Find more outstanding work like this from BBS at Stampede Blue. -Primetime
Hi everyone. In case you didn't know, I'm a Colts fan, and I know a little something about team re-building. Pretty much from 1984-1995, my favorite team was "re-building." Like your Chiefs, we juggled mediocre QB after mediocre QB, signed bad free agents (Eric Dickerson), had terrible drafts (Jeff George), and set records for ineptness. The RCA Dome back then was not the loud, deafening hell hole for opponents it will be remembered for. Indy was a ghost town for football, and the Colts were the red-headed step child of the state's great sports heritage.
Then, something happened.
The old owner, Bob, got sick, and later died. His son Jim (a young, vibrant guy with a smart football IQ) took over the team and started making changes. His first move was to bring in a new person to run the football operations. This someone was someone that brought a "new set of eyes" and was "outside the organization." He was known as a "shrewd evaluator of talent" and had an impressive track record with other clubs.
That guy was Bill Polian. He used his first draft pick in Indy on U. of Tennessee QB Peyton Manning. You know the rest.
Today, the Chiefs are in nearly the exact same position as the Colts in 1997. Coming off an awful year, their new owner (the son of the late Lamar Hunt) has stepped in, asserted himself, and talked of change. And the change he has talked about sounds (to me at least) like the "good" kind of change.
Step one was getting rid of the dead weight (aka, Carl Peterson). No offense to Carl, but he represented the old way, and had to go. With Carl gone, and after reading new owner Clark Hunt's non-committal on the current head coach, Herm Edwards is done in KC as well. This means the Chiefs need a new coach and a new GM. They also will need new assistants, new scouts, and a new direction. What systems should they run? Who will they scout to fill roster spots in those system? Who will coach them? How will the front office be set up?
All these questions and more are answered here. Trust me when I tell you that this is the "How to" guide to rebuilding your team.
Before thinking about hiring a new GM, the owner has to sit somewhere, alone, and think about what kind of team he wants to build. He has to think about the current economic situation, the cash flow for the team, the kind of playing surface the home games are on, and the number of games they average in outdoor stadiums with potentially bad weather. All these will factor into the kind of team KC owner Clark Hunt wants to construct. Again, this is a real rebuilding effort; ground up, total redefinition of KC Chiefs football done the right way
WHAT KIND OF TEAM DO I WANT?
To offer another comparison between KC's current situation and the Indianapolis Colts: After the 2001 season, which saw Indy win only 6 games because their defense set an NFL record for most number of points allowed, Jim Irsay fired many of his coaches (including Jim Mora Sr.) and charged Polian with a simple job: Fix the defense, or you are gone. After Irsay hired Tony Dungy as the new head coach, Dungy and Polian sat down to decide what kind of defense they wanted. There are many different variants of the famed "Tampa 2" scheme. Some favor more blitzes (Tampa), others favor larger, more athletic DTs to stop the run (Minnesota). However, because Indy plays a guaranteed 8 games in a dome, one game in sunny Florida, and another in Houston, they decided that building a defense based on speed (not size) and pass rushing would improve the team. The results speak for themselves.
After Clark Hunt takes in all the variables (Chiefs are on good financial footing, play a guaranteed 11 games outdoors with one in snowy Denver), he can then begin looking for the kind of GM he wants to build his team.
So, at this point in our "How to" guide, I am now Clark Hunt. I'm a rich guy who owns a football franchise. Feel free to worship me.
But, before you do that, I need to find someone who can rebuild the former glory of the Kansas City Chiefs. My focus is simple: Find really good college scout directors on teams that draft very well and poach them for my open GM spot. This is what Atlanta did last year. They made offers to the scouting directors in Indy and New England, and the New England guy (Tom Dimitroff) accepted. There are a handful of teams that draft really well on a consistent basis: Indy, New England, NY Giants, those damn Chargers, Seattle, Philly, and Tampa Bay. Going through those teams, I see a lot of really talented people running the scouting departments for those teams.
