Scott Pioli, Todd Haley And The Art Of Prestidigitation

Well folks, you know me.  When I have enough time to sit around and think too much (like during preseason with just enough football for a tease), my mind wanders into the what if category.  I start questioning the truth of the way things appear to be (that I don't agree with or don't like) but can't confirm.  I have always had an active imagination.  It has been reported that I told my kindergarten class that my Grandfather had an elephant in his basement.  I don't remember doing that, but I'm not gonna say it didn't happen.  See?  Plausible deniability is important to maintain when you veer off the path of what we know into the grey areas where unanswered questions receive supposition instead of clarification.

What unanswered question has Aiken's pea brain been wrestling with today?  Just how much of what Todd Haley and Scott Pioli have done since the end of the lockout is real and how much is legerdemain?  They seem to be just as enigmatic as ever.  Have you heard the saying that, "Something is rotten in Denmark"?  Well, Haley (and his cohort Pioli to an extent) have been doing things that don't pass the smell test.  In a word they 'stink' of misdirection and ruse.  I have been reading all the posts and comments here at AP looking for answers to this erratic behavior (because APers will sniff out any funny business where the Chiefs are concerned) and from what I gather, Haley and Pioli have continued with their sleight of hand machinations to deceive the NFL.  It's purpose?  All I can figure is that it is intended to continue to play their cards as close to the vest as possible until they are ready to spring their trap.  Let's discuss some of these stinky moves and see if the adage that 'where there is smoke there is fire' holds true.

Stinky thing #1.

Haley has consistently stuck to his guns about having a 'plan' for this preseason.  He has talked about it regularly in his pressers.  He says that conditioning is paramount and the Chiefs are 'behind'. From KCChiefs.com:

Q: Are your players at the physical level you would want them to be in now?

HALEY: "No, we're behind like I said. I don't know that there's a right or wrong. I think you have to believe in what you're doing and we've got to just kind of take it step by step and it may go into the season where we're not to where we want to be. I do know that if we're well-conditioned and strong and our guys know what do to, we'll have a chance to compete."

Alright, I can buy what he's selling.  The Chiefs (and everyone else) had a screwed up off season and now he's saying that the team isn't properly conditioned.  Fine.  

If that is truly the case, why did the Chiefs take a day off this week and go to the movies?  I get the team building part, and I am in favor of that, but given the off season that Haley laments not having, wouldn't you think they couldn't afford the time to go see Captain America or Cowboys and Aliens?  If you were truly concerned about the lack of time that these players have spent getting in game shape and gelling on the play book, and you're even telling reporters that "it may go into the season where we're not to where we want to be", would you show your concern by allowing those players the equivalent of half a day of staring out the window during a test?  Somehow, I don't think Haley is as concerned as he portends to be.

By many accounts (until yesterday anyway), Haley is the most cool, calm and collected this year as he as been in any of his three seasons of Chiefs training camp.  I wonder what is making him so confident?  It sure can't be the fact that his team is woefully under conditioned and getting ready to have their collective ass handed to them when they aren't prepared for the start of the regular season, could it?  That seems like a pretty clear no yet he is alluding to exactly that fact.

Speaking of yesterday, in case you missed it, Bob Gretz is reporting that Studebaker got so hyped up in scrimmage that he broke the rule of hitting the QB in practice.  To make matters worse, he did it in front of the HC.  Don't you think that this is Stinky thing 1a?  One thing that everyone of those players do not want to do is get in Haley's dog house.  Wouldn't breaking a sacred rule like that be on the list of things that the players would never do?  Gretz was beside himself with glee in having an opportunity to write about the return of "mad" Haley when he posted that the coach 'erupted' when this happened.  I ask you, are we to believe that Studebaker is so confident of his starting spot that he was willing to throw caution to the winds and break a practice rule that would bring the wrath of Haley down on his head?  That one smells like a dirty sock that got left in the back of somebody's locker and fermented itself some cheese.  It sounds to me more like it was contrived to take advantage of Mr. Gretz in getting the word out to the NFL that Haley is hyper-concerned about 'conditioning' with his team. 

Stinky thing #2

What's with the idea of telling the press before the preseason game that the Chiefs were going to view this as a 'practice' period?  Since when has Haley ever given the press an indication of what to look for in any game directly before kickoff?  It was reported right before kick off of the Tampa Bay game by one of the sideline reporters (sorry, I can't remember which female that was) that coach Haley was viewing this as a practice session.

Now, no matter how trivial this may seem to the casual fan, those of us who have followed the take over of the KGB at One Arrowhead Drive know that this is not normal.  The spigot of information to the press has been shut off and is now regulated with an eyedropper that contains mostly coach speak.  Normal would have been to refuse to speak with the reporters, play the stinky game to see what kind of results you get and then explain away everything in the presser that night or the next morning. Instead, we get what looks like damage control before the fact.  Given the 'concern' that Haley has expressed in his team's conditioning, this was a great way to further the impact of this smoke screen on the NFL.  Put it on national TV so everybody can hear it.  For me, there is simply no way that I can believe that Haley was just 'telling it like it is' to the press.  They just don't do that very often. More likely, he is continuing his efforts in getting the Chiefs to be an underestimated team come regular season by downplaying those strengths that Peter King just made a Sports Illustrated video about.

