the right positions, he is only going to be able to achieve so much with what you have.
If the Chiefs don't start showing dramatic improvement, Crennel will be the first to go. That's almost a given. That's only a symptom of what's really wrong in the organization, however. Pioli said as much himself recently when he admitted to the local media that he is as disappointed in the Chiefs' performance this season as anybody and that it was his job to get it fixed.
OK, Mr. GM, it's time to be accountable and start showing through your actions that you aren't going to accept failure any longer and that you're serious about doing something to get this situation turned around. Oh, and by the way, you're on the clock...
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