Wait, time out. Before we go further, I'm sure some of you are asking Why the Pro Personnel or National Scouting Departments? Why look for a replacement there? Why not bring in a proven GM like Ron Wolff, Charlie Casserly, or bring back Matty Schottenheimer as a General Manager this time? Well, I'll tell you why. No offense to all the great things people like Ron Wolf and Charlie Casserly accomplished in their successful tenures with Green Bay and Washington (respectively), but for old timers like them the new, modern NFL has clearly passed them by. I remember the year Wolf retired, he made some comment to a reporter about how the NFL sucked now and was run by lawyers. He clearly didn't like these pesky little things like salary caps, revenue sharing, and league-focused parity. He liked it when he could draft whomever, sign them to whatever, and let them sit the bench for eternity. Same with Casserly, who tried to come back with the Houston Texans, only to get run out of their faster than David Carr (Casserly's first pick in Houston). And while some may long for the old days of Marty Ball (and the rumor mill is certainly buzzing), you must remember that I, Clark Hunt, said I wanted someone outside the organization; a "fresh set of eyes."
That ain't Marty.
What I, Clark Hunt, am looking for is a great personnel guy; someone who knows how to draft talent, because NFL franchises live an die by the draft in today's football world. Remember all those teams I mentioned who draft well? Go back and look at their records. There are six Super Bowls in that group. This isn't rocket science folks. Draft well, or die. That simple.
GATHERING A LIST OF CANDIDATES
So, that said, I'm looking to grab a great, young, well-respected personnel guy and offer him a raise. My pitch to them is this: Hi, I'm Clark Hunt. I own the KC Chiefs. You are currently the Director of Pro Scouting for the XXXX XXXX XXXXXXX. You make about $400,000 a year, and you work with your team's scouts to find college prospects to build your team around. You also do a lot of work on draft day, and you have connections to colleges all across the country. I want to hire you as the General Manager of the Kansas City Chiefs. I'll pay you $1,000,000 a year for four years, and give you total control of the team's personnel. You'll get to hire your own scouts, negotiate contracts, and re-build this once proud Chiefs franchise. You will also give me input in who the coach will be. Whatcha say?
Nice pitch, huh. Now, who should I sell it to? I've been working and I think I narrowed my list down to three guys. Those gentlemen are:
Marc Ross, NY Giants Director of College Scouting
Ruston Webster, Seahawks Vice President and Director of Player Personnel
Jimmy Raye, San Diego Chargers Director of Player Personnel
For some of you, your reaction right now is WHO? It's OK. Remember, this is a "How to" guide. I don't expect you to know how to do this. Otherwise, why would you be reading it?
I've isolated these three men because they meet the criteria, and that criteria is: Shrewd talent evaluation, proven track record in the draft, strong college connections. All three of these men started out as scouts and worked their way up the NFL corporate food chain to become very successful directors. All are highly recommended, and are known in the industry as smart, young, and talented up-and-coming GMs. This is what I'm looking for. This is a fresh set of eyes.
But, which one of the three?
I'm give quick backgrounds on each guy:
- Marc Ross is the Director of College Scouting for the NY Giants. Remember that Giants draft class from 2007, which was so instrumental in pushing them through the playoffs and winning the Super Bowl over the then-undefeated Patriots? That was all Marc Ross. Guys like DT Jay Alford, TE Kevin Boss, CB Aaron Ross, WR Steve Smith, and RB Ahmad Bradshaw all made major contributions to the Giants in 2007. Without them, they don't make the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl. All are Ross guys. Ross came from the Philadelphia Eagles, who are themselves excellent at scouting and drafting young players. Well-respected Giants GM Jerry Reese said this about Ross when the Giants hired him in 2007:
"He has been a college scouting director. He was the youngest college director in the league when he was with the Philadelphia Eagles. So he understands the management and the dynamics of the department. Marc is an outstanding scout himself. We like that about him. All of the references that we called were very high on him. We think he is going to be a perfect fit for us."
- Ruston Webster looks young, but the truth is he's been building great teams for some time now. He was a scout for Tampa Bay during the Tony Dungy years, and eventually worked his way up to Director of College Scouting. It was Webster that helped build Tampa Bay's 2002 Super Bowl team. He left Tampa Bay to join his friend Tim Ruskell (who also once worked in Tampa Bay) in Seattle to rebuild the Seahawks after years of Mike Holmgren f&#king up the roster. Despite Seattle's misery this season, Webster's track record is very well respected. He drafted players like Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill; guys who are young mainstays and a young Seattle defense that (last year) was a dominant pass rushing force before injuries crippled them this year.
