Herm supporters’ favorite excuse for the Chiefs extremely poor performance this year is that Dick Vermeil left this team in shambles through poor draft picks and the trading of draft picks for veteran players. While the recent retirements of certain prominent players make this a seemingly plausible argument, I believe this sentiment to be categorically false. Retirements happen. In fact, if you are fortunate enough to keep a steady influx of high-end talent, you should also expect them to age and eventually retire. Here are a few of the excuses people make for Herm and why they don’t hold water:
1.) “It’s not Herm’s fault, it’s because Willie Roaf and Will Shields retired”
Well, to borrow from Herm himself, “Get over it!” Don’t “work around it” with a conservative offense, how about fixing the problem. Here’s a news flash: Vermeil had to replace Tim Grunhard and Dave Szott who BOTH left after 2000! Herm actually had the advantage as the Roaf and Shields retirements were spread out over two seasons. It’s bad enough that Herm hasn’t drafted any significant offensive linemen, but if you have a hole, you have to fix it now. Vermeil realized this and signed Casey Wiegmann and traded for Roaf and John Welbourn. When you have a bad leak, you don’t hire a kid who will be a plumber in four years, you go out and get the right man for the job today. Leaks can’t always be predicted ahead of time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fix them.
2.) “It’s not Herm’s fault, he inherited this team”
Well, by that logic, Herm is responsible for this years Jets, and they’re probably worse that the Chiefs. If a coach isn’t responsible for his first two teams, then we should erase Herm’s first two years with the Jets and first two with the Chiefs. That means he only has one true playoff season in 2004 when they were 10-6 and received a wild card. His record for those three years (2003-2005) that he is “responsible” for: 20-28. Also, counting the 2006 and 2007 Jets, which he is responsible for by this ridiculous logic: 33-42. That’s pretty bad.
3.) “It’s not Herm’s fault, he’s a playoff coach”
Per number two above, Herm has only one playoff appearance (or I guess two because the Jets somehow went last year). But the biggest reason why Herm IS NOT a playoff coach? That would be the fact that Herm’s best record EVER is 10-6. That is the same record Dick Vermeil’s Chiefs had in 2005 when they didn’t make the playoffs. That means if Herm’s 9-7 and 10-6 “playoff” teams had fallen on the right years, Herm would have exactly 0 playoff berths.
4.) “But Herm is improving the defense”
But then these same people will admit that our most valuable defensive assets this year are Derrick Johnson, Jared Allen, Donnie Edwards, and sometimes even Gunther Cunningham – wait a minute, none of these are Herm’s guys. This argument makes no sense. The defensive rebuilding was in place before Herm.
5.) “But Herm can identify talent and draft well”
But then you turn around and say it’s the lack of talent that is the reason for this team’s failures? Well which is it? Can he eye talent or not? Also, if you would like to see a full refutation of this notion, read my last article.
6.) “But you don’t get it, it’s because Vermeil mortgaged the future by trading draft picks and having bad drafts”
First off, keep in mind that 3+ years of high quality starts from a veteran is more than you get from a single draft pick on average, so trading away the draft picks for Trent Green, Welbourn, Patrick Surtain, and Roaf almost certainly returned more than the draft picks we gave up for them. In fact, below are the players that were drafted with the picks we traded. Not one of those players has been a significant contributor in the NFL!
Damione Lewis (1st rounder for Green)
Wade Smith (3rd rounder for Roaf)
Thomas Tapeh (5th rounder for Welbourn)
Ryan Moats (3rd rounder for Welbourn)
Matt Roth (2nd rounder for Surtain)
Finally, lets take a closer look at what Herm inherited vs. what Vermeil inherited. Below I’ve tried to identify all the players acquired via draft or trade of draft picks in the five years (1996-2000) before Vermeil’s first season that provided 3+ years of starts (forgive me if I missed someone):
That’s 11 players, of which only a few gave true long-term quality service. Now here’s a list of all the players acquired via draft or draft trades in Vermeil’s five drafts (2001-2005) that provided 3+ years of starts:
That’s 10 players and one coach, with many of those being top-notch talent. To Herm’s advantage, 8 of these 10 players were still on the team in 2006. Even more to Herm’s advantage is that Vermeil’s drafts are still recent history, so there is still a chance to add to this list of 3+ year starters, namely:
So by the account above, Herm seems to have come to the Chiefs in a similar, if not better, situation that Vermeil did in 2001. However, where Vermeil succeeded in building a competitive team in his first two years, Herm seems to be making the team progressively worse. So far, Herm has proven incapable of fixing what’s wrong with this team, incapable of taking accountability, incapable of identifying what’s wrong with the team, incapable of truly earning a playoff spot, and incapable of game planning, play calling, or game management.