Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Clark Hunt: Stepping Out of Lamar's Shadow


At the middle of last season, Clark Hunt’s name was not very popular around Chiefs Kingdom. Many fans (myself included) thought that the CEO of the Kansas City Chiefs was stingy, uninvolved and generally didn’t care about the franchise. Many were questioning the late, great Lamar Hunt’s wisdom in leaving his most prized possession, the Kansas City Chiefs, in the hands of spoiled children. I mean, Clark didn’t have the greatest track record. In the 35 years that Lamar Hunt was the owner and chairman of the Kansas City Chiefs, they had 18 winning seasons (starting when the AFL officially merged with the NFL in 1970 and not counting seasons where they had a .500 record.) Since Clark took over the reins from his father in 2006, the Chiefs have had two winning seasons. Those aren’t good odds, and it doesn’t speak well for Clark Hunt.

King Carl Peterson was hired by the father of the AFL to be the general manager and team president of the Kansas City Chiefs franchise in 1989. During that time, he hired four head coaches and drove the ship through the ups and downs. When Lamar died in December 2006, Clark decided to keep his father’s choice for GM on board. That was his first mistake as the chairman and CEO of the Chiefs. Peterson went on to hire the man we like to refer to as “Harm” Edwards, arguably one of the worst coaches in the history of the franchise. Romeo Crennel may actually come close to that title, but he only had one season to under-perform. Peterson and Clark Hunt gave Harm three whole seasons to dig the Chiefs into a hole.

Clark’s next biggest mistake, was the hiring of the “Smooth Talker from New England,” Scott Pioli. After 20 years under the King Carl era, Chiefs fans were ready for a change. Sayings like “In Pioli we trust” permeated the Chiefs’ fandom. We didn’t bat an eye (or at least most of us didn’t) when he brought in the gruff, unorthodox offensive coordinator from the previous year’s NFC Champion, Arizona Cardinals, to be the new head coach. Todd Haley brought with him an attitude the Chiefs hadn’t seen in sometime. Further, we didn’t even flinch (again,  most of us didn’t) when the team traded the 34th overall pick (déjà vu, anyone?) to the Patriots for Matt Cassel and Mike “Intangibles” Vrabel. Under Haley’s leadership and Cassel’s QB play, during the 2010 season the team took home something they hadn’t in seven years, the AFC West Championship.

However, when the Chiefs came out flat in their first playoff appearance since 2006, it didn’t take a degree in psychology to see there was a rift between the GM and head coach. That rift widened the following season when, instead of making a run at repeating their 2010 season, the Chiefs lost the first three games, or in the words of Todd Haley, went 1-3 in the first quarter of the season. The all-out train wreck that was the 2011 Kansas City Chiefs continued to fly down the track when starting QB Matt Cassel (who had the made the Pro Bowl the year prior, albeit as an alternate,) was placed on injured reserve. The best QB the disheveled coach could field was Tyler Palko. That failed experiment ended in the firing of Haley and the emergence of Crennel as the Chiefs’ interim head coach. Crennel quickly replaced Palko with QB Kyle Orton, who the Chiefs had picked up off the waiver wire when “Tebow Time” was first starting. Thankfully, Palko never took a professional snap again. Although it was reported that after the 2011 season when he was released by the Chiefs he started a career at Payless Shoe Source, there is no validity to the rumor. An internet search of “where is Palko” returned no results, indicating not even Google cares where this guy is. But, I digress.

At the beginning of last season, there were high hopes once again. Scott Pioli removed the “interim” tag from Romeo Crennel’s head coach title. The players seemed re-invigorated and there was almost a “ding dong, the witch is dead” mentality surrounding the abrupt departure of Todd Haley. Although Pioli didn’t “go big” in free agency, he signed some talent to help provide depth at some positions of need. Again, during the draft, no huge splash was made, but depth was added to what was considered by most to be a talented roster. Around the league, the Kansas City Chiefs were the trendy pick to win the AFC West, despite Peyton Manning’s arrival in the Mile High City.

