Blundering Kansas City Chiefs: Placing The Blame


The Kansas City Chiefs are a disaster so far in 2012 and if you check out the press clippings today, it appears that the blame is falling squarely on the shoulders of GM Scott Pioli, with a couple of shots being fired at owner Clark Hunt. This is what happens as the frustration around a poorly performing professional sports team festers.

It starts with the players. In 2009, the blame was placed squarely on the terrible, terrible roster left behind in Kansas City by former GM Carl “The King” Peterson and then head coach Herm “You Play To Win The Game, You Just Don’t” Edwards.

In 2010, everything was roses. Pioli was touted as a genius who managed to turn around a roster full of scrubs and homeless men into a group of overachieving young stars. Todd Haley, KC’s coach at the time, was given heaps of praise as well. After an inaugural season of sideline antics and questionable decisions, Haley was viewed as a hard-nosed young coach who wasn’t afraid to bench his team’s best player for an entire season if it meant finally helping said player realize his true potential the following year.

In 2011, we were told that Todd Haley was a paranoid mad man and that Scott Pioli was running an operation so concerned with every detail that the man in charge was dressing down his employees in meetings for dropping candy wrappers in the stairwell. As the injuries piled up, it was Haley who took the fall. Defensive coordinator and Pioli pal, Romeo Crennel, stepped in and beat the mighty Packers. All was well in Chiefs land.

As the team entered 2012, Pioli was once again being praised for his roster building. The GM had what some called the most successful free agency period in the league, acquiring solid players like Peyton Hillis, Kevin Boss and Eric Winston. Locally and nationally folks began to realize that the Chiefs had a deep and talented roster and some pundits went so far as to project KC to make the Super Bowl.

Now, after two horrendous losses, the fire has finally reached high enough to burn the loaders right off of Scott Pioli’s feet. If the problem was Haley and Haley is gone, then why are the Chiefs starting just as miserably in 2012 as they did in 2011?

The team is relatively healthy. Brandon Flowers and Tamba Hali played yesterday. Eric Berry is back. Jamaal Charles, too. Scott Pioli’s job is to create a winning organization from top to bottom that is in a position to contend for a championship year in and year out. So far, Pioli has gone through two head coaches, two defensive coordinators and nearly a half-dozen offensive coordinators. Since his arrival in Kansas City, the Chiefs have gone 21-30.

Scott Pioli has failed.

But should he be fired? Should Clark Hunt clean house and start from scratch?

I’m not sure that is the answer.

Look, in the end, Pioli is responsible for everything. The buck stops with him.* But not everything Pioli has done since coming to KC has been a failure. In fact, in many respects, he’s done a pretty good job. There is plenty of blame to go around and since today is definitely a day to start throwing people under the bus, I thought I’d take a shot at compiling a list of blame.

*Though some would argue that the buck stops as soon as it enters Clark Hunt’s rather large wallet.

Scott Pioli:

Pioli’s biggest blunders haven’t come in the draft or free agency but from a front office/hiring standpoint. Pioli whiffed on his first choice for head coach. Todd Haley was erratic, overly emotional and inconsistent. His coaching philosophy seemed to change from game to game and he frequently made poor or questionable decisions.

Pioli has also allowed a turbulent coaching environment with a seemingly unending lineup of offensive coordinators. He’s gone all in on QB Matt Cassel and yet has allowed his chosen signal caller to be hampered by learning a new offense every year…sometimes more than once a year.

From a PR standpoint, Pioli has also failed. For someone so concerned with his team’s press clippings, Pioli’s tenure in Kansas City has been filled with drama in the headlines and this is even with Jason Whitlock out of town. The Chiefs have looked bad a heck of a lot more than they’ve looked good since Pioli arrived and it isn’t because the press has some sort of evil vendetta. You reap what you sow, as it were.

The secretive nature of the organization and the shunning of the press haven’t done Pioli any favors. The bad mojo leads one to question whether or not the Chiefs might be having a hard time luring top free agents to town. Sure, Pioli got Kevin Boss (cut by the Raiders), Peyton Hillis (allowed to leave Cleveland) and Eric Winston (cut by the Texans) but Peyton Manning wouldn’t even take his phone calls. The Broncos, a division rival, got Manning instead. That’s a bad look.