Stinky thing #3

For a team that routinely does not sign big names in free agency, signing three fairly well known players in one off season was a bit of a surprise.  Signing them all from the same team seems like a huge improbability.  What is behind signing three players from the Ravens (who coincidentally, just happen to be the team that fed us our face mask last year in our first playoff game since 2006)?  Haley didn't even stammer when he answered that question in a recent presser.

Q: Is it just a coincidence that you guys have signed three players from Baltimore this offseason?

HALEY: "Yeah, I think it's a coincidence. Now again, if you're able to acquire players that you think can fit with what you're doing and they're coming from teams that are winning type teams, I think that's a good thing, whether that had much influence or not, I wouldn't put too much weight on it. Yeah, I think coincidence. I'm happy to have them all in here competing and just trying again to get everybody up to speed so they can show us everything they have."

Q: There wasn't any kind of mentality you were trying to bring from Baltimore here?

HALEY: "No. If they were a divisional opponent, I might think deeper into it."

What?  What does he mean about thinking deeper into it if they were in our division?  Is he just trying to throw these guys off the scent?  If he is, what is the real reasoning behind bringing so many Ravens over in one off season?  We know Pioli has connections with Ozzie Newsome, so what is this all about?  Jim Zorn came from the Ravens as well.  How does that figure into this whole thing?  Was it Zorn that was instrumental in feeding information to the Chiefs on who was going to be on the open market once the lockout was over?  Way too many unanswered questions here to draw solid conclusions, but somehow it just seems like finding all these FAs from one garden is more than coincidence.  Could it be that Haley was sending a subliminal message to Chiefs players that if they can't raise their level of play, he would go out and find their replacements from a group that handed them their toughest defeat merely six months ago?  Furthermore, why are all three players ONLY signed to one year deals?  Is that an indication that Haley and Pioli actually prefer our own, home grown players to these short term hole fillers?  Do you suppose that bringing these ex-Ravens players into the fold has had any such impact on the team psyche?  Pioli and Haley are true believers in the 'spirit of competition'.  I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Stinky thing #4

Jared Gaither.  Why was Jared Gaither brought aboard?  It is true that he has the size and skills to be an incredible contender, at LT.  Bob Gretz (sorry Bob, you've been so active recently you've given some good quotes to work with) jumped on Gaither with both feet this morning when he said he just couldn't figure out why Gaither was wearing a Chiefs uniform.

Two practices and he’s already on the injured list; that was part of the reason he fell out of favor with the Ravens. There were too many times when he was unavailable to practice because he was "hurt." There were too many occasions when Gaither did not maximize his opportunities to be in condition and stay in shape to play 16 games plus.

He was not committed and he was not dependable. On the surface, how he gets on the Chiefs roster with that type of resume is beyond me. Haley has stressed and Pioli has gone out and found players who are committed and dependable. They seek self starters, guys who take the game and even the business of football seriously.

There are alot of folks out there that share Bob's opinion that Jared is not a model citizen.  Then there are a lot of folks who have watched Gaither the last few years that hold a different opinion.  Some of them think Gaither got a bit of a raw deal in Baltimore and should not have been cut.  

Haley has said his piece on Gaither as well.

Again, on the Jared deal, I think we have him over there to try to increase his comfort level as much as anything else. He's a guy though that has played both sides. You have a number of different options with some of those guys and that's a good thing as far as I'm concerned, because last year we played most of the year feeling like if something happened to Branden that Barry Richardson would go over there and then we'd plug in who we thought had the best chance to be the best right tackle - Ryan O'Callaghan much of the year. We weren't as comfortable with Ryan going to left.

Like I've said though, in the process, if somebody's a standout player that we know can help us, then across the board, we'd find away to get them in there."

Gretz doesn't get it because Gaither's background doesn't seem to fit the 'right 53' that Pioli talks about.  Many fans would agree.  Based on what we have come to expect with Pioli and Haley, this move at least qualifies as a scratch and sniff on the smell factor.  Again, with a 685k price tag he is relatively inexpensive, but for only one year.  With the other baggage, Bob has reason to be suspicious about this signing.  Is it just to put pressure on BA and BRich to help get them to the best that they can be?  Or is the hope that Gaither works out and takes one of those jobs or at least provides some needed depth?  Either way the Chiefs improve.  There is the solution that makes these cagy moves acceptable.

So what does all this mean?  

Not much, as it turns out, because we can't go ask the guys that know.  All we can do is look at what is there and draw our own conclusions.  For me, it would seem that Haley and Pioli are concealing what the KC Chiefs product is going to look like for as long as possible.  That has been and continues to be their M.O. since day one and there is no reason to believe that they have changed it now.

For the fans though, it is difficult to keep our emotions in check.  BJ Kissel recently opined about how writing about the Chiefs is somewhat cathartic for him.  What he writes, he says, is often more optimistic than what he might say in a face to face with another Chiefs fan at the Bar we call Arrowhead Pride.  I'll agree with that.  I think that what I enjoy doing is getting the fan based pumped up with the pride that we all feel in being Chiefs fans.  Sometimes all we need is a spark to set Chiefs nation ablaze with positivity.

By the same token, I think there are many here who write their greatest fears about what could happen and come across as negative, when all they really wanted to do was share their thoughts in commiseration with other like minded fans.  It's all good, that is truly what AP is all about.  What's funny is that ultimately, we all want the optimists to be right.  It's just that some of us can't bear to publicly open their hearts to the possibility that they could be. It's ok. We'll all be euphoric when it happens.  I think we've got the right guys in place to make that possible.

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