5 Kansas City Chiefs
Team Page | Schedule | Depth chart | 2000 Stats
Dick Vermeil wants to open things up, but has he got the players to do
By Jeffri Chadiha
Whether he was dropping back to pass or simply sauntering around the Chiefs' Wisconsin-River Falls campus during training camp, quarterback Trent Green wore an elastic sleeve on his delicate left knee. The black piece of elastic served as a reminder that while Kansas City has high expectations for Green's right arm, the Chiefs' chances for success this season depend as much on how his knee holds up.
Green, acquired in an April trade with the Rams, is supposed to be the charismatic leader that his predecessor, Elvis Grbac, wasn't during his four seasons in Kansas City. However, Green's health -- he has undergone four operations on the knee since tearing his ACL and MCL in August 1999 -- remains a question mark. During two-a-days he usually practiced in the morning and split his afternoon sessions between rehabbing and work on the field. "Dealing with the knee gets real old," Green says, "but I knew it would be a struggle to overcome the injury because I did a lot of damage. The thing that helped was being able to play in St. Louis last year. I saw that I could still perform at a high level."
While filling in for an injured Kurt Warner for eight games, Green rang up a passer rating of 101.8, good enough to lead the NFC for the season, but his two-year stay in St. Louis was bittersweet. Green, not Warner, was supposed to be the star there. Now new Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil, who brought Green to the Rams as a free agent before the 1999 season only to see him go down in a preseason game against the Chargers, is giving him another chance.
Green's knowledge of the offense -- he spent six years in similar systems with the Redskins and the Rams -- enabled him to miss practice without hurting his development. "Right now he's more like the player he was before he got hurt," says Vermeil, who sat out last year before taking the K.C. job in the wake of the firing of Gunther Cunningham following a 7-9 season. "I can see he has his confidence back, and the players see that it's his team. They expect him to make plays."
Green's best weapons are Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez, who had 93 receptions in 2000, and running back Priest Holmes, a free-agent pickup from the Ravens whose running and receiving abilities fit the wide-open system the Chiefs will employ. Beyond those two, however, weaknesses abound. The most worrisome position is wide receiver. Second-year man Sylvester Morris, who caught 48 passes for 678 yards and three touchdowns last season, is out for the year after tearing the ACL in his right knee during a June minicamp. Derrick Alexander had a career-high 78 receptions last year, but the coaching staff is concerned he may lack the burst to separate from defensive backs. The most promising receiver is rookie Marvin (Snoop) Minnis, a third-round draft pick out of Florida State who showed in camp that he can create space. He'll battle for time in the multiple-receiver sets with Derrick Mayes, Chris Thomas and Larry Parker. Mayes caught a career-high 62 passes with the Seahawks in '99. Thomas has only 32 grabs in five seasons, and Parker, a fourth-round draft selection in 1999, has three career receptions.
"What we have to do is get the five best-skilled guys on the field who can score points," says offensive coordinator Al Saunders, who spent the past two seasons as the Rams' wideouts coach. "In St. Louis four of those guys were wide receivers. But it really doesn't matter what position they play as long as they can get the ball in the end zone."
While Vermeil tries to straighten out the offense, he has to hope new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson can improve things on the other side of the ball. That won't be easy. Defensively, the Chiefs led the league in a dubious category: highest completion percentage allowed (65.2). Robinson loves to blitz, but he inherits a secondary long on suspect cornerbacks.
If the offense comes together, Robinson's job will be easier. His defense was adequate during his six seasons with the Broncos, who won the Super Bowl twice during that span; of course, Denver could outscore anybody. That's where Green comes in. He's not concerned that his limited practice time will affect his leadership role, either. Among other things he rented a luxury box at a Royals game and hosted 25 teammates. Given that Grbac, who was waived in March and signed a lucrative free-agent deal with the Ravens, threw a party last year that drew only a couple of Chiefs, Green is off to a good start.
"The guys see I'm committed and that I want us to be together," he says. "I want guys to like each other. Because when that happens, I know we'll want to win for each other."
Issue date: September 3, 2001