Over the past few weeks, I talked about some of the things the Chiefs need to do in regard to coaching and personnel. I'm going to summarize those discussions in one single piece. If I were to write a letter to the Chiefs' Front Office, it would go something like this:
Dear Mr. Pioli:
When you accepted the job as General Manager of the Chiefs, I'm sure you knew what you were getting yourself into. You inherited a team in a state of repair. You also knew that the Chiefs have one of the most loyal fan bases in the country. What you may not have known is how hungry this fan base is for a championship.
To be frank, Chiefs' fans are angry and many of them are angry at you. To understand why, you have to understand the history. Under the previous ownership, we fans have been duped too many times. Our previous front office assembled a number of teams that were just good enough to be contenders, but never good enough to take it to the next level. Needless to say, after so many years of unfulfilled expectations, we went from "trust you" to "show me."
Some of these expectations are unfair. We shouldn't expect you to turn a wrecked ship around with the snap of a finger. We should understand that you walked into 2009 handicapped with a lame duck scouting team, with a few very short months to prepare for the draft and free agency, and with limited time to do in-depth self-scouting. If you want a certain culture or a certain defense, you should be allowed to do it, even if that means taking a step back before taking a step forward. Some of our anger toward the front office is too much too soon and I'm sure that's the side of our anger that might frustrate you.
But much of that anger is justified. Our 2009 draft isn't looking so hot and we did close to nothing in free agency to bring in long-term foundational players. Looking back on 2009, it seems like we cut a lot more talent than we brought in. Our Chiefs can't win, they're sloppy, and they're unbearable to watch. Worse, after two consecutive years of foundation building, there are only a handful of players that this organization can build around. Maybe those poor outcomes are the result of your attempt to build a foundation. That excuse may fly in 2009, but it won't in 2010. We expect.... No, we demand that 2010 be significantly better.
Here are some issues that have bothered us fans that we expect to be resolved in 2010:
- #1 - Coaching - Whomever you decide will be your Head Coach in 2010, realize that he is not Bill Belichick. He shouldn't be expected to coach the team, call plays and coach the Quarterbacks. Shame on Todd Haley for suggesting it, but shame on you for letting it happen. We don't know the rationale behind this decision so we can excuse the mistake in 2009. We will not excuse sitting back in 2010 and not aggressively upgrading our anemic coaching staff
- #2 - Show us "the Chiefs Way" - most Chiefs' fans are now pretty well versed in the Patriot Way. We get that you want to build the Chiefs in that same image and that that sometimes means cutting more talented players who don't get it in exchange for less qualified players who do. We've also seen this same approach fail under Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini's watch in other organizations. To the fans, most of the 2009 free agency moves felt like they were decided within a vacuum and frankly, many of us are scared that the Chiefs are trying too hard to become the Patriots instead of trying to build their our own identity. We hope that 2010 will be the year that you start building the Chiefs instead of a poor-man's version of the Patriots. Make it a point that 2010 be the year when you start building a unique identity for the Chiefs.
- #3 - Relentlessly self-scout and hold no prisoners - Yes, we are mostly talking about Matt Cassel here. Sometimes it feels like certain players are held to different accountability standards than others. We trust that you will thoroughly evaluate him (and other players) and that you will not allow your prior opinions to influence your current evaluation. We know he's a good kid, but this has to be about what he can do on the field 3+ years from now. Many fans don't think Matt Cassel is the answer and if he's a mistake, we can forgive that mistake if you take immediate corrective action. The last thing we want is to set this franchise back three years because we were waiting around on a quarterback who was never the answer in the first place. If you choose not to bring in legitimate competition for Cassel, you better be right about him, or else Chiefs' fans will be livid at you and rightfully so. This applies to everyone on this roster, whether they're Herm guys or Pioli guys. And all these guys need to be held to the same standard. You've had a full year to self-scout this team. Particularly at the Quarterback position, 2009 was the year to make some mistakes; 2010 is the year when we have to take corrective action on those mistakes. There is no longer an excuse for miscalculation. Not in 2010.
- #4 - The Draft, The Draft, The Draft - So far, the 2009 draft isn't looking so good. That's discouraging for a team trying to build a nucleus of young players, especially given your reputation for being such a draft guru. We can excuse a bad first draft, given the circumstances. Hopefully with your own scouting team in place, you'll do a better job. This year, you have all your resources in place. We expect and demand that you be razor sharp in the 2010 draft.
- #5 - Free Agency - We realize you shouldn't make decisions to appease the fans, but we've also been through two consecutive inactive offseasons. Chiefs' fans are dying for offseason moves that will inspire hope or confidence. Some of us realize that the threat of an uncapped year might make this more difficult. But if there is any window for the Chiefs to land any marquee free agents this offseason, the fans expect you to aggressively pursue it.
I don't speak for all of the Chiefs' fan base. Some have already made up their mind about you and others only focus on short-term results. Yet others will defend you to the death and make excuses for you, no matter what moves you make. I speak for a segment that falls into neither of these categories. This season was really tough for us fans to endure. We want to be patient with you, but it's hard and our patience is wearing thin. If we don't see significant improvement in all five of the areas listed above, you can expect a disgruntled fan base and you cannot afford to disengage the fan base to extreme levels this soon in your career.
The excuses are over. You have all your guys in place. You've had a full year to get your evaluations air-tight. Let's wipe the slate clean. Let's forget about all the moves, good or bad, the Chiefs made in 2009. Our Christmas wish is that 2010 be the year when you start to get the Chiefs moving rapidly in the right direction.
The great fans of the Kansas City Chiefs