From the FanPosts -Joel
It always surprises me when I listen to people discuss the Kansas City Chiefs and they completely gloss over how terrible this team was when Scott Pioli and Todd Haley got here in 2009. In this article, I take a look at what Pioli has actually done through an objective lens.
What He Started With
Here's the roster Pioli inherited. Pay particular attention to the sheer number of players that aren't even in the league anymore. I think this roster speaks for itself but here are some highlights:
- QB - Quinn Gray backing up Tyler Thigpen ("stud" QBs Damon Huard and Brodie Croyle were on IR).
- OL - Damion McIntosh and Rudy Niswanger were starters; neither is in the league anymore.
- WR - This list is embarrassingly bad; the highlight is an out-of-shape Dwayne Bowe. Mark Bradley, Jeff Webb, Will Franklin, and Kevin Robinson have washed out of the league; Devard Darling is a backup for the Texans.
Pioli's first draft was bad. The best player so far has been Ryan Succop (Mr. Irrelevant!). Tyson Jackson has looked much better this year, but Donald Washington, Quinten Lawrence and Jake O'Connell look like backups at best. Pioli came in, cleaned house, didn't have the right people to fill in for the scouts/staff he got rid of, and made some, in my opinion, poor choices. I don't hold that against him just as I don't hold any player's rookie mistakes against them.
Pioli's second draft was good. It gave the Chiefs two starting safeties in Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis who both look like studs, a good nickel corner/return man in Javier Arenas, a gadget offensive player with potential in Dexter McCluster, a starting guard in Jon Asamoah, a starting stud tight end in Tony Moeaki, and a solid linebacker prospect in Cameron Sheffield (deserves a full, healthy off-season before being judged).
Pioli's third draft is almost impossible to judge at this point due to the shortened training camp. We do know the first round pick has flashed incredible potential (I've seen Jonathan Baldwin's behind-the-back catch six times and I still don't understand how he did it). We'll have to wait until at least next year to begin judging this class.
Pioli has been solid but not spectacular in free agency. In Pioli's second season, he got the Chiefs four new starters in Ryan Lilja, Shaun Smith, Thomas Jones and Casey Weigmann and a backup WR in Jerheme Urban. He significantly improved the offensive line, built depth at the other two positions and increased the veteran presence in the locker room.
This season, Pioli got the CHiefs a legitimate 2nd/3rd receiver in Steve Breaston, a Pro Bowl fullback in Le'Ron McClain, a much better 4th/5th receiver in Keary Colbert (vs. Terrance Copper or Urban), and an actual nose tackle in Kelly Gregg (vs. Ron Edwards, who was always a 4-3 defensive tackle trying to play the nose). We also saw competition at linebacker and improvement in special teams in Brandon Siler (although he was quickly injured and never made an impact). The Chiefs let go of some mediocre players (Ron Edwards and Shaun Smith) instead of saddling the payroll with inflated salaries that would have made it harder for KC to competitively pay good players.
"But we should have gotten more and higher profile guys!"
The Eagles did that and their record is 3-6. There are rarely good players in free agency because good players get extended or traded. Anyone you bring in has to fit your system, which further narrows the list of candidates. You're also virtually guaranteed to overpay because there are 31 other potential bidders, including desperate teams on the hot seat looking for a savior and hopeful teams looking for the final piece.
The bottom line is you can't build a team through free agency. I've never heard anyone who argues for a free agency spending spree give an example of it working.
Myth-Busting: Paying for Players
The available evidence refutes the widespread notion that Pioli is unable to pay for good players because Clark Hunt wants to keep the payroll low. Jamaal Charles, Tamba Hali, Brandon Flowers and Derrick Johnson have all received extensions (Hali's in particular was enormous). In the next couple years, Brandon Carr, Dwayne Bowe, Glenn Dorsey and Brandon Albert could join them.
It's fantastic that the Chiefs can win the division with a low cap number. It means KC has the money to sign quality free agents and our own deserving players, can afford high round draft busts or players who stop playing after getting a contract, and never have to worry about drafting too many guys.
If you still aren't convinced, think about it this way: Why would Pioli, who's had his pick of GM jobs for years, had a counteroffer from the Browns the very year we hired him, demanded total control as a condition of employment, and presumably likes to win, sign with the owner who said, "You can't spend up to the cap"? (And if you think a guy as obsessed with details as Pioli neglected to ask about spending policies beforehand, you're crazy.)
Myth-Busting: Who Deserves Credit for Success in 2010
I constantly hear people complain about how Pioli/Haley's success has only come as the result of players signed by Carl Peterson and Herm Edwards. This claim is patently false.
First, whether you like him or not, Matt Cassel was a huge upgrade over the four quarterbacks Pioli/Haley inherited and a significant part of the success last year (27 TDs, 7 interceptions and a 93 QB rating). Pioli deserves credit for clearly identifying our quarterback problem and making a move.
Second, of course the few good players on the roster from the previous administration are important to this team. Even if Pioli hadn't had a poor first draft, his new guys would have been second year players, making it unlikely that they would lead the way in 2010. Despite this lack of experience obstacle, Pioli added five starters through the 2010 draft that were critical to our success that same season (Berry, McCluster, Arenas, Moeaki and Lewis).
Finally, does anyone really believe Edwards would have gotten the same production out of any of our talent? Bowe and Albert were both embarrassingly out-of-shape before Haley came to town. Think about that for a minute: the worst players in the NFL are physical specimens, and we had young, first-round pick starters who were badly out of shape.
I think Pioli has done a very good job in the short time that he's been here. He's drafted a number of instant impact players and carefully selected free agents who have improved our performance on the field and the veteran presence in the locker room without breaking the bank. The Chiefs don't have great depth yet, but that's to be expected given the horrible roster Pioli inherited, his bad first draft and the NFL lockout. The team has gotten significantly better, although it's hard to tell this season because of the numerous season-ending injuries to critical players.
Are some of the games still painful to watch? Yes, but every time we have a bad game, think back to how horrible the Chiefs were at the end of Edwards tenure (9-7, 4-12, 2-14). This team has genuine talent and plays hard every game, which is a vote of confidence for Haley and Pioli. It gives me hope.