Any Chiefs press conference used to be must-see TV for me. This all started after Marty left in ’99. At the time I thought it would just be business as usual. Great defense, bunch of wins, solid team. Then Gunther revealed his insanity. It was funny at first, but after a while it became easy to see the direct correlation between the team and the men in charge of it. For the first time in my fandom, this aspect of the game began to intrigue me.
Carl Peterson was looking to prove the 90s success was all about his roster-building and not Marty’s coaching. So he went cheap and promoted a coach from within he thought he could control. Said coach ended up being crazy and incompetent. Before long we had a team full of punchlines clowning their way through two seasons.
Bam Morris at running back. Elvis Grbac at QB wingin’ 37 passes per game* and throwing hissy-fits whenever someone dropped one of them. Chester McGlockton tossing the ball behind his head as he slowly waddled out of bounds (essentially fumbling on purpose). Marcus Spears bludgeoning an opponent with his helmet during a scrimmage. Cris Dishman scooping up random fumbles and being referred to as a playmaker. Carlton Gray‘s multi-million dollar contract. Gunther saying the quantity of runs was more important than the quality. The insanity was never-ending. We had the fat Tamarick Vanover, Rashaan Shehee, Frank “the Island of Dr.” Moreau, Lew Bush, Lonnie Johnson, Danny Pope (brother of Lenny?), Glenn Cadrez, Patrick “Denny” Dennis, Derrick Ransom (who me and my friends called “Stephen Thompson”). If you liked laughing at the Chiefs, these were the golden years.
*This was during the 2000 season, when Gunther abruptly decided we were now a pass-all-the-time team instead of a run-all-the-time team. The wheels were really coming off the bus at that point.
Quite the butterfly effect. And all because of a general manager’s insecurity. It first occurred to me then what seems obvious now: who these men are, on a personal level, determines how they do these jobs. And who they are is on display for all to see. It’s fascinating.
I think thats part of the reason Pioli’s media policy bothers me so much. He’s taken all the fun out of the press conferences. Most of the time nowadays there is simply very little to learn. That is by design. The entire staff is now adept at answering questions without saying anything. Nobody has a very good read yet on Pioli in particular. He’s been a tough nut to crack, as I’ve said many times. I may not like the way he operates or see the need for it, but I will admit, he’s quite good at it. This team has very nearly rendered the press conference obsolete. Another few years and they won’t even have to do them. No one will care.
Still, for a Pioli presser, I tune in. Got to. I will learn what I can about this man.
My reactions to Scott Pioli’s pre-draft presser after the jump:
Minutes one through ten (of the 20 total minutes) were spent extolling the virtues of their staff meetings. Take that, people who thought their discussions weren’t cooperative and productive! Gosh, what a showman. The word “process” is so hot right now at 1 Arrowhead Drive. It’s this year’s “build.”
Pioli obviously doesn’t like to be in front of the camera. This is not in itself a bad thing. I had thought he was camera-shy his first year because of how bad we were, but he was the same way in 2010. He’s just not an attention-seeker. That probably speaks well of him, if anything. But this is really some pretty bare-bones stuff he’s giving us. The entire first half of the press conference was spent on one long non-answer. If you think that wasn’t intentional you’re very, very naive. The first question was what he and his lieutenants argue about and Pioli managed to spend eight full minutes de-clawing the word “argue.”
For me the most interesting stuff by far was the discussion of the 2009 draft. Pioli has two methods for handling criticism about the ’09 draft. The first and most obvious is referencing the Matt Cassel trade. We got our starting quarterback plus a “culture-changer” (his (buzz)words) in Mike Vrabel all for a second round pick! Great value, obviously.
He’s right. That was a very good trade for us. A nice parting gift from Belichick. It has nothing to do with Pioli’s performance at the actual 2009 draft*, but a good move nonetheless. Of course, if you want to go big-picture and include trades in his evaluation you might as well talk about free agency too. And Pioli’s most successful free agent acquisition that year was Corey Mays. It was a bad offseason, and a bad draft. He knows this, otherwise he wouldn’t be cleverly crafting shields to deflect criticism.
