The possibility exists that Kansas City Chiefs players will decide who their next head coach will be.
Romeo Crennel, the team’s defensive coordinator, will coach the Chiefs through the remaining three games of the season. Given Crennel’s relationship with General Manager Scott Pioli, which dates back to a lot of winning seasons in New England, and given Crennel’s experience as a head coach, a strong performance by the Chiefs in the final three games could land Crennel the full-time job.
“I really can’t look beyond these three games,” Crennel said when questioned by Packers media about Crennel’s desire to become the Chiefs’ full-time head coach. “I’m going to do the best I can in these three games and then the guys that make decisions will make whatever decisions they’re going to make. I do believe that how we play in these next three games will impact what they decide.”
Crennel replaces Todd Haley, who was fired on Monday following a 37-10 loss to the Jets. Haley was in his third season as head coach.
Issue No. 1 confronting Crennel is to name a starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the Packers. He’s already decided Tyler Palko will not remain the Chiefs’ starter.
“When there’s change, there’s uncertainty and guys are wondering about their lots in life and their positions and everything, so I tried to assure them as much as I could that wholesale change is not part of the equation. The biggest change I talked to them about is I’m changing the quarterback. I wanted to get that out in front of them so they could focus on football and what they have to do, and not worry about the questions about the quarterback,” Crennel said.
The candidates to replace Palko are veteran Kyle Orton, who the Chiefs claimed off waivers a month ago, and rookie Ricky Stanzi. Orton has already played against the Packers once this season, as a member of the Broncos.
“Kyle is a candidate, even though he’s recovering from a finger (injury). It helps that he’s an experienced quarterback. He’s seen a lot of things. If Kyle can go, we’ll go with Kyle,” Crennel said.
Scoring points, especially since starting quarterback Matt Cassel was lost for the season to injury, has been excruciatingly difficult for the Chiefs. They’ve scored only 45 points in the last six games and never more than 10 in a game.
Defensively, the Chiefs are middle of the road, but defensive end Tamba Hali is one of the game’s top pass-rushers with nine sacks, and the Chiefs’ secondary is 10th in the league against the pass.
“Tamba Hali is a tremendous pass-rusher. He works very hard at his job and his craft. People are trying to give more protection to where he is, but he fights through it and is still able to make plays. Some of our young players are starting to get some pass-rush; Justin Houston, for instance. That’ll help Tamba. That’ll help this defense overall,” Crennel said.
Crennel had quarterback problems during his head-coaching stint in Cleveland. He knows the impact the position has on a team’s fate.
“In this business, they ask you did you win or did you lose? The fact you don’t have your quarterback makes no difference. When I was in Cleveland, I had my fourth QB playing in the game and we lost and they didn’t care that it was the fourth quarterback and the fourth tight end. They asked why didn’t you win? That’s the nature of the beast,” Crennel said.
The 13-0 Packers clearly present a daunting challenge to the injury-depleted Chiefs, but a strong performance against the Packers could give Crennel the inside track to the full-time job. Crennel is considered to be a player’s coach and that makes it likely the Chiefs will play hard for Crennel.
“I think sometimes teams rally around change. We’re not bad. We still have good players and can make plays,” Crennel said. “I think we have a good nucleus here. If we get those guys back, then I think we’re going to be very competitive and we’ll be in the hunt.”Additional coverage - Dec. 14