Sep 26, 2010; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli talks with media before the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE

Scott Pioli: Gambler, Politician and Flea Marketeer



You’ve got to know when to hold'em, know when to fold em,
Know when to walk away, know when to run.
~Kenny Rogers


This time of the offseason, a GM like Scott Pioli needs to know how to be a good politician (yes, “good politician” is an oxymoron but, play along with me here).

From now until the draft, it’s time for giving out some mis-information. When we hear something coming out of the mouths of GMs and head coaches, it can almost always be taken as misdirection.

If a friend of a well-known GM says he thinks his friend, the GM, would never take a safety as high as the fifth pick in the draft… then there’s a good chance he will take a safety with the fifth pick in the draft.

And… if a head coach says “there are so many directions we could go in the draft”… then there’s a good chance it means he knows exactly what direction he wants to go.

This time of year can also bring out the flea marketeer (bargain basement hound) in the elite GMs around the league. I have a neighbor who has a talent for picking up items for free and then selling them for a pretty little profit at a flea market. Scott Pioli knows how to get a good deal, too.

And, it’s fortunate for the Chiefs that he does.

However, where the Chiefs are at right now, is a bit of undiscovered country… at least for the fans. But, the GM and coach have been down this dusty road before and know just when to turn, when to stop and when to get the heck outta there.

In many a recent offseason, the Chiefs have had one of the largest available cap spaces in the league. Holding onto the extra cash from last year was wise, because teams had the option of rolling the cap space forward to this season. Since so many other teams spent… as if there was no tomorrow… they put themselves in a position of having to cut ties with several high quality players. Players like Eric Winston, Stanford Routt and Kevin Boss.

Now, you wouldn’t want to wish misfortune upon anyone, but since the Raiders were one of those spend-happy organizations who had to cut ties with their high level players, the Chiefs could take advantage and sign those players for less than they’d signed before. Don’t you love flea market values.

Now, the Chiefs can go into next season… and the draft… in a position of leverage.

This time of the offseason can also be all about, playing the gambler… that is if you’re a good GM in the NFL.

Even though there are still a few weak spots on the Chiefs roster, and there are still several quality free agents available on the market, spending has come to a stop for Scott Pioli. And the timing couldn’t be more perfect. And Scott Pioli knows it.

You gotta know when to hold’em.

If the Chiefs spend the extra cap money now… on specific free agent position players… then their draft selections would have to take on a much narrower set of choices… and the constraints would grow.. and the leverage dwindles. With cap money left sitting in the pot, the Chiefs can let the draft play out and keep themselves open to whichever draft choices come to them and whichever free agents are available later.

Nice move, Pioli.

Keep the cap space leverage in play and live to sign (bargains) another day.

Patrick Allen, in his post called Chiefs Free Agency Update: All Quiet, points out that the Chiefs can now look forward to signing players after the draft who could bring depth:

With less than a month to go before the draft, the Chiefs may just be taking inventory of some possible targets that could be on the market for a while so that if the team still feels it needs depth after the draft, they can quickly move on some of the players they have already interviewed.


Keeping some cap space prior to the draft has other advantages come draft day:

  • If the Chiefs want to trade a pick for another team’s starting player… for instance- throwing in a pick plus some cash… they’ll have the means to make it happen (ala Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks who is renowned for making deals that favor his franchise).
  • If the Chiefs want to trade picks and end up with two first rounders… or one very high first rounder… they’ll have the means to orchestrate.

When summer comes and training camp begins, as other teams begin to release known quality players, the Chiefs can be one of the teams making a bid for their services. Why? Because they’ll have placed themselves in a position of prerogative. IOW…they‘ll be able to buy Park Place and Boardwalk in the same season and it’ll be difficult for anyone to get by them without paying a price.

Advantage: gambler.

Part of being a good gambler is being a talented financial manager who knows how to balance budgets and stay ahead of the game.

The same holds true for players that Pioli may be wanting to snatch off of other team’s practice squads. Although it’s inexpensive to do that, it is necessary to have at least a little extra cap room to play with.

Keeping extra salary cap available also allows the team to sign and keep its own players to long term deals. It’s akin to managing a game clock during a game. If you can’t take care of it while there’s still the possibility of doing so… then you run out of time and the game is lost. In this case… time IS money. That’s exactly what happened with Brandon Carr. He could have been taken care of much earlier last season. Maybe.

However, since we don’t publically know how much he was asking for, or holding out for, we can’t conclude that the Chiefs made a mistake there. Five years for 50 million is out of the question and the only teams that seem to be able to pull moves off like that are teams like the Dallas Cowboys who break the rules without any thought.

I love Brandon Carr, but paying him that kind of salary would have left the Chiefs jammed up. It would have helped to destroy the Chiefs’ future by dismantling their salary structure. If they had done that deal, who could blame Brandon Flowers for coming back and saying he demands more money? How about JC, Hali and DJ? Aren’t they all worth more than Carr? I’d say yes but it would be impossible to pay them all and keep them all happy. Besides, I recently heard Carr say on NFL32, “Me? Ever since I was a little boy, I wanted to be a Cowboy.” Carr repeated that sentiment on the Scott Van Pelt Show too (go to :30 seconds). Actually, I’m a bit tired of hearing Carr talk. I live in Dallas and he was also on the Ben & Skin Show and said,

I feel like the Cowboys, the team I grew up watching since I was a little boy, a team that I idolized pretty much all the players, I wanted to give the first crack at trying to sign me.

Like me, if you’re a Chiefs loyalist, you don’t need to hear any more from Carr to know: he didn’t want to be a Kansas City Chief.

So, at this point, it seems unreasonable to criticize Scott Pioli for “allowing” Brandon Carr to get away in free agency.

Since we don’t know what Dwayne Bowe is demanding, or where else he could be dreaming of playing, the Chiefs could be in the same situation with him. And in another year, he could be walking the same way Carr did. So, with some fans in favor of exploring trade options for Bowe… I wouldn’t be opposed to it if the price is right.

You may be wondering exactly how much cap space the Chiefs do have left? The answer is $17 million, which ranks seventh best in the league right now. BTW… the Broncos are now 10th in the league at $13.8 million cap available.

Advantage: flea marketeer.

Having a feel for the wheel & deal can lead to a real steal. I’m not sure I could be more proud of our general manager, Scott Pioli, during this offseason (some have criticized me for being a homer, but if you’ve kept up with my posts, then you know nothing could be further from reality and, I believe in giving credit when it’s deserved).

Ever since the Chiefs hired Ted Crews to be their Vice President of Communications in late January, Scott Pioli seems to know exactly what to say. Maybe Pioli just needed some competition.

Advantage: politician.

In any event, I expect Scott Pioli, the gambler, politician and flea marketeer, to come out on top as this offseason progresses.

Advantage: Pioli

I wonder if Scott Pioli knows how to play tennis?

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