Controversy Over Vermeil Succession


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Jan 22, 2006
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GM denies promise made
Peterson says he told Saunders he would be considered

The Kansas City Star
An emphatic Carl Peterson denied Friday he ever promised Al Saunders that he would become the eventual successor to Dick Vermeil as Chiefs head coach.

“I’m telling you he wasn’t,” said Peterson, the Chiefs’ president and general manager. “Dick Vermeil will verify that. Al Saunders should verify that. I couldn’t do that for a number of reasons. No. 1, I owe it to the Hunt family to find … the best prospect for being the next football coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. The second part of that is that there’s no way I could promise him that because we have a very important diversity policy in the National Football League. I adhere to that, I support it.”

Saunders, the former Chiefs offensive coordinator, has declined interview requests since taking a job with Washington this week.

Contacted at his home in Pennsylvania, Vermeil said Peterson never promised Saunders the job in his presence.

“He told him he would be a leading candidate,” Vermeil said. “He told him he would be the first to interview or the leading interview or whatever those terms were. I was sitting right there. There were no promises made. Carl never said that.

“I brought him here with the hope that I would coach three years and he would take my place. I always felt he was head coach-caliber. That was between Al and I, and I told that to Carl but he never made the commitment, at least not when I was there.”

Sources indicated the promise was made when Saunders was contemplating taking the head coaching job at Nebraska in January 2004. It was unclear whether Vermeil was present at that time.

Saunders accepted a new, two-year contract with the Chiefs instead of going to Nebraska.

Asked what he promised Saunders, Peterson said, “That he would be considered and he would be interviewed for the job when Dick Vermeil stepped away from the job. The only thing that was promised to Al was that he would be considered and would be interviewed for the job. He knew that when he had the opportunity, the possible opportunity at the University of Nebraska and the opportunity to interview for the Oakland Raiders job.”

Peterson paused when asked why he opted to hire Herm Edwards as Vermeil’s replacement rather than Saunders.

“There are a lot of reasons, some of which I will not get into,” Peterson said. “Very candidly, when … Herman Edwards became a guy I could possibly get, that is absolutely and unquestionably my first choice. Herman is a guy that in my opinion can bridge both offense and defense and an entire football team. The other thing is that he’s had five years of head coaching experience, recent head coaching experience.

“It was an easy decision for me when I could work out the compensation with the New York Jets for his services.”

For Vermeil’s replacement, Peterson said he interviewed, in order, Saunders in Kansas City, Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Fassel in Baltimore, former Browns coach Butch Davis in Philadelphia and Colts defensive coordinator Ron Meeks in Indianapolis.

Peterson indicated plans to interview offensive coordinators Cam Cameron of San Diego and Gary Kubiak of Denver, but the process never got that far. Peterson first reached agreement with the Jets to trade a fourth-round draft pick for Edwards.

Had he not been able to reach an agreement with the Jets, Peterson said, “(Saunders) would have been one of the top two (choices).”

The other was Fassel.

“I was very impressed with (Fassel),” Peterson said of the former New York Giants coach. “He has head coaching experience, playoff experience, taken a team to the Super Bowl.”
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