Franchise Quarter Back. The one position that is on the mind of every Chiefs fan at the moment. To many Scott Pioli is a failure. He's stuck by the definition of mediocrity (or suckitude depending on the day) in Matt Cassel. He's ignored the most important position on the field. His ego is too big to take a shot on a top prospect. He's only made one attempt to address the position in 4 years, and it was a late round pick whose been over-hyped on AP. Look at that sexy little man from Wisconsin (he's so short and cute), why would we pass on that for a boring fatty? Shouldn't Tom Brady have taught him the importance of the position (and great hair)? Why doesn't he just do something? Anything would be better than what we have now. Why does Pioli hate us?
Wait. Haven't I heard this all before? Cue flashback...
Nose Tackle. There is one position that is on the mind of every Chiefs fan leading up to the draft. To many Scott Pioli is a failure. He's stuck by the definition of mediocrity in Ron Edwards and a past-prime Kelly Gregg. He's ignored the most important position on the 3-4 defense. His ego is too big to take a shot on a top prospect. He's only made one attempt to address the position, and it was a 6th round pick named Powe who no one else wanted and has been over hyped by AP. Look at that sexy big man in Wisconsin (he's so cute in those commercials dancing with Aaron Rogers), why would we pass on that for a boring Tyson Jackson? Shouldn't Vince Wilfork have taught him the importance of the position? Why doesn't he just do something? Dan Williams, BJ Raji, Phil Taylor, Cam Thomas, Terrance Cody, Tourrell Troup or Kenrick Ellis would all be better than what we have now. Why does Pioli hate us?
Seriously think back a year. People around these parts viewed the need for a elite nose tackle as being right up there with QB. People were at Pioli's throat for apparently ignoring the missing link, and ruining our potentially elite defense in the process. The prospects Pioli passed over were seen as damning evidence of this inexplicable apathy on the part of our GM.
And then everything changed...
The heaven's opened up and down floated a 350 man-beast with exceptional strength and athleticism and visions of Haloti Ngata danced in our heads. The plan had become clear. Pioli had tricked us. He wasn't apathetic or stupid. He hadn't been ignoring the importance of a nose tackle. He had been biding his time, waiting for his guy to come along. Waiting for a prospect to come who he and his coaching staff believed could develop into something not good, but great. When he identified that player he didn't hesitate to spend a high 1st round pick on him.
It's too early to tell on Poe, but the potential is there for him to be truly elite. The point is that Pioli waited patiently for a prospect to come along that he believed in. He relied on stop gaps up until that point, and used valuable picks to build the rest of roster; even though those positions may not have as vitally important to the defense as Nose Tackle. Prior to spending big on Poe, he took a late round flier (Powe) who had the tools, and doesn't look too bad himself. In fact, that has been the Pioli M.O. at other "premier" positions such as pass rusher. Bide time with a stop gap (Vrabel), make "moneyball" picks (Miller and Sheffield), find your guy (Houston who was something of a "Moneyball" pick himself).
And what of those AP favorites, that Pioli so stupidly passed over? That developed legendary status here as tremendous misses, how have they actually panned out?
- Dan Williams: Mediocre Starter
- BJ Raji: Average Starter (with the exception of a good rookie year)
- Phil Taylor: Plays in a 4-3 and is injured, has looked above average but isn't elite.
- Terrance Cody: Backup
- Cam Thomas: Backup
- Tourrell Troup: Backup
- Kenrick Ellis: Backup (when he wasn't in prison)
Not exactly a list of world beaters and can't miss guys. Will Dontari turn out better? Too early to tell, but I like his chances and so apparently does Pioli.
The Point. Patience isn't a virtue of being a fan. We are hard wired to expect immediate results. We're a reactionary bunch. We're frustrated, and for good reason, at the futility of QB's throughout the franchise's history. We're fed up, 30 years between 1st round quarter backs is too long. The fact is though, Pioli doesn't have any control over what happened in the 26 years before he arrived. It's not his fault Blackledge sacred us off drafting QB's. We can only judge Pioli by the last 4 years, those that he was in charge. As a fan it's hard to forget the Chief's rocky history with QB's, to ignore the rough times. But to fairly judge Pioli you have to do just that, and taken in isolation it's not such a gory picture. If Pioli's treatment of other key positions is any indication there is a plan. Pioli is taking his time, waiting not for a prospect, but for the right prospect to come along. Rome wasn't built in a day, great franchises aren't either. Patience is a virtue.
Throwing lots of draft picks at a problem area is a good way to create fan excitement in the short term. Fans love you for it, right up until those picks get exposed for what they are. Then you have to win their love again with another high pick. Does one turn out to be great occasionally? Sure. More often though you just create a perpetuating cycle of mediocre QB's and risk letting go of a guy who could have developed into something special too soon. Meanwhile the rest of your roster suffers as result of neglect and it makes it harder for any QB to succeed.
QB is the most cerebral position on the field, it requires a significant investment of time and resources to develop and evaluate correctly, if you're going to invest you better make damn sure it's a guy you believe in. I don't think Pioli really believed any of the recent QB's he chose to pass over would succeed long term, and it's hard to blame him for that. It's not like he's passed over a long list of elite, can't miss, great prospects. The guys had some pretty lack-luster options. Mark Sanchez? Josh Freeman? Pat White? Tim Tebow? Jimmy Clausen? Colt McCoy? Andy Dalton? Colin Kaepernick? Ryan Mallett? Brandon Weeden? Brock Osweiler? Russel Wilson? There's nobody on that list that you just can't justify passing on without the power of hindsight (and even then there aren't many great names).
Playing it cool and waiting for a guy you actually like, and building a team for them in the meantime isn't a bad approach. In fact, it's a wise one. It's not going to be popular with fans, however, until all of the sudden that prospect comes along that you like and you spend the high pick. That guy then walks into a stacked team and near perfect situation for success. If he works out, Pioli comes out looking like a genius and the fans love him for it. Fans need to realize that maybe, just maybe, 4 years isn't enough time. That maybe they need to suspend their natural urge for instant gratification a bit longer and give Pioli a chance to find and draft his guy. Remember the Nose Tackle, the parallels are apparent.