You just never know where, when, or how inspiration is going to hit you. It might be while overlooking a gorgeous mountain vista view. You could be inspired by the sweet and welcoming sounds of birdsong at the break of dawn. Or your mind may latch onto a nagging idea destined to become more while sitting on a filthy toilet and staring at the place where a wall used to be, with water spraying out of a busted pipe while your remodeling contractor is placed in handcuffs and driven away by the police. Spending twelve or fourteen hours alone in the dark, with only your thoughts and an extremely creative, yet incredibly offensive blue streak of profanity to break the silence might be just what was needed to jump start your creative juices (and since the water line to the toilet is broken too, that's really the only juices you want flowing).
Re-building a football team is just what the word suggests it will be. Knocking down the remnants of a worn out and faulty structure to be replaced with a new and shining effigy to combat sport (that will hopefully someday house a throne). Weather the Chiefs want to admit it or not, the last three seasons at 1 Arrowhead Drive have been a re-build of Kansas City's football program. Everything about the Chiefs has changed in the last few years: owner, general manager, major coaching positions, scouts, players, advertising departments, sales staff, media czar, the stadium they play in, the practice field and weight rooms, and even the building the organization is housed in have all been rebuilt. When you look into the process under a microscope, there are a lot of similarities between the rebuilding of a football organization and re-modeling a public toilet inside a restaurant. (and just like that toilet, many of you will think this article is full of ........ )
Where could I possibly be going with this comparison? There's only one way to find out. Go ahead, push that button and keep reading after the jump. Soap and towels will be provided to wash up afterwards. I promise.
There are really only two ways to build either a football team, or a public toilet. There's the right way, and then there's the way I'd do it if some emergency came up that forced me into the job unexpectedly. (Heaven only knows what that emergency could possibly be. Off the top of my head I'm having trouble even thinking of a scenario where I would end up building a public restroom on ten minutes notice, under pain of the ever ticking clock and the approach of the morning sun). What I hope to express to Chiefs fans is just how diametrically opposed these two approaches are, and thereby open our collective eyes to the Chiefs superior method. There are several key area in which the Chiefs methodology has been superior. Let's take a look at a few of them:
Area 1: When undertaking a project such as re-building a football program or remodeling a public toilet you've got to start at the beginning. In the modern world that means you start with desire, money, and support. When the Chiefs organization undertook the project they began with an owner in Clark Hunt that was set to make his mark on the NFL. The team was handed down from his father and Clark had an obvious desire to invest into it's future success. The Hunt family had access, and the willingness to shell out a couple hundred million dollars to reach their goals. They also had the contacts to get the best prices, and the desire to do the job right. In addition, Jackson county was more than willing to support the team and it's efforts to improve. For 30+ years the fine people of Jackson and other surrounding areas got in the car every Sunday and sold the stadium out during football season. They love their team and even voted in an additional tax that would toss a few hundred million more dollars into the hat for Clark's rebuild. I cannot begin to explain the advantages that money,and more importantly, dedication and desire to get the job done will have on the success of a project such as this.
I showed up at the restaurant with a book to read, my drivers license (no wallet), keys to the building, $57.43 cash ($7.43 of which I had to scrounge out of the ash tray in the car) and a pocket knife. I had no desire to do any work, and really didn't want to be there at all. The only reason I was even at the restaurant was to let the contractor in and make sure he didn't rob me blind overnight. If you're getting ready to undertake a large project like a re-build I would suggest to you that having $57.43 and no desire to be awake, yet alone do any work, is not a good place to start. Even having one credit card would have made things immensely easier. Although I'm sure having access to $450,000,000.00 would have worked out the best. Sure, I had access to some of the tools and supplies that the contractor had brought with him. I'm sure that would have been helpful if I also had area 2 covered as well as the Chiefs did.
Area 2: Leadership. Knowledge. Experience: These are three things that never came into play during my restroom remodel. Clark Hunt's first task was to hire the right person to do the job at hand. In Scott Pioli the Chiefs got a man that has worked with multiple NFL clubs. He's played the game. He's worked in scouting, and designed his own player rating and scouting system hand in hand with experienced NFL scouts. He's worked in the front office doing everything from budget planning to overseeing ticket sales. Mr. Pioli came directly from a winning program that blazed their own path in how they ran an organization. Scott has a vast amount of experience in contract negotiations, salary cap balancing, and running an NFL club. He's had help every step of the way, but he's also learned to utilize a support team once he's got them in place and trained they way he wants them to operate. Pioli has the willpower to work 30 hours a day if that's what it takes to get the job done. If there ever was a right man for the job of building a team, a facility, and a culture... that man is Scott Pioli. The most important move that the Hunt's made in taking on this project was to hire the right person for the job.
I hired a contractor that I heard about because someone else that was trying to get a job done "on the cheap" had used them before. They were willing to do the job I wanted done in the time frame I wanted the work complete, and they were willing to work overnights so that I could keep the restaurant open. I didn't do a background check on the guy. And even though I spend a large amount of my time sitting in front of computer screens, I didn't even bother to Google him. Once he was driven away in a patrol car (two hours after arriving to do the job) the project fell to the next guy in line... me. I've never worked in construction outside of black tar roofing. I had no real idea what materials I would need, or what they would cost. I have no more experience working with the tools than your average handy man. I don't have the knowledge to plan out the jobs or to even organize the project into steps. Hell, I spent half my time reading the bag, bucket, or box that things came in to figure out how to use them properly. Where as Scott's very first move was to restructure the entire scouting department to identify talent, and then go get a quarterback and a linebacker that knew his systems to act as defacto leaders on the field; My first very first move was to grab a saw-zaw and promptly cut through a water pipe because cutting out the old walls "didn't look that hard" to me. Scott accomplished the task of adding more leaders and experience, while putting a system in place to continue the growth to his club with his first move. My first first move set me back, ruined over half of the materials I had to work with, and gave me a giant mess to clean up.
