It's Time to Clean House in Kansas City

After back to back losses against NFC East powers, the Kansas City Chiefs sit 8-6 on the season and for all practical purposes can now only back into the playoffs. But what awaits them now is a long laundry list of changes that have to be made to turn this fledging organization around.

Two things are certain to happen this offseason, the Chiefs will have a new Head Coach in January and there will be lots of blame to go around for the failings of this defense to make plays down the stretch. All the fans have to reference is Tiki Barber's first touchdown run on Saturday. Not one but eleven Chiefs players had him in their grasps before he ran into the end zone.

After stomaching the Chiefs 27-17 loss at the hands of the New York Giants, it's clear that the Dick Vermeil era has officially been put on life support. Since going 2-0 to start the season the Chiefs are 6-6. That won't cut it in the NFL. That record means mediocrity and the Vermeil era has been nothing short of that.

For the second straight week, the Chiefs offense could not make the plays necessary to defeat an inferior opponent. The Giants were missing two starting linebackers and their secondary might be as bad as the Chiefs right now. But the wide receivers could not get the job done. Samie Parker fumbled again costing the Chiefs a possession in Giants territory. Eddie Kennison had one of his worst games as a Chief and where was Tony Gonzalez in the offense.

Trent Green made poor decisions all game long but he was hampered somewhat by poor play calling from the coaching box. But like the loss in Buffalo, this game hangs squarely on the shoulders of Vermeil who continues to be out coached week after week.

If I'm Kansas City Chiefs President Carl Peterson, I'm hoping and praying that New York Jets Head Coach Herman Edwards makes good on his reported intentions to resign at seasons end; so he can take over this struggling franchise and return some of its credibility as a legitimate football team.

The Chiefs brass has misfired and miscalculated Vermeil's ability to motivate his players and put together a coaching staff that now appears to have been in place far too long. Vermeil's best coaching days are behind him and there is NO doubt that he won't be back on the Chiefs sidelines next season. I hate to say this but that's a good thing for this organization.

It's also clear that offensive coordinator Al Saunders is going to be a hot commodity for the Head Coaching jobs in Detroit and St. Louis. The Lions currently have him at the top of their wish list while the Rams are salivating at the chance to get a shot at Saunders. Granted both are rumors but it's clear that he won't get a shot at coaching the Chiefs.

At times like he did in Dallas and New York, his play calling was unimaginative and he's made tight end Tony Gonzalez a non-factor in this offense. He has probably one of the best running backs in the NFL in Larry Johnson and his reluctance to rely on short unproven receivers like Samie Parker and Chris Horn, instead of Marc Boerigter, remains one of the biggest mysteries on offense.

Parker can't hold onto the ball and I've seen nothing out of Horn that gives me any indication he's an NFL caliber receiver. Yes he's a great story but that script has run its course. Boerigter has more talent and experience than either receiver and he probably would have caught the pass Green threw to Horn that he could not reach in the third quarter. Granted Parker has an upside but he needs to learn how to hold onto the football or his career will be short lived in Kansas City.

Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham's future is also in question. Granted he was not allowed to choose any members of his defensive coaching staff and that has handcuffed his ability to remove the stench of the '32 Defense' that has returned the last two games.

It's unfortunate that happened but Cunningham is not without blame. He's not effectively used his defensive personnel especially his cornerbacks. Far too often in blitz situations both Patrick Surtain and Eric Warfield were ten and twenty yards off receivers in key situations. Their lack of physical play is a direct result of Cunningham's unwillingness to allow his cornerbacks to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage.

At linebacker Cunningham has coached down Derrick Johnson and not coached up Kendrell Bell. As far as Johnson goes, it's clear that he has talent but he has no direction and Cunningham has done the one thing to stifle his development. He's refused to use Johnson's greatest asset; his speed.

Bell on the other hand should not be on the field. It's clear that his shoulders are hampering him because he can't wrap his arms around a running back or receiver. He looks out of shape and has shown no ability to adjust to the Chiefs 4-3 defense. The word ‘Bust' comes to mind and it's unlikely he'll be a part of this team next season. This was a horrific signing and if not for injuries to Keyaron Fox, Kris Griffin and Shawn Barber, Bell would be sitting on the inactive list each week.

However, the maturation of linebacker Kawika Mitchell has been a pleasant surprise and Cunningham deserves credit for having faith in him when others didn't.

But on the defensive line, only Jared Allen nobody else has stepped up as a consistent pass rusher. Carlos Hall has the talent but injuries and a lack of playing time have hampered his chances to contribute consistently. Eric Hicks is solid against the run but is over-matched in rushing the passer.

Now what does all that mean for Cunningham and his second tour of duty with the Chiefs? That question might not be answered until this organization chooses a new head coach. But after the way the defense melted down in recent weeks, Cunningham could be sent packing after the teams' final game against the Bengals.

But this season's ills can be traced back to the decision Vermeil made to return for another round of coaching in Kansas City back in January 2004. That was the point in time this organization took a turn into the abyss.

After a 7-9 season in 2004, the Chiefs could end up 8-8 losing all four of their final regular season games in 2005. This team is lost and it has no identity and their leader has let them down. Even worse they play soft.

Now it will be up Clark Hunt and Carl Peterson to stand firm and clean house. Chiefs fans have never really been ones to rally around a rebuilding season but they'll have little choice to do anything but that in 2006. If the fans can endure that especially after the team raised ticket prices, they might have something to root for in 2007.
BR>That is if the organization can secure a coach like Herman Edwards or Bob Stoops from Oklahoma. If not that rebuild job could last well into the 2008 season and that will turn off the fans who have grown tired of the excuses and the poor play since the late 90's.

After all, this is Kansas City and not Detroit. We all deserve better but it remains to be seen if we'll get it. Right now I can't tell the difference between the two teams. The Chiefs are whimpering like a wounded Lion instead of rising to the occasion like the Champions they thought they'd be when the season began on September 11th.

And that's the saddest part of all.

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