View Full Version : Mark Kreidler: Vermeil gives league something good to talk about...

11-09-2005, 02:09 AM
Hopefully not a repost...
Vermeil gives league something good to talk about (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/columns/story?columnist=kreidler_mark&id=2217599)
By Mark Kreidler
Special to ESPN.com

He just saved the NFL season, didn't he? Isn't that what Dick Vermeil did? The coach made a fan's call with his own money. He made a player's call that, if it went wrong, wouldn't cost the player one iota. It would have cost Vermeil plenty. Everything, maybe.

And that's what makes it great.

"I figured I'm too old to wait," said Vermeil, who turned 69 the day before Halloween; and if that's how it has to go from here on in, then so be it. Maybe it's the older guys who are going to have to have the guts, or the simple impatience, to actually try something in Tha League that fires the sports world's imagination.

It's the older guys who'll have to have the intestinal fortitude, as they love to say in football, to go for it with no time on the clock and no chance to make things better if the play gets screwed up. It's the guys like Vermeil who will have to eschew the game-tying field goal at the end of regulation in order to go for the win, to bet on the team.

It's the Vermeils, maybe -- only maybe -- who could turn a league's attention even momentarily away from Terrell Owens and toward something really worth seeing. Anybody have a lingering problem with that?

Remember that concept, going for the win. It doesn't come up so often anymore -- circumstances, partly, and the percentages don't figure in its favor in all that many situations. The book often says otherwise, as many believe it did on Sunday in Kansas City, with the Chiefs down on the Raiders' half-yard line, five ticks left on the regulation clock, trailing 23-20, with time for that one last play.

The book says to kick the field goal that sends the game to overtime, where the home team is supposed to like its chances of winning. Dick Vermeil knows the book. Heck, to hear him tell it, he wrote about half of it, quite possibly with chisel and stone. Vermeil can't remember the last time he took a serious gamble in a situation like that.

And this was a season gamble, not just a game -- and it was complicated from more than one angle. If the Chiefs take their chip-shot field goal there, they go to overtime against a Raiders team that had scored on its last two possessions and had a strong-legged kicker in Sebastian Janikowski. There's clearly a risk even in the supposedly safe route. Lose the coin toss to Oakland, and you could be toast before you ever touch the ball. Lose the game, and you're 4-4 and just another team playing just another mid-list NFL schedule.

Still, you'd hear that argument plenty. You'd hear that you are supposed to take your tie and see what happens in overtime -- hope for a good coin flip, I guess. Certainly, it's what the book says. Otherwise, every coach in the NFL would do what Vermeil did.

You know what? Almost no coach in the NFL would do what Vermeil did.

And that, too, is what makes it great.

Vermeil didn't have his best running back, was missing a Hall of Fame lineman in Willie Roaf. He went for it anyway, with Larry Johnson going up and over behind the quality linemen that were on hand to play. Vermeil bet on his team and won.

The game? Sure, the Chiefs won that. But look, teams win games all the time. They win games they deserve to win and games they work hard enough to win, and sometimes they win games in which they luck out a little bit.

Almost never do they win specifically because the head coach tells them, with no time to do anything else, that it's either succeed or fail. That's what Dick Vermeil gave the league Sunday.

Wouldn't you crawl across glass to work for somebody like that? Everybody wants to be inspired. The NFL, in particular, has become a great harbor for coaches who want to play it safe. The teams look substantially alike. The difference between first and fourth in any given division doesn't appear all that vast. You can just about defend your way to the playoffs.

But you'd take one legitimately gutsy move over a hundred T.O. poses. You'd take a real controversy, the one that surely broke out in the stands at Arrowhead Stadium in the electrifying seconds that preceded Larry Johnson's run, over a month's worth of stale debates about whose end-zone celebrations are acceptable.

Remember football? Dick Vermeil and the Chiefs sure did Sunday, and because of it they're now 5-3, with games against Buffalo and Houston and a chance to be 7-3 two weeks hence. Took a chance and got rewarded: If that isn't bucking the trend in today's NFL, nothing is.

Mark Kreidler is a columnist for the Sacramento Bee and a regular contributor to ESPN.com. Reach him at mkreidler@sacbee.com.

11-09-2005, 02:28 AM
thanks for the link. Unfortunately, this team may be desperate for most of this season. Do, or die.

11-09-2005, 06:57 AM
thanks for the link. Unfortunately, this team may be desperate for most of this season. Do, or die.
do or die, maybe. but for afew minutes sunday and maybe the rest of the season the call gave players and fans hope and pride. frandpa finally showed some guts.

Bob Dole
11-09-2005, 06:58 AM
Bob Dole felt at the time--and still feels--that the LJ run up the middle was not a gamble, but the safest play to call.