The Chiefs Moving ForwardNovember 29th, 2012 by Lee Eldridge
As you know, I’m a diehard Chiefs fan. But I’m not a fanatic. I’m the preacher of patience. The voice of reason. I understand that football is a business, and that not all long-term decisions are popular today. That sometimes you have to take a step back to take two steps forward. That injuries can derail a season. And that sometimes, the football gods are unkind. Not once in more than 20 years have I called for the Chiefs to fire their general manager or head coach.
Fire Scot Pioli
The Chiefs are 1-10 in the fourth year of general manager Scott Pioli’s tenure in Kansas City. The worst record in the NFL. This was a team many predicted to win the AFC West. I did not, though I expected them to play much more competitive football. The question that owner Clark Hunt must ask himself is this: Do I want Scott Pioli to lead this team moving forward? Let’s evaluate Pioli’s track record on the most important decisions.
Head Coach: In year one, Pioli hired the fiery Todd Haley to coach the Chiefs. By year two, the Chiefs were 10-6 and won the AFC West. The future looked bright, but a fractured relationship was bubbling under the surface. Apparently Pioli and Haley were unable to work together, and as the Chiefs underachieved in 2011 (they finished 7-9), Haley was fired with three games left in the season. Pioli replaced Haley with veteran defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. I voiced reservations about promoting Crennel last year. Crennel is largely responsible for the team’s failure this year. More on him shortly. Pioli Grade: F
Quarterback: What has happened to the Chiefs is not Matt Cassel’s fault. Since he came to Kansas City, he’s had five offensive coordinators in four years. He’s shown that with the right team and the right coaching, he can be a competent quarterback (see 2008 with the Patriots and 2010 with Charlie Weis as his offensive coordinator in KC). But it’s also clear that he’s not good enough to overcome the many obstacles he’s faced in Kansas City. Backup Brady Quinn is worse than Cassel. And second year quarterback Ricky Stanzi must be awful because he can’t even get a whiff of the field. The Chiefs are looking at having to replace at least two, if not all three, of their quarterbacks for 2013. Pioli Grade: F
The Draft: The NFL draft is the lifeblood of your team. And first round picks are one of your most important commodities. In the last four years Pioli has drafted defense lineman Tyson Jackson, safety Eric Berry, wide receiver Jon Baldwin and nose tackle Dontari Poe in the first rounds of the draft. Jackson has been underwhelming to say the least. Berry may become a great player, but I haven’t seen it yet. Baldwin has done nothing. And Poe is a project. Other than 2011’s third round pick, linebacker Justin Houston, have any of Pioli’s picks made a significant impact on the team? No. Pioli Grade: C- (and that’s being generous)
Free Agency: This year’s crop of free agents looked good coming into the year with offensive tackle Eric Winston, running back Peyton Hillis, and cornerback Stanford Routt. Winston has been OK but will be most remembered for calling out Chiefs fans for booing Matt Cassel’s injury. Hillis has been largely ineffective. And Routt has already been released from the team, making the decision not to resign Brandon Carr even worse. In four years in Kansas City, who were Pioli’s most significant signings in free agency? Wide receiver Steve Breaston was productive last year, but has done nothing this year. Offensive guard Ryan Lilja has been pretty good. That’s it. Pioli Grade: F
Pioli has been a bust at hiring head coaches. We have no quarterback of the future. Though I would agree that the team is more talented than it was when he was hired, the majority of our best players were already here (Jamaal Charles, Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali, Branden Albert, Dwayne Bowe, Dustin Colquitt, and Brandon Flowers). He’s provided no stability within the organization. And we’re left with a losing team, angry fans and a half empty Arrowhead on game days.
There have been reports that Clark Hunt extended Pioli’s contract before this season began, though there have also been reports that the deal was never signed. If true, that would make firing Pioli expensive. Either way, Hunt must fire him. And the sooner, the better.
Fire Romeo Crennel
When you take a team that was expected to win the division and go 1-10, can you really expect to keep your job? I was afraid that Crennel was another Wade Phillips — a fine defensive coordinator but ineffective head coach. I was wrong. He’s worse than that. Crennel is in way over his head. I could site a whole laundry list of stats to show just how bad this team has been, but the one that sticks out to me the most is point differential. The Chiefs have been outscored by 140 points this year in just 11 games. Take away their one win, and they’re losing by 14 points per game. Only two other teams in the NFL have point differentials of more than 100 — the Raiders at -138 and the Jaguars at -120. This team is more talented than the team that won the division in 2010. The difference is coaching.
Scott Pioli was a good hire four years ago. He was highly respected around the league from a successful organization. Many expected him to be the next great general manager. It just didn’t work. It happens. If owner Clark Hunt still remains unconvinced about firing Pioli, he needs to think about two things. Why wouldn’t head coach Jeff Fisher consider Kansas City, opting to coach the Rams, a team with less talent than the Chiefs? Why wouldn’t quarterback Peyton Manning consider Kansas City, opting to play for the Broncos, a team with less talent than the Chiefs? Maybe the Chiefs were never serious about either Fisher or Manning. Or maybe they had no desire to come to Kansas City because of Scott Pioli.
I’ve seen enough of both Pioli and Crennel to know what needs to be done. I would fire Pioli now and start the hunt (no pun intended) for a new general manager. If you can get the right GM hired before the season is over, you’ve given that person a huge advantage heading into next season. I don’t see any advantage of firing Crennel until a new general manager has been hired. Somebody has to coach this team through the next few games. It might as well be Crennel.
We’ll talk about the quarterback position a lot heading into the draft. My only comment for today is that we know what Matt Cassel is. We think we know what Brady Quinn is. We have no idea what Ricky Stanzi is. The Chiefs need to start Stanzi the last three or four games of the season in order to evaluate him for next year. Is he the future of the team? Probably not. But it would be nice to know if he’s capable of being a competent backup.