Vermeil Is Staying But Saunders Future Uncertain

Was their ever any doubt that Dick Vermeil would be back next season?

Plenty if you tried to read between the lines this week in Vermeils Monday press gathering with the local media. However, the news might not have been all good in Kansas City Chiefs circles on Wednesday as Al Saunders appears to be a hot commodity in Oakland and Chicago.

But Vermeil ended all speculation as he told his assistant coaches and staff late Wednesday night that he was going to comeback and coach the Chiefs in 2004.

According to the Kansas City Star, Vermeil told his staff before leaving for the New Years Day Holiday of his coaching decision. To say the least the staff was ecstatic. Vermeil did confirm to the Associated Press early on Thursday that he indeed will come back next season.

"I was thinking of how I would feel about four months down the road," Vermeil said. "I decided I would be more apt to regret having left than to regret having stayed." Vermeil also indicated that he was not sure if his contract extension would be for one or two more years. He has yet to work that out with Chiefs President Carl Peterson.

As for offensive coordinator Al Saunders, he's caught the interest and the eye of the Silver and Black. Al Davis has asked the Chiefs permission to speak with Saunders. Permission to our knowledge has not been given. If it is granted, Saunders will only have until this Friday to conduct an interview with the Raiders per league rules. Warpaint has also learned that the Chicago Bears have asked for permission to speak with Saunders about their head coaching vacancy.

Assistant coaches who have teams in the playoffs have been given a window this week to interview for head coaching positions. After Friday, no assistant coaches who are under contract with teams in the playoffs will be allowed to talk to any other NFL team until their current team is eliminated from the playoffs.

It's possible the Raiders or the Bears would have to wait until February 2nd, the day after the Super Bowl, to talk with Saunders if they don't due so by Friday.

Saunders did remove himself form consideration on Wednesday for the head coaching position at the University of Nebraska. Earlier on Wednesday Nebraska officials said they would announce their next head coach on Sunday. Former Washington Redskins head coach Steve Spurrier is widely reported to be considering an offer from the Cornhuskers.

As for Saunders, it's not known if he has interest in the Raiders job but the Bears job would probably be a better fit. The Bears have a talented and young team that needs direction and leadership. Plus Saunders, based on his loyalty with Vermeil, would rather coach in the NFC.

The Raiders are an aging team with some young talent but their farther away from being a serious player in the AFC. They have major salary cap restrictions next year and they need to overhaul their roster. The Bears could be the favorite in the NFC North next season with a couple of solid acquisitions.

Saunders interviewed for the Houtson Texans job two years ago and has discussions with other teams in the NFL while serving as the Chiefs offensive coordinator.

With Vermeil staying at least another year, Saunders would likely be the successor for Vermeil. I'd be surprised if Vermeil, Saunders and Carl Peterson did not have a discussion about his coaching future sometime this week.

Saunders name will only get hotter as the Chiefs stay in the Super Bowl chase. In NFL circles overtures for Saundes has been lukewarm outside of the Raiders and Bears. Primarily, because many teams consider him an untouchable and most believe he will succeed Vermeil so they have backed off.

If that's still the case this time or not, remains to be seen. Saunders did address the media after reports of the Raiders interest and he offered some possible insight as to his ultimate desire.

"My emphasis and focus right now are on preparation for the playoff game here," Saunders said.

"If there are any overtures from any other teams, they have to be dealt with on an individual basis. I'm a Kansas City Chiefs and that's the way I'd like it to stay."

Saunders has remained very loyal to Vermeil and it's obvious that he wants to stay in Kansas City. Going to the Raiders would be a tough sell by Davis to lure Saunders but in the NFL anything is possible.

Saunders would make an outstanding NFL Head Coach but he loves Kansas City and has spent the majority of his coaching career with the Chiefs.

For the players, they have to be elated that Vermeil is coming back. This should provide an extra spark to the team as they begin preparation for their first playoff game a week from Sunday. Vermeil has managed to remove all distractions from this team as he prepares them for the post season.

This stroke of fortune for the Chiefs organization might be the extra incentive the players need to get to Houston on February 1st, 2004. Top Stories