Vermeil Not Done Coaching Quite Yet

On Sunday afternoon, I personally witnessed the riskiest coaching decision in the history of the Kansas City Chiefs. I've been watching NFL football games in Kansas City since I can remember. But nothing prepared me for the final two minutes that led the Chiefs to a 27-23 last second victory.

Before this game started I have to admit that I didn't think the Kansas City Chiefs had a good shot to defeat the Oakland Raiders. Especially when you consider the fact; the Chiefs played this game without running back Priest Holmes, left tackle Willie Roaf, cornerbacks Patrick Surtain and Dexter McCleon.

The Chiefs had a right tackle playing left tackle and the starting right tackle hadn't played the position in over a year. Kansas City had a quarterback who was still dealing with the sudden loss of his father and who had not practiced the entire week. They had to rely on a second year cornerback and another who had been in this league since the early 90's.

The conductor of the Kansas City Chiefs game plan on Sunday was Head Coach Dick Vermeil. You could tell early on this week that the leader of this team was struggling with the injuries that have sacked his team. He was worried about his quarterback who he loves as a son. He probably knew deep down in his heart that just maybe his quarterback was not ready to play football this week after attending funeral services for his beloved father. Still he had to prepare his team to play the Raiders.

And he had to rely on a back up running back that by his own admission can't do anything to supplant Priest Holmes regardless of injury or productivity. That of course being Larry Johnson.

But at the end of this game, Vermeil might rethink that after Johnson made two plays that might end up defining his career in Kansas City. One thing Johnson's long catch and run late in the game clearly shows that LJ might be this teams best choice to be the starter from hear on out.

That debate will range on.

But none of that would have happened on Sunday if Vermeil hadn't risked not only a part of his coaching reputation but the Chiefs entire 2005 season. He did all that by putting his faith in Larry Johnson.

When the Chiefs seized control of this game early in the fourth quarter; it felt as if Kansas City had dodged a bullet when Johnson's last second heroics saved the day for the Chiefs. But this day does not belong to Larry Johnson. Instead this is Dick Vermeil's day.

In his post game press conference, Vermeil summed up his decision to go for the win.

"I'm too old to wait," he said with conviction.

You see for nearly four and half seasons in Kansas City Dick Vermeil has always gone by the book. But on Sunday November 6th, 2005 that all changed. Instead Vermeil decided it was time for this entire organization to put up or shut up. He knew a loss would be devastating for his football team.

Still in eight games this season, Vermeil has seen his offense struggle and his defense gain confidence each week. Last Friday he peered into the teams defensive meetings and told them it was time for them to step up and make plays. On Sunday the defense did their part. If not for some of the worst officiating I'd ever seen, Vermeil's defensive players made enough plays to hold off the Raiders high octane offense.

Then again thanks to the horrific calls by the Zebras, Vermeil would never have been in a position to risk it all at the end of the game. You see Vermeil knows time is running out. But sometimes you have to throw caution to the wind.

"You can do everything by the books all the time, but it's time," he said profoundly.

He's absolutely correct. If there was any doubt that Vermeil was going to coach the Chiefs after this season, those were all put to rest with :05 seconds left in Sunday's game.

Vermeil was willing to risk the season by serving notice to every one of his players that its time for the real Kansas City Chiefs to start playing football again. His gutsy play calling also left little doubt that he's laying out all his cards this season and he is not worrying about 2006. It's now or never for this team and franchise.

He correctly pointed out during last Tuesday's press conference that he wanted more input in calling plays. In his own way, he did that on Friday when he spoke to the defense and again on Sunday when he told offensive coordinator Al Saunders for the Chiefs best short yardage play at the end of the game.

Vermeil never wavered after each team called a timeout. He knew that Johnson running behind Tony Richardson, Jason Dunn, Casey Wiegmann, Will Shields and Brian Waters could gain a half a yard.

Now Vermeil has to hope this kind of game will be the spring board that leads to a solid second half of the season.

If it doesn't, it won't be for lack of effort by Vermeil. If his team can't take Sunday's win and use it to catapult them into winning the AFC West, then Vermeil's bold move to shake the foundation of his team against the Raiders, will go for not.

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