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Published: Friday, 10/10/2003

Vermeil's miracle working at K.C.

In light of what he has accomplished, Dick Vermeil could be excused for looking back on his 14-season break from coaching in the NFL and lamenting all that wasted time.

But not so, says Vermeil, who walked away from Philadephia in 1982, two seasons after taking the Eagles to the Super Bowl, because of stress and burnout.

“I would probably be in a mental institution,'' Vermeil said. “You think I'm kidding? I would have been close to some kind of a breakdown. I was moving that way.''

He returned with the St. Louis Rams in 1997 and won the Super Bowl three years later.

Now he has the Kansas City Chiefs off to a 5-0 start, and there is certainly reason to speculate that he might become the first coach to take three different teams to Super Bowls.

Vermeil, of course, knows better than to look that far ahead in the fickle NFL. But with Priest Holmes at running back and Dante Hall emerging as the league's premier kick- return specialist, Vermeil knows anything is possible.

“This is no fluke,'' he said. “This is a solid football team. I think it's a complete team. We have some areas that are stronger than other areas, but we have no weaknesses.''

The third year seems to be the charm for Vermeil. He took over a moribund franchise in Philly, went 4-10 and 5-9 and then had the Iggles in the playoffs at the end of his third season. In St. Louis his teams were 5-11 and 4-12 before winning the Super Bowl in his third and final year at the helm.

Vermeil's Chiefs were 6-10 and 8-8 his first two seasons.

“If you've been doing things right going into your third year, you should be a better football team,'' he said. “If you're not, you've been doing too many things wrong as a coach.''

JEERS: In addition to the record - Ron Zook is 11-8 since replacing Steve Spurrier - University of Florida fans are down on their coach because his game plans usually make little sense. Last Saturday's 20-17 loss at home to Mississippi was no different.

A week earlier the Ole Miss defense surrendered 661 yards and six touchdowns through the air to Texas Tech. The Rebels journeyed to the Swamp ranked 117th in pass defense out of 117 Division I-A teams.

So what did Florida do? The Gators ran the ball 35 times for 142 yards, attempted 27 passes that produced 234 yards and scored 17 points. “Obviously,'' said Zook, “we wanted to be able to run the football.''

Obviously, say Gator fans, Zook is without a clue.

JEERS: In Game One of the National League championship series, Sammy Sosa of the Cubs came to bat as the tying run in the bottom of the ninth with a runner on second and two outs.

During the divisional playoffs, Florida manager Jack McKeon would have sacrificed one of his grandchildren into a bubbling cauldron before pitching to Barry Bonds. But he pitched to Sosa - and the ball landed outside Wrigley Field on Waveland Avenue. He pitched to Sosa again in Game Two, and the resulting home run almost landed atop the Sears Tower. It might be a good idea for the old man to treat Sosa as he did Bonds the rest of the way.

CHEERS: To the St. Ursula golf team, paced by senior medalist Nikki Harbaugh and coached by Jim McGowan, for winning the NW Ohio district title and advancing to the state tournament Oct. 17-18 in Columbus for the seventh time in the last eight years.

JEERS: To all those romantics caught up in the Red Sox and Cubs. Sure, their title droughts are neat storylines, but Boston started the season with a $100 million payroll and the Cubs weren't far behind at $80 million. Romance? Bah.

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