The Chief in Charge


The NFL Draft was as volatile as we all thought it would be. I can’t remember a draft where so many trades occurred in the first half of the first round. In a word, it was chaos.

While my choice, Luke Kuechly, wasn’t available by pick number eleven, I understand the selection of Dontari Poe. Quite simply, beyond all the mock drafts and prognostications, getting a nose tackle was our biggest need, period.

In hindsight, how did our starting unit do last week? I’m not talking about Tamba and Brandon, Derrick and Eric, or Jamaal, Dwayne, Moeaki or Cassel. I’m not even talking about Romeo and his staff. I’m talking about Scott Pioli and his team of scouts and player personnel experts. They were the starters last week in the biggest game of the year for them – the Draft.

I have a couple of key points to highlight here, introduced by some fun quotes.

"I felt very still and empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo."

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

I think Pioli channeled his inner Sylvia Plath last week. The NFL Draft, and especially this year’s, was wholly unpredictable. Even with the benefit of intensive research, not even the Chiefs fully understood what the 10 teams in front of them and the 21 teams behind them would do on Draft Day.

I’ve always wondered what the inner workings of an NFL headquarters looks like on Draft Day. We know from previous reports that the Chiefs like it quiet and calm, and I bet that’s exactly what it was like. With the clock on, Pioli and his team acted calmly in the face of wildly changing conditions. Resisting the risk of trading down and losing their top choice, the Chiefs fulfilled their first priority, with a player who defines the phrase “having a high ceiling.” I know that “potential” is not sufficient for first round draft picks, but it makes sense when you combine a glaring need with the coaching smarts of Romeo with defensive linemen. I have a feeling that Poe and Crennel are about to start a beautiful relationship together, which bodes well for our already stacked defense.

"In chaos, there is fertility."

Anaïs Nin

With Pioli living in the eye of the tornado, the Chiefs increased their chances of using the complexity of this year’s draft to their advantage – of finding the fertility within chaos. In a competitive realm like the NFL, where the margin between a great team and a good team is a millimeter and the margin between a good team and a bad team is a micron, the winner is the one who can best manage chaos into results.

Let’s see how are division rivals did in comparison. The Chargers actually did well for themselves. They got a stud outside linebacker in Melvin Ingram at the 18th pick, whom many considered a top ten draftee. Second round pick Kendall Reyes, a defensive end, should also help with the pass rush. I hate to say it, but the Chargers improved, every bit as much as the Chiefs did.

The Denver Donkeys – not so much. They traded out of the first round and then inexplicably chose defensive end Derek Wolfe, a reach by almost any pundit’s opinion. To make matters worse, they then drafted Peyton’s supposed backup in the second round, Brock Osweiler from Arizona State. I don’t get that pick at all. You’re already all in with Peyton, praying that he won’t get injured. Why hedge your bets now? Wouldn’t you be better served by either bringing on a free agent veteran QB or drafting someone next year who can be the franchise quarterback of the post-Peyton era?

And then of course we have the Raiders. Oh, the Raiders. What they wouldn’t give right now to take back that Carson Palmer trade.

Overall, the Chiefs and the Chargers came out ahead in managing chaos towards results.

"“Commander’s Intent” manages to align the behavior of soldiers at all levels without requiring play-by-play instructions from their leaders. When people know the desired destination, they’re free to improvise as needed in arriving there."

Chip Heath and Dan Heath, Made to Stick

A key learning that helps teams achieve the highest level of performance comes from the Army, and its Commander’s Intent maxim. With changing scenarios racing by and the clock ticking, the Chiefs needed a Commander’s Intent to rule their draft day choices. That Commander’s Intent could have been to “create a dominant defense” or “build a power running team” or “get that game-changing extra point holder” that will win us a Super Bowl. Who knows. I certainly don’t. But I’ll bet you a full plate of Bryants that Pioli had a Commander’s Intent for this year’s draft that provided the Chiefs’ overall objective amidst the chaos that ensued.  The Heath Brothers point out that the Commander’s Intent paradigm was adopted by the US Military as an anecdote to another famous Army line: “no plan survives contact with the enemy.” That’s the NFL draft. To the agile and disciplined come the spoils of war. This year, our Commander’s Intent was to fill the nose tackle position and get depth on the offensive line. Simple, but effective. As we’ve discussed before, to win consistently against Phillip Rivers and Peyton Manning, we need to apply intense pressure on both of them, and keep them off the field with our running game. The Chief’s Commander’s Intent for the draft may well fit the bill perfectly, with Poe freeing up Houston and Hali and our offensive line looking bigger, stronger and with more depth than it has since the glory days of Roaf, Waters, Weigmann, Shields and Tait.

"Draw your opponent to the battlefield of your own design. Then engage the battle."

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Research and preparation almost always win, no matter what profession you are in. I think that Pioli and his team did as much research as anyone – perhaps even more so than others – on players, the self-interest of division rivals and complicated trade scenarios. By being more prepared than anyone else, we shifted the draft battlefield to our terrain, not that of any other team. As a result, I’m thinking we’ll see more games next year where the Chiefs dictate the tempo of games and force opponents to play on our battlefield.

What do you think, Addicts? Did Pioli and his team make us proud last week?