Vermeil has been here before

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo! Sports

The biggest controversy Dick Vermeil has had to deal with this season is whether he is resting Priest Holmes enough during blowout victories.

Which, for a NFL coach, is about as good as it gets.

This should surprise no one, of course. This is what Vermeil does. This is how Vermeil delivers. Three weeks and three victories into his third season with his third NFL club, Vermeil's Chiefs are the hottest team in the league.

"I think we're a pretty good football team," Vermeil said after a 42-14 dismantling of Houston in Week 3. "Are we ready to win a championship? No, we've only won three games."

They've only played three.

Coaches are anointed as geniuses too quickly and too often in the NFL. But what else can you say about the 66-year-old Vermeil?

The man delivers with little fanfare and little ego. He's the polar opposite of Mike Martz, his former offensive coordinator and successor in St. Louis, who always took too much credit for the Rams' 2000 Super Bowl.

St. Louis, perhaps not coincidentally, is 1-2. Which at least is better than last year's 0-5 start.

Vermeil is either too classy or too focused to care about his old employer. But the juxtaposition is notable. The two teams on opposite sides of Missouri are headed in opposite directions.

Heading into Sunday's game at Baltimore, the Chiefs have done everything you could imagine, which is exactly everything we've come to expect out of a Vermeil team.

They lead the league in offense with 110 points, a 36.7 average. The victory margin is an eye-popping 20.7. They are a perfect 7 for 7 in the red zone. The last two games they've scored on offense, defense and special teams.

"That's a phenomenon," Vermeil said of the triple threat scoring. "I think it's a direct reflection of my coaching staff and the organization and the overall talent of this football team. I think we're pretty good."

This steady metamorphosis of a down team into a championship contender is classic Vermeil.

In 1975, his second year as coach at UCLA, Vermeil led the Bruins to their first Rose Bowl victory in a decade. In 1978, his third with the Philadelphia Eagles, Vermeil led the franchise to its first playoff appearance in 17 years. Two seasons later they were in the Super Bowl.

In 1996, St. Louis, coming off seven consecutive losing seasons, lured him out of a 13-year retirement. In his third year under the arch the Rams won the Super Bowl.

Jon Gruden may be more telegenic. Bill Parcells may be more famous. But Vermeil doesn't have to take a back seat to anyone in the coaching game.

He's riding more than Holmes, the dominant back, and Dante Hall, the gifted return man. The offense is high-powered even if Trent Green isn't Kurt Warner. The defense is improving and already opportunistic.

Vermeil isn't one to pour salt in St. Louis' wounds. But it must feel good to be part of Martz-castoff Dexter McCleon's resurrection. The former Ram cornerback, whom Vermeil scooped up in the offseason, had a fumble recovery and a pick against Houston.

"Everybody doesn't see the same things in the same people," Vermeil says. "I look at things differently than a lot of people. They aren't wrong. I just felt that if Dexter McCleon played well enough at right corner for [St. Louis] to win a world championship why can't he play for us and help us get better?"

Obviously he can. And every player in red and white knows it. Just one reason why this is such a confident group.

"Right now, we're a good football team," Vermeil said Monday. "We want to be a great one. We want to be an excellent one. We want to be an outstanding one. The only way you can do that is keep playing good football until it's so well ingrained you get better.

"That's what happens to great football teams. The real great football teams, the world champions. They just keep going to a level that it takes to win."

Third seasons have always been magical for Vermeil. This one has been a joy ride thus far. The only worry these days among Chief fans is their coach will win the Super Bowl and then immediately retire.

So they've started an online petition to keep him forever.

Which isn't what they are saying about his successor back on the other side of the state.

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