Word came out last week that both Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel had been told by somebody in the Kansas City Chiefs organization that they would not be retained at the end of the year. All parties involved have denied the rumor, but it’s not exactly going out on a limb as most have suspected both Crennel and Pioli’s days were numbered since mid-season.
It seems pretty easy to see that Crennel is gone no matter which way the Chiefs decide to go. He is 28-54 as a head coach both here and in Cleveland.
But Pioli is a different story. As I wrote about last week here on 610sports.com I noted that we have no evidence to suggest dismissing Pioli is something Clark would do. Further, if he was removed, we also have no reason to have faith that he will make the correct decision on his replacement. Yet, for the purposes of this article we are going to live in a fantasy world that most KC sports fans are familiar with, in which Hunt does the right thing and makes all the right moves going in to next season.
The question as always then turns to where do the Chiefs look? Who has the experience, the pedigree, the dedication, and the ability to be the “perfect fit” for this organization? This also has to be determined while looking back and realizing that Scott Pioli was deemed the “perfect fit.”
Ultimately, that has to be the first place the Chiefs look—right in the mirror. Many have said it and it still remains true that Clark Hunt has to look at the mistakes he made last time and be sure not to repeat them. The greatest fear is that Hunt is arrogant enough to think that he didn’t make a mistake, that 2012 was just an anomaly, and if it were truly up to him the current regime would be retained. As of now, all signs point to this being bigger than any possible arrogance and a house-cleaning is due.
Instead of looking at candidates I’m going to take a different approach here. Fact is, most of us have no idea about who coaches really are and how they operate. We don’t know what a GM’s philosophy is or how much they really had to do with any perceived success of their current organization. And just about everybody universally applauded the Chiefs for the hires of Pioli and Haley so we all know that sometimes perception isn’t quite reality.
Instead, I’ll take a look at what the Chiefs need to focus on in their search instead of whom.
What’s more important than the position the person fills is who they really are. I think most would agree that the Pioli fans know of now isn’t the football wizard we all thought we were getting. This comes back on Hunt. He should have done his diligence to determine if Pioli was truly the right man for the job or not.
In 2009 when Pioli was hired, it wasn’t actually Scott Pioli they brought on board, it was his reputation. Hunt went up to New England where a franchise he envied, owned by a man he revered, produced someone who was a 3-time executive of the year and who sports pundits and experts couldn’t stop raving about. Whispers were out there that maybe even Pioli was the true reason behind the New England dynasty. Pioli was the white whale and Hunt was Ahab on a mission to harpoon the GM that would solidify him as one of the best owners in the game.
But like all tragedies it ran a twisted and painful course that is still heading towards a (hopeful) resolution.
There doesn’t appear to be a Scott Pioli around this time. No slam-dunk hire that is a surefire bet to turn around a franchise. No football genius that will bring Super Bowl trophies back to this town. In this coming search, the Chiefs have their work cut out for them.
Most importantly, the Chiefs need to find a GM and coach with an eye towards the future, not the past. All too often over the last 20-plus years the Chiefs have been chasing ghosts. Well, chasing some and batting away others.
It’s well known the Chiefs haven’t won a game with a quarterback they’ve drafted since 1987. The failure of Todd Blackledge is like a bad haircut. People walking down the street probably can’t tell, but when you look in the mirror you know it’s there.
Because of this one instance this organization has balked at drafting another quarterback in the first round for going on 30 years now. Instead, they have gone the route of re-treads. They made a bold trade for the legend Joe Montana in 1993, it paid off with a trip to the AFC Championship game, and they haven’t won a playoff game since. But that failure doesn’t mean any change in methods. Instead they grabbed former San Francisco backup Steve Bono to replace Montana, then SF backup Elvis Grbac to replace him.
The list continues to grow and the Chiefs continue to be too scared to take a chance.
That same philosophy permeates their choices for GMs and head coaches over the last 25 years. Through Carl Peterson’s entire regime he didn’t make one bold hire. Marty Schottenheimer was an established coach who was able to carry his success over to KC. When he resigned, Peterson just moved up defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham without even asking if he was the right man for the job. Nevermind, that it split the locker room right down the middle.
Then came the hire of Peterson’s old friend Dick Vermeil. Together they made a Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles (and lost) in 1980, and Vermeil went on to win one with the St. Louis Rams in 1999. In 2001, they set Vermeil up with the backup quarterback from that Rams team (Trent Green), and tried to recreate the greatest show on turf on the grass at Arrowhead. While some of it was spectacular, none of it resulted in a single playoff win.
Then came the hire of Herm Edwards who had won a playoff game in New York as their head coach and served on Schottenheimer’s staff. This led to the worst record in Chiefs history in 2008, which will most likely be matched by this year’s squad.
Invariably, that led to the hiring of Pioli and Haley to try to recreate what they had done in their previous stops. That experiment has failed miserably and it’s been failing for the last 20 years. Every stop along the way has been an effort to recreate something that somebody else built. Nobody has tried to recreate what the Chiefs have done in that time period.
The great coaches in the game don’t try to recreate what others have already done. They don’t refuse to evolve. They grow with the game and make themselves and their team better. Bill Belichick meets up a different college coach seemingly every year in the offseason. Belichick knows that in order to keep his club at the top of the heap he has to keep Tom Brady healthy, and be ahead of the curve.
This is what the Chiefs need to look for in their next regime. If they want to be set up long-term as an organization they need to elect a regime that isn’t afraid of the game. The NFL is an incredibly dynamic league. Rules change every offseason. The college game gets more advanced and different each year. Philosophies on how to build and coach a team are necessary, but stubbornness isn’t. It’s a plague that has haunted this organization for years and it’s time to go.
There are a lot of things this organization needs to do this offseason. Chief among them (pun intended) is to turn a figurative new chapter for this organization, both in personnel and in spirit. The Chiefs lone Super Bowl victory was over 40 years ago. The bust of Blackledge is 30 years gone. Tradition is great and should be respected, but not chased. It’s time for Hunt to truly be bold.
He doesn’t need to hire a reputation, a past or a philosophy. He needs to hire a person who can lead this organization into the future and not the past.