Finding Talent vs. Developing Talent

Pioli and Crennel embrace as they sensually sculpt the defense.

Pioli and Crennel embrace as they sensually sculpt the defense.

I am an avid reader of the Chiefs blogosphere, and I enjoy few of the non-AA people who write about the Chiefs online more than I enjoy Matt Conner of Arrowhead Pride. Matt approaches issues the way very few people in this parasitic medium does: originally. He often writes about Chiefs-related issues that aren’t simply ripped from the week’s Big Stories (which is what hacks like me do), and his views are always 100% his own, whether I agree or not. He’s part of an incredible team at AP that Paddy and I will tell you is always a great resource for Chiefs fans.

That said, I respectfully but vehemently disagree with a post of his on MLK Day, entitled It Really Doesn’t Matter Who The Chiefs Draft at #5.

Ultimately, his argument makes a good deal of sense. He makes a basic case for a few of the most prominent Top 10 likelies in this April’s Draft, but as the title of the post suggests, he believes what really matters is that we have the proper coaching on hand to develop whoever we pick up:

The bottom line is that you can make a case for many players. Yet each year, the team at the top usually wins in all kinds of ways – from St. Louis’ powerful offenses under Mike Martz to the dominating defense of the teams above. It’s not about drafting a certain kind of player, but instead having coaches who can make the players that you do have prosper. So no matter who we choose, it’s really about having guys like Todd Haley, Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel get those players into the right schemes and positions.

His argument is that, like Moore and Swayze in “Ghost,” it’s not the slippery clay on the pottery wheel that matters, it’s the sexy hands we’ve designated to sculpt it.

Matt’s right to a certain degree; developing talent is a skill that is as important to the success of talent longevity as virtually anything else. But the most important skill, unquestionably, is bringing in the talent in the first place. Talent is the name of the game; proper coaching and development is its symbiotic partner. You can coach up all kinds of blue collar players into impressive performers, but no team can win a championship without the blue chip players, and the NFL Draft is the main valve available for finding them.

Not all players were created equal, with the same potential of being elite. No matter how good Albert becomes, he’s not going to have the impact that Charles has had. And that’s our selection at #5, we can pick an offensive lineman who will only take us so far, or a defensive lineman that our defense doesn’t have space for (I’ve emailed with Matt and he’s told me he believes the Chiefs should try to trade up for Suh), or a game-changing safety that can change the entire culture. Our coaches can develop any of these players, but let’s face facts, we’re not going to get the same results of Eric Berry becomes All Pro or if Russell Okung becomes All Pro. Players like Eric Berry create the wonderful promise of a 5th overall pick.

There’s a little bit of chicken-or-the-egg regarding which is more important, finding talent or coaching it up, and we all agree that the superior ability to do both are needed to win a Super Bowl.

But as long as the Draft is our only significant means of improving this team this offseason, I don’t wish to take lightly the idea that we absolutely must make the right decisions with our picks this year for our coaching to even succeed in the first place. Encouraging Pioli to make the most responsible choice at #5 should be a priority of every Chiefs blog, as it otherwise has been on AP.

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