Point-counterpoint: Arrowhead Anxiety


Note: this post is part 1 of a point-counterpoint between optimistic Chiefs scholar Lyle Graverson and Pulitzer Prize-winning fake journalist Big Matt Finucane. The subject matter is Kent Babb’s brilliant piece in The Star yesterday regarding the work environment in the Chiefs front office. Read that article. I mean, I’m sure you already have, but read it again. 

“A great moment in coaching.”

That quote tells quite a story. We’re fresh off yet another losing season, one rife with failures by the men in control of this franchise. They’re being skewered, rightfully, for the counterproductive way they run the front office. And the team president is so tone-deaf he’s bragging about the GENERAL MANAGER OF THIS TEAM finding a candy wrapper on the floor and obsessing over it for a week.* He calls it “a great moment in coaching.” This, after the Chiefs were just forced to fire their actual coach mid-season.

*Can you imagine Pioli displaying that candy wrapper in triumph? What did he say? Was he smiling? How hard did the staff laugh at him after he left the room? 

Donovan may seem like small potatoes, but the fact that Pioli forced Denny Thum to resign so he could promote this guy is heartbreaking to me. Thum was with the team for 36 years. They went through his call log and then unceremoniously forced him out the door. A good man forced out to make room for a company man.

But hey, the results speak for themselves, right? From Donovan’s bio on the Chiefs site:

"With the Chiefs, Donovan has leveraged his 12 years in the National Football League to bring an organization-wide focus on improving the fan experience through improved customer relations; expanded relationships with radio and television broadcast partners; and a transformation of kcchiefs.com to the foremost online destination for Chiefs information."

Customer and media relations are listed as his accomplishments? What is this, a joke? There is no team in the league doin’ it worse on either front. And that last part is all kinds of hilarious. Almost as funny as “establishing the stadium as a major player in the national sports and entertainment scene.” Or how about “under Donovan’s leadership, Arrowhead will once again host concerts with tour stops for both Kenny Chesney and Taylor Swift slated for 2011.”

Impressive. Most impressive.

Further up and further in, after the jump:

“Its about winning.”
-Mark Donovan

If security guards didn’t patrol the halls lowering shades, and confiscate phones on public property, how would the Chiefs win football games? Look, you don’t win 21 games out of 49 without lowering some shades. It’s like, how much does Kent Babb even know about football, am I right?

I’m not going to point to this article as proof of how right I was about these guys because I’m aware that for some of you, this isn’t proof. You’re going to fall back on that tired “those employees are liars/complainers who are trying to stir up trouble” excuse. Dancin’ with the girl that brought ya. Let me ask you this though: when you see smoke rising in the distance, do you generally conclude there is a fire? What if the entire skyline is filled with smoke? What if the smoke alarm in your house is going off, it’s 150 degrees, you can’t breathe, and your skin is blistering? If you squeeze hard enough, can you still keep those eyes shut?


“There are a lot of people who have been here longer than I’ve been here who will sit there and tell you that it’s a much better place to work today.”
-Mark Donovan

“In addition to the more than two dozen independent interviews conducted by The Star, the Chiefs arranged phone interviews with eight current employees. Farmer and Davis were among those, and their interviews were the only two conducted without a Chiefs PR staffer present.”
-KC Star

Yep, Mark Donovan can find all of two people who can be safely relied upon to tell you it’s a much better place to work today, and six more who will say so if sitting next to a

KGB agent

Chiefs PR staffer. I think we can pretty much close this case. Donovan, Pioli, Clark Hunt and anyone who works for the PR staff is not lying. Everyone else is. Oh, and also, they’re all communists. Kent Babb, too.


I, for one, am glad Clark Hunt comes from the results-oriented Goldman-Sachs training program. You can always tell a Goldman Sachs man. Results, no matter the cost. Hunt is willing to pay LITERALLY ANY COST (except financially) to make this team a winner. He may demand a lot, but he gives so much of himself (except financially) as well. A true leader. He’s half Teddy Roosevelt, half Frankie Roosevelt. But more charismatic than both.

“We needed a culture that pursued excellence,” Hunt said. “One that valued honesty and integrity…”

We needed honesty and integrity, so we brought in Pioli and Donovan. Any questions?

I’m not even going to waste any more breath on Hunt. You guys are going to call bulllshirt on me, but I honestly don’t think we need to discuss him any more. We all know what he is: an owner who places profit first, winning second. How we feel about that may differ, but we can all essentially agree to its truth at this point.

I’m sure I’ll clown Hunt a time or two this offseason, but what I’m saying is that he no longer needs to be discussed as if he were a variable. He is not. He’s an owner who will spend less than other owners, to the extent that he is allowed. The cap floor will soon render him much less of a liability. At that point he’ll just be someone I casually dislike. A Michael Bay, if you will.

Pioli, on the other hand, is still a variable. His game is still being played, and if half of what we’re hearing is true, it’s being played poorly. The image of him plotting his candy wrapper moment of triumph would be funny if it weren’t so sad. This is the general manager of our football team? Wandering the halls looking for candy wrappers? Was he also mumbling to himself and avoiding cracks?

“I’ve never had an employee who is more attuned to looking after my and my family’s interests than Scott is.”
-Clark Hunt

You’re talking about the GM of the Chiefs, right? The football team? Just checking.

I can see the logic here. I mean thats what a manager is for, right? Managing the owner’s bank account?


“I’m not going to say that we’ve never done it, but it’s not something we do.  It’s not how we operate this business.”
-Mark Donovan

You’re not going to say you’ve never done it. So, you have done it. But it isn’t something you do. How does that work again?

Was Haley’s phone bugged? I have no idea. None of us do. It sounds pretty crazy. But three years ago the idea of two dozen front office employees speaking out against the team would’ve sounded crazy too. This is a brave new world.

The important thing to consider is that Haley thought his phone was bugged. We had reached that point. Those of you who angrily insisted the relationship was golden earlier in the season can go ahead and offer up your mea culpa at any time. And hey, you think that Nick Wright leak sounds a bit more credible now? No way, right? Everything was peachy keen!


‘The plaintiff’s claims are completely false”
-official statement

“That rumor is 100 percent false”
-Scott Pioli

‘Those are outright lies”
-unnamed Chiefs official

“There’s no basis in fact”
-Mark Donovan

“It’s not true at all”
-Clark Hunt

Boy, this KC media has totally lost control these past three years. Happened so suddenly, too. They used to be the softest sports media in the country. Then all of the sudden Pioli gets here and they become a bunch of rabid speculators. Talk about unfair.


Babb’s article is further proof that a) Scott Pioli is very, very confused about what made New England a winner and b) the environment that he and Donovan have created is toxic and counterproductive. Many of us already knew these things, but credit to Babb for bringing it out in the open. It’s about time somebody did.

I love the Chiefs. I do not love Clark Hunt, Scott Pioli and Mark Donovan. They are not the Chiefs.

Follow your boy on Twitter. And follow Babb too, while you’re at it. The man has earned some dap.