KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Two weeks ago, Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel benched quarterback Matt Cassel in favor of backup Brady Quinn in an effort to get his team’s attention.
With his team slipping further into oblivion, Crennel on Monday took another stab at grabbing his 1-7 team’s attention by essentially firing himself as defensive coordinator.
Crennel announced he would be turning the defensive coordinator’s job over to linebackers coach Gary Gibbs so that Crennel could spend more time with the rest of the team – presumably the offense, which has struggled mightily this season.
Crennel wasn’t finished with the shake-ups, though. He also fired starting cornerback Stanford Routt, who sat out last Thursday’s game at San Diego because of a hamstring injury.
The move to release Routt was a stunner because Routt, who was tied with Brandon Flowers for the team lead in interceptions with two, had been signed by general manager Scott Pioli with great fanfare as a free-agent last offseason.
Routt signed a three-year, $19.6 million deal with the Chiefs, though it did not include a signing bonus. He did receive a $4 million roster bonus and was scheduled to make a base salary of $1.8 million, of which he’ll likely receive half.
Javier Arenas, who started in place of Routt last Thursday, will remain in the starting role.
“The transition (for Routt) was taking a little bit longer than I thought it was going to take,” Crennel said, “so we just felt like it was time to part ways.
“He was trying to learn the system and he trying to adapt and making some progress at that but I needed it to be faster. I thought it was going to be faster but it wasn’t happening so I made the move.”
Routt had been signed by Pioli largely because the organization decided it would cost too much to retain cornerback Brandon Carr, who signed a five-year, $50 million deal with Dallas.
Routt, known to be outspoken, was not available for comment Monday. Crennel insisted the release was not a disciplinary move.
“I’m not sending any messages there,” Crennel said. “You have relationships and you bring people in and you hope things work the way you want them to work. But the transition was taking longer than we wanted it to take.”
Was Routt becoming uncoachable?
“He was trying to do what we were telling him to do,” Crennel said. “I’ve said all along that he was trying to learn the system and trying to adapt. And he was making some progress but I needed it to be faster.
“Sometimes in relationships things don’t go the way you want them to go. And so you decide to go a different way.”
Crennel also stated firmly that Routt had not become a cancer in the locker room.
“Not to my knowledge, no,” Crennel said.
Crennel’s decision to quit as defensive coordinator likely reflects not only his urgency to turn the Chiefs around, but also to save his job. The one recurring criticism of Crennel this season has been that he has been too focused on his team’s defense and as a result seemed totally unaware of the happenings on the offensive side of the ball.
Crennel admitted that might have been at least partially true.
“We have a young team and sometimes the perception is that I’m a defensive-minded coach and I don’t care about other parts of the team, which is not true,” Crennel said. “But that may be the perception. So I will be with them more on all phases of the team. My body presence and physical presence with the team and in the meetings, hopefully that will help change the perception.
“Sometimes a young player sees you only on this side (defense) and they assume because they don’t see you, that you don’t care. And that’s not the case and it never has been the case. But if that’s the perception of one player, then I need to change that.”
Asked if this was entirely his decision and one not mandated by Pioli, Crennel said, “Of course.”
Crennel also said his decision was not a reflection on the job performance of new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, though Crennel did suggest he would get more involved in the flow of the offensive play calling during the game.
“I think by my being involved a little more in the offense,” Crennel said, “I might be able to say ‘I want this play’ or ‘I want that play’ a little more because I have been relying on Brian while I’ve been focusing on the defense. Brian has a good offensive mind and I’m not afraid to rely on him.
“This is just me and me trying to make this team better.”
Also on Monday, Crennel would not make a commitment to his starting quarterback for next Monday’s game at Pittsburgh. Quinn, who missed the last game because of a concussion, has not yet been cleared for full practice.
Quinn will be evaluated again on Tuesday.
“When I get that report,” Crennel said, “I will answer your question (about Monday’s starter).”