When a blogger goes about putting a story together on a particular subject he has many different avenues to explore to find the information that he needs to put it all together. That’s the great thing about blogging, you strive to find that delicate mix of opinion and fact on each particular subject, and then you back up the point that you are trying to make by using supportive evidence from all of the different outlets available.
There are stat-based websites like Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus, then you have the more news-based outlets like Pro Football Talk and the National Football Post, and finally you have the mega-giants like ESPN, CBS and Yahoo. There are other sites out there as well but these seem to be the most widely read and linked sites to Arrowhead Pride.
Bloggers, journalists, writers, each of these groups have the same general purpose, to spread news about a particular subject. Some of these are more subjective than others but the overall purpose is the same. Just like an architect has many different ways to design a building or a chef has many different ways to cook a particular meal, all of them can take different avenues to get to their overall goal. It could be a post for AP, a building downtown, or a Z-Man from Oklahoma Joes. They all use the tools available to put together the best possible product.
Scott Pioli has different avenues available at his disposal to try and create the best possible product for the Kansas City Chiefs franchise. His particular destination or finished product is a Super Bowl championship. We’ve already talked about one of these things in his decision to hire Todd Haley as head coach. Now we’re going to delve further into another one of these avenues in his use of free agency over the last two years.
Every team has strengths and weaknesses. Even the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers have areas of their team that could be improved as a general manager’s job is never finished. Every off-season all NFL teams have to evaluate their personnel and look at how their roster shapes up for the future. They have to take into account aging players, contract-statuses, the draft and free agency. This year has been a little different because teams could not use free agency to set up their draft, it was the other way around and teams didn’t have that same assurance that the players they coveted in free agency, whenever that begins, will be joining their teams. It definitely brought a different dynamic to this past draft.
Every team is different in how they approach the off-season and how much of an impact the players they look for in free agency will have on their teams. Some teams may just look for one starter in free agency and then maybe a couple of starters in the draft, some could be the other way around, a lot of it depends on the evaluations of that particular teams’ roster and who they’re looking for. Either way, teams have the avenue of free agency to improve their roster.
Scott Pioli has done a tremendous job with free agency over the last two years for the Kansas City Chiefs. We’re going to talk a little bit about some of the players that he’s brought to Kansas City, or brought back to Kansas City in a couple of cases.
Casey Wiegmann’s return to Kansas City was initially met with excitement, and then a slight bit of contention as fans wondered why we let him go in the first place. The decision from the previous staff to go with Rudy Niswanger at center eventually led the Chiefs to bring back the player they let go so he could take back over for the player that was supposed to replace him. Follow me? It wasn’t just the fans that were upset with his departure from Kansas City, which ultimately led him to sign with the Denver Broncos.
"It's good to be back home. I wish I would have never left. Kansas City has been good to me and I had to come back here to finish my career and give it another run."
Wiegmann played very well at times last year but struggled in a few key games that showed that the 38-year-old center might have played his last games in the NFL last season. With over 10,000 consecutive snaps at center, Wiegmann’s feat should go down in NFL history as one of the more-impressive streaks by any player in the NFL, ever.
Another player that Pioli brought back to Kansas City was Shawnee Mission Northwest graduate, and Kansas State alum Ryan Lilja. The Super Bowl champion guard was considered expendable by the Indianapolis Colts and when the opportunity presented itself for Pioli to fill a need with an experienced veteran-who wanted to play in Kansas City, the decision had to have been pretty easy to make. Lilja was much better than a lot of people around the league gave him credit for last season.
According to AP resident offensive line guru, Bewsaf, Lilja graded out pretty solidly for a good portion of last season. It seemed as if the same games that Wiegmann seemed to struggle are the same games that Lilja struggled. As a smaller, more-agile guard, and an aging, crafty-center, some of the bigger, more physical defensive lines that the Chiefs played last season gave them trouble. Most notably, the home playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens.
The decision to sign Thomas Jones in free agency last year might be the smartest, most valuable signing to the Chiefs over the foreseeable future. When Pioli arrived in Kansas City he had an unproven Jamaal Charles, and (Insert whatever you want here) Larry Johnson. Mike Vrabel was here that first year when Johnson was the starting running back and when asked about the difference between Johnson and Thomas Jones he said,
"They don't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence. Thomas is around the locker room and he's available to younger guys and vets saying 'Should we talk about this schedule?' or 'Should we talk to coach about this meeting?' things like that just trying to get the voice of the locker room and the coaches' ear."
It was probably the most-talked-out debate of the entire season, but the Thomas Jones/Jamaal Charles number-of-carries debate only has one truth. Jamaal Charles had a fantastic season last year and he did that by splitting carries with Thomas Jones. Charles has praised Jones for the leadership and tutelage he’s shown him at this critical time in his career. His career will be extended and better because of Thomas Jones.
The signing of Shaun Smith to the Chiefs was definitely met with mixed emotions from fans at the start. Up to this point almost all of the players that had been either signed or drafted by Pioli were clean as a whistle. Most Chiefs fans were saying, "Isn’t this the guy who punched Brady Quinn in the face?" Yes it was. And now a season later he is a fan favorite a consensus-most-resign for next season. We need our goal-line running back for next season and our defensive ‘attitude-enforcer’ when mouthy lineman get snippy with our guys.
Casey Wiegmann, Ryan Lilja, Thomas Jones and Shaun Smith are just four of the free agents that Pioli has brought in since taking over as general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs. Each of these guys have played critical roles in the success of last season, and future successes of some of our younger players that have been watching these guys go about their business. It would help the development of future-center Rodney Hudson if Wiegmann decides to return for another season. But having Brian Waters and Ryan Lilja for next season already gives Hudson some veteran leadership to lean on as he makes his transition to the NFL.
Scott Pioli has used the avenue of free agency superbly so far for the Kansas City Chiefs and the more he continues to do this, the more attractive the Chiefs look to other potential free agents. Pioli is making Kansas City a welcomed-destination to the top free agents on the market, and we'll have a shot at them if he decides they can help us.
Who is the top free-agent signing of the Pioli era over the last two years?