The Architect And The Foreman


At the end of the 2008 NFL season both the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos decided they needed a change of direction. The Denver Broncos acted quickly and snatched up the New England Patriot’s offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as their next head coach. McDaniels was a hot commodity and in order to land him before one of the other numerous teams with openings (Chiefs included) they had to act fast. The Chiefs, in contrast, took their time. Clark Hunt wasn’t worried about getting a coach. He was busy looking for a new General Manager who would act as the mater mind of the Chiefs rebuild. He hired the best candidate on the market, New England Patriot’s Director of Player Personnel, Scott Pioli. So the Broncos walked away with the hot coaching prospect and the Chiefs landed the top GM candidate. I think recent events are showing us which approach is best.

This may sound crazy to some of you, but I actually think Josh McDaniels could be a good head coach. He just needs someone else to put the team together for him. Someone else should have been calling the shots in the front office. He just had no business running an entire football operation as a first time head coach.

Let me use this metaphor. The Chiefs and Broncos organizations are like companies that each wants to build the best skyscraper. The GMs are the architect, the head coaches are the foremen, and the players are the raw building materials.

I think at the start of the 2009 season the Broncos and Chiefs both had pretty even “raw materials” to build their buildings. If anything the Broncos were probably better off. However, the higher ups in the Broncos “company” thought that they could put their heads together with a first time “foreman” and come up with a blueprint without hiring a true architect. In the end they let their foreman make most of the designs himself. It looked promising at first, but eventually the poorly designed structure came crashing down around them.

I think Pat Bowlen is getting let off the hook for Denver’s problems. How do you let the youngest head coach in the league take on the duties of head coach, offensive coordinator, and GM? That’s a disaster waiting to happen. The Broncos can claim that McDaniels wasn’t the GM, but the bottom line is he is the one that wanted to ship Jay Cutler out, ship Brandon Marshall out, wanted to trade Peyton Hillis for Brady Quinn, spend a first rounder on Tim Tebow, etc.

I’m just glad Clark Hunt was smart enough to do things the right way. I’m glad he went out and got the best architect.

We’ll take a look at Scott Pioli’s blueprint and how it is taking shape after the jump.

I don’t know how many of you read the Joe Posnanski article “A Dream In The Making” on Scott Pioli that Patrick linked about a week back, but it was a fantastic read. There was one passage that really stuck out to me.

"There are two experiences that stand out from Pioli’s childhood in Washingtonville, two events that created this intense desire to build close-knit, rely-on-each-other, us-against-the-world football teams. One was in 1981: That was the year he played on a Washingtonville High team that went 10–0 and won the conference championship. Pioli loves that team. There were only 31 players on it. They weren’t especially talented—not one would go on to play Division I—and they had no real history of success to draw on. Washingtonville had never been very good at football.But those kids had grown up together, and they looked out for one another, and the only thing that mattered to any of them was winning. They gave up 53 points all season. “There were three other teams at least that were clearly, visibly, unquestionably more talented,” says Pioli. “We outtoughed them. We outthought them. We outconditioned them.”And this is when Pioli started to think about what a team of intensely devoted and disciplined players could do. Well, actually, he started thinking about it a few years earlier. But the 1981 team crystallized the thought in his mind. Togetherness, real togetherness, could beat all the talent in the world.Read more:"

The “Patriot Way”. The “Right 53”. Out tough them. Out think them. Out condition them. Team is better then talent. We’ve heard some of these things so many times since Pioli took over that they have become cliché. However, the results in New England speak for itself.

I’ll admit when Pioli took over I was curious just how much influence he had in New England. Was it all Bill Belichick? We’ll never know for sure, but I think back to the first Super Bowl that the Patriots won. They changed the tradition of introducing individual players before the game because they wanted to come out as a unified team, not individuals. After reading that passage above, who does that sound like? Maybe “Darth Hoodie” just happens to think the exact same way as Pioli and it was all his idea, or maybe Scott Pioli was more then just his “right hand man”.

So when Scott Pioli got his own job who did he hire to be his “foreman”, to run his team that would out tough, out think, and out condition their opponents?

Enter Todd Haley.

So is Haley the right man to carry out Pioli’s blueprint? Let’s see how he’s shaping up.

Out condition them.

I don’t think I need to spend too much time on this. From the first OTAs, to training camp, to full contact practice late in the season, Todd Haley is demanding that his team is in shape. The staggering weight loss numbers after he took over speak volumes. I don’t think there is any question that the Chiefs are as well conditioned as any team in the NFL.

Out think them.

The following quotes are all taken from Haley’s press conferences over the last week. I think they show just how mentally prepared both Haley and his teams are.

After the Seattle game Haley was asked if he had a set target line for the short kick offs they used against Leon Washington.

“No, I think it is a good question but each and every game is a little different. I know that Leon Washington is a game changer and that crowd is a unique crowd in that, if you let them get rolling, which I think anyone is there can hear it, there is a different pitch to the crowd. One of the keys to me was tackling and that we couldn’t miss tackles because in my experience a missed tackle even the crowd erupts and it almost feels like something worse than a simple missed tackle. You feel like you got scored on. It is hard to explain but I think we did a very good job as a staff of preparing our guys for the atmosphere because it is unique, it is different.”

