NFL: Chiefs fire Crennel, make no move on GM Pioli
Kansas City, Mo. • The Kansas City Chiefs fired coach Romeo Crennel on Monday, but made no move on embattled general manager Scott Pioli despite a 2-14 season marked by blowout losses, fan rebellion and a murder-suicide involving one of their players.
Crennel was fired after one full season as coach, and one day after Kansas City matched the fewest wins in franchise history with an embarrassing 38-3 loss to the Denver Broncos.
"I am embarrassed by the poor product we gave our fans this season, and I believe we have no choice but to move the franchise in a different direction," Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said in a statement. "I will immediately begin the search for the next head coach of the Chiefs. The entire football operation will remain under review and there may be additional changes to come."
Hunt said that "no final determination has been made" about Pioli's future.
The Chiefs' only victories this season came against New Orleans and Carolina, the latter coming one day after linebacker Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend to death and then drove to the team's practice facility and turned the gun on himself as Crennel and Pioli looked on.
Crennel seemed to know the end was coming Sunday night when he was asked to defend his job and said, "If your criteria is wins and losses, there's not much defense."
Kansas City will have the No. 1 pick in the draft after the most disappointing season in its 53-year history. The only other time the Chiefs finished 2-14 was 2008, the year before Pioli was hired. They were 2-12 in 1977, the only other time they've failed to win at least three games.
"Words can't describe it, to be honest with you," cornerback Brandon Flowers said. "We have to do the best we can to block this out and start from scratch next year."
With five players voted to the Pro Bowl last week, there are certainly pieces in place for the Chiefs to make rapid improvement. But four of them were inherited by Pioli's regime, and that haul of Pro Bowl players may have been Crennel's biggest indictment.
The only other teams with at least five players voted to the all-star game made the playoffs.
The Chiefs' inept offense managed 18 touchdowns in 16 games, finished minus-24 in turnover ratio and lost nine times by two touchdowns or more. Along the way, they broke an 83-year-old NFL record by not holding a lead in regulation until their ninth game.
Crennel, whose career record as a head coach is 28-55, was hired in 2010 to be the Chiefs' defensive coordinator. Respected by his players, he was appointed interim coach last December when Pioli fired Todd Haley with three games left in the season.
Crennel immediately brought a sense of stability to a floundering franchise, defeating the previously unbeaten Green Bay Packers and winning at Denver in the season finale after which, players spontaneously started chanting his name in the visiting locker room.
"That's my guy. Everybody knows that," defensive tackle Shaun Smith said. "That's not only my coach, that's my role model. My father figure. We don't just talk football, we talk life."
With the support of the players, Pioli made Crennel the permanent coach a few weeks later, giving him another opportunity as a head coach after going 24-40 in four seasons with the Browns.
The season wound up being a disappointment from the start.
The Chiefs were blown out by the Falcons in their opener, trounced on the road by the Bills and needed an 18-point comeback to force overtime in their win over the Saints.
Then a stretch of eight consecutive defeats.
Empty seats began to multiply at Arrowhead Stadium, once one of the most intimidating venues in the NFL. An organized fan rebellion paid for banners to be towed behind airplanes asking for Pioli to be fired, and the majority of fans dressed in black for a home game against Cincinnati.
Nothing Crennel did seemed to work, either.
He began the season as the defensive coordinator, but fired himself and turned those duties over to linebackers coach Gary Gibbs. He benched Matt Cassel, in the fourth year of a $63 million contract, and went with Brady Quinn, who played just as poorly the rest of the season.
Injuries were numerous, turnovers plentiful, penalties crippling and blown assignments became the hallmark of a team that was rarely in games into the fourth quarter.
Then came the morning of Dec. 1, when tragedy struck.
Belcher, a part-time starter, shot the mother of his 3-month-old daughter, Kasandra Perkins, multiple times at a home not far from Arrowhead Stadium. The linebacker then sped to the team's practice facility and was confronted by Pioli, who tried to talk him out of more violence.
After thanking Pioli and Crennel for his chance in the NFL, Belcher shot himself in the head.
The Chiefs played the following day against Carolina, and Crennel was praised for the way he stoically led a team in turmoil. Kansas City put together its best performance in a 27-21 victory.
It wound up being their last win, though.
The Chiefs were blown out by Cleveland, shut out by Oakland and beaten by the Colts before an embarrassing season finale against the Broncos.
It was enough to finish Crennel, and enough to put Pioli's future in jeopardy.
"I want our fans to know that I will do everything I can to provide them a dramatically better team," Hunt said, "both next season and in the seasons to come."