View Full Version : Thompson: Vermeil's final farewell

01-02-2006, 02:39 AM

Vermeil's farewell: ‘It’s just time. I can feel it’
The Kansas City Star

With 2:47 left in the final football game he’d ever coach, Dick Vermeil took off his headset for good. He exhaled hard. It was really over.

The tears started as he hugged the people he’s battled with side by side for five years in Kansas City. He embraced Trent Green, Tony Richardson, Dante Hall.

The players, stained with grass and sweat, rose off the bench and gave him a standing ovation. The crowd followed their lead, stomping and screaming, making Arrowhead Stadium shake once more for the old coach. Carl Peterson fought to stay composed, his eyes red.

Carol Vermeil clapped along, whispering, “My heart is pounding.”
The seconds ticked down.

More than 40 years after he lost 14-7 to Serra High in the first game he ever coached, Dick Vermeil’s football career was closing, with a 37-3 victory against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Chiefs’ season was over, too, another year with no playoffs.

Vermeil lingered briefly on the field, not wanting it to end but understanding that it must.

“It’s the right time for me to go,” he said in an emotional news conference afterward.

“It’s the right time for me to leave the Chiefs. … I know I’m gonna miss it.”

Sitting in the auditorium beneath Arrowhead Stadium, Vermeil looked Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt in the eye, and the emotions came again.
The coach promised that he’d always be part of the organization. He apologized for coming up short of their ultimate goal.

“We didn’t win a Super Bowl for you,” Vermeil told Hunt.

“Sooner or later, Carl’s going to take you to a Super Bowl, and I’ll go with you.”

Carol Vermeil was by his side, like she’s been the whole time. They’ve come a long way since their sophomore year at Calistoga High School, when she first spotted the talented kid who wore his emotions on his sleeve.

“I just thought he was cute,” she said, laughing. “I thought, ‘I ought to check into that.’ ”

She’s followed him from city to city, sharing in his triumphs and failures.
She was there when he burned out in Philadelphia, quitting after cracking under the strain of 18-hour days.

She was there when he finally won a Super Bowl with St. Louis.
Their lives have revolved around these teams. The Vermeils invite players into their homes, teach them about wine, make them part of their family.

The tears shed in Vermeil’s private box after the game were for friends they’d no longer see, for relationships coming to an end. Vermeil vowed to stay in touch with the people he’s met here.

“We’ve got so many years left to share,” he said. “(Relationships) don’t fade away. They’re not influenced by a scoreboard.”

As the sun slipped behind the towering grandstands Sunday, Carol Vermeil sipped a glass of white wine, leaning up against a desk outside Dick’s office, trying not to think about it.

“I have been very philosophical because I’m not thinking about the loss, because it is a huge loss,” she says. “I think of it as another awesome chapter in our lives.”

The chapter that came to an end Sunday was especially meaningful. They’d thought their career was over for good when Dick Vermeil left the Rams. In the blush of winning the Super Bowl in 2000, he retired, immediately regretting his decision. Kansas City gave them another chance, one they’ve treasured.

This time, though, he knew. At 69, the days hurt more than they used to. They have 11 grandchildren — “We have our own team!” Carol Vermeil cracked — and they were losing irreplaceable time with them. Dick Vermeil had been thinking it over the entire season and, a month ago, he pulled Peterson aside.

“Carl,” he told him, “It’s just time. I can feel it.”

After that, only the mechanics of saying goodbye were left. Carol Vermeil went out with the coaches wives for the final time. They made her a thick scrapbook, filled with page after page of memories. On Friday, she went to football practice, hugging players, soaking up every detail.

On Saturday, before Dick told the team his decision, Carol roasted a turkey, made mashed potatoes and dressing. The family treated it as a celebration, and that’s what Sunday was: a celebration of Vermeil’s career, albeit a bittersweet one.

Every day since he started coaching high school football in 1960, he’s been moving slowly toward this finish. He’s always understood that, but it didn’t stop the finality of it all from hitting home. As he prepared to leave the stadium, he had no idea what came next.

“I don’t know what I’ll do,” he said.

“I have no plans. I haven’t even thought about ordering a movie.”

But first, before he could go, he had a few more loose ends. He made his rounds of the locker room. He did his usual postgame interview in a secluded hallway with Len Dawson.

Upstairs, in his office, his wife entertained. She saw Norma Hunt, Lamar Hunt’s wife, and the two women embraced.

“I got to go in the locker room,” Carol crowed, laughing. “That’s the first time ever in my football career.”

“It’s high time,” Norma replied.

Carol leaned in, describing the post-game scene.

