Kansas City Chiefs GM John Doresy’s draft philosophy makes sense.
“You spent all those months as a group staying true to your board,” Dorsey said after being introduced to the KC media after being named the team’s new GM, “and all of a sudden you have to jump a player because of positional needs? I don’t think you do that. We have proven you don’t do that.”
What Dorsey is saying, is that during his time in Green Bay, the Packers followed a philosophy of staying true to their draft board by picking the player they thought was the best, regardless of their needs at certain positions.
It is a smart way to do things.
In the NFL, we see example after example of talented players making the players around them better. The Pittsburgh Steelers, for instance, are a totally different defense when safety Troy Polamalu is healthy and playing his best.
On offense, we’ve seen receiver after receiver leave New England in free agency only to be perfectly average (and sometimes worse) upon taking the field for their new team. It takes two to tango, after all, and Tom Brady is a pretty good dance partner.
Great players make big plays and the more great players your team has, the better.
So it is easy to understand why Dorsey feels so strongly about the draft philosophy he learned in Green Bay. It is hard to argue with, considering the success the Packers have enjoyed over the years.
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Fans and the media love to latch on to catch phrases.
In 2009, when the Chiefs hired Scott Pioli to take over as GM for the departed Carl Peterson, Kansas City was abuzz. Peterson had been in charge for so long, without delivering a championship, that fans were thrilled for any kind of change.
It was understandable. Chiefs fans brought up in the 90′s had enjoyed a tremendously successful football team. From 1989 to 2006, Kansas City experienced only four losing seasons and only once won fewer than seven games. Nobody likes 7-9 seasons but for nearly 20 years, the Kansas City Chiefs were either in the playoffs or were just two or three wins away from qualifying. The team was competitive.
So when Peterson turned in back to back 4-12 and 2-14 seasons, Kansas City was a bit shellshocked. Chiefs Nation was ready to hear the gospel of Pioli.
In January of 2009, Pioli was asked about his philosophy on building a team.
“It’s not necessarily the best 53 players, it’s the right 53 players.”
The “right 53.” It was a phrase that started out as a positive but by the time his tenure in Kansas City was over, Pioli’s words were coming back to haunt him.
Take your “Right 53″ with you on your way out of town!
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“Best player available.”
It is the new rallying cry of Chiefs Nation. Dorsey has made it clear that he won’t be reaching for need. He’ll be taking the best player available.
And the fans have warmed to the idea.
Just weeks ago, while the Chiefs were losing football games in pretty much every way imaginable, I heard nothing but chatter from fans about how desperately the team needed a QB. There was a fan movement, for heaven’s sake, calling for Pioli to be fired and for QB Matt Cassel to be benched.
The mandate was clear; get us a new GM and get us a QB.
But three little words appear to have changed all that.
“Best player available.”
Now, when I post a mock draft review on Arrowhead Addict, the comment section immediately divides into a debate about wether the Chiefs should select QB Geno Smith or LT Luke Joeckel.
No other players really enter into the discussion.
The argument for each is simple.
“QB is the most important position on the team. You can’t win without a QB. The Chiefs have the #1 pick. Geno Smith is the best QB in the draft. Therefore, the Chiefs must select Geno Smith. “
“Geno Smith isn’t as good as Luck or RG3. He isn’t worth the #1 pick in the draft. This pick is too important for the Chiefs to take a player that is going to end up as a bust (and not a bust in Canton). Joeckel is the best player available and is the safest pick. Take the LT and get a QB in the 2nd/and/or trade for Alex Smith/wait until next year to get a QB.”
I myself am in the pro-Geno group and have made that opinion perfectly clear. I want the Chiefs to select Geno Smith because I believe he has the potential to be a good enough QB to lead the Chiefs to the Super Bowl.
I also understand that those who are pro-Joeckel would disagree. I understand that those folks do not believe in Geno Smith and they are concerned that “reaching” for Smith would set the Chiefs back and waste a valuable, high draft pick.
It is still clear to fans that the Chiefs “have to have a QB” but that the mandate has been partially amended by some to “but only if the right QB is available.”
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Can you really get two philosophies more different than “it’s not necessarily the best 53 players” and “best player available?”
