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AP Interview: Mike Lombardi, Part Two

For those who missed it, here's Part One of our interview with Mike Lombardi from the National Football Post. Here in Part Two, he gives us his thoughts on Matt Cassel, the Tony Gonzalez trade in retrospect and what the plan for player acquisition needs to be moving forward.

MC: You bring up that concept of sending a message to the locker room. This regime has certainly been doing their fair share of that - from demoting Dwayne Bowe on the depth chart to benching guys who are clearly the most talented. Is there a point where you can send too many messages?

Mike:
Every message you send has to be realistic. You can't just bench a player just to bench a player. You have to be very careful about what you're trying to accomplish. I mean, the teacher who fails everybody in the class doesn't mean it's the hardest class. So you have to be very careful with what you're doing. Todd's going to have to find a way to balance that.

I wrote an article about this. Todd has to find a way to handle his emotions and to handle his temper and channel that in different areas. It can be counter-productive.

MC: I'd love to get your thoughts on the Matt Cassel now that there's a half season or so under his belt in KC. I know you were a fan of the original trade.

Mike:
I think Matt's growing as a player and ultimately, when you take Matt away from the New England program, there's going to be some growing pains. I wrote this before, but I thought that Matt Cassel and Josh McDaniels were a one-two punch. I thought they benefited each other for the success and that whoever took Cassel without McDaniels would have to learn a lot about Matt as a player and that's where the Chiefs are at now. They're having to learn about him as a player and learn what he can do well. The reality of playing quarterback in the NFL is to find out what a guy can do really well and build on it.

MC: Do you think McDaniels was originally on Pioli's radar?

Mike
: That one I couldn't tell you. I thought Josh McDaniels was only going to take a job where he was boss and he wasn't working for somebody. Whether he was on Scott's radar or not, it doesn't matter. He's in control at Kansas City and I think Josh only wanted to go where he was in control. Coaches that have the opportunity to interview at multiple positions are going to be able to create the situation they want.

MC: I want to go back a bit to the Tony Gonzalez trade, simply because the Chiefs are reaping the consequences of that decision this season. He seems the kind of player you absolutely have to have around in an environment in transition like this, yet he was one of the first ones jettisoned this off-season. Do you think that was a mistake? Do you think the second rounder will be good?

Mike:
I wrote at the time it wasn't the right thing to do. Tony Gonzalez converted 24 third downs for Kansas City last year. He was going to help the young quarterback develop, whoever it was. Now they have absolutely no tight end that can make a play in the passing game. Therefore, they become even easier to defend.

To me, your job in professional football is to keep as many good players as you can on your team and get rid of the bad ones. And Tony Gonzalez was a good one. Now, who they will get in the second round is anyone's guess and Pioli's obviously going to see if he can handle that job and make the correct pick. People will look at that pick as being monumental. I think ultimately it will be, but my viewpoint is to keep as many good players as I can, so I wouldn't have traded Tony. But I thought that when the trade happened, so I'm not second-guessing it.

MC: Totally agree. Not that the Chiefs would be competing for a playoff spot, but I can imagine the transition to the new regime and rookie head coach being totally different at this point with Gonzalez around.

Mike:
Yeah, you have to build on your strengths and when you take away a guy so obvious as one of your strengths, that makes it very hard. But you trust they have a long-range plan and I think that ultimately what it's all about.

MC: So in your opinion, what's the next big move the Chiefs need to make? It seems they lack an impact player at absolutely every position on the field, so what becomes most important?

Mike:
I think the next move the Chiefs have to make is to collect a bunch of good players. They have to go from good to great. You don't go from bad to great. It's an ongoing process. One player won't solve their problems. Ultimately they have to hope they're correct with Matt Cassel and make sure he's the player he was in New England. Obviously, he can make everybody else better if that's the case.

To me, the game is won on the offensive and defensive fronts. If you can control those two lines, you can win a lot of games regardless of what you have at the other positions. So I would work on rebuilding both lines.