So Haley did more then just practice with piped in crowd noise. They set up their game plan specifically around taking the crowd out of the picture.

Also after the Seattle game Haley mentioned that he gives the officials a heads up on certain passing routes.

“Those are hard plays with practice because there are so many variables with the corner trying to jump, grab, knock you off your route but I warned the official ahead of time that was on that side that we’re going to double move here so just be alert. I’ve always done that as a receiver coach, you give the guys a heads up which they appreciate just in case there is contact, but there wasn’t and I just thought Matt and Dwayne executed the play flawlessly.”

After the Denver game while talking about how he was upset about the penalties he mentioned that they game plan based on who is officiating the game.

“We’re on it, we’re going to stay on it, and we’ll put an extra emphasis on it again. Like I said, the officials, Carl Cheffers group I knew coming into that they called 63 line of scrimmage penalties for example, meaning shifts, alignments, motions, two people moving, false starts, encroachments, so that’s heavy. That’s a lot. They’d called I don’t know, 12 games to that point, so do the math real quick, so it was coming out to over four. I’m talking about in the specific line of scrimmage which is something that I stressed because that is clearly something that they stay on and they weren’t going to let go. Now you figure a home game, that should be to our advantage and we didn’t make it that.”

Finally, when talking about the failed 4th and goal play, he said that his regret was not that they went for it, not the play call itself, but that they hadn’t properly prepared Matt Cassel for that specific situation.

“When we go through our situations, that fourth-down situation was something that I feel like we let Matt down because when he came off the field, and I understood exactly what he was saying when he said, ‘it was fourth down and I needed to make a play. ‘ But we as a coaching staff were looking at the fourth down as if you get it, you score a touchdown, if you don’t, they have to go 99 yards, you may get a safety the next play and you can make good things happen. We weren’t on the same page and it is a great learning situation that thankfully we got the win from. It didn’t cost us but that one is written down. You will see us in training camp next year working on that one.”

This is a coach that is trying to make sure he dots every I and crosses every T. They are drafting players who take to the coaching. If they aren’t already “out thinking” their opponents then I feel safe that they will be with a little more time and experience.

Out tough them.

Here’s another quote from after the Seattle game that specifically talks about the mental toughness of the team.

Haley was asked just how mentally tough this team is.

“I think we are getting better in that area and that is one of the key things to me. I have had this talk with my father over and over again and even (Bill) Parcells because coach Parcells used to make us list the critical factors each year in the off-season for our position and I would put mental toughness on there at the top. Bill would say, ‘Mental toughness? How are his hands?’ and I believe that if you are mentally tough a lot of the other stuff takes care of itself. You will catch the ball over the middle if you are mentally tough because you are not going to be afraid, you are not going to be paying attention to who is coming at you. You will block somebody that is maybe bigger or stronger than you. When we ask you to come down in motion you will crack. Our team overall, the mental toughness is building and you can see it. I am a big believer that you can bring that out of people and that it is in everybody. Sometimes it takes dire situations to get it out of human beings but I think you build it just the way you coach them, by constantly pushing them. That is hard to do, it is hard to do for coaches. The easy thing to do would be to let up and pat them on the back and say, ‘hey, we are doing good.’ I don’t believe in that. I believe that you have to keep pushing and prying if you want greatness. Training camp is part of that mental toughness development, just understanding that this is what it is going to be so we might as well learn to like it. The guys have done a great job and we are getting better.”

I just LOVE this quote. This is probably the number one reason I am a huge Todd Haley fan really think that he is the perfect man to carry out Pioli’s vision.

So we have covered all three of the areas: out condition, out think, out tough. So are the Chiefs becoming the united team that will come together as a tight nit unit? How about one more quote from after the Denver game.

Haley was asked about Eric Berry getting involved in the scrape between Brandon Lloyd and Brandon Carr.

“We just have young guys that are part of a unique group and really our entire team, one of the things we’ve stressed from day one is the relationships and caring (for one another) and team. I know that sounds sappy, but we’ve done a lot of things to really build a family. I think that’s what you’re starting to see real evidence of – guys wanting to stick up for each other. At the same time, I was ranting and raving for someone to go get Berry. We can’t afford to do things that hurt us. So you saw Jon McGraw sprinting across the field to get Eric. We talk about all those. I appreciate that we all care for one another. That’s what (Eric) said, ‘He hit him. He hit Carr.’ And I said ‘Alright, but it’s not for you to officiate that. You have to be smart.’”

So once again it appears that Scott Pioli’s blueprint for building a winning team is coming to fruition. The Chiefs “skyscraper” is starting to rise above the rest of the AFC West. I don’t think it’s because our “building materials” are any better. If you look at the three other teams in the division our advantage is clear. No one else has as good of an architect.

It looks like in the not so distant future Scott Pioli may get to relive his old Washingtonville High football days again as the Kansas City Chiefs follow their blueprint of out conditioning, out thinking, and out toughing the competition.

Thanks for reading, and GO CHIEFS!