Romeo Crennel:

Romeo Crennel’s tenure as head coach has been a total failure thus far. The man touted for being a defensive genius is sporting one of the worse defenses in the league. It would be one thing if Crennel was working with the 2009 group of youngsters and scrubs that former defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast was handed but this Chiefs defense is full of players with Pro Bowl talent. Brandon Flowers, Eric Berry, Derrek Johnson, Justin Houston and Tamba Hali all have the ability to be All-Pros in any given season. Defense is Romeo’s jam and yet he suddenly looks like a head coach with too much on his plate. Leading a bad team to a terrible start is one thing but leading a team that should be good is something else all together.

On offense, it appears that Crennel is allowing offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to do his thing. Only Daboll’s thing isn’t working.

Crennel should have this team playing more crisp, disciplined football.

Brian Daboll:

Daboll seems to be a guy full of good ideas but he doesn’t seem to know how to put them together. His schemes show tremendous promise and his offense is, at times, exciting, but he is also failing to use all of his weapons effectively.

I am starting to think that Daboll’s propensity to play the matchup advantages is hampering his offense. The Chiefs are constantly subbing in personnel groups. Jamaal Charles will get a carry, then Peyton Hillis, then Shaun Draughn. It may be that Daboll is out-thinking himself and sending in so many different packages that the players aren’t able to get into a rhythm. KC’s most effective offensive game plan in 2010 was to run Jamaal Charles often and then run the play action. Yesterday, Charles had six carries.

Matt Cassel:

I thought Matt Cassel played pretty well against the Atlanta Falcons. That was not the case Sunday against the Bills. Cassel was under quite a bit of pressure but he was taking too many sacks. Cassel’s main problem, however, isn’t lack of effort, it’s just that he isn’t that good. He can be an effective QB when everything is going right but in case you haven’t noticed, things aren’t going right. At all. That renders Cassel basically useless. He is still the best QB on the team but Chiefs need to find a QB that can lift them up, not just keep them afloat.

Derrick Johnson:

Everyone loves DJ, but Johnson has been the absolute worst player on the defense so far this season. Johnson should be the leader of this defense, instead he is its biggest liability.

Tamba Hali:

Hali let his team down by getting himself suspended for the season opener. His absence allowed Falcons QB Matt Ryan all the time he needed to carve up the banged-up KC secondary. Hali’s presence in that first game could have greatly altered the outcome. Instead the KC season got started off horribly and things have only gotten worse.

The offensive line:

The Chiefs have a load of talent on the offensive line but they aren’t playing well. We should expect some inconsistency from young Rodney Hudson and Jon Asamoah. What is Ryan Lilja’s excuse?

Tom McMahon:

New special teams coordinator Tom McMahon is off to a terrible start. The Chiefs have allowed returns for touchdowns in each of their first two games.

As you can see, there is plenty of blame to go around. Scott Pioli has put together a good roster that doesn’t win. His coaches aren’t getting the job done and a number of his players are under-performing.

What we’ve witnessed the last two weeks is an organizational failure, from Clark Hunt’s wallet all the way down to Ryan Lilja’s inconsistent play.

When things get this bad, fans want heads to roll. Heck, if you read the KC Star today, you’d think Kent Babb and Sam Mellinger are likely leading an angry mob to Scott Pioli’s house as we speak.

Only tarring and feathering Pioli on the 50-yardline isn’t going help. Neither is breaking into Hunt’s house and stealing his wallet. Romeo Crennel didn’t just up and become a terrible defensive coordinator over night. Firing Crennel will make the Chiefs worse, not better. Derrick Johnson is not a bad football player. Quite the contrary. Matt Cassel isn’t perfect but believe me, if you’re currently on the Brady Quinn or Ricky Stanzi bandwagons I feel I should tell you that those are being driven off a cliff so you might want to consider hopping off.

As Herm was fond of saying, they aren’t going to cancel the season. The Kansas City Chiefs have 14 games left to play and the only thing that is guaranteed is that those games will happen. Take a look at the standings now and again at the end of the season. I reckon they’ll look a bit different.

At this time last year, the Chiefs were the worst team in football. Todd Haley was the head coach. Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow were Broncos. The Chargers were the easily waltzing their way to the AFC West championship. By the time the dust settled, Haley was canned, Orton was a Chief, the Broncos were playoff team and KC had one of the best defenses in the NFL.

I’m no more certain that the Chiefs will finish 0-16 than I am that they’re about to rattle off four straight wins.

It’s a long season but heads rolling now won’t get the Chiefs out of this mess. All we can do is sit back and hope the team can somehow find a way to come together, play to their talent level and give us some entertaining football to watch.

Because if they keep playing as poorly as they have so far, you won’t need to call for anyone’s head.

One will likely be handed to you.