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4 Kansas City Chiefs The new regime has an old-fashioned approach, including a 53-year-old, first-time head coach and a straight-ahead plan of attack

Aug. 30, 1999
Aug. 30, 1999

Table of Contents
Aug. 30, 1999

1999 NFL Preview

4 Kansas City Chiefs The new regime has an old-fashioned approach, including a 53-year-old, first-time head coach and a straight-ahead plan of attack

During a spirited nine-on-seven drill in training camp, starting
guard Dave Szott and backup linebacker Greg Favors came to
blows. Their hearts weren't in it though, and the fisticuffs
between the Chiefs teammates soon degenerated into an awkward,
sweaty rumba. That, more than the scrap itself, annoyed coach
Gunther Cunningham. "If you're gonna fight, fight," he bellowed.
"Don't stand there bulls------- with each other."

This is an article from the Aug. 30, 1999 issue Original Layout

No dancing allowed at Camp Cunningham. This dude is old school.
After 31 dues-paying years as a college and NFL assistant,
Cunningham was promoted from his defensive coordinator's
position in January to replace Marty Schottenheimer, who
resigned as coach after Kansas City had its first losing season
(7-9) in 10 years. A student of military history who's known by
his players as Gun, Cunningham, 53, has chosen to lead his club
into the new millennium by drawing on tactics that were popular
in the NFL's Mesozoic era: The '99 Chiefs will run and they will
stop the run. They will pound the opposition with big back Bam
Morris churning behind a very good line and dare foes to mount a
rushing attack against an improved, meatier defensive front seven.

"We lost our way last year," says 12-year veteran cornerback
James Hasty. "We lacked discipline off the field and on it, and
people just ran all over us." Indeed, during the six-game losing
streak that gutted their season, Kansas City surrendered 849
rushing yards. "We stopped respecting the game and one another,"
says Hasty. "It got ugly."

The ugliness peaked on a Monday night in November against the
Broncos. In a span of nine plays Pro Bowl outside linebacker
Derrick Thomas was flagged for three 15-yard penalties--two face
masks and one unnecessary roughness--yet Schottenheimer didn't
pull Thomas out of the game until after Denver scored. The coach
later suspended Thomas for one game and admitted he should have
benched him immediately. "If that situation were to happen this
season," says Hasty, "Gunther would pull that person out of the
game, and he wouldn't be going back in."

Many Chiefs fans turned on Thomas following that disgraceful
exhibition. Sure, he had racked up six sacks in the season
opener against the Raiders, but over the rest of the season
Thomas eked out just six more, virtually disappearing from some
games. While insisting that his age is not catching up with
him--"There's nothing I used to do that I can't do now," says
the 32-year-old Thomas--he worked out with a personal trainer in
the off-season for the first time. Also, the 6'3", 255-pound
Thomas will revert to his natural outside linebacker spot, after
playing defensive end for the past two seasons. "He's a bit
undersized at end," says linebackers coach Dave Adolph. "With
big tight ends blocking him all day, he loses effectiveness as a
rusher."

The return of Chester McGlockton will also add starch to Kansas
City's run defense. A bad back and torn triceps limited the
enormous (6'4", 328 pounds) defensive tackle to 10 games and one
sack last season. When Big Chet was a fat rookie with the
Raiders in 1992, his first position coach was Cunningham, who to
this day brooks no guff from him. McGlockton will line up
alongside Dan Williams, who had 10 1/2 sacks in '97, sat out
last season in a contract dispute and was inspired to return by
Cunningham's promotion--not to mention a six-year, $28 million
contract.

Cunningham not only comes into his new job with no head-coaching
experience, but he must also go head-to-head twice a season with
the Broncos' Mike Shanahan and the Seahawks' Mike Holmgren, who
between them have won the last three Super Bowls. Cunningham is
amused by the suggestion that he should be intimidated by the
prospect of coaching against such reputed geniuses. He respects
them and cannot wait to match wits with them. Early in camp
Cunningham talked about how Gen. George S. Patton had stood on a
hill in North Africa before a battle with Field Marshal Erwin
Rommel and said, "Rommel, you magnificent bastard, I've read
your book."

Cunningham has not read his opponents' playbooks; the time he
puts in studying film just makes it seem that way. He respects
his peers but doesn't fear them. True, Kansas City's offense
could be one of the league's poorest in '99 (the number of games
quarterback Elvis Grbac will start before being replaced by
Warren Moon is a hot wager in Kansas City), but with the renewed
emphasis on fundamentals, the Chiefs could return to their
winning ways.

--A.M.

