KANSAS CITY, Mo. — We in the media have held off calling for head coach Romeo Crennel’s job mainly because the biggest problem with the Chiefs seems to be the man who constructed this catastrophe — general manager Scott Pioli.
Pioli already has absorbed his share of heat from media and fans — deservedly so — and he likely will have to endure much more before this train wreck of a season ends.
Crennel, on the other hand, has gone largely unscathed, perhaps because he is far more likeable and approachable than Pioli.
Let’s face it: Crennel became an instant hit with the fans and with his players when as an interim coach last December he led the Chiefs to a stunning victory over the previously unbeaten Packers. With his large girth and gentle face, he became Kansas City’s loveable grandfather figure.
Firing Crennel would seem as unsettling as firing Wilford Brimley.
But the Chiefs must now move beyond all sentiment, especially after another cover-your-eyes-and-shake-your-head 26-16 loss to the Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. It’s time to let Crennel go.
The Chiefs were beyond awful again Sunday. They were helpless on offense, only scoring one touchdown, a garbage touchdown, when they were already down 26-9. They again were reckless with the football, committing four turnovers to increase their league-leading total to a staggering 25 through seven games.
And they again played stupid football, not even counting a fumbled punt at their own 10-yard-line or a fumbled snap by Matt Cassel deep in his own territory. The one break the football gods gave them in the fourth quarter came when all-world kicker Sebastian Janikowski missed a 37-yard field goal (a chip shot for him) that would have put the game out of reach by three scores. But, almost laughably, the Chiefs were offside, and Janikowski accepted the gift graciously by booting the next one through.
The comedy-of-errors routine is nothing really new, though. The Chiefs not only lose each week, they tend to set the game of football back decades.
The Chiefs still have not led for a single second of any game in regulation this season, and it’s almost November. Their only lead came after they kicked the winning field goal in overtime during the win over the Saints.
Other than that, they have lost by an average of 15 points a game, a pretty large spread by NFL standards.
The point is, we can wail away on Pioli like a human pinata the rest of the season, but the truth is there’s virtually nothing he can do to ease the fans’ suffering the rest of 2012.
The one thing he can do is let Crennel go.
Yes, it’s come to that. And it wouldn’t be so much a cruel act toward Crennel at this point as it would be a merciful one.
This Chiefs’ team, at 1-6 tied for the worst in the NFL, has completely slipped out of Crennel’s grasp.
Time after time this season, Crennel has offered little explanation as to why a team he thought might contend for the AFC West title could play so poorly.
“I don’t know” and “I’m not sure what happened there” have become Crennel’s standard refrains following losses — appreciatively honest, but far too telling he has little control over his surroundings.
After Sunday’s latest head-scratcher, Crennel was asked how his biggest weapon on offense, Jamaal Charles, could somehow end up as the Chiefs’ sixth-leading rusher with four yards on five carries.
His explanation? “Now, that I’m not exactly sure (about),” he said.
Really? Could someone at least slip the head coach a copy of the game plan?
Someone might also help Crennel a bit with game management. For the second time in the last two home games, the Chiefs passed up on chances to throw a Hail Mary pass at the end of the first half from inside the 50. Against the Ravens, the Chiefs punted on the last play of the half from the Ravens’ 43. This time, again inside the 50, Crennel had Cassel take a knee, as the fans roundly booed again.
Each time, Crennel suggested he was guarding against something bad happening. What’s the worst that could happen? An interception in the end zone? A once-in-a-lifetime interception return for a touchdown? When you’re 1-6, isn’t it worth that miniscule risk?
We’re not suggesting a triple-reverse from inside his own 10 — we’re talking about a Hail Mary pass into the other team’s end zone as time runs out.
A fellow scribe pointed out that a defensive-minded coach simply thinks conservatively. But this goes beyond conservative thinking — this is actually thinking with losing in mind, and that is the problem the Chiefs face with Crennel at the helm right now.
To be fair, this is not an attack on Crennel, who simply is miscast as a head coach. That realization was made evident in Cleveland.
It’s again the case here in Kansas City. By all accounts, Crennel is an excellent defensive coordinator, and that was his calling with the Chiefs, and still should be. But as a head coach, Chiefs fans now have the worst of both worlds — Crennel is overmatched as a head coach and he is has been distracted from his defense, which has struggled much of this season, too.
Of course, firing Crennel isn’t going to rescue this year’s Chiefs. But it will save some embarrassment for Crennel and the Chiefs and their fans because this is a situation that isn’t likely to get better on the present course.
The Chiefs now must play at San Diego and at Pittsburgh the next two weeks, and are staring bleakly at 1-8.
In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find any wins left on the schedule, and they likely could end up as bad as the 2008 team that finished 2-14, which, ironically, led to Pioli’s hire in the first place
Think about the remaining schedule. Can the Chiefs muster a win over a division foe? Not likely. Can they beat the Bengals, who made the playoffs last year? Doubtful. How about Cam Newton and the Panthers? Maybe, but they’re still dangerous. Rookie Andrew Luck and the Colts? Hey, they’re getting better fast.
And that’s the opposite direction the Chiefs are going, at least with Crennel.