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My theory on John Dorsey’s release from the Chiefs

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Boy, that escalated quickly.

One minute I’m fist-pumping at the fact that Andy Reid is locked up for another five years (in my opinion he’s done a marvelous job overall), the next I’m staring at my screen, shocked.

John Dorsey is out? Wait... WHAT?

Look, I’m not going to pretend to like this. John Dorsey has, as far as I can tell, done a fantastic job as the Chiefs general manager. He has picked multiple All-Pros and solid players in the draft (no, he wasn’t perfect, but literally no one is in that) year after year. He has repeatedly found contributors off the scrap heap (a HIGHLY valuable skill). He’s well-known to be respected throughout the league as a marvelous talent scout. That’s not a guy you want gone.

Additionally, the timing of it (which we’re about to talk about) is just ... odd. Chris Ballard, the obvious heir apparent (and who, by all appearances, is already crushing it with the Colts), was allowed to walk just a short while ago. And then there’s this.

That just makes zero sense. And things that make zero sense bother me. So I sat down to develop a workable theory.

First, the theory that Clark Hunt is an idiot or somehow too meddlesome as an owner is a bad one. It goes against all the evidence we’ve seen since Clark took over. He’s consistently gone out and gotten the top names (remember, Scott Pioli was a HOT commodity. Like, en fuego), paid them well, and stayed out of the way. He’s shown a willingness to shell out big bucks for players as well. So this theory ... has no evidence to really back it up. Thus, I discard it.

The second theory would be that Andy Reid wanted to be his own GM again. But, all reports in the time we’ve had indicate that’s not gonna happen, and Reid himself has commented that he wasn’t good at being a GM and a coach (and that he’s happy to just coach). So that’s out.

There are theories about Dorsey’s eventual ascension to the GM spot in Green Bay, but nothing about the team’s press release makes it look like this was an ACTUAL mutual decision (and the leaks from all the big names indicate this was the Chiefs letting him go). There’s also this tweet that says it’s not likely to be Dorsey in Green Bay. There’s also the fact that you don’t usually go all-in on a rookie QB right before leaving to go somewhere else. So I don’t feel like we’ve got any real teeth to that theory.

So ... what changed in the last few months? The last huge move (well, ALMOST the last huge move) we saw was Dorsey spearheading the Chiefs trading up and snagging Patrick Mahomes and being FIRED UP in the Chiefs’ war room. And so was everyone else. It doesn’t seem like it was the draft, no?

There are only two major things that have changed in the last two months:

  1. Trip MacCracken was relieved of his duties as Director of Football Administration, basically the guy in charge of contracts.
  2. Jeremy Maclin, in a surprising (and clumsily-handled) move, was released.

Seriously, that’s it. No other real changes have occurred between the time the Chiefs were reportedly discussing an extension and now deciding to “part ways” with Dorsey (which is a lot like when a CEO “resigns” after a long board meeting or an associate “resigns” after a meeting with the partners. Bro, that ain’t mutual).

So here’s my working theory, subject to change as more information comes out ...

The biggest (and really, only) issue with Dorsey’s tenure as general manager over the last few years has been his handling of contract negotiations and the salary cap. We’ve seen multiple players get contracts that ... didn’t quite make sense. Overpaying seemed all too common (for guys like Tamba Hali and Dwayne Bowe, to name a pair of examples that are fairly extensive, one could argue Eric Fisher as well pretty easily), and quite often the structure of the contracts didn’t seem advantageous with regards to the salary cap.

Additionally, some major negotiations (Justin Houston and Eric Berry) seemed late in starting. Now, I’ve argued extensively that we can’t know whether those guys were willing to come to the table a year earlier than when they started talking, and we still can’t. HOWEVER, it’s perfectly reasonable to point out (and more than a few have, to me, in the comments here) that both Houston and Berry had to be paid more because of negotiations starting off (seemingly) late. In the NFL, the earlier you can lock guys up (within reason), the better off you are, because contracts continuously get more and more ridiculous (see Carr, Derek).

Of course, on the flip side of things, the Chiefs went too EARLY with Alex Smith, signing him to a huge extension rather than waiting a year (which they could’ve easily done) and seeing how he did in Big Red’s offense, as well as what they thought of potential draftees (like Bridgewater and Carr, for example).

And, of course, there’s the issue of dead money. Every year the Chiefs have had a substantial amount of dead money on the cap. I kept waiting for Bowe’s dead money to clear to see if it was a habit, and new dead money flowed in when that dead money flowed out. That’s a problem. Dead money is ... well, it’s dead. It’s millions of valuable cap dollars going towards NOTHING.

So we’ve got a little fly in the ointment with regards to cap space. Yes, the Chiefs will be able to clear space next year with some cuts, but it’s concerning that they’d be put in that situation at all (see the Broncos for an example of how to live the other way).

So let’s say the new capologist (for lack of a better term) comes in and, after reviewing the numbers, says “holy crap guys, this is bad. Really bad. Like, we’re going to have to make some tough decisions bad.” And the first significant chink in Dorsey’s armor is knocked out.

And because of that cap situation we have the Jeremy Maclin situation. Look, let’s not fight about Maclin. We can all agree on a few things. One, he had a down year last year. Two, he had a serious personal tragedy and a pretty serious lingering groin injury, which by and large would explain a down year (I reviewed his all-22 in the playoffs and he was getting open, but whatever). Three, his teammates were STUNNED and upset that he was gone.

So, what if Andy Reid was as upset about Maclin being cut as the players? What if Reid had already been irritated by the way contracts had been handled and the salary cap issues as a whole, and having to cut a player he really liked (and who his offense maybe needed) because of those issues really brought that to the forefront?

That’s my only working theory at the moment. Reid (and perhaps Clark Hunt) was already not thrilled with how major contracts had been handled, dead cap monies, and the associated salary cap issues. Then, after meeting with a new guy coming with an outside opinion, he found out the situation was even worse than he’d thought (that kind of thing happens quite frequently in the professional world). All of this culminated in him being forced to get on board with cutting a guy he not only likes personally but wanted to be a part of the offense professionally.

Remember the day Andy Reid uncharacteristically snapped at the media after being asked about OTA’s one too many times? That was weird, right? Well, it could well have been the actions of a guy who was upset about a bunch of other issues (like, you know, that cap and what it was about to force with Maclin).

Again, this is all a theory, but it’s the only workable one I have. John Dorsey, by all appearances, is a really good scout. But it could be that the salary cap and the effect it had on the roster did him in with Andy and Clark.

I hope we find out for sure one day. Until then, well, let’s hope Brett Veach is as impressive as I’ve heard he is, scouting-wise (or they find someone else with a great eye for talent).