We have spent quite a bit of time since the draft talking about the future of the team and how each of the draft picks are going to see their roles defined over the next few years. Now that it looks as if it’s going to be a cold, dark time of Chiefs’ news we have to get a little creative on what to write and talk about.
So while we’ve analyzed everything about each one of the draft picks we made, and even those we didn’t make, it seems like a good time to step back and look at the "big picture" about where we came from not too long ago. This will be a small series of sorts on the impact that Scott Pioli has had on each aspect of the organization.
There won’t be one mention of that cliché that has already made three of you cringe after reading the title. It’s also probably not the most popular time to throw Clark Hunt a compliment, depending upon what side of this battle you are on, but Hunt deserves a lot of credit for being the one to go out and get Scott Pioli in Kansas City and that shouldn’t get lost over time.
Depending upon how closely you follow the team, the change in the Kansas City Chiefs over the last two years may not seem like such a long time. But for a good number of Chiefs' fans I’m willing to bet it seems like a long time ago that Scott Pioli was hired as the general manager. For those who follow the team closely, you’ve lived this transformation into relevance with every free agent pickup, every UDFA signee, and every roster cut all the way down to each front-office hiring. It’s tough to say that it means more to one particular person than it does to another, but there’s a special appreciation for those who have followed day-by-day dealings through the recent change in leadership and the result we’ve seen to this point.
Scott Pioli’s first major duty as general manager was hiring Head Coach Todd Haley. It was approved by Arrowhead Pride as a whole at the time of the hire and was obvious that Haley was the coach that Pioli had coveted from the beginning. There were all kinds of rumors as to who the next Chiefs head coach was going to be and it seemed that everyone loved to speculate and throw a name in the hat. Haley’s name seemed to always be in the conversation, along with anyone that was mentioned at a local KC pizzeria. Chris Mortensen even had the Mike Shanahan rumor before it settled on Todd Haley.
It’s always fun to look back at what was said in years past and see how close, or in my case a lot of times, how far off people are with their predictions and thoughts. Looking back at the first few months that Haley had in Kansas City it’s interesting to hear (or read) the things that he said and how they mirror a lot of the same things he’s saying today.
I don't want yo-yo players. I want the same guys every day. Even if you're not great, if you're the same guy we know what to expect and we can find a way to work it.
It sounded like he knew exactly the kind of player that he was looking for and exactly the kind of attitude he wanted from the guys that were already here. In that same interview he made a prediction about where the Chiefs were heading under his direction.
"I'm going to bring the Chiefs back."
As we can all recall it wasn’t exactly a smooth transition for all of the players to adjust to Haley as the new head coach. The exact details of the first conversation between Brian Waters and Haley were never made clear, but needless to say some words were exchanged and thus the "22 players off the street could win 2 games" comment spread like wildfire across AP and the internet. Two years later and that situation couldn’t be more irrelevant. Waters made another Pro-Bowl last season and Haley has praised Waters for the leadership he’s shown for this team for the past two seasons.
There were also the situations with Derrick Johnson wanting to "start" somewhere and Dwayne Bowe dealing with a suspension, importgate and a demotion. It’s interesting to look back at our comments about what we perceived was happening with these two situations and how Haley was actually just motivating these players. If nothing else he just wasn’t giving the players that reassurance that their jobs were safe or that they already had their starting positions. He made them earn these positions and both Johnson and Bowe thrived from this type of motivation.
Just as these players are improving their craft so is Todd Haley. He has had to develop and learn to be better as a coach as well. He was remarkably different during his second year than he was that first year and it’s probably mostly through development from Haley, but a little bit of it was strategy too. He had to come in as a first-year coach and get these players on the same page. He had to establish a mentality to this team that would serve them well in the future, and it did serve them well. There is no doubt that the biggest turnaround in team history was predicated upon Haley laying down his law to everyone that first season.
It’s fair to say that Scott Pioli’s first major duty was a success. This is not an endorsement for Haley as the next Hall of Famer, but it is giving credit where credit is due. Clark Hunt brought us Scott Pioli and Scott Pioli brought us Todd Haley. These three men helped establish an organization that went from 4 wins in 2009 and relative obscurity, to 10 wins, a division title, a home playoff game and a new stadium in 2010. Scott Pioli has given Chiefs fans a reason to be optimistic and a reason to feel let-down when the team doesn’t succeed. It’s what fans of winning teams get to do when their team has shown them that it’s ok to drop your guard and truly expect the team to win, not just hope for it.