If you are a Chiefs fan, then chances are you’ve read something by Bob Gretz. I remember, back before there was an Arrowhead Addict, Arrowhead Pride or KC Star.com, always looking forward to Bob’s articles on kcchiefs.com. Now, there is a wealth of informative Chiefs sites floating around on the internet, yet Bob Gretz still stands out as an excellent sourse of news and analaysis on all things Kansas City Chiefs.
If you read this site then you know we link to Mr. Gretz’s web site daily in out “Morning Fix” post. If you’ve never clicked that link, you must check it out. It is updated daily.
Mr. Gretz has seen the Chiefs organization go through a lot, so I thought I would ask him a few questions about this current team, management and where he thinks the Chiefs are heading. He was kind enough to give us some of his time. Enjoy!
Well Bob, you’ve been covering the Chiefs since 1981! You’ve certainly seen a lot of the team’s ups and downs.
As the Red and Gold end a 3rd losing season in a row, what sense are you getting from this team? Are the Chiefs about to become the Detroit Lions of the AFC or does this feel like the beginning of a new era of success similar to first year of the Carl Peterson/Marty Schottenheimer era?
Check with me a year from now. I think the 2010 season will be the fork in the road for the entire franchise and its future. Based on what we saw in 2009, I don’t see a lot of upside. There are large holes in the roster and when you can say that a team needs help at every spot on the roster but punter and kicker, it’s hard to believe they are going to be able to add enough players in a year to make a big difference. Overall, I think the direction arrow for the Chiefs is pointing up slightly only because I think the duo of Pioli/Haley have a plan and they are working it. But a poor personnel performance between now and the opener would be devastating.
As it looks more and more like the NFL is facing an uncapped year, a lot of Chiefs fans may not be clear on how not having a salary cap will impact the free agency period.
With teams getting 3 franchise tags instead of 1, certain free agents being restricted and the final 8 playoff teams not being able to sign free agents unless they lose one, do you think the uncapped year will help or hinder Scott Pioli as he tries to fill the teams many holes?
I don’t think it will make much difference for the Chiefs because I don’t think they were going to spend a lot of money in free agency in the first place. Pioli signed a lot of free agents going into 2009, but the cash and cap layout was not very much. As far under the cap as the Chiefs have operated in the past two years, having no cap shouldn’t matter. As many holes as the Chiefs have, I think they need to spend more money than they want to in filling some of those holes. You always overspend in free agency; the Chiefs and Pioli need to get over that fact, identify a handful of guys that can come in and improve the on-field performance for this year and next, and not worry about the cost. I just don’t think that’s going to happen.
Speaking of Scott Pioli, many fans are already calling his first draft class a bust. With the exception of Ryan Succop, none of the other rookies provided much of an impact. Tyson Jackson’s tackles per game rose a little at the end of the season but he didn’t put up the numbers fans might expect from the 3rd pick in the draft.
After only 1 year, do you think the critics are unfairly judging Pioli’s first draft class? Was the GM hindered by his late arrival and 2nd hand scouts left over from the Herm Edwards era? Now that Scott has had a year in the job, do you think we’ll see more immediate rookie contributors this time around?
It’s too early to judge Pioli’s first draft class, but there’s no question it was a first year disappointment. Other than Succop, there was no real contribution from any other draft choice. Jackson’s numbers were OK, but the fact the Chiefs were so bad against the run was not a good sign for him.
As for Pioli being hindered by second hand scouts left to him, that’s simply not true. Pioli basically froze out those scouts and personnel director Bill Kuharich in the run up and then on draft day. He arrived with his information from New England along with a scout who had been let go up there, Jim Nagy. He paid no attention to any of the work done by the ’08 scouting department. I can tell you for a fact that the old group did not even have Colin Brown rated as a draftable player, but the Chiefs selected him in the fifth round.
Whether or not Pioli’s first draft class comes through or not, he has no one to blame but himself and the information he brought from the Patriots.
