Dick Vermeil, who emerged from retirement to coach the struggling St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl championship, is once again starting over — this time in Kansas City.
Vermeil was formally named head coach of the Chiefs today by team president and general manager Carl Peterson, who enticed his old friend out of a second retirement with a three-year deal worth a reported $10 million.
Addressing reporters at Arrowhead Stadium, Vermeil said the biggest reason he came back was because of his friendship with Peterson, and "also realizing what I am as a coach. That's what I am."
Among the Highest-Paid Coaches
Vermeil's hiring is a coup for Peterson, who has always wanted his friend to coach the Chiefs. Now, with one of the NFL's richest coaching contracts and the blessing of NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, he's got his wish.
"I think he is the premier head football coach in the National Football League," Peterson said, repeating a statement he made two days earlier.
Vermeil's contract would be among the biggest for an NFL coach. Mike Holmgren of Seattle makes $4 million a year, while Minnesota's Dennis Green makes $3 million. Both have formal front-office responsibilities along with on-the-field coaching.
Before Marty Schottenheimer took over the team in 1989 and led the Chiefs to seven playoff appearances in 10 seasons, Peterson tried unsuccessfully to lure Vermeil out of retirement. The Chiefs and Vermeil rarely lost touch; Vermeil often performed color commentary on Chiefs preseason broadcasts during the 1990s.
To get Vermeil, the Chiefs will give the Rams — the team Vermeil coached to the 2000 Super Bowl title — their second-round draft pick this year and a third-rounder in 2002. That third-round pick will come courtesy of the Washington Redskins, who gave the Chiefs the pick in exchange for the rights to Schottenheimer.
Vermeil will also repay the $500,000 the Rams paid him last year on a consultant contract he signed after unexpectedly resigning after the Super Bowl victory over Tennessee.
Longstanding Friendship Helped Broker Deal
Chiefs fans, in the meantime, haven't been this excited since 1993 when Peterson swapped with San Francisco to bring in Joe Montana for the final two seasons of his Hall of Fame career.
Vermeil's friendship with Peterson goes back 25 years to their days as assistant coaches at UCLA. Lynn Stiles, the Chiefs' director of football operations, is also a longtime Vermeil friend who accompanied Peterson to Philadelphia last week to persuade Vermeil to come out of retirement a second time.
Stiles, Peterson and Vermeil were all on the UCLA staff together and then served in Philadelphia in the Eagles' drive to the 1980 Super Bowl.
"The fact that I changed my mind was based solely upon my personal relationship with Carl Peterson and Lynn Stiles," Vermeil said today.
Fans Hungry for Championship
At the beginning of his remarks, Vermeil referenced the battle between the Chiefs and Rams for the rights to Vermeil.
"If I had known when I retired a year ago that I would ask Paul Tagliabue to allow me to come back a year later, I would have never left. I would have never left. And I mean that sincerely.
"The [Rams] coaching staff, the players, were the finest group I've ever been around."
Vermeil might not be the only member of the Rams' Super Bowl staff working in Kansas City. He has said he'll also talk to Al Saunders as offensive coordinator as well as former defensive line coach Carl Hairston. Saunders and Hairston both coached in Kansas City under Schottenheimer.
Once his staff is assembled, Vermeil will be dealing with a team that went 16-16 the past two seasons under Gunther Cunningham, who was fired as soon as Vermeil agreed to take the job.
He'll be dealing with a team that hasn't made the playoffs in three straight years and hasn't won a playoff game since the 1993 season.
"I have no idea how close or how far away the Chiefs are right now," Vermeil said.
"I saw them play once [this past season] and they beat Carolina, which I was impressed with because I know how much trouble the Rams had with them. But there'll be plenty of time to dive into personnel matters. I just hope we can give the fans what they're hungry for."