For the longest time when I was growing up Black Monday meant very little for Chiefs fans. Between 1989 and 1998 the Chiefs had the same GM and the same coach. The only relevance Black Monday had was what jobs opened up that might mean other teams pilfering the Chiefs staff for a new head coach. Other than that, it was looking towards next year, assuming they weren’t in the playoffs which they usually were.
These last few years though, Chiefs fans have been on the edge of their seat, glued to ESPN, Fox Sports, Twitter, or wherever else they get their sports news to hear what direction the Chiefs were headed. In 2008 it was the first GM search for the Chiefs in 20 years and a new head coach was shortly to follow.
Nearly every year since even if there hasn’t been moves made there had been whispers. Now, here we sit yet again with Chiefs nation on the edge of their seat. Only this time, the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been.
This has the unmistakable odor of a pivotal point in this organizations history. With the number one pick, a chance to get a possible franchise quarterback (whether you believe there is one in this draft or not), and new possible general manager and head coach, these next few weeks hold particular importance.
News has already spread about the firing of Romeo Crennell, the possible retention of Scott Pioli and that the Chiefs have already been granted permission to interview Dirk Koetter and Keith Armstrong of the Atlanta Falcons coaching staff (offensive coordinator and special teams coach, respectively). Hopefully this is a sign that the Chiefs will move swiftly and not drag their feet as they did in 2009 resulting in their hiring of Todd Haley, who was not their most desired candidate.
It’s hard to discuss the Chiefs future right now as so many things are up in the air. Pioli’s future still remains “under review,” the new head coach is a mystery, and nobody has any clue what this means for the #1 overall pick in next April’s NFL draft.
In many ways this is an exciting time to be a Chiefs fan, as change always gets the motor revving, but it a precipitous time for Chiefs brass as well.
There has been a long-standing belief in this city that KC is a “baseball town.” The unbridled enthusiasm for the All-Star game this past year and ability to draw nearly 20k fans to a below average baseball team in September gives credence to that. If there was ever a time for the Royals to swoop in and reclaim the unabashed love of this city, it is now.
The Royals made a largely controversial move this offseason in trading for James Shields, but one that puts them in a solid position to compete in the weakest division in baseball. If everything breaks right, the Royals could make the playoffs in 2013 (and that’s a HUGE IF). If that happens, where does that leave the Chiefs? Coming off a 2-14 season, with Pioli possibly still employed, and somebody like Koetter or possibly the rumored Kirk Ferentz (Ferentz is an extremely remote possibility, but it’s out there) as head coach? Not exactly the recipe for a boost in ticket sales.
The long-time contention has been that owner Clark Hunt only cares about money. Regardless of how true or un-true that is, money certainly plays a factor with every owner. The only way Hunt’s pocket book truly gets affected is with the perfect storm of an embarrassing Chiefs season, retaining Pioli, no new QB (the draft is not looking pretty) and the Royals stealing all of the city’s good will (what little remains for the professional sports teams).
Hunt has typically remained a rather hands-off owner, and for the most part that is good. When it’s not good is when he allows someone like Pioli to come in, install gestapo like tactics that go as far as to govern one’s ability to have their window blinds open, and never step in to try to change things for the better. In business ethics there is something called “tone at the top” which posits that the lowest rung on the ladder will follow the lead of the head honcho. If things are going awry and Hunt doesn’t step in, what kind of tone does that set?
It’s time for Hunt to be more involved.
This doesn’t mean Hunt needs to become Jerry Jones and be the GM as well as the owner. What it does mean is that he can’t let a front office run roughshod over a once proud organization. Bottom line is this team is a reflection on him, whether he likes that or not. The perception in the national media right now is that the Chiefs are a mess and a laughingstock. I can’t speak to how other teams in the league view them, but would think it’s similar.
It’s time for Hunt to step in and truly take control of the organization. Pioli should be an extension of Hunt, not someone given carte blanche to run the franchise into the ground. In times of turmoil people often talk about “changing the culture.” That has to start with Hunt. Whoever the general manager is in 2013 has to know that it’s Hunts team. And the head coach, owner, and GM need to be on the same page when it comes to running this organization.
Hunt has been hands off but on the sidelines too long. He needs to truly stand up and own this franchise his father built. If he wants to go his own route then that is fine, but his vision needs to be clear and well communicated. In 2009 everyone thought Hunt was on the right track. That experiment failed.
Hunt now needs to truly make this organization his own, and he’ll never have a better chance than now.