I stumbled across AP just about one year ago. I was a big fan right away. Originally I was way too intimidated to even create a user account because I had never "blogged" before and didn’t think I was worthy of putting anything out there on such an impressive site. I witnessed and was part of the huge "boom" that happened here when the new regime came in. I was so impressed with the passion and excitement that us Chiefs fans had for a team coming off a 2-14 season. I expected things to come to a stand still between the hirings and the draft, but the enthusiasm just kept coming. I again expected a let down between the draft and training camp, but once again AP just kept bringing it. I wrote about this awesome dedication in a previous post (The Love).
We are now 7 games into the new regime and for the first time I’m starting to see a chink in the enthusiasm armor. Posters are bashing Pioli left and right. The main complaints are that he didn’t do enough to help the team this season and he can’t do anything on his own without one of the "Bills" helping him. There is even more negativity surrounding our coach Todd Haley. I’m not going to take the time to list all the current complaints. Let’s just say people have serious problems with his leadership style, roster management, and in game coaching.
This post is in no way intended to bash anyone for stating their opinion. My opinion is no more valid than anyone else’s. The debates that go on here are what I love the most about AP. However, I do feel like the negativity is growing. I also believe that there are a lot of people, like myself, that are still optimistic about our team going forward. I feel there are several well thought out, logical reasons to keep the faith in Pioli and Haley. Around here it has become common to refer to anyone with these beliefs as" Kool Aid Drinkers". This implies that we are not forming our own logical assessment of things. We are just lapping up whatever Arrowhead gives us and taking it as law. At first I was offended by this. I have now decided that I am not going to fight it, but embrace it.
If looking at the state of the Chiefs and still seeing hope for the future makes me a Kool Aid Drinker, then fine, I’ll own it. I’m a Kool Aid Drinker. I’ll warn you that the body of this post is even longer then the intro. It includes several points that I have made before in discussions around here. I have combined them here with the purpose of making my case for why you too should be a Kool Aid Drinker.
Part I – A Kool Aid Drinker’s Stance on Scott Pioli
When Scott Pioli was first hired I was excited by his reputation as one of the top GM candidates on the market. However, I was even more excited by what Pioli said about his plans and vision for our team. I was not the only one. AP was filled with people singing his praises. There were some that took a "I’ll wait and see" attitude, but I don’t remember anyone saying that they did not like what they were hearing at the time. So let’s take a look at some of him comments and see where we stand now.
In an interview with Sirius NFL Radio back in August, Pioli was asked about his new job responsibilities:
"You prepare for the job and part of what you do in the preparation for a general manager job is you look at the roster, the coaching staff, and all of the football aspects. Deep down inside you know there are things that affect the football operation but you can’t see or touch until you’re immersed in the situation. No matter how prepared you are for any job in life, I’m convinced you can be as prepared as you want to be and there are things that are unknown that you have to deal with that impact the job. And that’s the case here. It’s not just rebuilding the roster. It’s changing the culture of a lot of things of the football operation itself and things that affect the football operation."
The Kool Aid Drinker’s response: This doesn’t sound like a guy that is in over his head. This sounds like a guy that understands how big of job this turnaround really is. It definitely doesn’t sound like something that one would think would be completely finished by the seventh game of his first year.
Around the same time Pioli did an interview with 610 Radio and gave this quote about what they are looking for in players.
"One of the biggest things we’ve gotta find from an evaluation standpoint, can these players do what they’ve been taught to do? And we want to find out who’s willing to do what they’re being told to do and also just execute and be smart football players………….If someone doesn’t know what they’re doing they won’t be given an opportunity and they can’t complain about not getting an opportunity."
The Kool Aid Drinker’s response: This same discussion will carry over into the Haley portion of this post, but in general I would just say that I am 100% behind this approach. If a team has to be on the same page to be great, the coach and GM have to be the one that decides what page that is. If you leave it up to the players, most of them will pick the "page" which suites them best as opposed to the team as a whole. Once the coach and GM say this is how it needs to be it is the players’ job to do it. It’s their job. I may not agree with everything my boss asks me to do, but I am only looking at it from my perspective. He is looking at it from the big picture.