- Jimmy Raye works for the evil Spanos family in San Diego. So, he has the taint of the Chargers on him. But, hold your nose for a sec, and look past your blind hatred. Raye is really, really good at his job. The Chargers are one of the best orgs at the draft, and Raye is a big reason why. Guys like Darren Sproules, Philip Rivers, Vincent Jackson, Eric Weddle, and others are the kinds of prospects Raye has helped SD draft. With the Chargers sucking this season, AJ Smith will look to blame someone else other than himself. He blamed Marty Schottenheimer after Marty helped SD win 14 games, and Norv Turner is not getting fired despite the fact he sucks. So, Smith will likely gut his personnel department in order to save face (classy guy, I know). This means the Chiefs could potentially add someone with insider knowledge of a division rival. From longtime, now-retired NFL scout Tom Marino [emphasis mine]:
General Manager A.J. Smith, another very decent person, must share in the blame for the Chargers rapid decent into mediocrity. It was he who abruptly fired head coach Marty Schottenheimer, after the latter posted a league best 14 and 2 regular season record. Smith and the Chargers have been for the most part non-participants in free agency and their draft day decisions have in my opinion been less the scintillating.
I like Player Personnel Jimmy Raye a great deal and feel he is one of the best young evaluators in the game today.
So, those are my candidates. All are considered some of the best talent evaluators in the business. All are young, bringing "a fresh set of eyes" to the org. All have no ties to KC. So, the question is: Which one?
PICKING YOUR NEW GM
So, we're narrowed down our list to three great candidates. Now, we offer the job. I'll dispense with any drama and say the person I will offer the job to is Marc Ross. Why Ross over the others? Well, he brings something to the table that I think the Chiefs will need:
Young, energetic, youthful guy with experience building a 4-3 blitz defense.
Yes, that's right. I, Clark Hunt, has decided the kind of team we will build in KC is one that will feature a 4-3 blitz style defense, one that has had tremendous success in Philly, NY, and Seattle.
Now, the reason I say Ross over someone like Ruston Webster (who also has experience building a 4-3 blitz D in Seattle) is because Ross has connections in both NY and Philly, where both franchises run those schemes. The scheme was practically invented in Philly under coach Jim Johnson. Ross knows the kinds of players that a team needs to build these defenses and he has contacts at several colleges that cultivate talent for such defenses. Since KC is in the Midwest, the club already has ties to Midwestern programs like Michigan, Ohio State, Missouri, Iowa, etc. With Ross, he will bring with him his connections to Big East and SEC schools, as well as connections to other East Coast programs.
Ross also breaks new break in a more obvious way. He's black (in case you hadn't noticed) and there are very, very few black General Managers. I could give you my opinion why there are so few (many NFL owners are crusty, old white guys whose only experience with black people is having them park their cars), but I do not think the young Clark Hunt is someone who would NOT shy away from making a statement. And what bigger statement that "Change is here" than hiring a well-respected black personnel man to run your football operations.
ESTABLISHING CULTURE AND PICKING A COACH
Now I'll take my Clark Hunt mask off and let's just sat Marc Ross is smart and takes the job.After a nice press conference, where Marc and Clark are seen as the new face of the KC Chiefs, ushering in a new dawn, now comes the time to establish a new culture in KC.
First and foremost, Herm Edwards and his staff are fired.
No offense to Herm lovers out there, but he is a world class, Grade A faker who does not know how to manage a football game, and knows even less about how a real NFL offense is supposed to run. I remember hearing about a sports columnist in NY (Steve Cohen) interviewing Edwards on why he wasn't using then-rookie Santana Moss more in his offense. Moss was a first round pick, and the Jets were desperate for big plays from the WR corps. Herm responded by saying Moss wasn't picked to play WR. He can help return punts and kicks. Cohen was understandably flabbergasted by this statement, because only morons draft WRs in the first round if all they are going to do is return punts and kicks. Cohen went on to say that Herm Edwards simply had no understanding of how modern NFL offenses run, which I guess explained why the Jets ran a West Coast-style offense in a stadium known for extreme windy conditions.
