Tony Robbins stated “The most important thing you can do to achieve your goals is to make sure that as soon as you set them, you immediately begin to create momentum.” Momentum is what the Chiefs immediately lack on Sundays (outscored 41-6 in the first quarter this season) and what Scott Pioli has gloriously failed to create after he took the job.
I researched some of the most successful GMs in the league and each of them created momentum in their first months on the job - through their first draft (cornerstone player and/or whole draft boom), their first coaching hire (save Jerry Reese, who was preceded by Coughlin and hasn’t hired a coach), drafting (or in Reese’s case inheriting) an elite QB; and hitting on most (or all) of your first round picks. Even Carl Peterson effectively created momentum in his first few years. Pioli, on the other hand, has failed miserably.
I feel it is fair to compare Pioli to these highly successful GMs because, as we all know, he is a five-time winner of NFL Executive of the Year honors. His accolades can be easily found on the KC Chiefs website. Interestingly; however, only two of the 20 paragraphs of his bio describe his accomplishments with the Chiefs. As a business person myself, I would be a bit embarrassed if I was entering my fourth year on the job and only 10% of my resume related to my current job.
This post may border on the obvious, but it highlights the glaring inequity between our front office and the front office of successful teams. Those GMs didn’t sputter out of the gates, recover, sputter again, nose dive, and then recover to greatness. If Pioli keeps his job, that is what we are going to have to expect. He will have to buck the trend.
I realize the Chiefs momentum was stalled in part by the injuries to Berry, Charles, Moeaki, Flowers, etc., but I’m not really sure Pioli’s momentum can be explained away. His first coaching hire was abysmal. There are only three players that remain from his first draft class (none are cornerstone players, and only the kicker is really a key contributor). He did not bring in an elite QB (which is particularly egregious because he had spent four years evaluating Cassel in New England – if anyone should have had preexisting knowledge of his limitations, it’s Pioli). Finally, he has missed on 3 of his first-round picks (while most of the below GMs cashed in on regular and early Pro Bowlers, rookies of the year, and a league MVP - again save Reese who is a two time Super Bowl Champion, so I’ll give him a pass).
Let’s look closer at the GMs.
When Thompson was hired the Packers were over the salary cap for the upcoming 2005 season. Some of Thompson's first decisions included declining to re-sign starting guard Marco Rivera and releasing starting guard Mike Wahle and starting safety Darren Sharper. Thompson focused his efforts on rebuilding and improving the roster through the draft, and almost immediately upon taking over, Thompson made a crucial choice for the long-term benefit of the club – QB Aaron Rodgers.
Of the 53 players on Green Bay’s Super Bowl XLV championship roster, 49 of them were acquired by Thompson since 2005. In his first four drafts from 2005-08, Thompson utilized 14 trades, all but one of them down, to turn 31 picks into 43 selections, plus an extra choice in ’09. In 2009-10, his trades went in the other direction as the improved roster core allowed him to focus less on the overall quantity of picks. Those two years, Thompson traded up for specific players he had targeted in certain rounds. It is important to note Thompson only took two years to position Green Bay with a league-best $21 million available below the salary cap.
One year later, Thompson hired McCarthy to mold Rodgers into the team’s signal caller of the future (and 2011 league MVP). In ’09, after selecting Boston College NT B.J. Raji with the No. 9 overall selection in the first round, Thompson traded a second-round pick and two third-round selections – Nos. 41, 73 and 83 overall – to New England to select LB Clay Matthews, while also receiving a 2009 fifth-round pick in return from the Patriots. Both Raji and Matthews have earned Pro Bowl honors.
The Packers made the NFC Championship in Thompson’s 3rd year and won Super Bowl XLV in his 6th year.
In his first year on the job, Dimitroff landed Ryan (2008 Offensive Rookie of the Year) in the draft and added two-time Pro Bowl running back Michael Turner in free agency. In 2009, Atlanta needed a tight end and signed hall-of-famer Tony Gonzalez. In 2010, Atlanta brought in former Defensive Rookie of the Year CB Dunta Robinson and selected OLB Sean Weatherspoon with the 19th pick, in addition to drafting defensive tackle Corey Peters in the third round (83rd overall). In 2011, the Falcons manufactured a trade with the Browns and moved up to select WR Julio Jones with the sixth pick.
Dimitroff’s proactive approach was highlighted once again prior to the 2012 draft. Atlanta re-signined its own players and adding veterans LB Lofa Tatupu and G Vince Manuwai. Atlanta also made 15 moves as they compiled their 2012 roster, including re-signing TE Tony Gonzalez and trading for four-time Pro Bowl and two-time Super Bowl champion cornerback Asante Samuel.
Reese hit the ground sprinting after replacing Ernie Accorsi in 2007, landing Aaron Ross, Steve Smith, Jay Alford, Kevin Boss, Michael Johnson, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Zak DeOssie in his first draft – all of whom helped lead the Giants to a Super Bowl title the following season. He also drafted Jason Pierre-Paul and has made shrewd moves like landing DB Antrel Rolle after he was cut by the Cardinals.
Although we know Peterson never drafted or inherited an elite QB, he started in a different era. Peterson hit the ground running. He chose a legitimate head coach in Marty Schottenheimer, the first the Chiefs had in 6 years. His first draft pick was LB Derrick Thomas (4th overall). Obviously, we know Thomas's made an immediate impact, earning his first of nine Pro Bowl berths and Defensive Rookie of the Year by Sporting News.
In 1990 Peterson drafted Percy Snow (2 sacks and an interception as rookie MLB before finding a penchant for mopeds – which ultimately ended his career) and Tim Grunhard and Dave Szott (cornerstones of the o-line in the 1990s) Fred Jones (a good special teamer and caught the game winning TD in the 1990 AFC Wild Card Game) and Derrick Graham who played 5 seasons for the Chiefs.
In 1991 he drafted one-third of the "Backs By Popular Demand" Harvey Williams, “Tackle Eligible” Joe Valerio, Tim Barnett (caught game-tying 4th down TD pass from Joe Montana in the second-to-last playoff game we won), and starter Charles Mincy.
In 1992 he drafted NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Dale Carter, as well as DE Darren Mickell.
Newsome is a bit of an outlier because he started in the same era as Peterson; however, his success over sixteen years is incredible and he has adapted to the new NFL. In his (and the Ravens’ first-ever draft), Newsome drafted perennial Pro Bowlers, T Jonathan Ogden and LB Ray Lewis (the fourth and 26th selections, respectively). Both made their first Pro Bowl in their second year.
In the team’s first 16 drafts (1996-2011), Baltimore selected 17 first rounders who have earned a total of 51 Pro Bowl honors.
Newsome hit on most of his early picks. Five of the seven players chosen in the Top 10 by Baltimore made the Pro-Powl, Ogden, Defensive Rookie of the Year LB Peter Boulware, CB Chris McAlister, RB Jamal Lewis and Defensive Rookie of the Year LB Terrell Suggs. He’s also had success with Haloti Ngata, Joe Flacco and Ray Rice and his success isn’t limited to the draft. He landed Anquan Boldin last season from the Cardinals for mere third and fourth round draft picks.
Pioli’s resume pales in comparison to these GMs, which explains the website. When you add the allegations of office bugs, his attention (obsession) to minute/unimportant details, his apparent distrust of the outside world, and the fact that noteworthy coaches and veterans won’t even entertain the possibility of working with him, you start to see what a bad hire he was.
Hopefully the Clarks have been paying attention.