Jeff Herr, a finalist in the 2011 Big Gig Contest on 610 Sports Radio, was born and raised in Kansas City. Following the Chiefs, Royals, and Jayhawks all his life has led him to blog about all three extensively at the-jeff-report.blogspot.com. He has also spent time covering the Royals for the blog site kingsofkauffman.com as well as serving for a period as the lead editor of throughthephog.com a blog covering the Kansas Jayhawks. When not writing about the local sports scene, he pays the bills by serving as an accountant.
Jeff Herr: Chiefs Officially Hire Crennel. Now What?
by Jeff Herr,posted Jan 9 2012 4:39PM
Originally, I wasn’t going to post about the Chiefs today. With the season over, the playoffs in full swing, and the dead period looming after the Super Bowl, it seemed prime time to pick up college basketball talk, or possibly even a Royals post. Then, the Chiefs went ahead and made it official that they would keep the status quo as Romeo Crennel became the 12th head coach in Chiefs history.
The reasons to like Romeo are obvious. The big one that most will point to is his 5 Super Bowl Rings. Crennel has won three with the Patriots as defensive coordinator and 2 with the Giants on Bill Parcell’s coaching staff.
Romeo came in and took this Chiefs defense from no better than 24th overall in either points or yards the past three years, and turned them into a top 13 defense in both categories for 2010. The unit took a step back this year but a lot of that can be attributed to the issues between the head coach and general manager that plagued most of the season.
Crennel has head coaching experience and a more sure-handed approach than Todd Haley. Crennel’s M.O. has been keeping things on an even keel. Romeo doesn’t really get that fired up on the sidelines, he doesn’t get that excited, he keeps things in perspective and keeps players calm. This is a 180 from where Haley was and seems to fit right along with the usual pattern of hiring coaches. If a previous coach was hard-nosed, then you usually follow that with a “players coach,” and vice versa.
With those reasons to like Crennel, there are also many reasons not to like him. Crennel has previous head coaching experience. While usually a good thing, his 24-40 record as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns from 2005-2008 was unimpressive at best. He had one winning season and no other season with more than 6 victories. It might be somewhat comforting to know that nobody has had success in Cleveland. The organization has only made the playoffs twice in the last 20 years (four of those years they didn’t have a team after former owner Art Modell moved the old Browns to Balimore to become the Ravens) and once in the last 12.
Even the current model of a head coach, Bill Belichick, couldn’t get it done in Cleveland. This might give fans a little hope about this situation. However, that’s not the only factor in play here. While Cleveland might be snake bit as a franchise, that doesn’t exonerate Crennel for underachieving. He had the talent to go 10-6, but followed that up by going 4-12 the next season. There was a decent amount of talent on that team and Romeo couldn’t get it all to work together. After he left, they blew that team up and they haven’t been able to have a winning season since.
Excuses can be made for this Crennel’s situation. The biggest one could be that Crennel didn’t have a quarterback. They went 10-6 with Derek Anderson who made the Pro Bowl that year. Anderson had a career year passing for over 3,700 yards with 29 TDs and 19 INTs. The warning signs were there, but Anderson started the next season as the starter and went 3-6 while dropping his TD:INT ratio to 9:8. Anderson and Matt Cassel’s career have followed a very similar path. That being the case, this puts Crennel in a similar situation as Cleveland. This Chiefs team will go into 2012 with a talented roster, a good defense, a defense-minded coach, and a suspect quarterback.
Crennel is being put in a situation where the likelihood of failure is high. The odds are looking like they won’t bring in a new offensive coordinator, and either Bill Muir will stay on or Jim Zorn will take over those duties. Crennel will most likely have a ‘hands-off’ approach to the offense, which is fine, but with that being this team’s biggest issue, would only increase his chance of failure.
By all accounts Crennel is a great person. He is well liked by most media members, front office personnel, and most importantly – the players. Respected teammates such as Tamba Hali have gone vocal with their support of Crennel as the new coach. The defense loves playing for him and showed at times they can be elite under his watch.
On the surface, it doesn’t seem like such a bad hire, even with his past failure as a head coach. Yet, we also need to remember that he will be 65 by the time the 2012 season starts. The list of coaches who made their first Super Bowl at that age is pretty short. The oldest coach ever to win a Super Bowl was Dick Vermeil at age 63 in 1999. The Chiefs tried that route and it didn’t work, either. Tom Coughlin won at age 61, but seems to be on the hot seat every year. The next year the Giants don’t make the playoffs, he’s gone. Marv Levy made his first Super Bowl appearance at age 65 and followed it up with 3 more. Even so, he never won any of them.
Considering the circumstances, the Chiefs most definitely could have made a worse choice than Crennel. There are a lot of reasons he fits. There are a lot of reasons to think he will be successful. Unfortunately, the Chiefs at this point haven’t done enough to give him the best possible tools to realize that success. With questions still at quarterback and on who’s going to run the offense, the Chiefs have seemingly painted themselves into a corner here.
While Crennel has the ability to be a successful head coach, he can only work with what he has. There is still plenty of offseason left though. If the Chiefs are going to compete for championships in 2012, (which they are only a few moves away from doing), they have to do what needs to be done. There is time for that to happen. The best bet for the Chiefs success in 2012 is using this as the jumping off point. They don’t need to stand pat, but need to give Crennel the tools they never gave Haley to ensure he can succeed.