So, gone are Herm, Gunther Cunningham, Chan Gailey, and anyone else brought in by Carl Peterson. Clean slate.
Now that they are all gone, Marc Ross will work with Clark to hire new coaches. His connections in Philly and NY will help here. Hiring someone like NY's LBer coach Bill Sheridan, NY's d-line coach Mike Waufle or Philly's secondary coach Sean McDermott as the new defensive coordinator. For offense, since the model on D is the 4-3 blitz, the model on offense could also follow the Giants: 2 TE base rushing and passing team. Guys that could fill this need are giants WRs coach Mike Sullivan, or (if Cincy dumps its offensive staff) a really good offensive coordinator candidate is Bob Bratkowski. Bratkowski helped develop Cincy's outstanding WR corps, and developing quality receivers is vital for KC's success. For too long, KC has not invested in the WR position, and in this league you must be able to throw the ball to win.
But all this is moor when you don't have a Head Coach. Obviously, the head coach will want input in his staff. This is KC, not Washington. Now, with Ross's connections, the obvious choice is Giants defensive coordinator and Assistant Head Coach Steve Spagnola. He is a master of the 4-3 blitz, and is a hot head coaching candidate this off-season.
However, I am not sure "Spags" will be a good head coach. Time will tell, but the head coach must manage the football team and direct the team's culture. Spags is a more hands on guy. He'll want significant input in the defense, and he'll want to have his hands in everyone's pie. That's not a head coach. That's a coordinator posing as one.
The Chiefs need someone who will change the culture. Someone who will stand up and lead the team. Someone who is a good game manager and will work as the new face of the team, along with Clark and Marc.
Enter: Jim Schwartz.
While Schwartz is not known as a 4-3 blitz "guy," he has developed a stellar reputation as a defensive coordinator in Tennessee with Jeff Fisher. They run a variant of the Tampa 2 down there, but because of their backgrounds in Buddy Ryan football, Schwartz and Fisher love to bring pressure. They put a premium on safety play and d-line, and they come from an environment that was rebuilt itself from the ground up. Schwartz has his fingers all over Tennessee's great defense, and this off-season he will be a sought after coaching prospect. He's a smart guy, well-respected, and is someone who can manage a team. Here is what NFL.com's Pat Kirwan said about Schwartz:
Tennessee has always been known as a defensive team and Jeff Fisher has helped Schwartz develop quickly as an NFL coordinator. So many NFL assistants want to over-coach the players but Schwartz lets his smart players manage the game from the field. Kyle Vanden Bosch has the liberty of calling the line stunts as he sees fit; players love the flexibility. At 42, Schwartz already has 14 years of NFL experience
Schwartz also come from a place that has a well-established culture of resilience. Bringing that culture, that mind-set, to KC will go a long way to rebuilding the team.
So, there you have it: Marc Ross is your GM and Jim Schwartz is your new head football coach. Both a young, fresh faces without ties to the current Chiefs organization. Take a bow, boys.
THE DRAFT, AND BEYOND THE INFINITE
Now that KC has its new GM and coach, the focus shifts to the draft and the rebuilding of the Chiefs. As the team moves forward, establishing the right "winning culture" is important for sustained success. now, the term "winning culture" is thrown around by a lot of people. Unlike them, I will define what a "winning culture" is.
To establish a successful culture, the general manager, the owner, and the head coach have to sit down (together!) and agree on what that culture is and what the values are. Again, this is done together as a team. Obviously, the owner is the leader in the discussion, but he ABSOLUTELY MUST foster and nuture a relationship with his GM and coach that they can talk freely about what they think. If Clark Hunt does not establish that from the get-go, a "winning culture" is just another set of empty words.
Some great cultural values to wrap your franchise around are:
- Establish a "player first" policy. Make it known that the health and well-being of the players is the #1 priority of the team; higher than winning. Winning at the expense of a players health is winning "the wrong way." Toss aside the unhealthy philosophy of "win at all costs," and develop a policy that stresses player health. This is not a policy that rewards laziness. The crux of the policy is if a player is hurt, the team will not pressure that player to get back on the field. The focus is then shifted to getting that player as healthy as possible, not jeopardizing his short or long term health just to "get a win." Healthy, happy players will result in loyal, fiercely dedicated players who will be proud to wear a Chiefs uniform.
