The Power of Perception

From the FanPosts  -Joel

In one of the memorable quotes from the 2002 film Catch Me If You Can, Frank Abignale asks his young son why he thinks the Yankees always win.  "Because they have Mickey Mantle?" wonders Frank Jr. "No," responds his father. "It's because the other teams can't stop staring at those damn pinstripes."

The elder Abignale was talking about the incredible power of image and perception.  And it is image and perception that lie at the heart of the arguments now raging between Chiefs fans regarding the administration of general manager Scott Pioli and head coach Todd Haley.

You see… we just can't stop staring at those damn Super Bowl rings.

Years before Clark Hunt engaged Pioli, the former VP of Player Personnel for the New England Patriots had been on the short list for other NFL owners eager to obtain a top-flight GM to turn their franchises around.  But it wasn't because Pioli had any actual experience as a GM.  He had none.  Zilch.  Nada.

That's not to say Pioli wasn't qualified for the job.  In fact, he was very well qualified.  Most GMs have exactly the same background as Pioli - that is, experience as top personnel executives with good teams - before they take their first GM position.
But in their pursuit of Pioli, the owners just couldn't stop staring at those damn Super Bowl rings.

At New England, Pioli was even a three time winner of the NFL Executive Of The Year award given by The Sporting News - along with a number of similar awards given by other publications and organizations.  Not that any of these institutions had any clue what kind of work Pioli was actually doing behind the scenes at New England, you understand - none of them, after all, were given by industry peers.

But the people who gave those awards just couldn't stop staring at those damn Super Bowl rings.

Unlike Pioli, Todd Haley doesn't have any Super Bowl rings.  Oh, sure… he might have gotten one if the ball had bounced a little differently in last season's Super Bowl.  But his father Dick - the personnel director of the Steelers from 1971 to 1990 - has four of them. 

After Todd decided he didn't want to be a golf pro any longer - despite his family football pedigree, his original dream was to play on the PGA Tour - his father helped him land a scouting job with the Jets, where the elder Haley was serving as player personnel director.  Haley the younger then started working his way through the NFL, working as an assistant to Bill Parcells (who has a pair of Super Bowl rings) on the Jets and Cowboys, and then finally as an offensive coordinator for Ken Whisenhunt - who has a Super Bowl ring of his own from his time with the Steelers.

Haley, too, is well qualified for the job he assumed for the Chiefs.  Like most head coaches, his resume includes experience as a scout, position coach and coordinator.  But also like Pioli, he has no previous experience at his job.  None.  Zilch.  Nada.

Just the same, people can't stop staring at… uhhh… the light reflected from all those damn Super Bowl rings.

None of this is to say that either Pioli or Haley is the wrong guy for the Chiefs at this point in the history of the franchise.  Despite their status as rookies in their current jobs, no one can dispute that these guys are extremely well qualified.

Not, of course, that it hasn't been tried.

In a spacial relationship Casey Stengel would have appreciated, there are three sides to this debate:

On one side - to coin a non-perjorative term - we have the Gold Team.  These are the Chiefs fans who are mesmerized by the light glinting off all those golden rings.  "Don't worry," they say.  "These guys know what they're doing.  It may seem nonsensical right now, but they have a plan, and they're putting it into place.  We couldn't be any more than a couple of seasons removed from being a real contender.  Otherwise, why would these guys have so many Super Bowl rings around them?"

On another side, we have the Red Team.  These Chiefs fans - while they might live elsewhere - have a Missouri frame of reference.  You have to show them something.  "Hey," they say.  "Pioli and Haley are rookies who haven't yet proved a damn thing.  For all we know, Pioli could be nothing without Belichick, and Haley could be nothing without Warner, Fitzgerald and Boldin."  To these fans, the firing of the offensive coordinator days before the season opener, and what they see as questionable roster moves and game time decisions - not to mention a W-L record that is, so far, no improvement over the last season's debacle - haven't done much to allay their concerns.

Then we have the third side: the White Team.  Like members of the Gold Team, these Chiefs fans generally have respect for Pioli and Haley's previous accomplishments, but also share some of the misgivings of the Red Team.  To this they add another concern:  that P&H have systematically dismantled a core of solid young players - a core it cost the franchise the better part of two horrible years to acquire and develop - in the name of finding P&H's mystical "right 53." These fans worry that if the new regime can't find its way, the franchise will not only have to start over with an entirely new administration, but that they'll have to start from scratch on the roster, too - because talented early round draft choices like McBride, Tyler, Johnson, Pollard and Croyle will have been sacrificed for no discernable reason.  The White Teamers are afraid that his could start a talent chain reaction that could keep the Chiefs in the cellar for a very long time.

Which of these teams of diehard fans has the right answer?  All of them.  And none of them.

Given the horrendous record of the last two seasons, Clark Hunt had no choice but to find real stars to take over his franchise.  While you can make a reasonable argument that Hunt's selection process took longer than most - and therefore left him with slim pickings in the coaching market - I have come to believe that choices like Pioli and Haley were exactly what Hunt had in mind from the beginning: young, aggressive men who, if successful, could serve the franchise for decades… but more importantly, could point to championships on their resumes - even if only by association.  The long-frustrated Chiefs fan base could accept no less.

So whether an individual fan is willing to accept P&H's pedigrees at face value is of no consequence.  We were bound to get them - or someone very much like them - once Carl Peterson stepped down.

Clark Hunt also knew that while he wanted to have more control over the franchise than his father exercised, too much control is a bad thing.  He would know this as instinctively as a child raised on UAW barbecues knows to pull the Democratic lever in the voting booth, or a child raised on debutante balls on the south lawn of the Nelson Art Gallery knows to reach for the Republican one - because in the Hunt family, it is axiomatic: if it's done the way Al Davis does it, it's wrong.

So whoever took over at One Arrowhead Drive was bound to have the keys for Dad's red 1969 GTO convertible handed to them with very few preconditions, little interference in the way they did things, and plenty of time to get it right.  And therefore, fans who are worried that the gut instincts of Scott Pioli and Todd Haley will lead to the ruin of this proud franchise are just going to have to tough it out.  Only time will tell if P&H can locate the hard-to-find parts that will be needed to restore this vintage machine to showroom condition.

There can now be no question that it's going to take a couple more seasons for the Gold Team to be proven right.  There's also no question that until the issue is settled, the arguments between the teams will continue.

There is good news, though: in their hearts, both the Red and White teams will be more than happy to be convinced that they're wrong.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Arrowhead Pride's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Arrowhead Pride writers or editors.