The Chiefs have the 5th pick in the 1010 draft, as well as 2 picks in the 2nd round because of the Tony Gonzalez trade. Scott Pioli could very well nab 3 starters in the first two rounds.
If you were the GM, which positions would you try to fill with those first 3 picks?
Without chasing the potential talents that might be available at those choices, I think their top three needs are offensive tackle, wide receiver and inside linebacker. Depending on who might be available, I would not exclude safety as a consideration as well. If an Eric Berry was still there at No. 5 in the first round, he should definitely be a consideration.
Todd Haley received a lot of criticism for firing offensive coordinator Chan Gailey just before the start of the season. As a result, the offense struggled for most of the year. Now that the Chiefs have hired Charlie Weis, they have the advantage of already having the offense Weis will run installed.
Do you think Haley planned on hiring Weis all along and decided to get a jump on installing the offense rather than keeping Chan around for a lame duck season? If so, did Haley make the right call?
I don’t think Haley had any idea he would have Weis available to him for year two. I think once Weis was fired by Notre Dame, Haley punched the ticket for him to arrive at Arrowhead. Haley fired Gailey because they were never going to get along philosophically. There was about a difference of 175 degrees between how Gailey thought on offense and play calling and what Haley was looking for. People told Haley long before he fired Gailey that they were not going to be able to work together. As I wrote on bobgretz.com sometime ago, Troy Aikman told Haley at the NFL owners meeting last March that they would not be able to co-exist. I think Haley gave it a chance, but then decided to end it. Haley is a pull off the band-aid in one swipe guy. It definitely set back the offense for this season, but it does have the foundation laid for the coming season, which will help Weis. Bad decision in the little picture, good decision in the bigger picture for Haley.
The Chiefs offensive line gave up significantly fewer sacks during the second half of the season than in the first. One of the major changes made around the midway point was that the Chiefs released Larry Johnson and made Jamaal Charles their lead back.
Do you attribute the improved blocking more to the offensive line finally coming together and gelling or was it just the threat of Jamaal Charles keeping defenses honest? Do you consider offensive line as high a priority as you might have early in the season?
Jamaal Charles was the rising tide that lifted all boats in the harbor. His abilities and speed made blocking easier for the offensive line and took some of the pressure off them. They didn’t have to be so perfect on their blocks the way they had to be with LJ running. Matt Cassel also helped by getting rid of the ball a bit quicker than he had been earlier in the season. One of the big differences between what Gailey wanted to do and what Haley did do with the offense was the number of protection schemes. Gailey believed in having five or six protections, keeping things simple and improving with practice. Haley wants four or five times the protections that Gailey put into place. It took awhile for the group to get used to the numbers of protections and changes. No question that was a factor as well. I consider offensive line a very high priority. They need help at four of the five starting positions in that group.
Lastly, I wanted to ask you your thoughts on Matt Cassel. While he showed he can play very well on a good team during his stint in New England, there are many Chiefs fans out there who believe his performance this year proved he was merely a one year wonder and only flourished because of Bill Belichick and the “Patriot Machine.” Personally, I thought Matt Cassel showed guts, leadership and tenacity as he fought through a very difficult season, with below average talent around him. I think it is easy for some fans to forget Cassel is only in his 2nd season starting and is in a new system on a new team.
Which camp are you in, Bob? After a season in KC, do you think Cassel can be the guy fans have been waiting for since Lenny Dawson?
I think it’s too early to judge Matt Cassel as boom or bust. He came to the Chiefs with just 15 starts in the previous eight seasons; he was far from a polished passer, starting QB and leader. I think the Chiefs need to hire a quarterbacks coach, a technician who will work on mechanics with Cassel on a daily basis. At various times during the season, his fundamentals and mechanics got away from him and it hurt the offense. There’s no question that he needs more help when it comes to making the offense go. He needs more consistent and better protection. He needs more receivers to throw the ball to, especially receivers that will hold onto the football. I think Cassel showed more positives than negatives, but it’s way too early to make a call on him. He has just 30 career starts, not even two full seasons.