Tonight in Pittsburgh Romeo Crennel will make his debut as the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. Yes, he did notch two wins, including a big one over previously undefeated Green Bay, as the team’s interim coach at the end of last season; however, Crennel has spent the entire 2012 season masquerading as the Chiefs' head coach while only performing the duties of the defensive coordinator.
The result of Crennel’s shortcomings as leader and coach of the Chiefs is a team that has compiled a 1-7 record, is yet to even hold a lead during regulation of any game, and has been nominated by many as the worst NFL team since the Detroit Lions team that finished 0-16 in 2008. Even with Crennel, a proven defensive coordinator in the NFL, focusing all of his efforts on the defensive side of the ball the Chiefs have given up an average of 30 points per game; and just once have they been able to hold a team below the 24-point mark. So not only has Crennel been absent as a head coach, but the defense that has been under his control for the first eight games of the season has been the main culprit for the team’s losing ways.
In a desperate and long-overdue move to salvage the season Crennel has relieved himself of the duties of defensive coordinator so that he can finally become the head coach of the Chiefs. Taking over the defense will be linebackers coach Gary Gibbs, who hasn’t been a coordinator since 2008 with the New Orleans Saints, a team that gave up 24 points per game. The timing of the move is interesting, as Crennel leaves his post as defensive coordinator right before he was scheduled to match wits with Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Todd Haley, the former head coach of the Chiefs who was replaced by Crennel for the final three games of the 2011 season and who Crennel worked under during the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
The promotion of Gibbs to defensive coordinator has allowed Crennel to spend more time with the offense in preparing for tonight’s game against Pittsburgh. Up until now, Crennel has spent little time overseeing the Chief’s offense: a unit that deserves a significant amount of the blame along with the defense for Kansas City’s profound struggles this season. The Chief’s offense, which was serviceable at the start of the season, has averaged just 11 points per game over the last four games. Running back Jamaal Charles, the team’s best offensive playmaker this season, has accrued just 23 touches over the last two weeks combined, an issue that must be rectified immediately. Of course, the problems that Kansas City has had at quarterback have been well documented with starter Matt Cassel logging a quarterback rating below 70 and back up Brady Quinn still recovering from a concussion and unable to challenge Cassel for his job.
Crennel is certainly taking his new duties as head coach seriously, as one of his first moves was announcing that any player turning the ball over would be taken out of the game. Obviously, Crennel is hoping that the threat of being pulled from the game will scare his players into valuing the football more and cut down on turnovers. Of course, if it doesn’t work out that way the Chief’s lineup could see a lot of changes throughout the course of the game, as Kansas City as committed a league-high 29 turnovers, which is 10 more turnovers than the second highest team heading into Sunday’s games. Crennel’s plan to bench anyone who turns the ball over isn’t the most common practice in professional football, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and it does help to assert his power as the head coach, and not just the defensive coordinator.
So the Chiefs, who have been a disaster all season long, finally have a head coach that’s willing to oversee both sides of the football, and it only took eight games for it to happen. It’s a move that’s better late than never, but at this point it may be too late to make a difference.