Death of Chiefs' Hunt places GM Peterson on hot seat
Posted: Thursday December 21, 2006 2:08PM; Updated: Thursday December 21, 2006 2:08PM
With the death of his boss of almost two decades, Lamar Hunt (right), Chiefs GM Carl Peterson is coming under scrutiny for his failure to get K.C. to the Super Bowl.
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He has a grumpy, outspoken star, an increasingly perturbed paying public and, barring a drastic turn of events, another appointment-free January in his immediate future.
On a positive note, Chiefs president/general manager/CEO Carl Peterson still has more executive titles than anyone in pro football, at least for the time being. But given the fact that his longtime employer, Kansas City owner Lamar Hunt, passed away last week, Peterson has legitimate reason to worry that his 18-year tenure as the franchise's leading powerbroker may soon come to an end.
Of the five general managers (or de facto GMs) most likely to be fired after the 2006 season -- we list the four others below -- Peterson is the one whose name is certain to cause a double-take. After all, he has done some very good things during his time in Kansas City, from drafting studs like Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith in the late-'80s to shrewdly stealing coach Herm Edwards from the Jets after last season. His teams are almost always competitive, and the Chiefs' forgiving fan base has, until very recently, remained vibrant and engaged.
That said, if I told you that only five NFL franchises have made only a single playoff appearance over the past nine years, would you believe that Kansas City (a divisional-round loser at home to the Colts three years ago, by the way) is one of them, joining Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Arizona?
Peterson and I have had our differences over the years, but that's not what this is about -- to be sure, I am the least of Peterson's concerns right now. In the wake of the Chiefs' three-game losing streak that has dropped them to 7-7 and put them on the brink of playoff elimination, the natives are getting restless.
One fan, 45-year-old Phil Malloy, told the Kansas City Star earlier this week, "Since he took over, every team in our old division (Seattle, Oakland, Denver, San Diego) has gone to the Super Bowl, and recently we can't even get to the playoffs. Carl's the one who makes the decisions."
Also in the Star, columnist Joe Posnanski assessed the Chiefs' recent struggles and marveled at Peterson's uncanny ability to avoid blame. Wrote Posnanski: "What Peterson has done -- I think better than anyone in sports -- is convince everyone that his mediocre teams are actually good and promising. How? He has kept the Chiefs from having one of those comical 3-13 seasons. He has always found players with star quality -- Derrick Thomas to Joe Montana to Marcus Allen to Priest Holmes to Larry Johnson. And the Chiefs have just missed the playoffs enough times to keep everybody coming back for more."
I have to confess that after attending Kansas City's disastrous season opener against the Bengals -- the Chiefs lost 23-10 and starting quarterback Trent Green suffered a brutal concussion that would keep him out for more than two months -- I viewed a crash-and-burn as a foregone conclusion.
To Edwards' credit, he rallied the team from an 0-2 start to win seven of its next nine games. Offensive coordinator Mike Solari had success with a buttoned-down, ball-control attack, and veteran backup Damon Huard performed better in Green's absence than anyone outside of his household could have reasonably expected.
That strategy, however, could only take Kansas City so far, even after Green returned in mid-November. And after the Chiefs' 20-9 defeat to the Chargers last Sunday night, Johnson, the team's star halfback, vented to reporters, saying, "We need to sit down and change something. This is getting ridiculous... It's tough running against a brick wall until you break it open, you know? You see other teams do different things... When you do the same thing over and over again, a good defense... they're going to do things to stop you."