*Remember when he said “Don’t go anywhere” after picking Tin Man? If anyone can think of a more misleading quote in world history, I’d love to hear it. Looking back on that quote in hindsight is hilarious. “Don’t go anywhere…….cuz I’m about to pick Al Magee, Donnie Wash, Colin Brown and Quinten Lawrence! Y’all best stick around!”
Referencing the Cassel trade is his most forthright tactic. He’s also been discreetly engaged in a more subtle defense. You might’ve missed it, but at the very beginning of the press conference he casually mentioned how this was their third year together, but only the second year as a full group. He manages to include this almost every time he talks about the 2009 draft. But interestingly, he didn’t start doing it until after the 2009 season ended. At the time of the draft it was a smug “don’t go anywhere.*” After watching his picks play for a season it was, “we were rushed and didn’t have our full staff assembled.” This isn’t the desperate, despicable excuse-making we grew accustomed to during Herm Edwards’ tenure, but its an excuse all the same. An excuse, like most others, invented after the fact. And really, how many months of preparation should it take to figure out not to pick Tyson Jackson third overall?
*When referencing the ’09 draft in the future, should I refer to it as the “don’t go anyhere” draft or the “no one was calling” draft?
Ah, the Tin Man. Teicher brought him up, as if in answer to my prayers. The last question of the presser was a straight-up “if you could do it over, would you take Tyson Jackson again.” To which Pioli, of course, replied that he absolutely would.
Some of you probably think I’m gonna rake him over the coals for that one. I’m not. There was nothing else to say, really. Sure it was an obvious lie. But he had no way out. He couldn’t trash a player still on the team, and if he’d tried to GM-speak his way out of it I surely would’ve criticized him for that. He said just what a guy in his position has to say. But lets not forget, he put himself in that position by taking Tyson Jackson third overall. When he has to answer tough questions about it, that is pretty much the literal definition of reaping what you sow.
What insight did I glean regarding the upcoming draft? None, really. Pioli’s answer about needs was predictably noncommittal and sleep-inducing. He’s playing it close to the vest, like we all knew he would. I’ve been having nightmares about Akeem Ayers in the first round, but I had the same nightmares about Bryan “The Whale” Bulaga last year, so its nothing to be concerned about. I’ve also been having dreams about a pool party with Perv Smith. But then I guess that’s another topic altogether, because those are daydreams.
In the “credit where credit is due” department, Pioli did say something I really liked. When talking about the 2009 class he said the jury was still out (true technically, but, I mean, come on). But then, without being prompted, he added that the jury was still out on the 2010 class as well. That really impressed me. Carl Peterson bragged about the Dwayne Bowe pick for the entire next year, and all his other picks that year were awful. Had he netted a class like ours in 2010 we’d have never heard the end of it. Pioli, instead, passed on a chance to claim credit. That is something you rarely see GMs do.
I happen to agree with his assessment that the jury is still out on the 2010 class (looking at you, second round), and I’m glad Pioli didn’t try to have his cake and eat it too on that one. “Too soon to evaluate 2009, but 2010 is a vast success!” I would’ve been insulted by that, I would’ve complained about it, TIDL would’ve showed up all hellfire and brimstone and called me Bitch Nation (which I’m officially adopting, btw), it would’ve been ugly. Now instead I get to give Pioli some dap and play the good guy. A far preferable role.
This is a pivotal draft for the personnel genius in my mind. After three years of watching him operate, we should be able to draw some reliable conclusions. Does he play it safe? Always take team captains? Prefer players he has a connection to? Always go SEC? Favor secondary over pass-rush? Place a high value on team speed (snicker)? We’ll have the answers to these questions soon. Good thing too, because we surely won’t get them by listening to him talk.