Scott Pioli: The NFL's Hitchcock


This Chiefs’ free agency run is turning into a Hitchcock flick.

First, there’s some suspense and build-up. Then something smaller happens (the Mike Vrabel trade) that makes you think things have gotten as crazy as they will get. That’s when the calm before the storm hits. You know, the part of the movie where you finally let your guard down enough to get hit with the biggest shocker of all.

Masters of the suspense genres — horror, mystery and thriller — know you have to both buck convention and use misdirection to pull off a masterpiece. Legendary film director Alfred Hitchcock perfected these techniques. But Hitchcock did one thing better than anybody. He always kept his audience in the dark. The audience never knew what was going to happen until the characters in the films did. Hitchcock never made it easy on his audience by revealing anything until he absolutely had to. He knew that this approach would wind up being better for both him and fans of his movies.

Kind of sounds like someone we were recently introduced to, right? Like Hitch, he’s also bald. He wears glasses. He sits in King Carl’s vacated throne. He once even had to deal with what his cameras were doing.

That’s right; the new director of the Chiefs, GM Scott Pioli.

In his first offseason with our beloved Red and Gold, Pioli has turned the Chiefs into the most secretive franchise in the league. Not even the Patriots can touch this level of secrecy. That’s bucking convention.

His hiring process was long and secretive. Then the head coach search which ended with the Todd Haley hire, was equally long and secretive. The defensive coordinator search? Long and secretive, and that’s if it’s even over. We knew free agency was going to be a bit like this, even if we tricked ourselves (especially yours truly) because we hoped it would be different. We wanted instant gratification. That’s not how building a masterpiece works.

This morning, we heard reports from ESPN’s Michael Smith that the Chiefs were one of the seven teams that most aggressively pursued defensive tackle Albert Hanyesworth. Well, only two teams — the Bucs and Redskins, from what I can gather — were really in the mix. The Chiefs could have exaggerated their interest, or at least made a push at Haynesworth with no intent to actually sign him. Misdirection, remember.

First off, driving up Haynesworth’s price would help break the bank of a rival team that was aggressively pursuing free agents. Second, this shows other free agents that the Chiefs are serious and wanting to spend. Third, it could keep everybody’s eyes and ears away from what the Chiefs are actually doing.

I think Bart Scott was a similar situation. If Pioli is as informed and intelligent as we think he is, then he knew the Jets and Ravens were the only two teams Scott wanted to play for. Besides, were they really going after him when they got a very similar player who knows Pioli well at a bargain basement price only hours later?

Speaking of the Vrabel trade, I’m still not sure that was supposed to leak. While even Sage Rosenfels got his own press conference today, the Chiefs haven’t announced that they have acquired a 2007 Pro Bowler and three-time Super Bowl champion. That doesn’t make sense to me. I know the Chiefs have been slow and methodical throughout this offseason, but still. There’s part of me that still thinks this is part of a bigger deal, most likely a deal for Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel. Part of me thinks this trade even has its own calm before the storm.

Other than going after the two biggest defensive free agents on the board — and did they really even do that, or just send out disinformation? — the Chiefs have only let one bit of news slip.

Now, it could be because they are just sitting things out until the other teams have overspent. Sure, that could be the case. I don’t think that’s the case, though. I think the Chiefs weren’t going after very many players they felt would sign today, because once Saturday, Sunday and especially Monday hit, the ball will be in their court, and not the players’. That is especially true in this economy. Pioli, like Hitchcock, has a plan. I’m convinced of that much.

Like Hitch, however, we won’t see his plan unfold until he wants us to. Hell, not even the players will. Pioli recently sent star actor Brian Waters back to his trailer with a message; I’m the director here, you just prep for your role and show up when the cameras start rolling.

My one only concern, and Michael Lombardi touched on this today on the NFLN, is that because of how much money the Chiefs have to spend to meet the player salaries minimum ($30-plus million), I’m worried they will wait too long and have to pay second-tier players first-tier money. Then again, I’m sure Pioli has thought of that, too. I doubt that will be the case. I’m probably experiencing some trippy Carl Peterson flashbacks or something. Especially when you consider how many good players are still out there (ahem, T.J. Houshmandzadeh).

For now, we are stuck in the calm before the storm. I’ve said what I would do if I were GM, but I’m done (at least for tonight and the foreseeable future…maybe) playing the guessing game with Pioli. Right now, yeah, I’m The Man Who Knew Too Little. I’ve developed Vertigo just trying to keep up.

Let’s all hope that Pioli, like Hitch, was the man who knew too much. Or at least the man who knew more than the rest of his profession. If he is, the Chiefs will be headed North by AFC West.