Then the bottom fell out. I won’t waste more words telling you what happened next. Even the youngest fan has the image of loss after humiliating loss burned into their memory. It was probably the worst season the Chiefs have ever put together. (The Chiefs have had three, two-win seasons in the lifetime of the franchise: 1977, 2008 and 2012.)Scott Pioli continued to spout sound bites for ESPN and the NFL Network that consisted of his go-to catchphrases. We heard that “it’s a process” and things would level out, but they never did. They just kept going downhill. Fast. Enter the “Save Our Chiefs” movement. Still Pioli continued to smooth talk the reporters. The Chiefs didn’t hold a lead in regulation play for the first seven games of the season. A plane was flown over Arrowhead Stadium declaring what the Chiefs fans thought of the GM and the starting QB. Nothing. In fact, it took a tragedy to spark enough emotion in the players to pull out their second and final win of the season. It was terrible. Romeo Crennel was, thankfully, the first casualty of “Black Monday” and many thought Pioli would quickly follow.

We are all Chiefs fans here. Why did I just use over 800 words to tell you the recent history of the Kansas City Chiefs when many of you know it as well or better than I do? To make my point. Through all of this, Clark Hunt did nothing. Absolutely nothing. It took some dedicated Chief fans to pay their money out of their own pockets to fly a plane over the stadium for him to even slightly take notice.

Then, something amazing happened. The debacle that was the 2012 season came to end; Crennel’s coaching tenure came to an end and Clark Hunt stood up and made himself heard. He flew to Philly and met with then, just-deposed Eagle head coach, Andy Reid. We all know what happened next. Clark got his guy. However, Clark didn’t stop there. Next, he held a press conference and said he was taking a more active role in the team. Chiefs fans took in a collective breath, not knowing how this would play out. Putting the head coach and the general manager on the same level in your corporate structure isn’t generally heard of. Clark was making a point.

Next came the signings. One of the major complaints Chiefs fans have had about Clark Hunt is the tight grip he holds on his checkbook. There was much speculation last season on why Dwayne Bowe wasn’t signed to a long-term contract. Many thought it was a personality conflict between Bowe and Pioli. Others thought it was Hunt’s grip on his checkbook and not wanting to pay Bowe the “big money.” I personally believe it was Pioli telling Hunt that Bowe wasn’t worth it. It’s interesting the difference a year makes.

Football is a business, pure and simple; at least to those involved in it. Clark Hunt finally figured out that his business isn’t doing well, and it was time get out of the corporate office in Dallas and check out the operation in Kansas City. I believe we’ll be quite surprised come next week when the free agent frenzy begins in earnest. There are some big name players who will be demanding some big pay days. While I’m not necessarily for over-paying players, I think that if you want to win, sometimes you have to pay for it.

There are several levels of owners in the NFL. The Green Bay Packers have over 100,000 owners. The Pack is the NFL’s only publicly owned team. They are run by a board of directors, but not one single owner. On the opposite end of the spectrum would be the Dallas Cowboys with owner/general manager/wannabe coach/all-around meddler, Jerry Jones. I would say Clark Hunt and the Kansas City Chiefs fall somewhere in between. I’m not say I want Clark Hunt to be Jerry Jones, but the increased level of involvement points to good things ahead.

Thus far this season, I’m impressed with the moves Hunt has made. He has obviously realized his customer base is unhappy. He knows he needs to change it. Win now and we’re happy. Continue down this path of ineptitude and he won’t be able to give away tickets to Arrowhead. It’s that simple. We’ve got a long way to go. This is the part of the offseason where optimism is at its highest. No games have been played but we’re far enough removed from the stink of the season to have faded away. There’s hope in the Chiefs Kingdom once again. It’s clear Clark is involved and, so far at least, it seems he’s got the right guys calling the shots. Lamar Hunt loved this football franchise and the world of football loved him. He is gone, but not forgotten. It’s about time his spawn stepped up and tried to start filling those Shaq-sized shoes his father left.