- Establish a "zero tolerance" policy. The team is everything. Assholes and prima donnas can go sign with Oakland. This is Kansas City. You either buy into the team, or you are not with the franchise. This policy is done at the expense of talent. It doesn't matter if the guy can fly! If he is a me-first person, he is not worth investing in. Men who are willing to be part of one big team are what you want, and anyone who compromises the team, no matter his status, is GONE. Example: The Colts cut their best DT this season after Week One because he was caught speeding while smoking a joint. The player (Ed Johnson) reacted to a tough opening loss to the Bears by getting high and getting arrested. Result: Unemployment. Indy struggled initially without him, but eventually righted the ship and now are stronger for it. The message to the players was simple: You are here to play football for this team. Shape up, or hit the bricks.
- Insist on bi-monthly or monthly, mandatory meetings between your position coaches and your scouts. Scouts have a way of wanting to get "their guys." Coaches have a way of not always wanting someone a scout dumps on them. Then, when that someone doesn't work out, the result is finger pointing between scouts and coaches. Nip this in the bud before it happens! Demand the scouts have meetings with the position coaches. Insist those coaches tell the scouts what they are looking for. The scouts, now armed with that info, can go out and get someone that fits what the coaches want and need. It makes everyone feel they are part of the team, and it makes them all accountable when something goes well or wrong. Finger pointing kills football teams. Be pro-active in stopping it.
- The voice of the team is the coach, and no one else. This is a big, big point. When things go well or wrong, the voice of the entire team is the head coach. If players (cough-Jeremey Shockey-cough) don't buy into that, get rid of them. Talent is secondary to the team, remember. The coach must be the sole voice of the club. This is not suggesting that assistants be barred from talking to media. Only Nazis (Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick) practice that shit. A better alternative is to politely remind the assistants and the players that when something happens, defer to the coach. If someone doesn't, then kindly ask them to leave the facility and never come back. This simplifies things for people and puts the burden of team communication to the media on the coach. In theory, the people on your team will thank you. No one who is "team first" wants to talk to the media. Only ego-head-cases want to do that, and they shouldn't be part of your team, period.
- Finally, encourage discussion in meetings. Loyalty is not being a "yes man." Loyalty is having the balls to tell your boss he is fucking up and needs to listen to you. If the boss fires you for saying that, he is a shitty boss and won't amount to anything anyway. So, working for him was a waste. When Clark Hunt meets with Marc Ross; when Jim Schwartz meets with his assistants; when your scouts meet with your coaches; dissent in those closed meetings should be encouraged. Outside those meetings, the coach's word is lord. Inside, TALK TO EACH OTHER! The best employee in the world is one who is honest with you. When you have such an employee, work like mad to keep him or her. They are fighting to make you and your team better. If they weren't, they wouldn't be honest with you. They'd hide stuff from you or lie in order to save their own asses. Reward them for honesty.
Once you establish clear, well-defined policies like these, it will foster a healthy, happy team that will be even keeled. All teams have success and failure. It is how you deal with those peaks and valleys that allows you to have more success than failure. And it is the even keeled, steady teams that are the most successful.
Obviously, there are lots of different ways to rebuild a football team, and the Chiefs do not have to follow this blueprint to the letter in order to become successful again. Marc foster doesn't have to be the GM, and Jim Schwartz doesn't have to be the head coach. But the core, basic values I've outlined will push KC in the right direction.
Always remember, there is a right and wrong way to win. One way preaches a "win at all costs" mentality, and the results are things like like "Spygate" and other embarrassments that question your team's legacy. The other way is the right way: Caring about your players; encouraging discussion; making people feel part of something special; treating people with respect and dignity. This is how truly great franchises are formed. That, my friends, is what a "culture of winning" really is.
The Kansas City Chiefs are one of the great franchises in the NFL. They embody what pro football stands for in America: The possibility for a small market to house a pro team and be successful. Franchises like KC must succeed in order for the NFL not to descend in MLB or NBA territory, where big markets dominate small ones. In order for the Chiefs to become great again, they must usher in a new and complete reboot of the franchise. This "How to" manual has hopefully shown you (the all-important, paying fan) the best way to do it.
Cheers from this Colts fan.