If we look only at those words, probably not. One seems to indicate that Pioli sometimes valued character and fit over talent whereas the other suggests that Dorsey will take talent over need, come hell or high water.
The problem, I think, is that not with the catchphrases but with how those catchphrases are interpreted.
We like to make philosophies as simple as possible so that we can understand them and easily explain them to others, but the reality is that no philosophy or moral code, is that simple.
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Pretty simple, right? Be nice to people. Don’t go around punching random strangers in the face because you wouldn’t like it if random strangers came up to you and punched you in the face.
So what’s the problem?
Well, imagine you are walking down the street with your friend. Some maniac comes running up and starts trying to stab you. Your friend is Kansas City Chiefs nose tackle, Dontari Poe. The maniac is is Dexter McCluster. As you run around trying to avoid McCluster’s wild attempts to stab you, you scream for your rather large friend to help you.
“Sure buddy. What do you want me to do,” asks the 350 pound Poe.
“Punch this guy in the face or something! He’s trying to murder me,” you plead.
“Sorry brah, I live my life by a strict philosophy. ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ I wouldn’t want someone to punch me in the face and so I can not do that to this man.”
“But he’s trying to kill me,” you exclaim.
“Sorry man. I can’t break my own philosophy. Can’t deviate from the code.”
This is a funny way of saying that life is a tad bit more complicated than catchphrases and draft philosophies. Not every situation is the same and you should adjust your actions accordingly.
Sure, it is easy to go around saying that you will always take the best player available when you have Brett Favre, in his prime, on your roster. Just like it is easy to say you can draft a guy you like personally over a slightly more talented guy you think is a jerk when you have Tom Brady running your offense.
It would be foolish for us to believe that Dorsey will stick so blindly to his draft philosophy that he will select a tackle instead of a QB simply because he thinks the tackle is a slightly better football player.
In fact, it would be foolish for us to believe we know absolutely anything about John Dorsey’s draft strategy and philosophy based off of three words; best player available.
The fact of the matter is, we haven’t even the slightest idea how John Dorsey determines who is and isn’t the best player available. Perhaps Dorsey weighs his grades for players based on what position they play. For instance, maybe Dorsey values cornerbacks over safeties. Perhaps Dorsey automatically gives all safeties five position points and all CB’s ten position points. Then he assignes each player various numerical scores based on physical and personal attributes like speed, intelligence and personality. Let’s say he is grading Brandon Flowers and Eric Berry. Perhaps Dorsey adds up all their traits and Berry grades out to a 90 and Flowers to an 87. Berry is the pick until Dorsey adds in his positional scores, which gives Flowers the edge. Dorsey values CBs more than he values safeties and so Flowers is the best player available on his board.
If we look a little deeper into Dorsey’s words, we can even find a little bit of Pioli’s “right 53″ message.
“Are they good football players?” Dorsey said of what he looks for in the draft. “I think that’s vitally important. Do they fit into the locker room? If you look at any great teams, over all the decades … there’s a component that is very important. That locker room can self-perpetuate people, and it can pull the young guys up to the standards of the older guys. That locker room is the pulse of your team, and that’s vitally important.
“There’s a great unknown within players. It’s what’s inside of them. You want to lift up the hood sometimes and see what’s inside. It’s our job to lift up that hood and find out if those components fit into what you’re trying to do within an organization.”
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We have to be careful of trying to simplify Dorsey’s draft process just as Dorsey himself has to be careful of being to rigid in how he makes his decisions. The best player available could be the best player available for a multitude of reasons. In fact, the best player available for the Chiefs might not necessarily be the best player available for the Raiders and so on.
In the end, it doesn’t matter if Dorsey takes the best player available or the player that best fits into the “right 53.” All that matters is that he is successful in his evaluation of the players. It doesn’t matter if the Chiefs take Geno Smith #1 and re-sign LT Branden Albert. It doesn’t matter if they select Joeckel #1 and QB Tyler Wilson in the second.
All that matters is that they are right about Geno and Albert or right about Joeckel and Wilson.
The mandate is simple.
Get the picks right. Get a QB. Win a Super Bowl.
That philosophy, I think we can all agree, is one Dorsey can feel free to follow as rigidly as he likes.