For the last four years, the Kansas City Chiefs have been doing their damnedest to become the New England Patriots of the Midwest.
Clearly, that strategy has failed.
I don’t think it was Chiefs owner Clark Hunt’s intention to try to “be the Patriots.” Hunt has gone on the record as saying he’d like to model the Chiefs after the Pittsburgh Steelers.
No, the hiring of Scott Pioli was not a move by Hunt to imitate the Patriots. In actuality, the hiring of Pioli was smart.
Scott Pioli was widely believed to be the best executive and talent evaluator available. He was highly sought after and, in the end, was highly paid by the Chiefs. We don’t know the exact terms of Pioli’s deal with KC but it is safe to say he very well could be the highest paid GM in the league.
Hunt, for all the flak he takes about being cheap, went after the best possible GM and paid him top dollar.
Whether or not Hunt was a factor in Pioli’s failure is something we can’t know for sure. Pioli has stated many times that there has been no limit placed on how much he is allowed to spend on personnel. Unfortunately, Pioli’s word is about as good as that of a snake-oil salesman these days. We’ll probably never know for sure.
Now that it appears the Pioli era is coming to an end, Hunt is left to search for another approach to rebuilding his father’s football club.
And he should look no farther than the San Francisco 49ers.
The Chiefs have a long history of copying the 49ers. For years, San Francisco developed their backup QBs to one day become the starter in Kansas City. It was like a reverse minor league system.
Before your collective heads explode, I am not suggesting the Chiefs go after Alex Smith, should he be released this offseason.*
*The Chiefs will need a veteran backup and if Smith is the guy…well there are worse backup QB situations in the league. Though if KC takes a QB #1, Smith may prefer to go to a team that wants him to start.
What I am suggesting is that Hunt take a hard look at what happened to the 49ers between the 2010. The 49ers entered that season with high hopes. They were supposed to be the top dogs in a very weak NFC West and were hoping to build off an 8-8 2009 season.
Instead, they lost their first five games, including a 31-10 drubbing by Todd Haley’s Chiefs. Then head coach Mike Singletary was fired following a Week 16 loss to the St. Louis Rams, which dropped the 49ers to 5-10 on the season.
After the Rams game, 49ers President and CEO Jed York, addressed his team in the locker room.
“Obviously, we didn’t achieve the things we set out to achieve. We should be a playoff team,” York said. “We aren’t a playoff team this year. Very disappointed about that. We need to figure out how we can get into the playoffs and how we can start competing for Super Bowls.”
Later, he added to the press:
“Money is no object. “I mean, our object is to win the Super Bowl, year in and year out, be there and compete for Super Bowls. We’re going to make sure we get this right.”
York made good on his word. He decided the results weren’t good enough and he fired Singletary, despite the head coach still having two years on his contract.
Not long later, the 49ers hired Jim Harbaugh, who was enjoying a successful run as the head coach at Stanford with QB Andrew Luck.
In his first draft, Harbaugh drafted Aldon Smith 7th overall and then, in the second round, selected QB Colin Kaepernick.
How did that work out?
The 49ers went 13-3 in Harbaugh’s first season and appeared in the NFC Championship game. If not for a couple of muffed punts, the 49ers could well have made the Super Bowl.
This season, Aldon Smith just passed Reggie White as the fastest player to 30 sacks and Kapernick was just named the starting QB over incumbent Alex Smith. The 49ers are 8-2-1 and are Super Bowl contenders once again.
Since Jim Harbaugh was hired, the San Francisco 49ers are 22-6-1.
When he was hired by the 49ers, Harbaugh stated “losing is not an option.”
Chiefs fans should be envious.
Instead of “losing is not an option”, Chiefs fans have been treated to “it’s a process” and “we all have to do better” and “I believe in Matt Cassel/Tyson Jackson/Todd Haley (who wound up fired)/Romeo Crennel.” We’ve been treated to terrible QB play, scoldings from their own team’s players and worst of all, more losses than wins.
Yet unlike York, Hunt has been silent.
Indications from various articles published in the Kansas City Star are that Hunt is quietly working behind the scenes. The paper has reported that he has been meeting privately with fans, listening to their complaints.
That is all well and good but I think what most fans want to see is action. Chiefs fans want to know that Hunt cares. They want to see that he cares.
In 2010, Jed York made certain that his fan base knew changes were coming. The time has come for Hunt to do the same. The time has come for him to fire Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel. The time has come for him to announce to fans that money is not an option and that they deserve a better product on the field.
If and when Hunt does start making changes, hopefully he’ll pay attention to what’s happened in San Francisco. Harbaugh and company didn’t gut the roster. There was no 4-12 “rebuilding season.” The team simply hired an excellent coach and let him turn the team into a winner.
The Kansas City Chiefs have plenty of talent. Fans and media members weren’t crazy this past offseason when they projected the team to win the AFC West. The talent was there.
It was the leadership that was missing.
Perhaps the thing Chiefs fans should most marvel at when looking at the 49ers is Harbaugh’s latest move to bench Alex Smith for Kaepernick. Do you think, in a million years, Scott Pioli would have allowed his head coach to bench Matt Cassel in the same situation? No way.
The 49ers have demonstrated a commitment to winning. They’ve allowed Jim Harbaugh to make the decisions he feels are best for the football team. There is no telling how the Kaepernick experiment will work out, but you can’t help but admire the guts it took for the head coach to make the move.
The next six or seven weeks will be very crucial for Hunt. His team is likely going to have a bevy of valuable draft choices. KC is on track to hold the #1 pick which means it is crucial that the team fins themselves a franchise QB. Hunt needs to hire the right folks for that job.
And just like Jim Harbaugh and Jed York made perfectly clear back in 2010, Hunt needs to make sure the new regime and the fans know that losing isn’t an option.