When you get right down to it, business in the NFL is very much like any other kind of business. Often times its not so much what you know as who you know.
A well connected head coach will have access to high quality assistant candidates available that can make a big difference in the success of their team. Look at the type of assistants a guy like Tony Dungy had throughout his career and the impact they had on his team.
On the flip side, a coach with few connections can have a very difficult time finding quality assistants which in turn can lead to poor team performance. Herm Edwards is a good example.
So when Scott Pioli, with his decades long association with Bill Belichick and in-law status with Bill Parcells, was interested in coming to Kansas City there was real cause for excitement. Unlike Carl Peterson's network based on his time with the Philadelphia Eagles and USFL days, Pioli's is based on confirmed winners and franchise builders.
There is no question that those relationships have provided some advantages to this point. Matt Cassel + Matt Vrabel for a second round pick was an absolute steal no matter how you look at it. Getting a 2010 second round pick for Tony Gonzalez who only has another year or two left in him from his old associate Thomas Dmitroff in Atlanta was a good move as well.
But as time has progressed, the question must be asked: Has Scott Pioli relied TOO heavily on his known network and failed to take advantage of opportunities outside of it?
Let's look at the additions Pioli has made to the Chiefs roster:
Todd Haley Former Bill Parcells assistant
Andy Alleman 1 year Miami Dolphins
Ike Ndukwe 2 years Miami Dolphins
Traded Tyler Thigpen for undisclosed draft pick
New England Connection
Matt Cassel 4 years New England Patriots
Mike Vrabel 8 years New England Patriots
Matt Guitierrez 2 years New England Patriots
Corey Mayes 2 years New England Patriots
Vince Redd 1 year New England Patriots
Ryan O'Callaghan 3 years New England Patriots
David Herron 2007 training camp with New England Patriots
Mike Richardson 2 years New England Patriots
Chris Patrick 2007 training camp with New England Patriots
Traded Tony Gonzalez for 2nd round draft pick to Falcons (GM Thomas Dmitroff, former Pats personnel man)
Todd Haley Connection
Leonard Pope 3 years Arizona Cardinals - 3rd round pick
Terrance Copper 2 years Dallas Cowboys (Haley was WR coach)
Monty Beisel 3 years Arizona Cardinals (as well as 1 year with New England)
Bobby Engram 5 years Chicago Bears (Haley was WR coach for part of that time)
Bobby Wade 3 years Chicago Bears (Haley was WR coach)
Out of Network
Andy Studebaker 6th round pick 2008 Philadelphia Eagles, signed from their practice squad
Ashlie Lelie Free Agent - 1st round pick 2002 Denver Broncos
Jed Collins Free Agent - Undrafted - Eagles, Bears, Browns
Travis Daniels Free Agent - 4th round pick 2005 Miami Dolphins
Eric Ghiachiuc Free Agent - 4th round pick 2005 Cincinnati Begnals
Tavares Washington Free Agent - Undrafted - 49ers, Redskins
Zach Thomas Free Agent - 5th round pick 1996 Miami Dolphins
Amani Toomer Free Agent - 2nd round pick 1996 New York Giants
Mike Goff Free Agent - 3rd round pick 1998 Cincinnati Bengals
Mike Brown Free Agent - 2nd round pick 2000 Chicago Bears
Rodney Wright Free Agent - 7th round pick 2002 Buffalo Bills
Think that's everyone, not counting rookies or rookie free agents.
As we look over the list, we notice that:
- Of all the players Pioli has brought in from his arrival until today, 16 out of 27 players (59%) were from the Belichick/Parcells/Haley connection.
- Of players currently on the roster, 14 out of 17 (82%) are from the Belichick/Parcells/Haley connection.
- Of players that were from outside of Pioli's Network, 4 out of 11 (36%) could be said to be nearing the end of their careers (Zach Thomas, Amani Toomer, Mike Goff, Mike Brown)
- Of players that were from outside of Pioli's Network, 7 out of 11 (63%) are not currently with another NFL team.
Its pretty obvious that Pioli is going with what he is familiar with. Nine of the players brought in were guys Pioli was familiar with from his personnel days in New England. Even if the guy only spent a week on the team during preseason, Pioli would have spent a lot of time before that scouting him before he was signed. The comment made many times here at AP is that a castoff from New England could be a potential starter for the Chiefs. That is very true. So the number of ex-Patriots should not surprise us.
My concern lies in the fact that Pioli seems to be reluctant to stray from what he know or what people he respects know. Most of those he has brought in from outside of his network have either been fading ex-stars or nobodies brought in as training camp fodder. The exceptions being Mike Goff and Mike Brown.
It seems though that Pioli, with one of the largest amounts of cap space in the NFL and a team full of holes has been reluctant to venture out into the unknown to fill needs. He has passed on multiple experienced offensive line free agents despite that being the biggest weakness on the team and continues searching through journeymen late round or undrafted options to protect his prize $60 million QB. He has also passed on a few available kick returners which is another weakness.
Now maybe the guys that are out there are not big time stars, but it won't take much to improve over what we have. If you're the weakest position on the leagues worst team, there's nowhere to go but up.
Unlike in New England, he does not have a Bill Belichick whose coaching style absorbs mediocre players into the collective to form a team that is always at the top. Todd Haley may turn out to be a very good head coach someday, but for right now he's a rookie struggling to learn on the job. He needs help.
I would like to see Pioli venture outside of his comfort zone and close associates for talent for the roster. Not just for fading ex-stars or no name rookies, but for some legitimate experienced NFL talent. There's no a lot to be found in October, but there are some players to be had. I'd rather give up a 4th round pick for a legitimate kick returner or experienced tackle than a 6th rounder for a handful of guys that are probably the 52nd or 53rd guys on their teams roster.