"The intent was not to go through pain this year. We are three games in and we’re 0-3. You have to find good players and those good players have to be the type of guy that can respond to the coaching of the leader and Todd is our leader here. Unfortunately when there is a dramatic shift in the culture, like is happening here, it’s going to be a little more painful than some places. It’s not a fun part, but it’s the NFL and even though we are going through a change here, we still expect to win every single Sunday. There are no excuses in this game. These guys are professionals, I’m a professional, the coaches are professionals, the players are professionals. We need to find a way to compete. Are we where we need to be in terms of having the right fit for the head coach? No, we’re not. We all expect to win games along the way. I just don’t believe in writing things off and saying we don’t have the right guys, that’s a loser’s attitude and we’re just not going to have that.
One of the things I’ve learned along the way is that just because a player can’t fit here or can’t fit the program you’re in doesn’t mean they are a bad player or a bad person. It doesn’t mean any of that. It just sometimes means it’s not the right fit. There are going to be players that leave here and have left other programs where there has been significant change, they go to another situation and they are successful. I’m a firm believer in fit.
Everyone talks about Parcells guys. Who were the Parcells guys? The Parcells guys were the ones that fit who he was and could fit into his style of coaching. Same thing with Belichick. Part of Bill’s brilliance is having guys that can be motivated by the way that he led. To me it’s an important part of the team building and winning. Anyone can go out and find good players. You have to go out and find good players that can respond to the leadership. I might be the general manager here, but as soon as I hired the head coach my job is to serve the head coach and bring him the players he can be successful with. That’s the job, finding the right guys with the right fit."
Kool Aid Drinker’s response: Pioli and Haley are clearly working as a team. Everyone that has said Pioli should fire Haley doesn’t get how these guys are going about building this team. Pioli hired the kind of coach he wanted and is now building this team for that coach. Firing Haley would literally be starting all over because Pioli believes in finding players that fit the coach. It is the Kool Aid Drinker’s belief that Pioli has been targeting so many NE and Miami players not because he is some "lost little puppy" that follows the "Bills" around looking for table scraps, but because those are the two other teams that are built in the image that he is modeling the Chiefs. The players that were with Miami and NE were scouted and brought in because they seemed like good fits for their type of team and we are now building the same type of team here in KC.
The last link for Pioli is one that I hope everyone that reads this post will check out. It is an interview with KCTV5. For anyone who has said that Pioli mislead Chiefs fans with what they were trying to do this year, you need to check out this link. He talks about wanting to win but how they need to go about building a long term consistent winner. The entire interview is good but please take one minute to go to that link and listener to what he says at the 6 minute mark.
Kool Aid Drinker's Preemptive Strike: We Kool Aid Drinkers know what some people will say after watching the clip above: "If he is building for the future why is he bringing in all these over the hill players?" I debunked this myth in a previous post, but for those that missed it here's the numbers to prove this statement false.
There are 26 players on the active roster that were signed or drafted by Pioli. Of those 26, only 5 are over 30 (Brown, Chambers, Goff, K. Smith, and Vrabel). The average age of the players brought in by Pioli is about 26.4.
If you take out the draft picks and only look at FAs the average age becomes 27.2.
If you include the eight players on the practice squad (all brought in by Pioli) the average age becomes 25.7.
Kool Aid Drinker's Final Thoughts on Scott Pioli: Scott Pioli is widely respected around the NFL. He was a part of building the biggest dynasty in the modern NFL. He told us how he was going to go about building this team and he is following through on that plan. Not every move he has made has panned out, but even the best GMs miss on a lot of players. Plus, part of the reason you can make such a long list of guys that Pioli has brought in that haven't panned out is because he is always churning those bottom roster spots in hopes of finding players that can help our team. This has brought us some solid young players that could be a part of this team for several years to come (O'Callaghan, Long, Belcher, Mays, etc.). I have no problem with people debating or questioning individual roster moves, but if you were on board with his plan in the beginning I just don't think you should abandon ship yet. Simply put, the Pioli Kool Aid has passed our taste test.
Part 2 - A Kool Aid Drinker's Stance on Todd Haley
Nothing divides us AP brethren quite like our head coach. Some (like myself) really love this guy. Others are ready to drag the guy into a back alley and beat him with a golf club (get the iron-y, sorry :P). Unlike Pioli, Haley did not have blanket approval when he was hired. Some have questioned his experience and temperamentfrom day one. Again, there are no right and wrong opinions about Haley. People on both sides have some valid points. The people I am really talking to in the next few sections are those who liked the Haley hiring in the beginning and have now "jumped ship". The official Kool Aid Drinker's stance on Todd Haley is that it is too early to call him a success or failure. I do think Haley has been consistent in his message (which ironically is usually about being consistent) and like Pioli, has followed through with his plan for the team.
