Last week, I suggested that Scott Pioli maybe needed to show a little bit more urgency this offseason and it seems to have struck a chord--many strongly disagreed and many strongly agreed, but few people seemed to be in-between. The good news is, Pioli has responded. I wouldn't say he responded in a big way, but re-signing Chambers and bringing in Thomas Jones were both solid stopgap moves. I would have liked to have seen a blue-chip second-contract free agent like Dansby or Rolle in the mix too, but I realize those deals may never have been on the table. I'm okay with the Chiefs' offseason so far--I wouldn't endorse it, but I wouldn't criticize it either.
However, even though I haven't been ecstatic about Pioli's free agency track record so far, I also realize that he's the type of GM who would rather build primarily through the draft. Good, because I do too. Granted, I wasn't a big fan of Pioli's 2009 draft. Though I realize drafts take a few years to evaluate, I think a lot of even his biggest supporters will tell you that the 2009 draft wasn't exactly anything to do cartwheels over. Either way, what's past is past and in this case, the past is completely separate from the future because a lot has changed since the 2009 draft. Arrowhead Pride did a great job of updating you on the changes in the Chiefs' personnel department, so I wanted to recap all of those changes in case you forgot.
After the jump, I'm going to list the reasons why there is really strong potential for the 2010 Pioli to tell the 2009 Pioli: "You got served" when it comes to the draft.
- Coaching Changes: As I mentioned in my "controversial" post about Jimmy Clausen a few weeks ago, Scott Pioli has built a reputation on working well with his coaching staff to get the players they want. The scouting process isn't run by one guy; it's a partnership that requires several pieces to fit together. The scouts, the head personnel guys, and the coaches have to all be aligned. Pioli's job is to promote that partnership. If any one piece, including Pioli himself, attempts to usurp power and disrupt that balance, that's when problems arise. Pioli's primary job is to find out what his coaches want, then create a "playbook" for his scouts so they know exactly what to look for. The whole process begins with coaches who have a keen eye for knowing exactly what they want and identifying when they don't have it. Pioli didn't have that last season. Haley was a rookie coach who probably wasn't entirely sure of what identity he wanted to create and he came onto the team pretty late in the draft process. Clancy Pendergast was sort of a miscast Defensive Coordinator putting together a 3-4 defense he may not have been fully equipped to build. The Chiefs now have remarkable eyes for talent on the front lines in Romeo and Weis. That will not only help the Chiefs prioritize their draft needs, it should also help them become smarter about in-house moves. For example, while I am not in favor of moving Branden Albert out of his Left Tackle position, I would feel perfectly comfortable with the move if Charlie Weis doesn't see him there. Same goes with the Quarterback decision.
- Phil Emery, Director of College Scouting: Emery is to the Chiefs what Thomas Dimitroff was to the Patriots and he wasn't there to help in the 2009 Draft. He's the guy managing the front lines of the college scouting operation. He's probably the most influential man that most people know nothing about. But you should, because he has a very impressive resume and he has a lot of experience outside of the Patriot Way which should bring in a new way of thinking. I think he helped build a pretty good young team in Atlanta and it sounds like he's helped spearhead a very aggressive scouting operation in Kansas City so far. Fun fact about Emery: Emery is a Navy guy and most of his early experience was in strength and conditioning. That should tell you a lot about the kinds of guys he's probably going to want for the Chiefs: tough, physical, motivated workers. It will be interesting to see what a conditioning guy thinks about a guy like Terrence Cody. All things to watch out for.
- More Scouts: A while back, Arrowhead Addict did a great exclusive interview with Bob Gretz and he mentioned that Pioli didn't listen to any of the input from Carl Peterson's scouts. If true, then the Chiefs walked into the 2009 Combine with a pretty limited amount of information and fewer evaluators. In my opinion, that was a mistake. I believe area scouting is easily the most underrated, underappreciated element of the draft process. The good news is, Pioli has his own scouts in place and they had a chance to be a part of the process from start to finish. Arrowhead Pride reported on some of these hires a while back. Area scouts these days are so well connected with these prospects that I can't even imagine the level of detail they know about prospects (sorry, Eric Berry. You can't hide from the scouts. They know you love Miley's music). Scouting is very thankless work. I found a really good article that speaks to the life of a scout. I encourage you to read it--it will give you a much greater appreciation for the great work scouts do. It should also help shoo away the misconception that Pioli is some kind of master at evaluating players. Pioli's job isn't to do that. He doesn't have time to do that. His job is to make sure his scouts are collecting useful information and then to make decisions based on that. The last thing I'd want is a GM who didn't listen to his scouts.
Full-year Uninterrupted: I know this might sound like an excuse, but it does make a very big difference to have a full year with all your scouts in place. I think in this day and age where any one of us can readily pick up a scouting report we found online, the casual fan often assumes that the scouting process consists of Scott Pioli/Coaches reading scouting reports prepared by their personnel guys. That's essentially what Pioli did last year--he didn't have access to the rich information scouts collect through the year, so most of his evaluation was likely largely weighted by the Senior Bowl and combine. It's like this. If I'm a scientist and I've discovered the cure for Cancer, who do you think knows more about what went into finding that cure? Me--the guy who worked tirelessly for years to make the scientific discovery? Or the person who read that report? When Pioli was separated from the Patriots, he was also separated from the "scientists" of the personnel evaluation process. That's not going to be a problem this offseason. The combine period isn't the time for personnel guys like Pioli to discover players and, contrary to popular belief, GMs like Pioli aren't the ones with the most complete information about prospects. The scouts get the inside scoop on prospects before they're coached on how to beat a 40 time and how to give a solid interview.
As you all know, I'm not afraid to speak my mind if I'm not happy with the direction Pioli is moving in. From that standpoint, I'm not guaranteeing Pioli will get the 2010 draft right nor will I excuse him if he doesn't do a better job. However, I do believe that all those points above should contribute to a much better draft in 2010. Let's hope so. Pioli's approach is clearly to build through the draft, so he really needs to hit several home runs. To me, the 2009 Draft was just a hiccup. I have all the confidence in the world that the 2010 draft will be significantly better.
Let's hope I'm right.