Pioli vs. Dorsey: What Have We Learned?


Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

With the start of the rookie min-camp, the heavy lifting for the General Manager is mostly over.  So, I thought it would be interesting to look back and compare how Scott Pioli and John Dorsey handled similar situations. To be fair, Pioli inherited a much worse roster than Dorsey. However, how did each one handle their first offseason?

When Scott Pioli reviewed his roster he saw a very young team who was built for a 4-3 defense.  Well, Pioli is a 3-4 guy and he proceeded to tear the roster down to bring in 3-4 guys. I recall at the time DD and I were screaming that Pioli was being inflexible and hurting the team. I doubt we were alone in that thought. However, the inflexibility went much deeper than the defensive scheme. Stories eventually emerged about how the scouting department was handled. A new GM is faced with a very difficult first draft. He is given a scouting department in the middle of draft preparation and no time really to change much staff. What did Pioli do? He froze out the existing staff and worked off of what he took from New England. His draft was very poor, however that must be tempered by the fact that the 2009 draft was a very poor draft crop.

As we look at coaching staff and free agent signings, the picture became even clearer. Pioli was the son-in-law of Bill

December 02, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli walks on the field before the game against the Carolina Panthers at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City won 27-21. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Parcells and worked with Bill Belichick. Todd Haley, the new Head Coach had worked under Parcells with the Jets. The Coordinators Pioli really wanted (Charley Weis and Romeo Crennel) had worked with Belichick in New England. Free Agents signed seemed to almost only come from teams that one of the core staff plus Belichick or Parcells had been involved. For the Chiefs, the NFL seemed to consist of the Jets, Dolphins, Patriots, Browns and Cardinals. The other twenty six teams? Who? They didn’t really seem to be on the radar. They were not a part of the family.

Critics gnashed their teeth. Frankly, we would still be gnashing our teeth if Pioli had won with the Chiefs. Winning trumps many things. However, Pioli’s narrow, inflexible approach makes it harder to win, not easier.

By contrast, how did John Dorsey handle inheriting the roster? It was in much better shape then when Scott Pioli took over. So, Pioli does deserve some credit. The team was built for a 3-4. New coach Andy Reid had run 4-3 defenses in the past. Dorsey had drafted for a 3-4. What did the new regime do? They decided that the team was built for a 3-4, they would continue going in that direction. Wow! An understanding that they are many ways to win in the NFL and you win best by finding a way to maximize your talent?

How did John Dorsey handle the holdover scouting department? In his words, he took what they were doing, what he wanted to do and met in the middle. Met in the middle? You mean collaborate and compromise? Can you imagine Scott Pioli saying he compromised? I can’t imagine it. Dorsey has started to move some of his people in, as he should. Who has he hired? Marvin Allen. Who has Allen worked for? The Patriots and the last four years with the Falcons. Connection to Dorsey or Reid? None that I can find. Wow, a hire based on talent, not connections?

Coaching staffs tend to be filled out with people you have worked with before. Reid has certainly brought in several coaches he was familiar with. However he also brought in Bob Sutton as the Defensive Coordinator. For an offensive guy like Reid, the opposite side coordinator is your most critical hire. What is the connection to Dorsey/Reid? None that I can find. Sutton worked for the Jets. If you look at the coaching staff, you see Reid, you don’t see the fingerprints of Dorsey. In contrast, Pioli’s fingerprints were all over the team. From the Head Coach down.

The Free Agents the Chiefs have brought in have been from various teams in the NFL, not just ones that your staff had worked with before. It is natural to bring in players you are familiar with. However, it should not be the sum total of who you bring in.

It is way too early to look at the draft class for results. However, the off-season as a whole has given us an idea of what the new plan is and how the new regime evaluated the current Chiefs. Last year, the Chiefs were talented, but soft.  Fisher, Kelce, Nico Johnson, Commings all give the Chiefs some attitude. Knile Davis? Well, congrats, by picking a RB with two broken ankles, fumbling problems who hasn’t played well in two years…… Knile, you are this years WTF draft pick winner.

What does all the mean for the future of the Chiefs? It’s too early to tell. However, Dorsey is showing the flexibility I believe we need in a General Manager. In the long run, he may be a more important hire than Andy Reid. For the moment, I am optimistic. We could be in good hands and it’s been awhile since that has been the case.