The Counterpoint: Kent Babb's Article Smells Like Sour Grapes

This article is the “counterpoint” to Big Matt’s piece from earlier today. Make sure you check it out if you haven’t yet.

If there is anyone that still hasn’t read Kent Babb’s piece from this weekend, shame on you. Go read it right now, it is fascinating and a really great read. I mean, the picture it paints of the Chiefs organization is the stuff movies are made of.

The scene: Arrowhead Stadium

As a local reporter leaves the latest boring Chiefs press conference, he is pulled into a back hallway by a wild-eyed man. This man clearly hasn’t shaved in a month and, by the looks of his clothes and hat, he may not have bathed or changed clothes is just as long.

“Kent, I need to talk to you, but it’s not safe to talk here. The buildings are all bugged and I think they’ve gotten to my cell phone too.”

“Coach, are you okay? You don’t look so good,” the reporter replies.

“Shhhhhhhh!!! Don’t even call me. I’ll find a way to get in touch with you. In the mean time, I’ve figured out how to fight back. A few more Tyler Palko starts and their attendance numbers should bottom out. That will hit them where they’ll feel it: their precious bottom line!”

And with that, the wild eyed coach turns and disappears into the shadows, leaving the reporter to ponder just what is going on inside this organization.

Meanwhile, upstairs in the secret Arrowhead surveillance room, Mark Donovan turns to Scott Pioli.

“Well Scott, you were right. Haley’s gone rogue. What do you want to do? Put him at the bottom of the river? Hold his family hostage?”

Pioli replies, “No, not yet anyway. He’s so far gone at this point nobody will believe anything he says. We’ll just fire him.”

“Are you sure? I’m kind of bored with firing people at this point,” Donovan questions.

“Yes, we’ll let it go for now. The media will get over a firing a lot faster than a whacking, so it’ll mean less questions for me to not answer. Now get on it! Oh, and Mark, did I hear that your secretary had a birthday yesterday?” Pioli quizzes.

“Yes, she turned 40.”

“That’s what I thought. Make sure she cleans out her desk by tomorrow,” Pioli demands.

“But Scott,” Donovan reasons, “she really is a great secretary, the best I’ve ever had.”

“You know that doesn’t matter; if they’re old, they’re fired. It’s the only way we can win football games. Now excuse me, I have to take this bucket full of cash up to Mr. Hunt so he can roll around in it.”

“Of course Scott, I don’t know what I was thinking,” Donovan mumbles as he leaves the room.

Later that day, as Donovan’s secretary carries her belongings out to her car, a tear running down her cheek, she reminisces about the good old days when GM Carl Peterson would greet each employee at the door as they came in to work with a big hug and some home made baked goods. Ah, those wonderful days of yore when working for the Chiefs was like a warm slice of heaven.

End Scene

Makes a great story, doesn’t it?

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that the Chiefs front office has made some mistakes, but I think things may be just a little less sinister than what the media is making them out to be. My thoughts after the jump.

Let me get a couple things out of the way right out of the gate. The bad press that the Chiefs organization is getting right now is a product of their own doing. Here’s what we know:

The Chiefs are one of the most secretive organizations in football. Therefore, the media has less information to work with.

The Chiefs have fired many of the employees from the old Lamar Hunt/Carl Peterson days. That means there are a lot of former Chiefs employees that aren’t very happy about the changes that have taken place.

The Chiefs have been one of the lowest spending teams in the NFL over the last several years.

The Chiefs have a record of 21-27 in the three seasons since Scott Pioli took over as GM.

No one can dispute any of those things. So if you’re waiting for me to argue any of those points, you’ll be very disappointed. When you are as secretive as the Chiefs, you alienate both the media and the fans. When you don’t spend money AND you don’t win, you get some very frustrated fans. So then, when it comes time to evaluate the firing of several employees and the way Arrowhead is being run, of course both the media and fans are going to be hard on the Chiefs. They set themselves up for it.

Let’s start with some quotes from Scott Pioli after just a few months on the job as the Chiefs GM.

“You prepare for the job and part of what you do in the preparation for a general manager job is you look at the roster, the coaching staff, and all of the football aspects. Deep down inside you know there are things that affect the football operation but you can’t see or touch until you’re immersed in the situation. No matter how prepared you are for any job in life, I’m convinced you can be as prepared as you want to be and there are things that are unknown that you have to deal with that impact the job. And that’s the case here. It’s not just rebuilding the roster. It’s changing the culture of a lot of things of the football operation itself and things that affect the football operation.”

So Pioli told us in advance that he wanted to reshape the entire organization. One would have to imagine that would involve replacing some of Peterson’s people, right? Does that make him a bad GM?

Keep in mind, Babb even stated toward the end of his piece that Peterson replaced seven of the 10 department heads when he took over as well. Not to mention the fact that “King Carl,” the man 99 percent of Chiefs fans wanted run out of town with torches and pitchforks, has somehow become a man that did things “the right way” in just three short years. Who cares that the team wasn’t winning, we had more informative press conferences and the business executives had a more friendly work environment, for crying out loud!

The bottom line is wins, and if the Chiefs can build a Super Bowl team everyone will become huge Pioli fans and praise the way he “cleaned house” when it came to Peterson’s leftovers. If he loses, he’ll be a jerk who fired people.

