How Did We Get Here?

Former chiefs GM Carl Peterson wore leather, used mousse, lied constantly, and had a predatory smile.  Quite the combination.  Players didn’t like him, agents hated him, and he had to have been terrible to try to work out a trade with.  Fans carried a grudging respect for him at best, and even that disappeared in the later years.  The point is, Carl Peterson was not a popular man.  Actually, let me rephrase that: outside of the Gretz household, Carl Peterson was not a popular man. 

I’m sure there are varying opinions on Carl’s effectiveness as a GM.  The game had obviously passed him by at the end, and really his entire last decade he was well below average.  But he had a good run in the 90s.  I’m inclined to think of his tenure as somewhat of a mixed bag.  But thats irrelevant for the moment, because job effectiveness isn’t what I want to discuss here.  I’m talking about who he was as a man, not a GM.  And I think the answer there is pretty obvious without having to dissect him fully.  Suffice it to say that by all accounts Carl Peterson was a less than optimal human being.  I didn’t know the man personally, but I’d say this is pretty much common knowledge. 

Enter Scott Pioli, he of the 90% approval rating.  The rank-and-file loves him.  In Pioli they trust.  The guy’s first move was to coin a meaningless, vague, GM-speak phrase (right 53).  We’ve been gleefully repeating it like trained parrots ever since.  Right 53.  Jesus.  No GM in NFL history has ever been looking for the wrong 53.  But I digress…

Big Matt goes big picture after the jump:

Pioli was part of a team that was caught cheating.  And really, it stands to reason he was a pretty huge part of the actual cheating process.  He was aware of it, at the very least.  We already know he was largely responsible for the gestapo-like secrecy of that organization, and he imported it here flawlessly.  To the point where we’re probably the “best” in the league at that stuff now (score!).  The student became the teacher.   In that one specific, non-football area. 

Spying and spy prevention probably fall under the same umbrella, right?  Pioli has worked tirelessly at spy prevention ever since he got here.  You might even say secrecy has been his number one goal.  I’ve always thought that was pretty funny (and telling).  I’m not a big believer in karma, but I am a big believer that the guy desperate to keep out invisible cheaters has probably done some cheating himself. 

Mind you, this is not an indictment of the job Scott Pioli has done.  We won ten games this year.  As I’ve said before, I’m inclined to give more of the credit for that to Pioli than Haley.   And hey, maybe all this secrecy actually pays some kind of dividends, although I can’t for the life of me see what those might be.  But I’m not talking about jobs done.  I’m talking about personality.

Many of you probably don’t care about a GMs personality.  You just want to win.  I can’t blame you for that.  And if Pioli does indeed win, then he’s done a good job regardless of his methods.  But that says nothing about what type of person he is, and thats what I want to get into here.  I swear there’s a point.  This won’t degenerate into rampant snarkery.  I save that for my alone time. 

Carl Peterson was overtly slimy, and Pioli doesn’t seem to be that.  But what is he?  Well, as I mentioned, he’s a convicted cheater.  He refuses to communicate with fans and media, and mandates that his coaches follow his lead.  He’s obsessed with secrecy and deceit.  He won’t admit mistakes.  He’s been accused of having a massive ego, and at the very least has a serious case of football entitlement.  He makes great use of spin.  He married into the Parcells family and then learned at the feet of one of the biggest grumps in world history.  On a personal level, this is what we know about our GM. 

If you’re thinking that things like GM-speak, dishonesty, and stubbornness aren’t unique to Pioli, I won’t argue with you.  You’re right.  Although he’s head-and-shoulders above the rest in the secrecy department, most of the stuff I’ve mentioned is pretty much par for the course among NFL general managers.  My question is, how did that happen?  How did we get here?

I don’t think GMs need to act this way.  When Pioli is asked about Tyson Jackson, it should be easy for him to say, “Look, Tyson hasn’t done quite as well as we’d hoped.  But we’re working with him, we like him, and we still think he can become a good player.”  Instead we get rambling nonsense about how Tin Man is already doing great and its all going according to plan*.  Teicher asks Haley if he’s going to call plays and Haley spends five minutes talking about everything other than play-calling.  We’ve reached the point where dishonesty has become endemic to top positions in the NFL.  And we’ve all become totally desensitized to it.  A coach or GM lies?  Everyone does that!  It’s part of the game!  My point exactly.  How the hell did this bulls#%t become part of our game?

*One of his quotes was “We knew he could be our left defensive end of the future.”  Not thought, knew.  As if anyone can really know anything about draft picks.  This is another example of what I’m talking about, and again, it isn’t specific to Pioli.  These guys always KNOW they’re right (even when they’re wrong).  Would it be so hard to admit that something is what you think, and not what you know?  Seems to me like that should be really, really easy.

Its time we take a step back and look at what our NFL has become.  If you think the proliferation of dishonesty is unrelated to the lockout, think again.  These are both symptoms of the same disease.  A disease we’ve allowed to spread unchecked because we just wanted our football.  And now even thats being taken away.  This is our reward for tolerating such shameful behavior. 

When the NFL does come back, we need to hold these guys to a higher standard.  I dream of a time when GMs aren’t all guys like Pioli or Peterson.  When a GM can do his job without having to resort to deceit and spin.  We’re pretty far away from that day, but we can get there.  This lockout can be the catalyst.  It can wake us up to the fact that the NFL is a gross place, where gross things happen, and gross men succeed.  I for one think its time we demand better.

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