Time will tell if this “new and improved” Clark Hunt will be the difference in the 2-14 team we suffered through last year or the 13-3 team that should take the field this year. I’m not saying for certain, but it should be one hell of a ride getting there.

We took a collective breath in when Clark stood up for his franchise. We’re all still waiting to exhale.

That’s how I see it, Addicts. What say you?

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  • njjohn

    I don’t hear all the fans whining about Clark Hunt being cheap anymore, which he never was.

  • TAZMOSIS

    Jason,
    Why are we not seeing the name of his most important signing? Or did I miss John Dorsey’s name somewhere?

    • Michael Shaw

      Yeah I was wondering if that was an accidental omission or what.

    • Jason Seibel

      Guys, after reading back through, I see I didn’t actually mention Dorsey by name. That was an accidental omission. I agree that he has, without a doubt, been the most crucial signing of Hunts time as CEO and Chairman. I apologize for the mistake.

  • Michael Shaw

    Jason, nice write up. I have one point of contention. When you mentioned the 2010 year, you did it as though that year the Chiefs won because of Todd Haley and Matt Cassel. I am sorry, but the SOLE reason we won the division that year was because of Romeo’s defense and Charlie Weiss’s offense. When Charlie went away our offense seemed to go with him, hence the turn around from 10-6 to 7-9. Had Clark gotten off his ass and paid attention to what was going on behind the scenes and pulled Pioli and Haley into his office and chewed their collective asses for letting Charlie walk and then gone out and did his best to keep Charlie as the OC, we might have gone 10-6 or 11-5 in 2011 and won the division for a second year in a row. As for Romeo Crennel……….I still think the man is a great coach. I just don’t think he had the same control over the team that Andy Reid has been given. Had Romeo been given the same control over the team, I don’t think Dontari Poe would have been our pick. I think Brandon Weedon or another QB from last years class would have been on our roster. I don’t think Romeo wanted Matt as his QB, but Pioli forced him to use and keep Matt. Romeo should have seen all he needed to the previous year in 2011 to know that MC was not a very good or consistent MC for this team.

    • KCMikeG

      SOLE? Hardly. Besides the fact that you named two factors so sole doesn’t apply it is unrealistic to ignore Jamaal Charles incredible ability, Pioli’s additions to the OL that helped JC, Bowe’s NFL leading 15 TD’s and Cassel’s season in 2010. His valiant return from the appendectomy to inspire the run to the playoffs and 27 TD’s with only 7 Int’s with only one WR deserves some of the credit also. RAC’s defense improved greatly in 2010 but to give him credit while discrediting Cassel due to the easy schedule is contradictory. Even Pioli deserves some of the credit as it was he who brought RAC & Weiss here. Again you can’t hang the failure of Haley on him w/o giving him credit for the TWO reasons you state as the sole reason for success in 2010. Weiss didn’t throw the ball for Cassel or run the ball for JC and RAC didn’t make tackles. Quite frankly the all need to be put into the class of Belichick’s students who struggled and failed w/o him. In fact 2010 was Weiss’ only successful year since he left NE and the same is true of RAC and Pioli.

      I do agree Clark should have stepped in to end the rift between Pioli & Haley sooner but he was following his father’s lead of letting the GM & HC run the team. I give him huge kudos for the action he took after things unravelled last year. Weiss leaving had something to do with the chaos but there were personal reasons that influenced his decision too. To say our offense went away with Weiss is unfair when it really went away with JC & Moeaki’s ACL’s.
      To say that it was RAC’s defense then begs the question of where was that defense last year, ignores the blow out losses in 2011 and the 2010 blowouts vs the donkeys, dolts, faiders and Ravens too.

      I think you are right that Pioli forced Cassel on RAC and Haley too but if that was the only reason for him starting then why was Pioli not able to get his golden boy QBOTF Stanzi on the field? Instead we get Palko & Orton. Haley did have an initial, very positive influence on a lackadaisical group of under performers but that faded quickly. RAC was a great DC but that diminished in KC and his attempts at HC were the Peter Principle personified.