Let me make this VERY CLEAR: neither Big Matt nor myself (nor Kent Babb for that matter) have the slightest idea of how well the people that have been fired by the Chiefs did their job. So speculating as to why they were fired is just that, speculation. There are two general possibilities:

A – They were really hard workers who did everything Pioli and company asked of them. They bought into the new vision of what their bosses wanted the franchise to become and were still fired anyway just because they were old and worked for Carl Peterson.

or

B – The employees that were fired had grown comfortable in their jobs and what they did under the old regime and had a hard time adjusting to the new expectations placed on them. After a period of time, it was deemed that they weren’t doing things to the liking of those that are ultimately responsible for the success of the franchise and were let go and replaced with people who the higher ups felt were a better match for their new way of doing things.

Now–in my opinion–one of those options seems more logical, and the other seems like it would make a better newspaper story. I’ll let you decide which one you think is more likely to be what really happened.

Let me ask you this. Why is it that if a football player is let go because he wasn’t doing his job well enough we all cheer (imagine how you’ll feel when Sabby Piscitelli is finally cut), but if the front office does the same thing to someone who sits behind a desk they are heartless tyrants? I think the answer is twofold. First, we want to see the team on the field get better so we’re excited at the possibility of the roster improving when a player is cut. Second, we can relate to the person behind the desk. We think “that could be me” much more then we do with Piscitelli. But, from the Chiefs’ perspective, isn’t the objective the same?

Here is a quote from Babb’s article that addresses if the Chiefs organization is better off because of the changes:

“No one could be successful in that environment,” a former director-level employee said.

Melton left the Chiefs in 2010 after arriving at a similar conclusion. More than a year later, she was asked if she could see any benefit from the changes. After a long pause, she answered.

“I’m sure there’s some good that has come out of it,” she said. “I would be hard-pressed to be able to identify that right now, without really thinking about it. I don’t think our football team is any better; I don’t think our fans are being any more well-served.”

She paused again.

“I couldn’t tell you,” she said. “I’m sorry. I’m not very helpful in that regard.”

Melton is quoted earlier in the article, saying:

“We all had to step to the beat of his drum, but we all kept questioning: ‘How is this building a better football team?’ ”

So that’s an unbiased opinion from a former Chiefs employee that chose to leave the organization, right? Well, what Babb subtly slipped in earlier is that Melton’s father, Steve Cox, is one of the three employees suing the Chiefs for age discrimination. So I’d say she has a little bit of an axe to grind. That’s my main complaint with Babb’s piece. How are people who have lost their jobs supposed to feel? Who is going to go on record saying “The team is much better off now that they fired me?” Is the fact that people who were fired during an administration change don’t like how the new administration is doing business really news?

Hasn’t the team improved since Pioli came on board? Maybe not as quickly as you would like, maybe he hasn’t made the same moves as you would like to see, but the team is better isn’t it?

What about the “other areas” that Pioli has talked about? Well, how about the scouting department? The Chiefs had a couple pretty good drafts before Pioli arrived. Then the one draft where it was Pioli working with the old personnel/scouting people was a disaster. Then, once Pioli got “his people” in place, the drafts have been better (again, maybe not perfect, but clearly better then the first one). So it appears Pioli works better with “his people” in that regard. Maybe the people that Pioli brought in aren’t technically any “better” but if Pioli works better with them, isn’t that what we all want?

One more example: the Chiefs’ website. Before the regime change, the website was awful. It was visually terrible and rarely had anything worth seeing other than press conferences. Now the website looks as up-to-date as any in the NFL. The videos put out by 65 Toss Power Trap Productions are outstanding. From funny segments by comedians Paul Rudd and Rob Riggle to pieces on how Chiefs fans were impacted by the Joplin tornadoes and 9/11, they are turning out first-rate productions. The Chiefs raised the bar, just like Scott Pioli said they would. This may have involved firing some people that were involved in the website and video productions under Carl Peterson. The website and 65 TPT don’t help the team win any more games, so was this a good move? Again, I’ll let you make the call on if that was a good decision or not.

In conclusion, do I think that the Chiefs are too secretive? Yes.

Is it silly that employees have to close their office blinds during practices? Yes.

Do I believe that Scott Pioli had Todd Haley’s personal cell phone tapped? No.

Do I think Scott Pioli and Mark Donovan would fire someone that was doing a great job, exactly to their liking, just because of their age? No.

Do I think they felt any obligation to keep someone on staff just because they had worked there a long time? No.

Do I think the entire Chiefs organization is better off today than it was five years ago under Carl Peterson? Yes.

Do I think Scott Pioli has made some mistakes? Sure I do.

Have I given up on him being able to build a Super Bowl caliber team in KC? No.

Should the Chiefs go out and spend some money this offseason to prove to the fans that they are trying to build a winner and not just turn a profit? Yes.

Will the success of Pioli, Donovan and Hunt ultimately be shaped much more by the team’s wins and losses than their secretive ways and office personnel decisions? Yes.

Was Kent Babb’s piece an entertaining read? Yes.

Did it change my opinion on any of these things that I’ve just listed? No, it did not.

It sure would make for a good movie though, wouldn’t it?

As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!

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Tags: Clark Hunt KC Chiefs Mark Donovan Scott Pioli

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