View Full Version : Rufus Dawes: Style Conscious

10-13-2004, 07:33 AM
DAWES: Style Conscious
Oct 12, 2004, 1:13:28 AM by Media Watch by Rufus Dawes

Some people who know I have an avid interest in the Chiefs and follow everything written or said about them in the media ask me how is it that Dick Vermeil is so frank and candid when most coaches are just the opposite. Why does Vermeil speak his mind when other coaches seem to find the idea frightening or revolting and how is it that he has fostered a relationship with Carl Peterson, who by all appearances, exhibits such a different personality?

Peterson, Vermeil’s boss, by contrast is more close-mouthed about what he thinks yet doesn’t seem especially disturbed when his coach bursts forth with a well-directed salvo on some matter that might be best left unsaid.

Managing a professional football team has become as complex as any other business: it requires an endless and subtle manipulation of the skills of the best corporate leader. Coaching, by contrast, is ultimately quite straightforward; its exercise turns on the recognition of the head coach as supreme.

Peterson is the most business-minded of GM’s directing an NFL franchise today. “It’s hard for most people in Kansas City to imagine Carl Peterson’s personal side,” the Kansas City Star’s columnist Joe Posnanski wrote some time back and I suppose that’s true. (August 21, 1999) Being in charge of most details of the team’s daily operation suits him. It seems to come to him naturally, and he appears to like the role. He is the sort that other business leaders recognize and understand and among that community he holds great respect, or so it appears from this outsider who has some contact with the corporate community. His recent selection by NFL officials to a position on a three-man committee to negotiate the next Collective Bargaining Agreement – the most important bit of league business in the next ten years – is evidence of the high regard he holds in the NFL.

He has a number of media with whom he appears to enjoy a regular relationship, but he has others where it appears his object is to disclose as little as decently possible. I have heard him and read him in interviews with the latter that while not approaching confrontation, appear closer to a seminar, the point of which I would imagine is to establish his version of the truth. “Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story,” he is known to scold the media on his weekly in-season radio show. To those who have earned his trust he appears to give generously of his time. To the others, well, I can only imagine what he thinks.

It is significant that Peterson was a coach. The old ethos that the only way to know what a coach needs is to have been one is at the core of his thinking. Yet, he is not as closed minded as some coaches. He seems to have a knack for fresh thinking and tailoring men for the mission at hand. His promotion of the return of Gunther Cunningham as defensive coordinator, after having dismissed him only three years prior, is proof of his ability to not let ego or appearances get in the way of what he believes to be the best interests of the team. He is forever on the lookout for fresh talent, and ready to discard those found wanting. The number of his assistants who now occupy positions of power in NFL front offices is impressive. He is fond of saying that in “today’s NFL the only constant is change.”

What has not changed, however, is his undying respect and support for Dick Vermeil, who he obviously considers a mentor, a friend and the man responsible for giving him his start in professional football. Yet, no two men are more unalike. Where Peterson keeps his moves and his thinking on team matters to himself, where he can become angry with the press, Vermeil is remarkably open and is fond of saying that what the media says ultimately makes no difference. Vermeil readily admits he never reads newspapers and that nothing that appears in the press has anything to do with winning and losing.

Vermeil’s greatest strength would appear to be his ability to convey an impression of himself to his players and the public through words and expressions. He, much as Ronald Reagan, is a great communicator. Peterson, as noted, seems more guarded as any businessman would be. Vermeil looks to allay fears, arouse hopes and can bind his players’ and the public’s ambitions to his own.

A coach is in a command position. But presidents, impacted by so many factors and responsible for more than what happens on the field, have to be persuasive. Persuasion is for the patient