      I was distraught over the Poe selection but Weeden would have been worse. Poe improved as the year went on and will be a major force in our defense this year while the brownies are shopping Weeden. As for the other QB’s we could have drafted like 3rd rounders Wilson & Kaepernick, clearly everyone missed on them since Tannehill, Weeden & Osweiler were all taken well before them. But what do I know – my hope for our 1st round #11 pick DeCastro was on IR by week #3 making Poe look pretty darn good.

      • Michael Shaw

        Michael I am not taking ANYTHING away from the great JC!!! I just think Cassel only looked “good” that year because of Weiss. That was my main point. As for the blowouts, the games started out close until the offense couldn’t move the ball more than 5 yards, and yes I know that is likely an exaggeration but you get the point. Weiss didn’t throw the ball but he is enough of an offensive genius to design an offense that even Matt could be successful in. In what his offensive game planning that helped get Bowe those 15 TD’s and Matt his 27 to 7 TD/INT ratio, which included some damn fine running plays for JC to rip off big runs. The next year with the Solar/Haley experiment I believe it was you saw none of that. Even though you are correct that losing Moeaki in preseason and JC on the first game had an adverse effect on the team, it is my contention that Weiss, had he still been the OC, would have and could have gotten almost as much production out of Cassel and the guys we had left after the major boys went down due to injury as he did the year prior. Then again who knows, losing JC might have been our complete downfall that year. As for RAC’s defense last year, I am a firm believer that he is a solid to expert DC. It is his tenure as a HC that has haunted him most recently. I liked him being named the HC because it seemed like the players were all in on that idea. Then the season started and they looked unprepared and like they had not been coached very well at all. I know RAC is a great coach, but he may be one of those guys that is only good at coaching defenses and not the whole team.

    • Chief Hokie

      I seem to remember Romeo having a pretty severe man crush on Dontari Poe. The dude was gushing when reporters asked him about the pick. I’m not sure Romeo would’ve passed on him.

      • Michael Shaw

        After they drafted him yes. But when you are pretty much told Cassel is your QB, then you might as well get very excited about some other player in the draft. I wanted DeCastro and look what happened to him. I also wanted Kirk Cousins and if they had gotten him I don’t think we have to worry about Alex Smith or Matt Cassel even being considered to be on the team.

        • Chief Hokie

          Fair point. I wanted decastro too. I guess pioli fell for the same adage that most fans were caught up in – that is, that the 2011 season was a fluke due to the acl crew going down, and that Cassel would bounce back the next year and put up 2010-like numbers. We all know how that turned out lol.

          • Jason Seibel

            A lot of folks wanted DeCastro. And then he was injured after a couple of games and out the rest of the season and nobody really said anything much after that.

    • Jason Seibel

      Michael, I’m glad you liked the article. I agree with your assessment that the SOLE reason we won the division was Romeo’s D and Charlie’s O. However, both of those men fell under Haley and the team was fully under control of Cassel. We’re quick to blame Todd and Matt for the bad but not give any credit for the good. I agree that they were both victims of circumstance and in the “right place at the right time” but that doesn’t take away Cassel’s numbers that season and his pro bowl appearance. Just as is the case with the private sector, sometimes the boss gets the credit, even when the boss didn’t do anything.

  • Doug McD

    One thing we keep forgetting is that we don’t know all the details. We can only guess on what is going on behind the scenes. I know it is hard to imagine but Clark may not have had any options (for whatever reason). For all I know he may not even like sports. He may look at it as only a business, no matter what he says when he’s in front of a camera. How often does he show emotion when watching a game? Or does he look at a game as purely a business result of the employees actions.
    One thing I know, if he continues to spend time around the team/coaches/players he will get invested emotionally. When this happens he will make more favorable decisions and the business side should make more money (because of wins). As long as he allows the football experts to make the football decisions unlike the Jerryboys down in Dallas.

