When Mr. Pioli took over the GM duties for the Chiefs four years ago, the franchise was in a state of disarray. Mr. Pioli brought with him great expectations. The Chiefs would be rebuilt in a manner similar to the New England Patriots. Since Mr. Pioli was one of the architects of the Patriot team, it was expected that he’d build the team the same way the Patriots were built. Fan confidence in the immediate future of the Chiefs skyrocketed.
The first thing he did was hire a coaching staff. Because Mr. Pioli was hired after the season by the Hunt family, and because Mr. Pioli took his time analyzing the state of the team, the Chiefs were a little late in entering the coaching carousel. Finally, Todd Haley was hired to be the HC. Again, due to the lateness of the operation, and the fact that Haley wanted to be his own OC, the coaching staff took too long to complete. This doesn’t seem to be Mr. Pioli’s fault. Shortly after getting the coaching staff in place, Mr. Pioli made his first big move, trading for QB Matt Cassel, the back-up to Tom Brady in New England. This trade changed the face of four franchises, The Patriots, Chiefs, Broncos, and Bears. The trade was a necessity. Mr. Pioli inherited three QB’s from the previous regime, Huard, Thigpen, and Croyle. Croyle was the only one who looked the part of a QB, but brought injury issues into the equation. Cassel brought much-needed stability to the team, allowing Mr. Pioli to set to building a competitive roster.
Some of Mr. Pioli’s moves have been widely questioned, such as drafting Tyson Jackson in the first round, rather than trading down, but most of Mr. Pioli’s moves have proven to be positive. However, until this off-season, Mr. Pioli has relied mostly on the draft to rebuild the roster. His previous off-season free agents have included mainly spot players. Ryan Lilja probably is the main player to be added via free agency until this month. Boom! All of a sudden Mr. Pioli jumps into free agency with a passion! He signs Stanford Routt as a preemptive strike in the Carr negotiations, and then, when a quality RT comes available, he locks up Winston. Add to the mix a big RB (Hillis) and a quality TE (Boss), and Mr. Pioli has significantly improved the roster. Add two or three impact rookies from this year’s draft, and Mr. Pioli has raised the fans’ confidence level to probably its highest level since the first few months of Mr. Pioli’s tenure. Mr. Hunt, congratulations! It appears you have a top-tier GM!
Unfortunately, there is one significant piece of the puzzle missing, that Mr. Pioli has seemingly neglected. The team does not appear to have a quarterback capable of leading us to a championship. This is the crux of Mr. Pioli’s credibility issue. The fan base has become increasingly disenchanted with Cassel’s performance. It doesn’t help that no sports commentator has given Cassel kudos for being an excellent QB. On the contrary, he is frequently mentioned in negative connotations (Dukes isn’t the only commentator to suggest Cassel is holding the team back). In a move that actually may have backfired on him, Mr. Pioli signed Kyle Orton to replace the injured Cassel last season. Orton’s performance tended to highlight Cassel’s deficiencies, and galvanize fan opinion. At the scouting combine last month, Mr. Pioli publicly acknowledged the issue, stating that Cassel would have competition. Unless the Chiefs draft Tannehill or Weeden next month, most fans are wondering exactly where the afore-mentioned competition will come from. For the sake of Mr. Pioli, and more importantly, for the sake of the team and the fan base, I hope Mr. Pioli knows something about Brady Quinn that we fans don’t . Otherwise, Mr. Pioli will continue to wrestle with his credibility issue.
OK. Enough of the scholarly dissertation. What do you fans really think? Pioli has three choices in front of him. He can tell the fan base that Cassel can win if he is surrounded by a strong team. He can tell the fan base that Cassel can be successful, but he needs to improve some segments of his game. He can say "Cassel’s our guy until we find someone better." In my opinion, he needs to do what the U.S. did in Viet Nam. Declare victory, and get out. The Cassel trade was successful. Now it is time to move on.