"I got fired at Stanford and I had five straight winning seasons there. Only two coaches in the history of Stanford had five straight winning seasons. One of them was Pop Warner and the other was me. So I don't feel I failed."
For Steve Ortmayer, 34, Kansas City was his first shot at coaching in the NFL, and as a result of what happened last season, possibly his last. Ortmayer, who supervised the Chiefs' special teams, has left the profession by his own choice, moving to Oakland to be director of pro scouting for the Raiders. He assumed that post after rejecting Marv Levy's request that he stay with the Chiefs as an assistant coach.
"This thing that happened to us and all the other coaching situations in the NFL this year certainly have had an effect on the way I look at the coaching profession," Ortmayer says. "The turnover has got to affect your thinking. The reaction to our situation in and out of football was, 'Hey, you guys got screwed.' It was the basic comment of Kansas City. The program had not gone to hell. Fan support was good, attendance was good, team morale was good, and there was nothing really logical about the timing of Paul's firing."
Wiggin is one of Ortmayer's closest friends. "I'd follow Paul into the mouth of a cannon," Ortmayer says.
The firing stunned Ortmayer. "I had problems sleeping at night," he says. "This may seem strange, but for three or four days I didn't get to sleep until almost four in the morning. Then I'd wake up at 7 a.m., and sometimes as I got into the shower I'd think, 'Hey, this is just a normal day. Nothing's ever happened. Everything's just like it was.' Then I'd realize it wasn't. It was like living in a bad dream for about a week."
Ortmayer claims that Wiggin and the Chiefs' staff were victimized by the front office's loss of faith in its own philosophy. According to plan, trades that might have brought immediate help were vetoed in favor of building through the draft and coaching the younger players.
"If you were told at the start of the season that you had to win four games by the midway point," Ortmayer says, "then you'd know that by the middle of the season you'd better have won four games. But that wasn't our objective. We followed the [rebuilding] program to the letter. And all of a sudden it strikes you that no matter what the program is professed to be, the won-lost record is the bottom line."
As a result of a conversation between Wiggin and Marv Levy, the former head coach of the Montreal Alouettes whom the Chiefs hired as their new head coach on Dec. 27, 53-year-old Joe Spencer will coach the Kansas City offensive line again next season. He is the only assistant retained from Wiggin's staff.
Levy's original plan was to hire no one from the Wiggin-Bettis regime, but he changed his mind after discussing the team with Wiggin while both men were flying from New Orleans to Kansas City after Super Bowl XII. They agreed that the Chiefs now had an enormous morale problem, which might be mitigated if the fatherly and folksy Spencer, who has been in football for 34 years, should stay. He has coached teams such as the Super Bowl champion Jets and the late Chicago Fire of the late WFL, and he also spent five years with the Oilers under five different head coaches.
"Joe's a daddy to his players," Wiggin told Levy, "and they love him. In fact, you'll probably be hearing from some of them asking you to hire Joe." Levy did—and did.