I had promised myself that I wouldn’t say a thing about how this season has started until after game four was in the books. Unfortunately, the first two games have triggered a bad case of Déjà vu. Thirteen points scored and a record of oh-and-two in 2007 coming after 16 points scored and a record of 0-2 at the same point in 2006. I have seen this before and the older readers among you have too.
Actually, it’s happened all too often.
The last time a Chiefs team managed to score a paltry 13 points in the first two games of a season occurred in 1988, Frank Ganz’s second – and last – season as head coach. That team finished with a record of 4-11-1. In 11 of the 16 games, the team failed to score at least 14 points.
The last head coach to open his first two seasons at 0-2 was Paul Wiggin in 1975-1976. He was fired after the 7th game of the 1977 season (that team also opened the season at 0-2). The ’75 and ’76 squads both went oh-and-four before winning a game and ended the season with identical 5-9 records. The ’77 team lost its first five games and finished with a miserable 2-12 record.
Interestingly, it wasn’t a lack of playing talent that was to blame for these teams’ misfortunes:
The 1975 squad boasted veterans Buck Buchanan, Ed Budde, Len Dawson, Jim Kearney, MacArthur Lane, Willie Lanier, Mike Livingston, Jim Lynch, Jim Marsalis, Ed Podolak, Jack Runay, Jan Stenerud, Otis Taylor, Emmitt Thomas, Marv Upshaw, and Jerrel Wilson. There were also young up-and-comers like Tom Condon, Charlie Getty, Walter White, and Wilbur Young.
In 1976, Budde, Condon, Getty, Lane, Lanier, Livingston, Lynch, Podolak, Rudnay, Stenerud, Thomas, White, Young, and Wilson were still around. Joining them were Gary Barbaro, Matt Herkenhoff, Henry Marshall, and Whitney Paul.
The 1988 squad had plenty of talent too: Mike Bell, Carlos Carson, Deron Cherry, Steve DeBerg, Herman Heard, Bill Kenney, Albert Lewis, Nick Lowery, Dave Lutz, Kevin Ross, John Alt, Dino Hackett, Jon Hayes, Bill Maas, Stephone Paige, and Neil Smith.
Certainly, the 2007 squad also has its share of talented veteran and young players, but, like the other squads, there is something wrong and a dismal won-loss record will be the result.
If lack of talent isn’t to blame, what is? Why does a team find ways to lose games if shouldn’t? Why did all of these squads sputter like a V-8 with a couple of misfiring cylinders? There are only two consistent factors among all four squads that can answer these questions - coaching and management.
Clearly Paul Wiggin, who was a respected defensive coach before the Chiefs hired him, was in over his head as a head coach. The same thing could be said for Frank Ganz, who made his reputation as a Cracker Jack special teams coach. It has become abundantly clear that Herm Edwards has also been promoted beyond his capabilities. Please do not take my comments as a personal slam against these gentlemen. There are very few incompetents in the NFL. However, there are certain intangibles that separate the greats from the average and these individuals obviously don’t/didn’t have the “right stuff” to become successful head coaches.
It took 12 years before Lamar Hunt finally understood that Jack Steadman and Jim Schaff, both great business managers, were clueless when it came to managing a football team. Paul Wiggin, Marv Levy, John Mackovic, and Frank Ganz were their hires and only Levy should have been hired in the first place. All decisions were based solely on improving the financial bottom line, not what was best for the team on the field. Complacency set in. Hunt only fired Steadman & Schaff after attendance at Arrowhead had dropped to disturbingly low levels and the Chiefs had become the laughing stock of the NFL.
I will be the first to admit that Hunt hit a home run when he hired Carl Peterson to run the team. Peterson had a football background and he had previous experience in building a winning organization in the USFL. His first coaching hire, Marty Schottenheimer, was the right man for the job. After Marty’s departure, however, things have not gone well. Gunther Cunningham was not the answer. Despite the offensive fireworks, Vermeil was not the answer. Edwards is not the answer. As Carl acquired more and more control over the entire Chiefs’ organization, he started to fall into the trap of hiring his old buddies and building a cadre of yes-men. All three of the coaches since Schottenheimer were (and still are) personal friends of Peterson. The Vice-Presidents, the scouting heads, the director of player personnel, etc, are Peterson cronies. Edwards has followed the same path and has hired his cronies as assistant coaches. It is a clear case of organizational stagnation. Everyone has become complacent. The problem is that KC is in a re-building situation and “fat & happy” managers aren’t capable of doing what’s needed.
Unfortunately, we’re going to have to wait until the end of a long, dismal season to find out at whether Clark Hunt is also complacent or if he’s going to make changes before the Chiefs become the laughing stock of the NFL again.