Symbolic of the ever-changing NFL climate, 50-gallon trash bags lined the Chiefs locker room as players prepared to exit for the offseason.
Some players cleaned out their lockers completely; fully aware it might be the last time they step foot inside the team’s training facility. Others only removed immediate necessities.
Hugs were had, handshakes received and contact information exchanged. A group of players would gather for a final game pickup basketball at a local health club Monday evening before heading separate directions for the next few months or longer.
“I don’t know what the future holds,” said fullback Le’Ron McClain, who’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March. “I would love to come back and be with these guys in this locker room. What they have coming back to this team, the sky is the limit for them. I feel like they can do some things, so hopefully I’m part of that.”
McClain referred to the 2012 Chiefs as “they” instead of “we” mainly because of the uncertainty surrounding his situation as a pending free agent and the Chiefs search for a new head coach.
McClain wasn’t alone. Compared to recent seasons, players broke their final team meeting Monday afternoon with an increased amount of uncertainty because of Kansas City’s head coaching situation
Romeo Crennel’s status as head coach is yet to be determined. New coaches bring their own systems and, often times, personnel recommendations. A new coaching staff would likely mean an increase in player turnover.
But even if Crennel is retained, there’s likely to be some sort of coaching turnover on staff. Crennel has been clear in his belief that a head coach must be able to select his own staff in order to be successful.
Crennel didn’t stray far from status-quo for the final three games of 2011, but will put his own stamp on the team if named head coach for the 2012 season.
“We truly will see what the future brings, not only them, but myself as well,” Crennel said. “I was told that at the end of the season that I would have a meeting with Scott [Pioli], so sometime here after this season is over, I think that meeting will occur and then we’ll see what it holds for me.”
Crennel has overwhelming player support and helped stabilize a sputtering team down the stretch, but also knows that coaching in the NFL is a tough business.
“I appreciate their support, but I don’t think they sign my paycheck,” Crennel said of the player backing. “If they were signing my paycheck, I would really appreciate it and really enjoy it. The decision hasn’t been made yet and it will be made in the future.”
Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo and Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris were both fired Monday, joining former Chiefs head coach Todd Haley as the latest casualties from the NFL’s Coaching Class of 2009.
Of the 11 head coaches hired in 2009, only three still hold their job – Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, Jets head coach Rex Ryan and Colts head coach Jim Caldwell.
With Colts owner Jim Irsay blowing out Indianapolis’ front office Monday, it’s possible the Class of 2009 dwindles down even further.
“It’s a tough time because moves are made, lives are impacted and I’ve been in that situation myself and it’s not fun,” Crennel said. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s part of this business, so those teams, they do what they feel like that they need to do.”
“Those coaches will do what they feel like they have to do to try to help themselves and continue their careers. At some point in time, I will entertain whatever offers that may be there, but you know there’s a tampering rule that’s involved in the league, so no one has talked to me.”
Crennel still has one year left on his contract as Chiefs defensive coordinator, but will receive a formal interview with Kansas City in the near future.
Until that meeting occurs and a decision is made regarding the team’s direction, Crennel will continue to go forward with his regular offseason routine and encouraged players to do the same.
“The free agents, that group of guys, they get to be involved in the business of football during this time of the year because free agency begins hot and heavy after the season is over up until the free agency signing period,” Crennel said. “So, those guys will be investigating offers to see what is out there for them, whether staying here with the Chiefs is their best move or whether going to another team.”
For some of the Chiefs in-house free agents, a decision to retain Crennel could potentially influence eventual re-signings.
“I just really don’t know that’s going to happen,” McClain said. “Right now I’m a Chief. Hopefully I’ll know what my future holds in the next few months.”