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Next Chiefs coach will have long list of needs

  • Kansas City Star
  • Published Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, at 6:45 p.m.

— The must-do list for the Chiefs after they finally finished their 2-14 season is long and it can be intimidating. They need to decide on the future of general manager Scott Pioli, find a suitable quarterback, re-sign some key free agents and select a star with the first pick in this year’s draft.

All of that will wait until they hire a head coach to replace Romeo Crennel, who was fired Monday. Chairman Clark Hunt was to start the process today by reportedly interviewing two Atlanta Falcons assistants: offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and special teams coach Keith Armstrong.

Hunt listed the qualities he said the Chiefs will look for in Crennel’s replacement.

“If I had to boil it down to a few things, I’d say a proven leader, somebody who has demonstrated the ability to build a successful program or been a part of building a successful program,” he said. “Somebody of high integrity, somebody who is a an effective communicator and teacher.

“Someone who has a high football IQ but at the same time likes to roll up their sleeves and work hard, and somebody who is willing to hold themselves and the team accountable.”

Other than those general guidelines, Hunt wouldn’t provide many clues to his thinking. But when he took control of the Chiefs from his late father, Lamar, he said he preferred to hire a young coach who could be with the Chiefs for many years.

Koetter is 53 and Armstrong 47, so they both qualify.

Given their profound offensive problems this season, it’s also likely Hunt will look for a coach with a background on that side of the ball. The Chiefs will most likely be playing with a rookie quarterback next season. They need a coach who can help develop a young passer and guide the offense to better production than the Chiefs had this season.

But Hunt said he wouldn’t limit his search to offensive coaches.

“I don’t think you go into a search process thinking either offense or defense,” he said. “I don’t think that’s the way to tackle it.”

Hunt and Crennel met with the players at their Truman Sports Complex practice facility Monday as they cleaned out their lockers for the year.

“Clark Hunt said they’re going to get the right guy to coach the team and 2013 is going to be a brighter year,” center Ryan Lilja said.

Pioli was not a part of the meeting, an ominous sign for his continued employment. Hunt indicated the Chiefs would decide whether to retain Pioli after a coach is hired.

If he stays, Pioli would have a reduced role. He was in charge of the football operations for his first four seasons with the Chiefs, but under the new setup would share that responsibility with the coach.

Both the general manager and coach will report to Hunt. They would share decisions on things like the draft, with Hunt settling any disputes.

Hunt wouldn’t speculate on how far he believes the Chiefs are from being able to contend for the AFC West championship and a playoff berth. They entered the season thinking they could win the division this season but failed miserably, finishing 11 games behind the first-place Broncos.

The 2-14 record looks particularly dismal in light of the fact five players were selected to the Pro Bowl — linebackers Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson, safety Eric Berry, running back Jamaal Charles and punter Dustin Colquitt — while two were selected as alternates and could eventually make it to Hawaii — linebacker Justin Houston and cornerback Brandon Flowers.

“Clearly, part of it was coaching but I also think there are holes to be filled,” Hunt said. “We’re going to have to get better in (certain) positions. I think the Pro Bowl balloting tells us a little bit about what other coaches and players around the league think about the roster, that there are some very talented players, the five that made it plus the two alternates.”

The Chiefs will need to upgrade at quarterback, where Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn were the NFL’s two lowest-rated passers. The Chiefs also have Ricky Stanzi, but they decided he wasn’t advanced enough to play so much as one snap during a season when they had a desperate need for a quarterback.

The situation is complicated by the fact that, unlike last year, the draft holds no sure-thing franchise quarterbacks.

“I don’t know if you can say it’s job one,” Hunt said of the quarterback search. “The G.M. and the head coach are really going to dictate what the priorities are. But clearly better play at quarterback is something we have to have in 2013.

“I am confident we’ll have dramatically better play from the quarterback position in 2013. I don’t know if it will be the ultimate long-term solution or not. We’ll have to see how that plays out.”

The Chiefs list of potential free agents includes Colquitt, wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, tackle Branden Albert and defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey.

“I hope I’m here next year,” Albert said. “I started here. I got drafted here and I want to finish here. We’ll see.

“The next couple of months are going to be very interesting.”

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