    • Jason Seibel

      Doug, I agree with you. However, whatever his reasoning, he provides the fans a service. We pay the players’ salaries and thus are THE source of his income. He provides a service and just with any other service, I expect that service to be performed to my satisfaction when I pay for it. If it’s not, I expect the person responsible for that service to make changes if I demand them. Up to this point, he hasn’t but it seems he’s finally listening. Whether it’s because his bottom line was being affected or he truly cares about the fate of this team, I guess we don’t know. Either way, I’m happy he’s finally paying attention.

      • Doug McD

        I see your point, but this doesn’t compare to most service businesses. It’s not your local sub sandwich store that has a dirty table or a carpet cleaner that missed a spot. There are more complex things involved with a multi million dollar business that can’t be changed quickly without adverse effects. We as customers expect perfection (or at least I do) when it comes to most service. This isn’t most service. That is my only point, and I don’t believe the fans had very much to do with the current changes. I truly believe that they were doing their best to try to win games back when we were not. They know winning is where the money is made. I do believe that the new CBA made some changes possible or even mandatory.

        • Jason Seibel

          I agree with you and my analogy of a “service” over-simplifies the business of running a pro football team. I don’t know if the “Save Our Chiefs” made a difference or not. However, the end result was what the fans wanted, so they definitely won in the end.

          • Doug McD

            Absolutely!

  • Dr. Paine

    Very well said. It was clear that Clark had some insight about his hands-off attitude and giving too much power to the GM, and realizing the absolute dire need to completely overhaul the power structure of the brass. This was a long time coming as King Carl had complete control of the franchise with all the trust from the man himself, Lamar Hunt in the twilight of his life. We all know what happened afterward. John Dorsey has been long coveted as a GM but refused to leave his perch in GB until the right opportunity came along. I’m happy the stars aligned and we have hope once again! GO CHIEFS

  • Sarah Thomas

    Great article! I’ve been a chiefs fan for 46 yrs,and been through it all. For the first time in a LONG time, I feel we are on the right path. Go Chiefs!

    • Jason Seibel

      Thank you, Sarah! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I haven’t been a fan of the team for quite as long as you, but I’m very excited!

  • Jim Harper

    Clark has definitely dumped his milquetoast image and clearly declared himself in charge of his team. I am sure that somewhere up above that Lamar has a smile on his face. He knew what he was doing all along. Dorsey and Reid have yet to make a decision that was not in the best interest of the team. It is so nice to be able to trust again and it has been many years since I was so excited about my Chiefs.

    • Michael Shaw

      His what? Was that a typo? Lamar will smile even bigger if the moves they are making put us back in the SB this year or next year!!!

      • Jason Seibel

        Milquetoast – a timid man

        I had to look it up. Thanks for expanding my vocabulary, Jim. I vow to use that word this week. Now, I have to figure out how. Michael, I only hope that Lamar is proud of son and maybe even gives us a hand this season from his VIP box in the sky.

  • Joe Myers

    ok I apologize to everyone on arrowhead addict for being so dame rude im going threw a mid life crisis . So after much deliberation in side my closet iv decided that im going all in with Alex smith (dont make me regret this Alex) why you might be asking ??? . I’ll tell you . The reason I love the chiefs so much is because of the fans no matter what goes on hear it dont matter on Sunday being around fans and celebrating a td with complete strangers listing to the crowd on 3-long 4-short hearing the thunder roll across the stadium . It isn’t the chiefs I love its the loudest stadium in the NFL and the fans that make that possible . Once again sry iv been such a dick (Jim) I just want to see you guys on Sunday got it .

    • chiefridgy

      We’ve all been f’d up by the b.s. we have had to endure the last few years……jaded if you will. It’s all good.

    • KCMikeG

      Excellent comment. It is the spirit of the fans that makes our Chief’s Kingdom so strong. It is this strength that protects our faith in desperate times. It is the roar of the Red Sea that inspires the players to be all they can be. Combined they are the power and the glory of the Arrowhead Experience.

