The Kansas City Chiefs are 3-0 and the NFL world is starting to take notice. If you scan the numerous power rankings that are put out by every major sports website, you’ll find the Chiefs in the top ten on many of them. The Chiefs are even occasionally mentioned on ESPN and NFL Network from time to time (and not because they did something embarrassing). It’s a good time to be a Chiefs fan. When the national media discusses the much improved Chiefs there are three areas they focus on: Andy Reid, Alex Smith, and the defense. Frankly, even the most educated KC fans spend much of their time discussing these same topics. If we did a poll right here at AA about the top reasons the Chiefs are much improved we’d basically get those same answers. Yes, there would be more educated answers about why the coaching, QB play, and defense are different. People would undoubtedly mention Bob Sutton’s attacking defense, the play of Justin Houston and Dontari Poe, the lack of turnovers, and the great special teams play. However, there is another person that even the most dedicated of us tend to overlook, despite the fact that he is as vital to this turnaround as any other individual.
That person is the Chiefs new General Manager, John Dorsey.
It’s understandable, Dorsey isn’t in the lime light…..and that’s the way it should be.
Having a GM that doesn’t talk to the media very often isn’t exactly a change in and of itself. After all, Scott Pioli rarely talked to the media either. However, this feels different. Scott Pioli locked himself away from the media, sitting behind his huge desk with the blinds drawn because he wanted us to believe that what he was doing was SO important and SO brilliant that no one dare be allowed to know about it or they would all copy his every move.
You get none of that from John Dorsey. The vibe he gives off is that he’s just more comfortable locked away in a room somewhere watching film than he is in front of a camera…..and that’s the way it should be.
Since John Dorsey doesn’t talk to the media much we don’t really know a lot about him. However, if you look at the bits and pieces that we do know, one can come to some conclusions. The number one word I would use to describe John Dorsey?
You don’t have to look much farther than Dorsey’s bio on kcchiefs.com to see it. Here’s a passage on his college career:
A four-year starter at the University of Connecticut (1980-83), Dorsey was named Defensive Player of the Year in the Yankee Conference during each of his final two collegiate seasons and is the all-time leading tackler in the now-defunct conference’s history. He also earned Division I-AA All-America recognition as a senior and, in 1998, he was selected to the school’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Football Team. In 2002, Dorsey was inducted into the Anne Arundel (Md.) County Sports Hall of Fame. He graduated with bachelor’s degrees in economics and political science.
So Dorsey played for a then I-AA school. That usually means you aren’t seen as having the physical tools to play Division I ball. Despite that, he was defensive player of the year in his conference twice, was the leading tackler in that conference’s history, AND graduated with bachelor’s degrees (plural) in economics and political science. When you lead your conference in career tackles and study economics and political science, I think it’s safe to say that your work ethic is above reproach.
Now look at the kcchiefs.com passage on his NFL career:
Selected by Green Bay in the fourth round of the 1984 NFL Draft, Dorsey played five seasons (1984-88) for the Packers at linebacker and on special teams before spending a final year on injured reserve in 1989. He totaled 130 tackles in his NFL career, in addition to two fumble recoveries and one pass defensed. Dorsey led Green Bay’s special teams in solo tackles in three of his first four seasons, which helped him earn the nomination to be the Packers’ special teams captain. His 35 special teams tackles in 1984 are still a single-season club record.
So Dorsey was a 4th round pick in the NFL draft out of a division I-AA school. Is that because the Packers thought he was extremely athletically gifted, or was it because of his work ethic? We don’t know for sure, but the later certainly seems more likely. We’ve all seen these type of guys on NFL rosters before. Not great athletically, but but they stick around because of their non-stop motor and work ethic. They don’t see the field on defense a lot, but bust their tail on special teams to earn their roster spot. Dorsey was the special teams captain. He still holds the record for single season special teams tackles. That says something about who he is. His career was ended by a knee injury. This quote from Vahe Gregorian’s piece on Dorsey for the Kansas City Star about Dorsey’s knee injury gives validation of this image of Dorsey the player:
As he rehabilitated, Dorsey remembered the words of one of his coaches: “You’re not good enough, really, to play in this game, (and) the moment you quit playing 100 percent, you’ll be done.”
His coach told him he wasn’t really good enough and that the only reason he was hanging around was that he was always giving 100%.
Dorsey was a grinder.
When his knee injury ended his career Dorsey decided he wanted to stay in football. He took up scouting and a year later the Packers hired him as a college scout in May of 1991. He was named Director of College Scouting in February of 1997. So he went from being hired as a first time NFL scout to Director of College Scouting for that same team in a little under six years. That’s a very rapid and impressive advancement. So how does one advance in scouting that fast? I’m sure a huge part of it is having an eye for talent. No one can make it as a scout if they don’t spot the good players. However, I would also imagine that those who put in the most time see the most results. Imagine how many hours of tape scouts watch. Imagine how many miles on the road they log. Imagine how many nights they spend in a cheap hotel eating take out. The fact that Dorsey advancement over his peers indicates he excelled at this. You don’t excel at that kind of lifestyle if you aren’t a grinder.
Even his personal hobbies on his bio point to it. Under his list of hobbies it includes running and points out that he’s run two marathons. Is there any bigger physical grind than running a marathon?