Area 3: The 6 P's: Proper planning prevents piss-poor performance. From the initial go given by Clark Hunt Mr. Pioli began formulating his plan. He spent weeks studying game tape to assess the current team. Then he spent time in every department on both sides of the ball club to assess how things were being done, and what areas could be improved. He set up a time table and organized his schedule to reach goals in a timely fashion. He left enough time to do each task, without spending all his time in one place and failing to complete some other aspect of the rebuild. He hired a coach and together they decided that the team was slow, out of shape, and short on talent. The Chiefs knew what kind of team they wanted to build (one based around strong defensive principals and a balanced offensive attack that would include a superior running game). It was late in the game to hire coaches, but Pioli was careful to choose only people that he believed would share Haley and his vision of what the Chiefs would become. They chose to build through the draft, and improve the roster from top to bottom. The Chiefs jettisoned a lot of players that would not return to football anywhere in the NFL, and they stuck to their plan. Building through the draft and sprinkling in experienced leaders while a culture of hard work and accountability was instituted were the goals of the day. Creating team depth and a perennial winner are the goals of the future. Even when faced with mistakes that were made in hiring (public relations department, offensive coordinators, and maybe even head coaches) Pioli never wavered from his plan. New people were brought in, while the vision remained the same. The Chiefs have a blueprint for how they're going to build their team, and nothing is going to cause them to deviate from their plan. Time, deadlines, players, coaches, and front office staff are all managed (some would say micro-managed, but not me) with the goal of putting the plan in place. The future of the Chiefs is built on the foundation of Clark Hunt and Scott Pioli's plan.
My plan was to read a book while someone else remodeled the restrooms. Seriously, that was my whole plan. I had a basic idea of which walls I wanted knocked down, which sinks needed replacing, and what color tile I hoped to have on the walls when everything was finished. Everything else I left up to some other guy to organize. When that other guy was gone I was left with no plan, and no clue where I even needed to start. My lack of planning was just as evident as my lack of tools to do the job. (The contractor was wearing his tool belt full of hand tools when he was carted away) I didn't have so much as a tape measure to use to mark the drywall to be cut. I found myself running back and forth to the hardware store for the first couple hours (until it closed at 9pm) and then, getting desperate, hitting up the 24 hour Walgreen's tool isle for things as basic as a tack hammer (they didn't have a real one) and putty knife. I ran out of money long before I ran out of need for materials, and ended up with a wall frame that only had drywall on one side of it, that had been screwed on with a mixture of deck screws and picture frame hangers (Walgreen's doesn't care drywall screws) by the Phillips head screwdriver on my tiny little pocket knife. Have I mentioned the swearing yet? There was a lot of swearing. Having no idea where the actual line of delineation should be (no tape measure) and no hammer-drill or floor mounting brackets, I framed out a new wall by eye-ball that ended up being almost 4 inches further north on one side than it was on the opposite side. It was only secured in place because I wedged it between the two perpendicular walls. Given that my time table for completing the project was "when the sun comes up it has to be done",and I was out of money to buy any more framing materials, I secured the wall by KICKING it into place and putting up a sign asking people not to lean on the wall. Have you ever tried to cut 2x4's to length with no tape measure? How about drywall sheets to fit into place? Let's just say.... this project involved a whole lot of drywall putty. So much, in fact, that there was no chance of the giant thick clumps of it (spread with a 2.5" plastic putty knife) drying by the time the restaurant opened. There was no plan, no time management, and no conviction to stick to the plan. Every time something went wrong I just slapped something together that would be labeled "good enough." The later the evening got, the more the standards of "good enough" sunk. By 20 minutes to sun up, I swear I would have used peanut butter to finish the putty job if I'd had any available.
The entire evening, between bouts of making up new swear words, my mind kept jumping back to the monumental task of re-building an entire NFL organization from top down. If I was having this much trouble with one little snafu (like an alleged wife smacking contractor) just how many things could go wrong with the Chiefs rebuild? The more I considered it, the more I convinced myself of what a fantastic job Scott Pioli has done so far. The Chiefs have moved up from a joke of a football program with a severe lack of talent and a losing culture to a nearly complete team. They have stayed the course through the media bias and the fan's constant bashing. They have built a team through the draft that has real depth in a lot of areas, and lots of talent on the field. They have gotten the best out of the players that remain with the club, and they have demanded effort and work to improve from every department in the club. Sure, they've made a few mistakes, but those mistakes haven't crippled the team or changed the plan. The Chiefs now have a new-like facility in which to play games, a new practice center, some fantastic additions for press and luxury boxes, a budding team that shows real flashes of brilliance, and they've done it all while working to maintain a relationship with the fans that can begin the next 30 year streak of Sunday stadiums sell outs.
Meanwhile, tomorrow I'll be back at the restaurant watching a new crew of four experienced contractors (that I've researched and reference checked) tear down the wall I built (most likely with their feet) and start the job from scratch again. In the end, not doing things the Chiefs way will wind up costing me three times as much.
My heartfelt thanks go out to the entire Chiefs staff from Hunt on down. They could have done things the Dolphins way, or the Redskins way (aka MY way) and this season be forced to tear it all down again. Instead they took the time and effort to do things the Chiefs way, and the fans will reap the benefits very soon.