  • jimfromkcj

    The Hunts are cheap an the fans had to rebel before they started to spend money. That is a fact. If the fans had not put the pressure on Pioli would still be the GM and we would have another Head coach with Patriot connections. Also in the mix is the last agreement reached with the players made sure that teams like the Chiefs would have to spend the cap money on the team instead of pocketing it. It will take a while for it to completely kick in, but it was a kick in the butt to teams like the Chiefs who were receiving money from the larger cities who make more money to make their teams more competitive that they were not going to put up with the status quo. In other words teams like the Giants and Atlanta who were kicking in money to the small market teams to make them more attractive for their home games were getting screwed over when the Chiefs came to town and they never sold out because of how poor the Chiefs were.

    • KCMikeG

      What type of loyalty do those big market teams have if they can’t sell out their own stadium? Especially for a game they are assured of winning. The Chiefs have been selling out our 76,416 seats for years without a play off win in 20 years and the Falcons can’t sell out their 71,228? And the NYG can’t sell out their 82,566 with that huge population base of fans? Total BS.

      The Hunts are cheap Opinion is old news. Name me a free agent they let slip away over money? I’ll save you the time and say None. Carr wanted out and he wanted Dallas since childhood. Tony G wanted out and a shot at a championship. Jared Allen wanted a long term contract but had two DUI’s back to back. I could go on but believe I have made my point.

      Pioli still in KC if the fans hadn’t put the pressure on is ridiculous. Name me One other GM that was retained after a 2-14 season? The correct answer is None Ever. Pioli was gone no matter how much the fans whined and bitched.

  • Jamie Denton

    1st I could have saved you alot of words at the beginning of your story! Herm (sucked) Pioli, Haley (sucked) Crennel as a DC very good as a DC/HC (sucked).
    But for the rest of the article I enjoyed it! I am glad to see the new regime of Reid/Dorsey/Hunt hard at work putting together a solid plan to WIN NOW and at the same time build through the draft to WIN FOR YEARS TO COME!
    I was one who believed Clark cared more about soccer than the Chiefs but thus far he has stood up and showed he is willing to do what it takes to build a winning franchise! I do think we have the proper people in place at this point in time to do just that! Dorsey has a great track record at picking talent, Reid has a great track record at HC except for these past couple of years in Philly, but I truly think the change in scenery and a fresh start is what was needed there, we have good coaches under him, and are accumulating some good players, but the main thing here is taking care of our own 1st! and with this years draft we can really build at almost any position for the future as we sit atop of each round except for the 2nd which I think that will be taken care of as well! I believe in Dorsey’s plan and can’t wait to sit back and watch it unfold! Just my 2 cents. GO CHIEFS!!!!! and watch out AFC WEST and yes that even means you DONKEYS!!!!!

    • Jason Seibel

      James, I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I know I was a bit verbose at the beginning, but like any storyteller, I had to set the stage.

    • chiefridgy

      I liked Haley

      • Jason Seibel

        I don’t think Haley was bad. And I was a Matt Cassel fan long after most had started screaming for his head. (In fact, I didn’t give up on Cassel until about week 4 last season.) I think Haley was put in a bad situation and was unproven as an HC. Again, say you what you want, but Haley was the last guy to win us a Division Championship since Dick Vermeil. I liked him, but some of his methods were a bit out there. That could have been an “F” You to Pioli, but I guess we’ll never know.

  • chiefridgy

    Great piece. (Although I did like Haley.) Chiefs Kingdom has renewed hope again!

    • Jason Seibel

      Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/james.mcdonald.35110418 James McDonald

    Clark Hunt has never “not cared” or has been “stingy”. Pioli was stingy.

    Hunt wants two things. He wants sold out seats and advertising/broadcasting income. This is created by a winning team.

    Holding onto King Carl was not necessarily a mistake based upon his point of view. Peterson had done a great deal of good, he just was at the end of his ability. I can’t say I wouldn’t have tried Carl as well in Hunt’s position.

    The biggest mistake Hunt made was staying out of the media. If he had given more interviews and had been a more visible team owner, most of the nonsense would never have been stated.

    There’s a difference in being the guy that watches someone run a successful team and learning how to make it your own.