The Kansas City Chiefs relieved head coach Paul Wiggin today of the final 2 1/2 years of his three-year contract and named defensive backfield coach Tom Bettis to replace him for the rest of this season.
The firing came one day after an embarrassing 44.7 loss to the Cleveland Browns, with whom Wiggin played 11 years as a defensive end and earned a number of Pro Bowl selections. It was the sixth loss in the seven games for the Chiefs this season.
"Paul Wiggin gave us credibility." said Chiefs board chairman Lamar Hunt. "He came to us in a very difficult period and helped us through it. But we felt he was no longer a positive force. We are dedicated to seeing the Chiefs competitive with the best in pro football and we felt we were no longer heading in that direction."
Bettis was named replacement on an interim basis with his performance to be evaluated at the end of the year to determine if he should be given the job full-time.
"Obviously, we'd prefer to have Tom coach the Kansas City Chiefs for the next 20 years," Hunt said. "We just want to see some progress made this season. There's no more appropriate place for Tom to start than against his old team - the Green Bay Packers," whom the Chiefs play Sunday.
Wiggin was given a three-year contract during the off-season despite guiding the Chiefs to back-to-back 5-9 records in his first two years. Kansas City was impressive in losing its opener to New England, 21-17, but the Chiefs went on to lose four more games to San Diego, Oakland, Denver and Baltimore before posting a fluke 21-16 victory over the Chargers.
The chiefs recovered two fumbles inside the San Diego 15 in the final three minutes and turned them into touchdowns to salvage the victory. But then came Cleveland, which rolled up 34n first down and 526 total yards to humiliate the Chiefs.
Wiggin was called into club president Jack Steadman's office at 10:30 a.m. Hunt was waiting there to talk to him.
"When I saw Lamar there, I knew they weren't going to wish me a happy Halloween," Wiggin said. "They told me I lost the football team by their standards. They told me I was fired . . . and all the other things you tell a fired coach like they respected me and they thanked me.
"I did a damn good job. Hey, I'm a damn good man. And when I'm handing on Halloween candy to the kids tonight and when I'm cleaning out my desk tomorrow. I'm going to hold my head up. I'm not embarrassed about what happened here."
The Kansas City players met for 20 minutes after practice today to discuss the turn of events and issued the following statement.
"We are shocked and saddened with what has happened here today. Everyman on this football team feels a deep sense of guilt for the actions that were taken. It is our fault that we lost a fine man and a great individual - Paul Wiggin. One of the great crimes in life is to have someone else suffer the consequences of your actions. We feel this was the case today.
"We think some people on this football team grew up today. We will dedicate ourselves to do the best possible job for Tom Bettis for whom we carry the utomst respect. WHat we do for Tom from here on will be done from the foundation built by Paul Wiggin."
The Chiefs won Super Bowl 4 in 1979 deteriorated from there [WORD ILLEGIBLE] a number of unproductive drafts [WORD ILLEGIBLE] catching up with veteran players Wiggins took over a ravaged team from Hank Stram in 1975.