In his press conference on September 10thhe had this quote about expecting consistency and how it affects playing time:
"You stay consistent in your approach of what you want. That’s what I’ve learned as a coach. You don’t go up and down. You be consistent in what you ask the players for and then you play with those players that are doing it the way you are asking them to do it and doing it well enough."
Kool Aid Drinker's Response: Like I said in the Pioli section, the team has to be on the same page. That means the same page in effort given (100%), same page scheme wise, and the same page in putting the team above the individual. I like all these things. The problem comes when one of our favorite players fails in one of these areas and is benched, cut, traded, etc. Nobody is happy when this happens. Haley is simply sticking to his plan. Pioliand Haley are both set on building a team of players that will do things the way they want. The critics claim that this makes them "ego maniacs". I have some questions for those critics. Do you think the team should be on the same page? If so, aren't the coach and GM the only ones that can set those guidelines? If you have those guidelines shouldn't the players be held responsible for following them? I also think it is ridiculous to say we don't know why Haley hasn't been playing DJ. I don't need someone to punch in the numbers on a calculator to tell me that 2 plus 2 equals four. (If you want to hear an even better analogy on this that involves a cookie jar and an 80 lb. basset hound check out my comment at the bottom of this post by Red Shadow.)
Here is a great quote from Haley's August 11th press conference where he describes how he pushes players to get better:
"I am always pushing and prying, trying to instigate a little bit and get some emotion out of guys and get some passion out of guys. That is the way I have done it. There are a lot of different ways but that is what I have done more than anything, just try and press them every day and not give them a whole lot of time to breath. Usually in the end you have a decent group that plays, works hard and is mentally tough."
Kool Aid Drinker's Response: This is where I flat out disagree with those that say Haley's in your face style isn't right for this team. We have become a team that is used to losing. We are sloppy and have showed no heart at times and that is really hard to take as a die hard fan. I think it is going to take somebody getting in these guys' faces to snap them out of this losing cycle. Has it happened yet? No, but I still believe that it will. This is why it is important for Piolito fill this roster with guys that "work hard and are mentally tough". It's amazing how players like Warner and Fitzgerald loved Haley and credited him with making them better. I said this just the other day, but I believe it 100%. If you don't want your coach yelling at you then don't be lazy, don't take plays off, don't get stupid penalties, don't miss blocks, don't drop passes, don't miss tackles, don't blow your coverage assignment, don't get drunk and get in a pissing contest with fans on Twitter.
Kool Aid Drinker's Acknowledgement: Even us KoolAid Drinkers can admit that Haley has made some mistakes this year. Saying that you will play the players that do things the right way and do it "well enough" while starting Mike Goff sets you up for ridicule. Running draw plays with Larry Johnson time and time again when they never work looks really foolish. Not realizing that he and Chan weren't compatible before training camp was a huge set back. Not realizing that "the sign" would work the media into a frenzy (regardless on where it came from and when you decided to hang it) was ignorant. I am sure that there are more that some of you will be happy to list, but I still say that that none of those are big picture problems that can't be fixed. If you look at the four super bowl winning head coaches from the last 20 years that most resemble Haley's coaching style (Parcells, Johnson, Belichick, and Coughlin) they had a combined record of 15-48-1 in their first years with the team that they took to multiple Super Bowls. That's a winning percentage of about 23%. If Todd Haley can win three games the rest of the way and finish at 4-12 he would have a winning percentage of 25% in his first year. One season is simply not enough time for a coach to get his style, attitude, and system up and running 100%. If we go 4-12 next year, then talk to me about firing him.
Kool Aid Drinker's Final Thoughts (FINALLY!!!!): Every one of us on this site loves the Chiefs. I take losses as hard as anyone, but it is important to keep a level head. We have to be able to look beyond a few horrible games and look at the big picture. As bad as the start of this season has been, I haven't seen anything that proves to me that the plans that Pioli and Haley laid out when they took over can't work. They aren't working yet, that is true. I just think that those that are screaming for their heads on a platter are drinking too much "Hate-er-Aid" (How do you guys like it?). So to all those that like me, can still see a light at the end of the tunnel, the next time someone says you are "drinking the kool-aid" instead of getting mad about it just quote the OG of Kool Aid Drinkers and say "OH YEAH!!"