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A Fan's Notes: O, Romeo!


Writer and sports commentator Victor Wishna greeted this week's news of the Kansas City Chiefs' interim-become-permanent coach the way many others did: with a tribute to The Bard of Avon.

Friday on Up to Date, Wishna returned with A Fan's Notes and his take on the Chiefs' selection.

By now, you may have heard the news: the Kansas City Chiefs are in love. They have found their Romeo. This week, in a public ceremony—er, press conference—owner Clark Hunt and general manager Scott Pioli made it official: Romeo Crennel is the Chiefs’ twelfth and newest head coach.

“This is a very exciting day for the Chiefs franchise,” Hunt said.

“I’m excited about this day,” added Pioli.

“To be sitting here…is very special,” Crennel blushed.

Yet, as Romeo knows, the course of true love never did run smooth… especially in the National Football League. NFL front offices and fan bases can be fickle, and most head-coach relationships end up…star-crossed.

A few lucky legends get to retire with grace. But otherwise, the divorce rate is somewhere near a hundred percent. The average tenure of an NFL head coach is just three-and-a-half seasons. The Oakland Raiders, who have had six coaches in the last ten years, just fired Hue Jackson after one season—perhaps as a tribute to late owner Al Davis, whose famous motto was “Just win, baby…or your fired.”

The Chiefs and their fans have their own litany of love’s labor’s lost. Of course, you never forget your first: Hank Stram was so beloved for bringing K.C. its first and only Super Bowl title that he wasn’t fired until four years later. In more recent times, Marty Schottenheimer seemed like the one... Gunther Cunningham proved he was better when he was just a friend... Dick Vermeil was good for a rebound. And Herm Edwards? Hey—we all make mistakes.

Todd Haley was supposed to be the Chiefs’ young dynamo, and his strident sideline style sparked us briefly back from our despair…but in the end, all that sound and fury—let’s just say he doth protest too much. By early this season, Haley—facing the sting of defeat at Arrowhead and the outrageous misfortune of injury after injury—had stopped shaving or—so it seemed—showering or doing laundry altogether. “Todd was always himself,” said Hunt after Haley’s dismissal, “and I don’t fault him for that at all.” Ah, parting is such sweet sorrow.

But as the Chiefs again find themselves out of the playoffs, and we fans face yet another winter of our discontent, it’s only natural to be a little giddy at the start of this new romance.

The courtship with Romeo as interim coach began with one of those historically great first dates. Crennel’s Chiefs not only defeated but outplayed the unbeaten defending Super Bowl-champion Green Bay Packers. And getting the best of Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos on New Year’s Day was a great way to start off 2012, even if the Broncos are the ones in the playoffs. Hey—if you can’t join ’em, beat ’em.

Crennel and the Chiefs look like a stable match. He seems well-liked and respected by his players, and—like most head coaches—has been a head coach before, in Cleveland, until he was fired. “That didn’t turn out like I wanted it to,” he said.

No doubt, he also knows things didn’t wrap up so nicely for his namesake—yes, Crennel really is named for that Romeo. He even has a sister named Juliet.

And of course, it’s not all up to him—the best coordinators and the right starting quarterback would help. But after recent seasons of Chiefs tragedy, maybe this Romeo can bring some comedy—you know, the good Shakespearean kind, which isn’t all that funny, but always has a happy ending.

As someone once wrote, “All’s well that ends well.”

Victor Wishna is a contributing author and commentator for Up to Date.
Stephen Steigman is director of Classical KC and chief of broadcast operations for KCUR 89.3 and 91.9 Classical KC. You can email him at stephen@kcur.org.