I just read the first report of a Chiefs free agent being targeted by another team. It will be the first of many. When the clock strikes 3 p.m. (Arrowhead Time) on March 11, the NFL free agent market will open up and the Chiefs' roster will take its hits. It's unavoidable at this point.
Roster turnover is a given year-to-year for each team in the NFL. Fans wave goodbye each season to some of their favorite players in the name of salary cap casualties, roster depth or scheme changes.
It was interesting, then, to read a recent three-part interview with Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman by Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer. It was insightful to read an insider discussing the environment within which he must operate. When he was asked whether or not he'd watched highlights of the playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers, Gettleman said he had not. Instead he was knee-deep in evaluations over the next few weeks with each player on the roster.
"Like I said to our pro guys on Monday, shame on us if we don't know our team," said Gettleman. "The thing you have to be really careful about is getting emotional. You have to be objective and unemotional as you make your evaluations."
For men like Gettelman and Chiefs GM John Dorsey, football is not a sport. It is not entertainment. It is, instead, a job, the means to pay the bills. An executive cannot afford the sentimental attachments that fans can enjoy, and Gettleman's emphasis on complete player evaluations immediately following the season shows his understanding of that.
The Chiefs front office will be wired in much the same way. Dorsey and his staff might personally appreciate the players and enjoy their presence on the roster, both on the field and off. However, when it comes to reframing the roster for 2014, expect the indifference to settle in.
The reason to bring this up can be found in expectations for the coming offseason. Every year there are surprise cuts from around the NFL, yet the term 'surprise' is used for fans only. For the dispassionate team exec, the move was simply the one that needed to be made despite previous contributions or level of popularity. These are business decisions, nothing more and nothing less.
The Chiefs face their fair share of key personnel decisions in the coming months and specifically the next two years. Tamba Hali is an elite pass rusher. He's also very expensive. Dwayne Bowe is perhaps the best wide receiver to ever wear the team's uniform. He's also carries a significant cap number that might or might not be proportional to his productivity, depending on who you ask.
Decisions also loom for several other veteran players: Alex Smith (contract extension) and free agents Branden Albert, Tyson Jackson, Dexter McCluster, Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz. For each of these player evaluations, the Chiefs must remain unemotional. Despite what any of those players have done in the past, the only thing that matters is the very next year (and beyond).
Such decisions will be easier to understand in cases involving Dunta Robinson or Kendrick Lewis, but for core players who have been significant contributors on the field, the loss of any of these players would be difficult to take. Yet these movements are simply part of the process for every team.
As Joel said on 610 Sports this week, there will be cuts and there will be surprises. Some major, some minor.
It's vital for Dorsey to remain detached from any and all players at this time of year in order for the Chiefs to be successful. And it's important for fans to understand that the lack of emotion is a part of the process. Of course, we will remain sentimental as fans and cry foul with each player that we can't believe the Chiefs are letting go. But for us it's just a game, the one luxury that guys like Dorsey simply cannot afford.
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