In hindsight, the final three games of the Chiefs' 2011 season were a rehearsal for Romeo Crennel. The team's defensive coordinator for all of 2010 and the first 13 games of '11, Crennel was elevated to interim head coach after Todd Haley was fired on Dec. 12. He had three weeks to prove to the team's front office that he deserved to be the full-time head coach.
On Jan. 9, after beating the playoff-bound Packers and Broncos over the final three weeks of the regular season, Crennel's rehearsal was over, and he was given the permanent job. To many players within the Chiefs' locker room, the promotion was a relief, as the team enjoyed playing for the coach and is excited about what the future may bring for the team under their former coordinator.
"Anytime there's a big change, it's a weird thing to deal with. You get used to one thing, and then it changes," Chiefs OLB Andy Studebaker told PFW. "As a team, we realized we weren't where we wanted to be under Coach Haley, so we said, 'Let's buy in, bond together and see what happens under Coach Crennel.' "
Following Haley's dismissal, the belief was that GM Scott Pioli would look outside the organization for his replacement. Former Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels, who worked with Pioli when both were with the Patriots, was considered the favorite. Yet few expected Crennel to be as successful in the win column or to take control of the locker room so quickly. That made the decision to hire him full time easy.
"Football players want to be led, and there is a great deal of accountability, and I'm not sure what the definition of a players' coach is," Pioli said during a press conference to announce Crennel's hiring. "Romeo is honest, truthful; he's hardworking, incredibly hardworking actually. And he's going to hold this team accountable, and he's going to hold the players accountable, and he's going to hold his assistant coaches accountable, and truthfully, he is going to hold me accountable, and that's an important thing."
Studebaker agreed, saying: "Crennel instills confidence in the players. He's extremely professional and he believes in us. Because of that, we're going to believe in him."