Cunningham Returns to Chiefs with Open Arms

How bad do the Chiefs want to get to the Super Bowl in 2005? Pretty darn bad considering they just hired the man they fired three years ago to turn around the Chiefs fortunes on defense.

When Gunther Cunningham was announced today by Chiefs CEO/President/GM Carl Peterson today, Kansas City fans all rejoiced. The Greg Robinson era had finally ended as Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil and Peterson made the joint decision to bring back Cunningham to coach the defense.

It's unprecedented that a former head coach of a franchise that fired him just three years ago would be willing to return to under these circumstances. It took a very big man to forgive, forget and move on and that's just the type of person that makes Cunningham a great choice to be the teams new defensive coordinator.

Today's news conference had all the clichés about heart, attitude and desire. He talked about playing with passion and intensity. But most importantly in his brief chat with the media on Tuesday he brought stability to a defense that has sunk into a black hole the last two years.

When Safety Jerome Woods, a free agent, flies into town from Memphis, Tennessee just to be at the news conference; tells you that Woods among others is ready to suit up and play for Cunningham right now.

Cunningham even before stepping one foot on the practice field has improved the Chiefs defense. His strength, when he was the teams defensive coordinator back in the 90's, was his ability to get the most out of his defensive players. Granted he had players like Derrick Thomas, Neil Smith and James Hasty that made the Chiefs the most feared defense in the AFC.

He sold, motivated and implemented his system to the players who went to war on Sundays for Cunningham. They attacked on every play. They never let up regardless of the score, the down or the situation in the game. They never stopped creating havoc on the opposing offense and they were dominant and exciting.

The question will be if the Chiefs have enough talent to play the style of football that Cunningham prefers to play. That will be debated over the next several weeks as Cunningham evaluates the current players on the roster, the potential free agents who might visit Kansas City and the status of signing the remaining defensive free agents on defense.

Safety Jerome Woods, defensive end Erik Hicks and reserve linebacker Monty Beisel all could make an impact under Cunningham.

One player that Cunningham mentioned today was Tennessee Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse who could be a free agent and a potential Chiefs target on March 2nd. Cunningham having been around Kearse the last three seasons knows what an impact ‘The Freak' can be on defense.

But that's for another column. Now Cunningham, Vermeil and Peterson have to get on the same page and look within first and then to the outside. The Chiefs defense must be comprised of enough players with the same attitude, determination and intensity that Cunningham demands.

The Chiefs have a few players on defense that under-achieved the last two seasons and even worse took plays off in 2003. That will never happen under Cunningham's tenure. Those players with the signing of Cunningham are on notice and they better be ready to work harder than they ever have in their life.

Off-season workouts don't start for another six weeks and that's a good time frame for the players to forget about the ludicrous and embarrassing defensive effort the last two years and be thankful they'll have a fresh start under Cunningham.

With Cunningham in the fold, Vermeil indicated that the players on defense would no longer have any excuses. It's time for everyone to play better and play to their potential.

If they don't, it will prove that it was not Robinson's fault and the talent level on Chiefs defense was even worse then some perceived it to be during the last nine games of the 2003 season.

If that is the case, I doubt Cunningham would have returned to Kansas City. He's learned far too much over the last three years to walk into an impossible situation a second time.


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