But, as the Kansas City Chiefs players eagerly approach their first AFC playoff appearance since the 1997 season, a potential coaching question loomed nonetheless.
Many thought Dick Vermeil was in the last days of his tenure with the Chiefs. At the beginning of the week many ventured to guess Vermeil was going to retire.
But Vermeil did confirm on Thursday that he would stay. But he gave it plenty of thought during the week.
The issue for the 67-year-old Vermeil, who walked away from the game on two other occasions, is a simple one. Does he have enough gas left in the tank for another run in '04 or beyond?
He addressed that question with reporters earlier this week.
"When you have the responsibilities Lamar Hunt and Carl Peterson bestow on me, if I don't think I can do them better next year than I did this year, then I shouldn't come back," he said this week at the start of a bye week for his second-seeded Chiefs.
"The players deserve better," Vermeil added. "Lamar deserves it, Carl deserves it. And it will be tougher next year.
"With my personality type, you just don't know if you can do it better next year. Very few people can appreciate this grind. It's a wonderful grind, but it's a draining one. And as you get older, you can pretend you've got a lot left, but sometimes you're only kidding yourself. "Sometimes you just flat run out of gas."
Vermeil admitted to the press that his mood vacillates with the play of his team during a long season.
He said he woke up Monday morning after Kansas City's dominating 31-3 victory over Chicago, one that closed out a 13-3 season and extended a 13-game home winning streak, and couldn't wait to go to work.
It was a 180-degree turn from his mood six days earlier upon returning from Minnesota and a 45-20 drubbing -- the worst loss in his three seasons in Kansas City. Worse yet, the Chiefs had given up 45 points just two weeks prior to that in Denver.
Any number of factors other than his own fuel gauge could weigh on Vermeil's decision.
One is the future of his staff. Vermeil would like to see offensive coordinator Al Saunders become his successor. But Carl Peterson passed up the chance to hire Saunders in 1999 when he picked another Marty Schottenheimer assistant, defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham.
Saunders recently turned down an offer from the University of Nebraska to be their head coach. On Friday he will talk with Chicago Bears and Oakland Raiders officials in Kansas City about their head coaching vacancies.
Vermeil says the Chiefs' playoff performance would have no affect his decision, but some thought to themselves how could it not?
If the Chiefs falter early, Vermeil may figure it's time to let someone else see if they can do better. Or, he could figure he hasn't completed the job he was hired to do.
And what if the Chiefs should go all the way? Would Vermeil step aside as he did after the Rams' 1999 championship, figuring he'd done all he could?
Those were all good arguements for him to step down. But Vermeil maybe gave the ultimate hint as to his future with the following quote.
"There are no negatives here in Kansas City," Vermeil noted, adding that his wife Carol has come to love the city. "I've just got to get everything in a balanced frame of mind and project what that same frame of mind might be next year." With that said, as we first told you at Warpaint Illustrated.com, Vermeil put any doubts of his coaching future to rest on Wednesday evening when he informed his coaching staff he would return next season.
Early Thursday morning, Vermeil confirmed that he was going to stay at least one more year and possibly more to the Associated Press.