The Kansas City Chiefs are a mess and the buck stops with GM Scott Pioli.
The Chiefs’ owner, Clark Hunt, can’t be fired. The man he charged with turning around the fortunes of his football team, can.
But should he be?
Or better yet, will it matter?
There is a very strong argument to be made that Pioli should be canned. He’s made many mistakes since taking over as GM. He was wrong about Matt Cassel. He was wrong about Todd Haley. He reached for Tyson Jackson. He whiffed on nearly the entire 2009 draft. He indirectly traded Tony Gonzalez for Javier Arenas. For a man that preaches organizational stability, he’s allowed a revolving door at offensive coordinator and two head coaches in less than four years. He was exposed and embarrassed in an article by former Kansas City Star reporter and columnist Kent Babb, for running a work environment that was unpleasant and according to some accounts, abusive.
Most of all, Pioli’s Chiefs haven’t won. KC is 22-31 since Pioli took over and despite what appears to be a talented roster, the Chiefs appear no closer to playoff success now than when he arrived. Pioli inherited a roster mostly full of bums and underachievers. He did a pretty good job of hanging on to the talented players that were here when he arrived but after four years of roster-building, Pioli presents a team of talented players that play like bums.
In short, there isn’t much difference on the field.
A few weeks ago, I was pretty happy with the job Scott Pioli was doing. I felt like he had put together the best possible roster to support Matt Cassel. I wasn’t the only one. Media, both locally and nationally, were applauding Pioli’s moves. Folks were picking the Chiefs to win the AFC West and a couple of analysts even picked them to make the Super Bowl.
Pioli’s hiring of Crennel also seemed like the right move at the time. The players responded to his coaching. The team rallied and played pretty well down the stretch, despite missing some of their best players. Crennel was experienced and calm; the anti-Haley. The team hadn’t responded well to Todd’s brash style, so why not go in the other direction? After all, Crennel’s win over the Green Bay Packers was a more impressive win than any of Haley’s victories.
But if Pioli was wrong about the 2012 Crennel-led Chiefs, then so were the rest of us. The difference is, we aren’t getting paid millions of dollars to be right. Scott Pioli is.
And he’s been wrong far more often than he has been right.
So what to do? Is it time for Clark Hunt to pull the plug on Pioli?
Clark Hunt is in a tough spot. Teams like the Browns have taught us that reorganizing your organization every three or four years doesn’t equal success. A new GM likely means another culture shift, another new head coach and more losing.
But it isn’t just the men in charge who have failed in Cleveland. Since the Browns have returned, they’ve lacked one, key component. A QB.*
*Though not for lack of trying, which is something that can’t be said about the Chiefs.
Whatever Clark Hunt decides to do, he needs to make one thing abundantly clear to the GM, whether it be Pioli or a new hire: the Kansas City Chiefs are going to do whatever it takes to secure a franchise QB during the 2012 offseason. That means moving up as high as need be to swing for the fences with one of the Draft’s top signal callers.
A franchise QB is the one guy who can make everyone else in the organization look good. Just like Jamaal Charles makes an offensive line look good, a franchise QB makes EVERYONE look good. The GM, the coach, the other players on the team. Everyone.
And Clark Hunt needs to realize that. If you drop Tom Brady on this Chiefs team, if you drop Drew Brees or Aaron Rogers, they’d probably be playing a much better brand of football right now. Pioli, Crennel, everyone would look great. Just like they did in New England.
But without a QB, the deck is stacked against the Chiefs and without one, Scott Pioli, Romeo Crennel, Todd Haley, “King” Carl Peterson, Mary Schottenheimer or the reanimated corpse of Vince Lombardi won’t make a lick of difference.
So Hunt can fire Pioli if he wants. Or not.
But until the organization secures a franchise QB, the losing is going to continue.