December 02, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli walks on the field before the game against the Carolina Panthers at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City won 27-21. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Pioli vs. Dorsey: What Have We Learned?

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

With the start of the rookie min-camp, the heavy lifting for the General Manager is mostly over.  So, I thought it would be interesting to look back and compare how Scott Pioli and John Dorsey handled similar situations. To be fair, Pioli inherited a much worse roster than Dorsey. However, how did each one handle their first offseason?

When Scott Pioli reviewed his roster he saw a very young team who was built for a 4-3 defense.  Well, Pioli is a 3-4 guy and he proceeded to tear the roster down to bring in 3-4 guys. I recall at the time DD and I were screaming that Pioli was being inflexible and hurting the team. I doubt we were alone in that thought. However, the inflexibility went much deeper than the defensive scheme. Stories eventually emerged about how the scouting department was handled. A new GM is faced with a very difficult first draft. He is given a scouting department in the middle of draft preparation and no time really to change much staff. What did Pioli do? He froze out the existing staff and worked off of what he took from New England. His draft was very poor, however that must be tempered by the fact that the 2009 draft was a very poor draft crop.

As we look at coaching staff and free agent signings, the picture became even clearer. Pioli was the son-in-law of Bill

Parcells and worked with Bill Belichick. Todd Haley, the new Head Coach had worked under Parcells with the Jets. The Coordinators Pioli really wanted (Charley Weis and Romeo Crennel) had worked with Belichick in New England. Free Agents signed seemed to almost only come from teams that one of the core staff plus Belichick or Parcells had been involved. For the Chiefs, the NFL seemed to consist of the Jets, Dolphins, Patriots, Browns and Cardinals. The other twenty six teams? Who? They didn’t really seem to be on the radar. They were not a part of the family.

Critics gnashed their teeth. Frankly, we would still be gnashing our teeth if Pioli had won with the Chiefs. Winning trumps many things. However, Pioli’s narrow, inflexible approach makes it harder to win, not easier.

By contrast, how did John Dorsey handle inheriting the roster? It was in much better shape then when Scott Pioli took over. So, Pioli does deserve some credit. The team was built for a 3-4. New coach Andy Reid had run 4-3 defenses in the past. Dorsey had drafted for a 3-4. What did the new regime do? They decided that the team was built for a 3-4, they would continue going in that direction. Wow! An understanding that they are many ways to win in the NFL and you win best by finding a way to maximize your talent?

How did John Dorsey handle the holdover scouting department? In his words, he took what they were doing, what he wanted to do and met in the middle. Met in the middle? You mean collaborate and compromise? Can you imagine Scott Pioli saying he compromised? I can’t imagine it. Dorsey has started to move some of his people in, as he should. Who has he hired? Marvin Allen. Who has Allen worked for? The Patriots and the last four years with the Falcons. Connection to Dorsey or Reid? None that I can find. Wow, a hire based on talent, not connections?

Coaching staffs tend to be filled out with people you have worked with before. Reid has certainly brought in several coaches he was familiar with. However he also brought in Bob Sutton as the Defensive Coordinator. For an offensive guy like Reid, the opposite side coordinator is your most critical hire. What is the connection to Dorsey/Reid? None that I can find. Sutton worked for the Jets. If you look at the coaching staff, you see Reid, you don’t see the fingerprints of Dorsey. In contrast, Pioli’s fingerprints were all over the team. From the Head Coach down.

The Free Agents the Chiefs have brought in have been from various teams in the NFL, not just ones that your staff had worked with before. It is natural to bring in players you are familiar with. However, it should not be the sum total of who you bring in.

It is way too early to look at the draft class for results. However, the off-season as a whole has given us an idea of what the new plan is and how the new regime evaluated the current Chiefs. Last year, the Chiefs were talented, but soft.  Fisher, Kelce, Nico Johnson, Commings all give the Chiefs some attitude. Knile Davis? Well, congrats, by picking a RB with two broken ankles, fumbling problems who hasn’t played well in two years…… Knile, you are this years WTF draft pick winner.

What does all the mean for the future of the Chiefs? It’s too early to tell. However, Dorsey is showing the flexibility I believe we need in a General Manager. In the long run, he may be a more important hire than Andy Reid. For the moment, I am optimistic. We could be in good hands and it’s been awhile since that has been the case.

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  • Bosco Cletus

    That Dorsey doesn’t give a shit about shoulder boards.

