When it comes to the Peyton Manning free-agent frenzy, the Kansas City Chiefs are an afterthought.
A slim possibility.
And that’s just the way they want it.
Since his arrival in Kansas City, Scott Pioli hasn’t been one to trumpet his intentions for player acquisition. Hell, he hasn’t been one to trumpet his favorite BBQ spot. Look up “Scott Pioli” in the dictionary and all you’ll see is a close-up picture of a vest.
You aren’t hearing the Kansas City Chiefs mentioned very much in the race for Manning. Had head coach Romeo Crennel not said at the NFL Combine that he would be interested in Manning were he available, you probably wouldn’t be hearing about the Chiefs at all.
Guys like Adam Schefter and Jason La Canfora don’t typically break a lot of Chiefs news. When they do, the tips probably almost always came from an agent or some other person outside of the Chiefs’ control. Everyone knows Scott Pioli has Arrowhead locked down tighter than Alcatraz.
Thus, when the national pundits go on TV to talk about the “favorites to land Manning” they simply can’t, in good conscience, throw the Chiefs into the mix. They can’t do it because they simply have no idea what the Chiefs are going to do. Without any indication from a source that KC is going to pursue Manning hard, they can’t consider them a favorite. That, and Pioli’s history of cautious free agent signings, is likely scaring them off.
Something fans should note, however, is that these same pundits that refuse to acknowledge KC as a landing spot for Manning, also are not ruling the Chiefs out. This, to me, is the strongest indication that the experts are totally in the dark as to what the Chiefs’ plans are. If the Chiefs weren’t going to go after Manning, if they were planning to stick with Matt Cassel, why not let leak that they have absolutely no interest? Hell, why not declare it publicly? It would make sense, wouldn’t it?
A number of national outlets have pointed out that Kansas City makes a lot of sense for Manning. Local outlets, like Arrowhead Addict and Arrowhead Pride have talked extensively about Manning in Kansas City. Two 610 Sports Radio hosts, Nick Wright and Bob Fescoe, have reported that Manning to KC is a legit possibility.
If you are Scott Pioli and you truly believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that Matt Cassel is your QB in 2012, wouldn’t it be in your best interest to squash these rumors if not just to keep Cassel’s morale up?
Of course it would.
Pioli isn’t doing that.
This reminds me much of an article I wrote during the season about Scott Pioli’s silence in regards to the job security of Todd Haley. Rumors were swirling that Haley would be fired mid-season. I believed them, not just because of the team’s poor performance but because Pioli had refused to come out publicly in support of his head coach. If Pioli’s confidence in Haley was so high, why not crush the rumors and remove the distraction?
Because the rumors were true. Haley was in trouble and he likely would have been fired much earlier had the Chiefs, ironically, not made a furious comeback against who else but the Indianapolis Colts. Haley was able to take that momentum into a four game winning streak that got the Chiefs back into first place and staved off his departure for a few more weeks. After the winning streak I thought Haley was sure to survive the season. He didn’t and I think that speaks to just how thin of a thread he was hanging by all season long.
With a guy like Pioli, sometimes what he doesn’t say is much more important than what he does. Until now, the Chiefs have had no real reason to tip their hand. Declaring their intention to heavily pursue Manning aloud, like the Dolphins, Jets and Redskins have, would have gained them nothing but unwanted attention. It would have served only to give guys like Adam Schefter confidence to say their name over and over again on ESPN as favorites for Manning.
Sorry but that isn’t Pioli’s style. I am sure he is perfectly content to let Stephen Ross, the Dolphins owner, strut around declaring his undying love for Peyton while foolishly waving his wallet around for all to see.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs will be the adult in this situation. They’ll keep their mouths shut and when the time comes, they’ll pick up the phone and invite Peyton out to Kansas City for an interview. They’ll focus on selling their team and its potential to Manning instead of selling themselves as favorites to ESPN.
Pioli knows he won’t be able to keep things quiet forever. Once Manning is set to visit the Chiefs, the news will leak from someone in the Manning camp. The Chiefs will be thrust a little more into the spotlight but the “insiders” aren’t likely to have a good feeling for just how seriously the Chiefs will be pursuing Manning until after the meeting.
How do I know?
Look, Scott Pioli has been called a lot of things since he’s come to Kansas City. He might be stubborn, he might be arrogant, he might be a micro-manager but I’ve never seen anyone question his intelligence. This is Peyton Manning we’re talking about. You don’t “kick the tires” on Peyton Manning. You don’t “show a mild interest” in Peyton Manning. If you are going after Peyton Manning, you’re going after Peyton Manning. There is no half-assed interview with a guy like that. When Manning comes to town, you don’t let him leave without making him one hell of an offer.
Don’t worry about what the national media says. In the end, the only thing that will matter is what Peyton Manning wants. What will matter is which team impresses him the most when he meets them and where he thinks he has the best chance to win.
The Chiefs, in my opinion, offer just as realistic a chance at playoff appearances as any other team “in the running.”
But it doesn’t matter what I think. Or what Adam Schefter or Jason La Canfora thinks.
All that matters is what Manning thinks.
And we’ll know that soon enough.