Vermeil says he plans to return next season
Wednesday, December 1, 2004
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The coach who made "burnout" a part of sports lexicon is 68 now and enduring one of the most disappointing years of a long, distinguished career.
But there are no thoughts of another retirement for Dick Vermeil, who said Tuesday he'll be back next season for the final year of his contract with the Kansas City Chiefs.
"Sometimes I walk off the field feeling sorry for myself," Vermeil said Tuesday. "That's human nature. I'd be a liar not to say that. Everything we do that fails I feel just as bad about today as I did in the late '70s and early '80s. But I handle it better."
Expected to be a Super Bowl contender after posting a 13-3 regular-season record last season, the Chiefs are a miserable 3-8 and on a four-game losing skid. There are no playoff games looming on this year's postseason horizon, only big changes on the field and possibly in the front office.
But Vermeil, who walked away from the Philadelphia Eagles in 1982 citing emotional exhaustion and "burnout," said he's determined to be back.
"I would certainly hope (so)," said Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson, an old friend from the Philadelphia days who coaxed Vermeil out of his second retirement in 2001, after he led the St. Louis Rams' to a Super Bowl win, and remains solidly behind him.
"He's got a two-year contract. I would be very surprised if that changed for any reason. He's a very resilient guy. He's determined. I think he's anxious to try to get this thing going in the right direction," Peterson said. "Dick is disappointed. We all are. He's looking for solutions. He's getting through it."
Peterson usually speaks with Vermeil several times a day and always keeps a close eye on the attitude of the players and staff.
"Dick has done a magnificent job of keeping the players focused and enthusiastic about what they're doing," he said. "We know they get paid for it, but you still have to have a passion for it."
For the third year in a row, a faulty defense has ruined an outstanding year from one of the NFL's top offenses. There is mounting criticism not only of the coaching staff, but of the player personnel and scouting departments.
But Vermeil said the 14 years he spent in the broadcasting booth helped him gain a better perspective on his profession and his place in it. The role of a coach is often misunderstood, he said.
"I saw the best-coached team lose many times," he said. "That opened my eyes to a lot of things. I'd go watch football practice and say there's no way these guys can win. And -- wow -- they would win.
"Coaches lose far more games they should have won than win they should have lost. That's just the way it is. This year has been tough in that expectations were so great. It's easy for me to say we don't belong there, but we are there."
Next year could be a transition season for the Chiefs no matter who the coach is.
"I will do as I've done every year for the last 15 years," Peterson said. "At the conclusion of the season I'm going to require everybody to take a deep breath. Then we'll sit down shortly after that and we'll evaluate the entire season and all aspects of it."
Everything and everyone will be fair game.
"That includes what we can and cannot do in the future -- dollars, who we want back, coaching, administration, scouting, athletic training, everything. Then we'll make good, objective, unemotional decisions," Peterson said. "This has been a very difficult season, no question about it."