  • Patrick Allen

    The keeping of the 3-4 defense, to me, speaks volumes. These young guys have been playing in a 3-4 and have been coached by a very experienced defensive coordinator in Romeo Crennel. Instead of jamming the 4-3 down their throat, Dorsey and Reid went out and got an experience coach that has worked with 3-4 defense for years and even spent a couple years as a coordinator. I love it.

    No idea how Sutton will turn out but I think he has some solid tools on defense to succeed. My biggest concern is the defensive line. If the Chiefs can get even average defensive line play, the could be very stout on defense.

    I know Sutton plans to be more aggressive in his style than Romeo. I think that will help players like Berry and Flowers, who have tons of athletic talent and solid instincts.

    • Merlin_Arrowhead_Addict

      The defense may be the key this year. The offense should be decent, wil the defense lead the way for the team?

      • Calchiefsfan

        The D has been my main concern as well. I have confidence that Reid will get the most out of the offense I just have no idea how Sutton and the D will perform. That being said it’s still going to take both sides half the season at least to get the new systems down.

    • Stacy D. Smith

      I’m more impressed that he kept the 3-4, but realized his players can execute the 1-gap version of that scheme.

  • htmn74

    Dorsey/Reid just seem right.

  • Lyle Graversen

    Great piece Merlin and I agree. We won’t know for sure until the team takes the field, but the early signs look good. Then again, I was excited at this point of Pioli’s era too.

    • Merlin_Arrowhead_Addict

      Thanks Lyle! I feel better about Dorsey than I did about Pioli. Pioli always struck me as very impressed with himself and Dorsey seems more humble and open.

      • Killerdoctor27

        I agree Dorsey is WAY more open. Also I concur about getting the team tougher and the draft pointed to that philosophy. Kelce is way tougher than Moeaki and has a mean streak as a blocking TE. Not to mention he can also catch the ball very well. Fisher over Joeckel also showed that this new Chiefs regime values toughness and athleticism. Sometimes when I would watch Joeckel’s interviews I would speculate if he was soft. You just couldn’t sense that same nasty attitude you got from Fisher. I think the new Chiefs regime knows you need guys who get tougher when things get difficult… Not guys who whine and complain to the media when the fans cheer about a QB change. The Knile Davis seems like the typical boom or bust pick. An injury prone College player who did really well at the scouting combine workouts… Also Davis has shown when healthy he can be a pretty good all around RB. That’s one pick you can argue they took him too early, but Davis does seem to have a hard noised attitude that the Chiefs are looking for at this time. I think a lot of the soft guys Pioli brought in will be gone by the end of this season. But I welcome the change in philosophy:)

  • Killerdoctor27

    When Merlin said, “Wow, a hire based on talent, not connections?” I wanted to stand up and start a slow clap! That was one of Pioli’s biggest problems! He always went with guys he knew and never stepped out of his comfort zone. Dorsey seems to be open to many different options and doesn’t try to blindly go down only one path. You can win many different ways and I think Dorsey sees that but Pioli often struggled with this concept.

    • toperspective

      That is the sign of someone who isn’t confident in his knowledge and abilities.

      • Calchiefsfan

        Exactly what I was thinking.

  • Danny W

    I’d say the free agent class is going to be crucial this year, especially Smith and Robinson. If we can lock the receivers down and sack Manning and Rivers we should be in solid shape.

  • tm1946

    Got to be looking forward to this year and the future. Dorsey and Reid seem to get “it”.

  • Matt Walker

    Good read except for the Knile Davis shot. Especially after writing “It is way too early to look at the draft class for results.” Maybe Davis wasn’t the smartest or safest pick but they obviously saw something they liked in him. Running backs heal from injuries (Charles, Peterson, etc) and they can also be coached up on fumbling issues (Barber, McCluster). I like the fact that Dorsey/Reid are willing to take some risks in the draft. Who knows, maybe in a couple years we’ll be talking about what a steal Davis was. GO CHIEFS!!!

    • toperspective

      Risks are fine but why take one in the 3rd round when this guy would have most likely been available in the 5th.

      • Matt Walker

        Yeah I totally get that; but you have to take the board into consideration. If Davis was in fact the best player available on their board (which I do find that hard to believe), then I have no problem with the pick (especially since it fills a need).

    • Merlin_Arrowhead_Addict


      Every year, I give out my WTF draft pick award. Usually, I do a full draft review, but I didn’t want to miss handing out the award this year.

      • Matt Walker

        Gotcha. In that case I agree with your pick for the award lol

  • Calchiefsfan

    Great article Merlin! In summation, Pioli was a closed minded, insecure jerk and Dorsey is an open minded, do whatever needs to be done with an objective approach professional. I’ll take Dorsey.