“It was a big lovefest,” she said.

The wine and the tears and the laughter flowed, one last time, as Carol Vermeil waited on her husband to finish work, just as she’s done after games for 45 years. She waited, but this time it was different. This time they were going home for good.

01-02-2006, 02:40 AM

Vermeil more than a coach to players
Overheard at Arrowhead

Predictably, plenty of tears were flowing Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.

But those tears weren’t rolling off the faces of Chiefs players as they said farewell to coach Dick Vermeil. The players inside the Chiefs locker room instead kept their emotions tucked away, though that didn’t mean they weren’t feeling for a man they got to know far greater than a typical coach.

Perhaps no other players can speak to that more than Trent Green and Eddie Kennison.

“People talk about his emotions and how he cries a lot,” Green said, “but as a player, that’s something you really value. You just don’t see that much in coaches. You don’t even see that much in society.

“I feel bad for the guys on this team, maybe some of the young guys or the guys who were too closed-minded, who didn’t open up enough to let him in. They missed a chance to get to know someone special.”

Green was with Vermeil in St. Louis and Kansas City and may have the hardest time of all the players adjusting to life without him.

“Dick was in charge of three organizations,” Green said, “and in two of those organizations, he chose me to lead them. We’ve shared a lot of memories.

“Our professional relationship will end now, but I know our (personal) relationship will continue. I’ve gotten to know his family, his children, his grandchildren, and he’s gotten to know my family. It’s not a relationship that will just end.”

Vermeil talked glowingly of his admiration for Kennison, a player he traded when they were in St. Louis but a player whom Vermeil gave a second chance with the Chiefs.

“He took a chance on me,” Kennison said. “I was a player who was out of work, sitting at home, and he called and gave me an opportunity.

“There just aren’t many coaches like him. There aren’t many coaches that caring. He’s an emotional guy, and that’s something very refreshing, to see him wear his emotions on his sleeve.

“This is a coach and a man who will take you into his home, take your family into his home. You just don’t see that very often. That’s priceless to players. At least it should be.

“To be honest, a day like today makes you speechless.”

Kennison said he hopes the new coach will have many of the same qualities as Vermeil.

“I want someone with godly values and family values,” Kennison said. “Someone supportive like (Vermeil) was.”

Another player who was speechless was Dante Hall.

Hall waved off the first wave of reporters trying to talk to him, pointing to his lower lip, which was swollen and gashed from a hard hit on the field. Hall appeared to have several stitches in his lip.

Other players, such as Jared Allen, were especially pleased to see Vermeil go out on top.

“Not many coaches get to go out on their own terms,” Allen said. “I think that tells you a lot about Coach Vermeil. He went out on his own terms wherever he coached. That tells you everything you need to know.”

Green was the first player Vermeil informed regarding his decision to retire, and Vermeil entrusted Green to keep it a secret.

“We talked earlier in the week, and Dick just asked me when I thought he should tell the players, whether it was during the week or Saturday night or after the game,” Green said. “I thought it would be best Saturday night. But I really respected the fact that he trusted me with that knowledge.

“I had to keep quiet for a couple of days, (knowing) there were a lot of people who would want to know. But out of respect for him, I certainly wasn’t going to tell anyone.”

While there’s been speculation that Tony Gonzalez is unhappy with his reduced role in the Chiefs’ offense, Tony G appeared to be a man not exactly ready to give up on Al Saunders’ schemes.

“It’s a really good machine when we get going,” Tony G said. “I hope I’m back. I want to be back.”

Gonzalez signed a seven-year contract with the Chiefs in 2002.

01-02-2006, 02:48 AM
“It’s a really good machine when we get going,” Tony G said. “I hope I’m back. I want to be back.”

Gonzalez signed a seven-year contract with the Chiefs in 2002.


Hammock Parties
01-02-2006, 02:53 AM
They have 11 grandchildren — “We have our own team!” Carol Vermeil cracked —

How hilarious is it that their own team is also half a team, just like Dick Vermeil's Chiefs? ROFL


“I have no plans. I haven’t even thought about ordering a movie.”

Thompson got the quote wrong. Vermeil said "moving van."

01-02-2006, 02:55 AM
Yeah, I don't know what that was supposed to mean. I think we're going to trade Gonzo to the Browns for Butch Davis.

01-02-2006, 03:07 AM
How hilarious is it that their own team is also half a team, just like Dick Vermeil's Chiefs? ROFL


Thompson got the quote wrong. Vermeil said "moving van."

Yeah i thought that was a random thing to say. I actually visualised him sitting in front of his tv, crying becuase blockbuster had closed for the evening.