Chiefs' search not causing much excitement
Posted by: Michael Ash on January 11, 2008 12:37 AM
Over a week into their quest to find a new offensive coordinator, the Kansas City Chiefs are rumored to have narrowed their search down to a few final candidates. But for fans who hoped to see the Chiefs' once-prolific offense return to form under the guidance of a proven guru like Cam Cameron or Mike Martz, who joined the Rams and 49ers, respectively, the list isn't much cause for celebration.
One name that has been rumored for months to be of interest to Kansas City is Mike Shula, the current quarterbacks coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the son of legendary Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula. But the interest in Shula isn't because of his past success running NFL offenses. Far from it, in fact.
Over the course of four seasons in the late 1990s, Shula was the offensive coordinator in Tampa Bay, part of a Buccaneers coaching staff that included current Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards. Shula's offenses routinely finished near the bottom of the league, though it may not be fair to pin those failures entirely on him. Shula took the heat for the offense's poor performances and was fired after the 1999 season, but when the unit still didn't improve, head coach Tony Dungy was eventually fired a few years later.
After his time with the Bucs, Shula spent a couple seasons as a position coach with the Dolphins before taking over as the head coach of Alabama, his alma mater. His star quarterback was current Chiefs starter Brodie Croyle, and in Croyle's senior season, the Crimson Tide started 9-0 and was deep in the national championship hunt until a pair of late-season losses brought the team's final record to 10-2. A year later, after Croyle left for the NFL, Alabama went 6-6 and Shula was fired.
Considering his history with both Edwards and Croyle, there's little doubt that Shula would fit like a glove with the Chiefs. But does his less-than-stellar record as an offensive coordinator really make him the ideal candidate to turn around the league's second-worst unit from 2007?
Another candidate, reported this week by ESPN, is former Dallas Cowboys coach Chan Gailey, who was recently fired as the head man at Georgia Tech. Gailey has been in the coaching ranks for over 30 years and has made two stints as an offensive coordinator in the NFL. But his offenses are probably best described by the words of Atlanta columnist Terence Moore, who summed up Gailey's stint in Georgia as "solid but unspectacular."
For the Chiefs, though, a solid offense would be better than what they lined up with in 2007. But a coaching veteran like Gailey would be the antithesis of what Edwards is reportedly looking for. According to the Kansas City Star, the Chiefs coach would prefer a younger, up-and-coming candidate.
Maybe Edwards will find his man in UTEP's Eric Price. A former assistant under Edwards with the New York Jets, Price has been the offensive coordinator at UTEP for the past few seasons. And though his work has been impressive - last season, the Miners were fifth in the nation through the air - a pass-heavy offense doesn't fit Edwards' more conservative, run-first nature. But that fact may only serve to endear Price to Chiefs fans.
Another item he has working in his favor is that Price also worked with the Chiefs' young QB in college, briefly serving as Alabama's offensive coordinator before his father, Mike Price, was fired as head coach. It was the elder Price's removal that led to Mike Shula taking over the team.
Although Price would appear to fit with the Chiefs, it can't be ignored that he's not a name in heavy demand in the NFL. For that matter, aside from a few rumors about potential head coaching gigs, his name hasn't been in heavy demand in the college ranks, either. Hiring Price may appear like the most attractive option simply thanks to his more open style of offense, but would he be allowed to run it in Kansas City? Some cynics suspect that Edwards wants a younger candidate over a veteran because it would be easier to get a less experienced coach to change his style to an offense Edwards prefers.
Of all the candidates, though, at least Price represents something unknown. Fans in Green Bay weren't overwhelmed when the team hired former Chiefs QB coach Mike McCarthy to run their team, but after a 13-3 second season and a first-round playoff bye, not many are questioning that decision today. Hiring an unproven candidate like Price could also confirm swirling rumors in Kansas City that general manager Carl Peterson has stepped back with some of his duties, as Price would seem to be the complete opposite of a typical Peterson hire.
Whatever happens, it appears the Chiefs' search isn't generating much buzz. But as coaches like McCarthy have shown, results on the field are more important than excitement over a hire.