KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs were eliminated from playoff contention Saturday, their roller-coaster season taking one more dip when they lost to the Oakland Raiders in overtime.
That doesn't mean they don't have something to play for in their finale.
The Chiefs might well be playing for the future of interim coach Romeo Crennel, who led them to a victory over the Green Bay Packers a couple weeks ago. The defensive coordinator has provided a calm, cool presence in the locker room after the firing of Todd Haley spun the team into turmoil.
Kyle Orton might also be auditioning for a job. The quarterback is a free agent after this season, and general manager Scott Pioli might try to sign him to create competition for Matt Cassel, who went down with a season-ending injury to his throwing hand earlier this season.
Crennel, who was 24-40 in four seasons as head coach in Cleveland, has said he wants the Kansas City job on a permanent basis, and Pioli has already indicated he'll be formally interviewed for the position after the season ends next Sunday at Denver.
If it was up to the guys in the locker room, the formal interview would be a formality.
"He's very motivating. He treats us like men," star linebacker Tamba Hali said. "He does expect a lot from us, but he knows what it takes to work this business and how the body feels and we're people, too. We love Romeo. If that's the question you asked, then we love Romeo."
Defensive back Brandon Flowers said he thinks Crennel would be a good fit for the franchise, and offensive coordinator Bill Muir said he would vote for his old friend to get the job.
"I don't know how to put it," Hali said. "He's got five Super Bowls. With that type of resume, you want someone around that can help us get to the top."
Crennel isn't the only one who could earn a job in the finale.
Orton has been solid, though somewhat inconsistent, in the two games he's started since being picked up off waivers from Denver. He threw for 299 yards without a turnover in the 19-14 victory over the Packers, and 300 yards and a touchdown against the Raiders, running the two-minute drill flawlessly to set up a potential winning field goal by Ryan Succop on Saturday.
The 49-yard attempt at the end of regulation got blocked.
Orton also threw two costly interceptions, though, reminding many fans why the Broncos waived him and the Chicago Bears traded him away. He finished 21 of 36 for a 71.5 quarterback rating.
"Kyle and the offense did a great job of getting us in position to kick a field goal at the end," Succop said. "For whatever reason, that's how it worked out."
Orton will be a free agent after this season, and Pioli must decide whether it makes sense signing him. Cassel will be in the fourth year of a six-year, $63 million contract that includes $28 million guaranteed, but he was unspectacular before getting hurt.
Bringing in Orton — or perhaps drafting a quarterback early — might create some competition for Cassel that was sorely lacking during training camp this season.
"I haven't been here that long, but these guys fight," Orton said. "It's an honor to play with them. The competitive spirit that everybody has in that locker room is a great thing."
Orton downplayed next week's matchup against Tim Tebow and the Broncos.
It was Tebow who supplanted him as the starting quarterback earlier this season, which ultimately resulted in Denver coach John Fox's decision to waive him. Tebow has gone on to become the face of the franchise, helping the Broncos climb into playoff contention.Comment on this story
"You only get 16 games in the NFL, so every one of them is meaningful," Orton said. "For a player, coach or the organization, they are all important. I am sure that guys will be ready to play.
"If you ask my teammates, I'm motivated quite a bit every game. I don't think that'll change."
With questions surrounding their coach and quarterback, not to mention having the chance to play spoiler against a division rival, the Chiefs have plenty to play for against Denver — even though the playoffs are no longer a possibility.
"We've been working hard out on that field with each other since training camp. We're not going to go out next week and just lay down," Flowers said. "We're just going to play Chiefs football and try to win us a game. We definitely want to get a win for Romeo."