Hunt has no choice: Chiefs must clean house

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Romeo Crennel is a good man. This is as close as we get to a consensus on Arrowhead Drive, other than the general agreement that the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs were — are — a raging dumpster fire of bad.

Crennel is a good enough man that one of his players, Jovan Belcher, made a point, in one of his last acts on this Earth, gun in hand, to go out of his way to thank him.

Then, as Crennel and others watched, Belcher shot himself in the head.

So, yes, Romeo Crennel is a strong man. There is consensus on that, too, especially after the coach and his Chiefs decided to play the day after Belcher’s horrific murder-suicide on December 1. How anyone could keep their mind on football, let alone the Carolina Panthers, was equal parts admirable and remarkable, given the circumstances. Yet Kansas City, toting an unseemly 1-10 record, went out played its cleanest game — no turnovers, one penalty — of the season, en route to an emotional, cathartic 27-21 victory.

Then, last Sunday, Crennel’s Chiefs showed up in Cleveland — physically, anyway. They got smoked, losing by 23, surrendering 30 straight points to the Browns, a offensively challenged bunch that had scored more than 27 points in just one other contest prior to that. For Crennel, that made it seven losses by a margin of 14 points or more, another reminder of the cold, hard reality of where this franchise resides in the football universe.

Crennel, his staff, and the man responsible for hiring them, general manager Scott Pioli, should be applauded and saluted for the courage, strength and poise shown on that grey, humid Saturday morning when Belcher pulled into the lot. A psychologically frazzled individual arrived on their property brandishing a firearm, and amazingly, no bystanders were hurt. The emotional cost was — and is — lasting and profoundly awful, the lives lost a senseless tragedy, but the physical damage, the carnage, could have been far, far worse.

That said, they need to go.

All of them.

Callous as it sounds, one can only hope what happened the first weekend of December doesn’t color the judgment of Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt, who will be forced to make difficult decisions soon, assuming he hasn’t made them already. Hunt’s football team is 2-11. Since Crennel was pressed into interim service last December 12 — exactly a year ago — the Chiefs are 4-12. It’s a pillow fight to the finish between Kansas City and Jacksonville, in all likelihood, for the right to draft first next April.

The Chiefs’ football brain trust may be winners in life. That does nothing to change the fact that they’re lousy at their jobs.

Hunt’s team is led by good men, strong men, men of character and steel in the face of the most awful adversity imaginable. In the NFL, character is a garnish. The bottom line is the bottom line. Win or go home.

Noble is nice, in theory. Noble and 3-13 is a pink slip.

By all accounts, Bobby Petrino is a less-than-stellar fella, accused of everything from abandoning his team in the middle of a season (Atlanta Falcons, 2007) to putting one of his mistresses on his payroll (University of Arkansas, 2012). And yet, there he is again, back on his feet earlier this week as the new head coach of bowl-bound Western Kentucky.

Petrino has more baggage than the back of Santa’s sleigh, but he keeps finding work. Why? He wins.

Noble is nice, in theory. Sketchy and postseason glory is better.

In his fourth season at the helm, Pioli’s professional failings — three losing years and a record of 9-20 over the last 29 contests — have been well-documented. He hitched his wagon to the wrong quarterback; somehow turned his coaching situation from bad to worse; befriended some; alienated others; and drove a once-proud franchise straight back into the ditch in which he found it, a full circle of misery. To trust him with the responsibility of finding a third coach and a second franchise signal-caller would likely be a personnel and public-relations disaster.

Crennel’s public face in the wake of the Belcher saga, and the fallout afterward, was textbook, a refreshing beacon of wisdom after a tide of irrational, violent behavior. The coach spoke sense in a world that seemed to be sorely lacking it.

Still, perspective is one thing; competence is another. If a coach saved your cat from the tree, then lost to Oakland by double digits the next week, would you still want him calling the shots? If a general manager was a Scout Leader in his spare time, but his quarterbacks couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, would you keep handing him the keys?

Nobody roots for nice guys to finish last. But when they do, in the NFL, everybody knows what’s coming next. Sometimes, good men get pink slips, too.

You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler

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