COLOR PHOTO: MIKE DEHOOG/TDP Doubting Thomas K.C. fans wonder if Thomas, at 32 and coming off a poor season, can still be an effective pass rusher.COLOR PHOTO: TODD ROSENBERG

SCHEDULE

Sept. 12 at Chicago
19 DENVER
26 DETROIT
Oct. 3 at San Diego
10 NEW ENGLAND
17 Open date
21 at Baltimore (Thurs.)
31 SAN DIEGO
Nov. 7 at Indianapolis
14 at Tampa Bay
21 SEATTLE
28 at Oakland
Dec. 5 at Denver
12 MINNESOTA
18 PITTSBURGH (Sat.)
26 at Seattle
Jan. 2 OAKLAND

FAST FACTS

1998 Record 7-9 (4th in AFC West)
NFL rank (rush/pass/total): offense 23/16/19; defense 18/7/9

1999 Schedule strength NFL rank: 16 Opponents' 1998 winning
percentage: .496 Games against playoff teams: 4

STINGY STREAK

The Chiefs finished 1998 with a plus-one net turnover
differential, marking the ninth consecutive season in which they
have had more takeaways than giveaways. This is the second time
in the last 21 years that Kansas City has fashioned such a
streak; since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger only one team has had a
longer run of seasons (10) forcing more turnovers than it
committed, an achievement the Chiefs could tie this year.

Team Seasons Years W-L-T Pct. Coaches during streak

Eagles 10 1986-95 89-69-1 .563 Buddy Ryan, Rich Kotite,
Ray Rhodes

Chiefs 9 1990-98 93-51 .646 Marty Schottenheimer

Chiefs 9 1978-86 61-76 .445 Marv Levy, John Mackovic

Dolphins 9 1970-78 94-33-1 .740 Don Shula

49ers 8 1983-90 96-30-1 .760 Bill Walsh, George Seifert

PLAYER TO WATCH

It's a testament to the talent of Tony Gonzalez that in his
second NFL season he set a Chiefs record for catches by a tight
end (59) and was widely thought to have had a subpar season.
"Was too much expected of Tony?" asks offensive coordinator
Jimmy Raye. "Yes. He's so physically gifted, we forget he's
still a baby." Having also played basketball at Cal, Gonzalez
was spared spring football practice and as a result came into
the league less polished than most rookies. Still, he got
noticed when he had 33 catches as a reserve that first year.
This season Gonzalez will be critical in helping take pressure
off quarterback Elvis Grbac, who needs to get off to a good
start and keep his confidence up.

PROJECTED LINEUP WITH 1998 STATISTICS

Coach: Gunther Cunningham
First season with Chiefs (0-0 in NFL)

Offensive Backs PVR*

QB Elvis Grbac 106
188 att. 98 comp. 52.1% 1,142 yds. 5 TDs 12 int. 53.1 rtg.

RB Bam Morris 52
132 att. 489 yds. 3.7 avg. 12 rec. 95 yds. 7.9 avg. 8 TDs

RB Kimble Anders 174
58 att. 230 yds. 4.0 avg. 64 rec. 462 yds. 7.2 avg. 3 TDs

FB Tony Richardson 290
20 att. 45 yds. 2.3 avg. 2 rec. 13 yds. 6.5 avg. 2 TDs

Receivers, Specialists, Offensive Linemen
[PVR]
WR Derrick Alexander 75 54 rec. 992 yds. 4 TDs
WR Andre Rison 88 40 rec. 542 yds. 5 TDs
WR Joe Horn 225 14 rec. 198 yds. 1 TD
TE Tony Gonzalez 121 59 rec. 621 yds. 2 TDs
K Pete Stoyanovich 92 34/34 XPs 27/32 FGs 115 pts.
PR Tamarick Vanover 306 27 ret. 9.8 avg. 0 TDs
KR Tamarick Vanover 306 41 ret. 23.3 avg. 0 TDs
LT Glenn Parker 6'5" 305 lbs. 15 games 15 starts
LG Dave Szott 6'4" 290 lbs. 1 game 1 start
C Tim Grunhard 6'2" 299 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
RG Will Shields 6'3" 308 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
RT Victor Riley 6'5" 315 lbs. 16 games 15 starts

Defense

LE John Browning 30 tackles 0 sacks
LT Chester McGlockton 27 tackles 1 sack
RT Dan Williams 47 tackles 10 1/2 sacks
RE Leslie O'Neal 45 tackles 4 1/2 sacks
OLB Derrick Thomas 42 tackles 12 sacks
MLB Marvcus Patton[1] 143 tackles 3 sacks
OLB Donnie Edwards 124 tackles 6 sacks
CB Cris Dishman[1] 66 tackles 2 int.
SS Reggie Tongue 98 tackles 2 sacks
FS Jerome Woods 81 tackles 2 int.
CB James Hasty 63 tackles 4 int.
P Louie Aguiar 75 punts 43.0 avg.

[1]New acquisition (R) Rookie (statistics for final college
year) *PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 122)