Playoff losers forced to pay a hefty price K.C., New Orleans, Houston feel heat

January 06, 1993|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

Call it the fallout of defeat.

In Kansas City, coach Marty Schottenheimer, fired in Cleveland for his conservative offensive scheme, is taking heat for a Chiefs offense that is punchless and predictable.

In Houston, coach Jack Pardee was told to dump longtime defensive staffers Jim Eddy and Pat Thomas in the wake of the Oilers' second-half collapse against the Buffalo Bills.

In New Orleans, the Saints are trying to deal with the dreaded "C-word," as in choke, after swallowing their fourth straight playoff loss.

If it's playoff time, it's also frying time. Here is a look at repercussions from the wild-card playoff round.

* Kansas City: It is not just the fans who are unhappy with Schottenheimer's offense. It's the defense, too. After the Chiefs lost to the San Diego Chargers, 17-0, cornerback Kevin Ross -- a defensive captain -- threatened to sit out next season unless changes are made -- particularly on offense.

"What I am going to do is re-evaluate the whole thing," Ross said. "But definitely, if there are not changes next year, I will be prepared to sit out because I am not going to go through this again. We have a good team with talent. But we don't utilize what we have."

Once thought to be a Super Bowl-caliber team, the Chiefs never got their running game going. Injuries in the offensive line and subpar years by Christian Okoye (448 yards) and Barry Word (607) dropped the Chiefs from third to 23rd in the NFL rushing. Schottenheimer finally started Harvey Williams, probably the best runner of the three, against San Diego, but he gained only 35 yards.

Then there is quarterback Dave Krieg, signed this season as a free agent. Krieg had his moments, but continued to be an erratic passer. Second-round draft pick Matt Blundin figures to get the next shot.

* Houston: For six quarters, including a 27-3 victory in the regular-season finale, the Oilers had outscored the Bills 55-6. Then came the 38-10 comeback by Buffalo and a 41-38 overtime victory. The day after, owner Bud Adams and general manager Mike Holovak instructed Pardee to fire Eddy and Thomas, who had been with Pardee since they coached the USFL Houston Gamblers.

"I probably wouldn't have done anything this quickly," Pardee said. "But they wanted it done today, so we did it . . . Coaches have to pay the price for players' errors. It's not fair. But there's nothing fair about this business."

Pardee was spared in the purge because he has two years left on his contract.

Lost in the rush to criticize Houston's defense is the Oilers' abandonment of the running game in the second half, even though they had a 1,000-yard runner in Lorenzo White. That underscores the liability of the run-and-shoot offense, which often gets in trouble trying to run time off the clock.

The Oilers are the only team to make the playoffs in each of the past six seasons, yet they haven't advanced past the second round. Given the magnitude of Sunday's loss, there is talk the team will be dismantled.

"I think this one is going to break this team [apart]," wide receiver Ernest Givins said. "You may see a lot of new faces xTC around here next year, and that's on the up and up."

* New Orleans: Two statistics tell the story for the Saints. They have failed to protect a fourth-quarter lead in nine of their past 11 losses, despite having one of the league's best defenses. And they converted only 13 of 29 third-and-one opportunities, despite having a 285-pound back in Craig "Ironhead" Heyward.

"I don't like to think of this team as a team that chokes," said linebacker Sam Mills. "But we played a horrible second half [in a 36-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday], and that's why we didn't win."

The Saints are the only NFL franchise that has never won a playoff game. They got to the playoffs this season with the oldest starting unit in the league (11 starters over 30), an aging team that feels the pressure of its playoff past.

"I can already tell you what will happen next year," cornerback Toi Cook said. "We'll start 15-0, and going into the last game all we'll hear is, 'Yeah, but can you win your first playoff game?' That monkey on our back is the size of King Kong. It's the whole universe on our back."

Supply and demand

Boomer Esiason of the Cincinnati Bengals won't name names, but he says three teams tried to trade for him before the season. The Bengals, not wanting to rush rookie quarterback David Klingler, wouldn't make a deal at the time. Now they will, though. It's a matter of when and where.

"No way I can stay here, not the way they treated me after nine years," the former Maryland quarterback said. "It would be real hard for me to go back with this coaching staff."

Said Bengals general manager Mike Brown: "All I'm going to say about the Boomer situation is our intentions are to look for a trade. We'll do it actively. I don't set any timetable for it."

Esiason, 31, has two years left on a contract that will pay him $3 million per year. He says he's healthy, despite speculation to the contrary.

Teams in need of a quarterback include the Chiefs, the Los Angeles Raiders and the Minnesota Vikings. Esiason is not the only veteran quarterback likely to be available this off-season, though. Count Joe Montana, Jim McMahon and Don Majkowski among those who are looking for new teams.

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