John Dorsey is still grinding.
The second John Dorsey was hired in KC, he had to get to work. Dorsey had to evaluate his own roster. He had to decide where the focus of the upcoming NFL draft needed to be. He had to decide which free agents to re-sign, and he had to do it fast. This quote from Dustin Colquitt appeared in an Adam Teicher piece for the Kansas City Star and implies that Dorsey had a different approach than former GM Scott Pioli:
Colquitt said he was convinced when last season ended that he would become a free agent and move on to another team. A conversation with Dorsey began to change his mind.
“He basically said that he doesn’t know what’s gone on in the past here but that he was going to do things a certain way now,” Colquitt said.
So the players noticed a difference right away too. Dorsey continued grinding as soon as the draft was over, working the phones to land as many undrafted free agents as possible. He succeeded in landing one of, if not the biggest undrafted free agent on the market in QB Tyler Bray. Bray, though still raw, showed fantastic athletic ability in training camp and the preseason, enough that KC made him a part of their 53 man roster. That wasn’t the end though. On roster cut down day, Dorsey proved that he was scouting more than college players when he snapped up 7 players in 24 hours that were cut by other teams. These players made the opening day roster over players that he himself had brought to KC. That showed a refreshing ability to admit when a player wasn’t what they were hoping for. Scott Pioli held on to numerous players in KC long after it was clear to everyone that they weren’t working out.
A couple of the signings from that day have already paid dividends. TE Sean McGrath has had to step into the starting tight end role while Anthony Fasano and Travis Kelce have been battling injuries. His six receptions for 62 yards over two games may not sound that noteworthy, but if he were to continue that pace over the remaining 13 games he would finish with 45 receptions for 465 yards. Tony Moeaki’s season best for receptions was 47. Current starter Anthony Fasano’s career high for receptions is 41. So finding a TE that can walk in and produce right away wasn’t a given. Another cut down day signing, CB Ron Parker had a key play in the Dallas game when he came on a CB blitz and sacked Tony Romo, causing a fumble in the process that KC recovered.
Best of all, this work ethic isn’t the only positive that Dorsey has brought to the Chiefs GM position. After several years of unrest, chronicled in Kent Babb’s “Arrowhead Anxiety” piece for the Star the Chiefs organization, as well as the fans, were more than ready to move on from Scott Pioli’s “my way or the highway” attitude. The early indications are that John Dorsey is the perfect remedy for what was ailing KC.
Check out this Dorsey quote from another Vahe Gregorian piece for the Star:
“Listen, not one guy has all the answers, but collectively, if you can take everybody together, the fist is much more powerful than (a finger).”
He added: “I know my strengths and weaknesses, but I’ll find the solution. Does that make sense? Just give me a little time and some patience, and I’ll use every resource available and I’ll find the solution.”
If the reports about Pioli and how he treated people in the Chiefs organization are accurate, you couldn’t have a more polar opposite approach. Dorsey is willing to admit that he doesn’t have all the answers, but will work to find them. He admits, that he’s just one part of the team. This was expounded upon in a Reid Ferrin piece for kcchiefs.com:
“A lot of the credit, in terms of the moves, goes to the personnel department,” Dorsey said. “Let’s don’t lose sight of that. These guys have diligently been going at this, the entire preseason; my hat goes off to them. We were organized and we had a plan. We had all the positions ranked out, so we were ready; then we had a group evaluation by positions, in terms of, ‘Can they or can they not help us?’ and then we evaluated. We narrowed it down and then we told the coaches, ‘Ok, look at some of these guys as well and tell me what you think’ and then we factored in everybody’s opinion and made the best decision for the Chiefs.”
Later in that same piece:
“It’s not just a relationship with the coach,” Dorsey said. “It’s a relationship of everybody within this building. It’s a relationship with those players; we’re all in this thing together and that’s how were going to go forward. Andy and I have very good communication lines. I have very good communication lines with those players and rightfully so; what those guys do is hard, really hard.”
I understand that saying the right things and proving it with your actions are two different things. Scott Pioli said a lot of things that sounded very encouraging when he arrived in Kansas City, and it’s still possible that John Dorsey could prove to be a failure in KC. However, his words, his actions thus far, and the facts that we know about the man’s past, paint the picture of someone that KC fans should feel good about running their team.
They paint the picture of an intelligent, hard working, and humble man who appreciates those same qualities in those that he is working with. They paint the picture of a man very different than Scott Pioli and the way the Chiefs did business under his regime.
So, while the media piles accolades upon Andy Reid and Alex Smith for what their arrival has done for KC, John Dorsey will continue to grind away behind the scenes, doing everything in his power to improve the team that he works for. Should the Chiefs make the playoffs this season (fingers crossed) Reid will probably be mentioned for NFL Coach of the Year, Smith will be validated (at least by the media) for being a true franchise QB, the Chiefs defense may start to be talked about along side the best in the NFL, and John Dorsey will probably go largely unnoticed.
Chances are, he won’t mind.
He’ll be to busy watching film on college players for the upcoming draft and negotiating contracts with KC’s pending free agents to care if his name gets mentioned on Sports Center…..and that’s the way it should be.