KANSAS CITY — With tears in his eyes, Dick Vermeil said this is really it. A third retirement means he is out of football.
Unlike his other two retirements, there will be no returning to the profession he loves so dearly, Vermeil told a news conference Sunday after his Kansas City Chiefs beat Cincinnati 37-3.
He had told the team and staff the night before that he would step down after five years with the Chiefs and 15 years in the NFL. His retirement did not come as a surprise.
Nevertheless, he became emotional and had to pause several times after the game Sunday while thanking Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt and team president Carl Peterson for giving him an opportunity.
“I didn’t get you to a Super Bowl, Lamar,” he told the owner, who sat a few feet away and also appeared to be tight-lipped. “But you’ll get there some day, and I’ll go with you.”
Vermeil said he had no plans for the future.
“I haven’t even thought about it,” he said. “I haven’t even thought about calling a moving van.”
When he looks back at a lifetime of coaching, Vermeil said he will remember the people.
He’ll think about the fresh-faced high school kids where it all began in San Jose and San Mateo, Calif. He’ll recall the youngsters at UCLA he took to the Rose Bowl and led to an upset of then-No. 1 Ohio State in 1976.
There’ll be the memories of Philadelphia and a Super Bowl, of winning the Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams, and the past five years in Kansas City.
“I think of watching people go through transitions in their career, to go from one level to the next level,” he said. “All those things are very real.”
A head coaching career that included three teams and 15 years in the NFL came to a victorious but frustrating end for the 69-year-old Vermeil on Sunday. As the Chiefs were beating the playoff-bound Bengals to go to 10-6, Pittsburgh was beating Detroit, knocking Kansas City out of the playoffs.
The Chiefs will be the only NFL team Vermeil coached that did not make it to the Super Bowl.
“The greatest thing I take away from here is the value of the relationships and how deep they are,” he said. “They’re not influenced by the scoreboard. Nobody can take those things away.”
He said he made his decision several weeks ago but did not want to make it public and cause a distraction. He informed his staff and players of his decision Saturday.
“The benefit of a coach is I get to enjoy my own self satisfaction being a coach and a leader and a teacher. And then I can enjoy the enjoyment the player gets,” he said.
Vermeil took the 1980 Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl, and then retired two years later. He won the Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams after the 1999 season but then abruptly retired again.
He returned to the NFL in 2001 with the Chiefs.
He was 44-36 with Kansas City and led the Chiefs to the AFC West title in 2003, their only playoff appearance under him. He goes out at 125-114 in 15 seasons in the NFL with Philadelphia (1976-82), St. Louis (1997-99) and Kansas City.
Vermeil also made it clear he would like to see offensive coordinator Al Saunders move up to replace him.
Saunders, 57, has been the offensive coordinator during the most offensively productive period in team history, developing Pro Bowlers such as quarterback Trent Green, running backs Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson and tight end Tony Gonzalez.
“I would love to see Al Saunders replace me. I really would,” he said. Team president Carl Peterson said Saunders, who would be a popular choice among the players, would get an interview.
One other possibility who’s often been mentioned has been New York Jets coach Herman Edwards, an old friend of Peterson. But Peterson said he cannot talk with Edwards because he’s under contract with the Jets.
Edwards reiterated Sunday that he would stay with the Jets.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m back, so that’s where that’s at,” he said.