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Had Wiggin left Arrowhead immediately, a full-scale player revolt might have erupted. Angered and hurt by Hunt's decision to fire their coach, the players were placated only when Tom Bettis, the defensive assistant who had been with the club since 1966, agreed to take over as interim coach. Like many others, however, Bettis' initial reaction was emotional. When he learned of the firing, Bettis came into Wiggin's office with tears in his eyes. "Paul, I'm going with you," Bettis said. Wiggin said, "It doesn't do you any good to go with me, Tom. I just sat in a meeting where people said they were going to honor my contract. If you walk out the door, they don't honor anything. You're 43 years old and I think you've got to take this chance."
Recalling that conversation and the cavalier manner in which Bettis and the rest of Wiggin's old staff were axed less than two months later at the end of K.C.'s 2-12 season, Wiggin says, "I probably did Tom a disservice, but I really believed he could be the coach of the Chiefs for five or 10 years. I think if anything really hurt me, it was the chance they didn't give Tom Bettis. I believed Lamar was a better person than that."
As Wiggin packed his things, the Chief players, alone or in twos and threes, came by to express their regrets. Center Jack Rudnay cried, and so did Linebacker Jimbo Elrod. Jim Lynch, the 10-year line-backer, wanted to quit on the spot, but Wiggin dissuaded him. Wiggin will never forget the reaction of Jim Nicholson, a 275-pound tackle best known for his vicious play.
"He came into my office," Wiggin says, "and he just stood there and started to cry. Picture a 6'6" guy with a beard crying. I went over to him and said, 'Nick, don't you feel bad. You paid the price. You did everything I ever asked you to do.' And with that, he threw his arms around me and gave me a kiss on the cheek. He continued to cry, and then he kind of let me go, mumbled something and went out the door. It was the strangest period, maybe two minutes, where a guy expressed his emotions and never said a word. It was quite an experience."
The Kansas City players later issued a statement that said they were "...shocked and saddened with what has happened here today. Every man on this football team feels a deep sense of guilt for the actions that were taken. It is our fault that we lost a fine man and a great individual—Paul Wiggin. One of the great crimes in life is to have someone else suffer the consequences of your own actions. We feel this is the case today."
Later that day Hunt and Steadman held a press conference to explain Wiggin's dismissal. "We've decided in the best interests of the Kansas City Chiefs to make a coaching change," Hunt said. "We've been disappointed in the progress of the team and, in my opinion, we were no longer on a course toward the top. Paul Wiggin was a very positive factor not only for the Chiefs but, I believe, for all of sports in Kansas City. He gave the Chiefs credibility and helped us through a very trying period. [But] we're dedicated toward making the Chiefs the best and we were no longer making satisfactory progress in that direction."
Most of the assembled newsmen, whom Steadman later called "a lynch mob," reacted sharply.
"Whose decision was this?" asked one.
"The people involved were myself, Jack Steadman and Jim Schaaf [the Chiefs' general manager]," Hunt said.
"Who broached the subject?"