Chiefs Notes: Cunningham Ready for the Challenge

In the low growl that made him an easy target for radio mimics during his two years as head coach, Gunther Cunningham said the words Chiefs fans had been waiting to hear from a new defensive coordinator.

"The first thing you do is stop the run, as that takes the heart out of an opponent," Cunningham said. "Then you take out his soul -- the quarterback."

Cunningham's Tennessee linebackers, which included first-time Pro Bowl selection Keith Bulluck, were a key component of the league's top rushing defense this past season. The Chiefs defense this past season finished No. 30 against the run.

Jerome Woods was Kansas City's first-round draft choice in 1996, the year Cunningham lobbied Marty Schottenheimer to use the Chiefs' first four draft picks on defensive players -- Woods, Reggie Tongue, John Browning and Donnie Edwards. Cunningham's return after a three-year exodus excited him enough that Woods -- a prospective unrestricted free agent -- flew from his Memphis home to attend Cunningham's return press conference.

"I know what Gun brings to the table," Woods added. "He's aggressive, he's an in-your-face guy who's going to attack. As a defensive player, that's what you love doing -- bringing the fight instead of letting someone else bring it to you.

"This will play a big part in my decision," Woods added.

Second-year linebacker Scott Fujita has never played for Cunningham, but he liked what he heard at Cunningham's introductory press conference at Arrowhead.

"He said all the right things, everything you want to hear when you're getting ready to come back for another year," Fujita said. "It's like he said: We have no options other than to get better.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited to hear him talking about getting to the quarterback more," Fujita added. "That's a strength I feel I have, and I'd love to be able to do it more often."

Asked if he would ever want to be considered for a head coaching position again, the 57-year demurred.

"The Titans gave me the opportunity to find out what I do best," he said. "I found the best thing I do as a coach is coach players.

"The head coach never has a chance to do what we do. We're in amongst them; that's what coaching is all about. The rest of that stuff is all administration. Let (someone else) administrate. Let me coach."

QUOTE TO NOTE:
"I was told that New York is the stage. I don't need a stage, I just need a football field. The stage meant you might get another opportunity (to be a head coach) down the road. I don't need those opportunities. I need to be part of a football team that can win the Super Bowl." -- Gunther Cunningham, on coming to Kansas City rather than accepting a job with friend Herman Edwards and the New York Jets. STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL:
A day after saying he thought all his assistant coaches would be returning, Dick Vermeil learned that linebackers coach Joe Vitt -- a coach Vermeil considered for his vacant defensive coordinator position before hiring Gunther Cunningham -- would be leaving the Kansas City staff. Vitt took a position with the St. Louis Rams.

Vermeil then hired Fred Pagac as linebackers coach. He was with Oakland last season. Offensive assistant Jason Verduzco was promoted to quarterbacks coach, replacing Terry Shea, who is now the Bears' offensive coordinator.


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