The former fighter pilot had them. No chuckles, no one-liners, no tee-hees behind the hand. They ate it up. "Veterans, guys from offense and defense, everybody packed in for Frank's meetings when he was special-teams coach," says former Chiefs guard Tom Condon.
Gansz was named head coach on Jan. 10, replacing John Mackovic, who last year led the Chiefs to their first playoff game since 1971. Mackovic was fired a week after he had been offered a two-year extension on his contract. While he was thinking over the offer, the Chiefs withdrew it. Owner Lamar Hunt decided that the club's "chemistry" wasn't right under Mackovic.
Gansz inherits a defense that should be terrific. The secondary is the league's best, and it operates behind an improved pass rush. The Chiefs use the 4-3 now, thanks to the resurgence of sack artist Mike Bell at end.
The offense, however, ranked dead last in '86. The Chiefs hope their first two draft picks, running backs Paul Palmer and Christian Okoye, can revive it. The 253-pound Okoye looked impressive in the early exhibitions, even if he didn't always hit the right holes. Palmer didn't do much. Quarterback Bill Kenney, who took over for Todd Blackledge in midseason, seems to have slipped. Defense, special teams and fire in the eye once again appear to be the key ingredients for the Chiefs.
In the '60s they were the Eleven Angry Men. Then they were the team of Pride and Poise. Next was Commitment to Excellence. Now the Los Angeles Raiders are Bo's Hobby. That's what Kansas City Royals outfielder Bo Jackson said football would be for him when he announced he wanted to spend the baseball off-season running and blocking for the Raiders. Some say Bo will make the transition as smoothly as a centerfielder hitting the cutoff man. Others smile and note that Bo will get a rude awakening when he runs into some of those hobbyhorses in the NFL. However Jackson fares, the Raider operation is built on a hope and a prayer.
The offensive line, which allowed a club-record 64 sacks in '86, is in for a reshuffling. Mostly same faces as last year, some improved, some disproved, some just hanging on, some switching positions. There could be four new starters, the one possible newcomer being No. 1 draft choice John Clay. Only Pro Bowler Don Mosebar is secure at center.
There is a lot of head-scratching over quarterback. Rusty Hilger is a hopeful dream. Marc Wilson is shell-shocked and battered. A year ago he was trade bait. Doug Williams still hopes rumors that Washington will trade him to the Raiders have substance. Hovering over everything, like the Ghost of Christmas Past, is 39-year-old Jim Plunkett.
Canada and the Packers supplied the Raiders with wideouts (Swervin') Mervyn Fernandez and James Lofton, respectively. Coach Tom Flores hopes the two imports will give him the classic receiving package of possession on one side and speed on the other. Last year, with Marcus Allen hobbling, tight end Todd Christensen was L.A.'s only reliable possession guy. Granted, Todd was terrific, but the package wasn't sound.
Even with Howie Long and Mike Haynes playing hurt, the defense was formidable in '86. But guys from all over the roster were being pulled out of hospital beds and told to get out there and play. Some players were so banged up they even hoped the team wouldn't make the playoffs.
San Diego Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts is 36. His bad back is a lot older. The club doubts that Fouts can make it through the season. But there's no real quality behind him. The rest of the operation is a house of cards that could collapse at any time.