Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pioli's pants: revisited

Yesterday I made the case that Chiefs' GM Scott Pioli has essentially been caught with his pants down this free-agency period because of a lack of effort and/or financial commitment from ownership to improve the team. Much to my surprise, I was met with a school of Pioli yes-men and Chief system-protectors who couldn't bare the sight of their fearless leader being shed in such negative light.

Let's examine the facts.

Chiefs couldn't have written the script any better for 2010. Pioli and Head Coach Todd Haley desperately needed to show some signs of life on the field after a rough first-go at it the year before. A good draft class, soft schedule, and the additions of two former Super Bowl-winning coordinators allowed the team to disguise its flaws until the playoffs. The season ended on an ugly turn though with two consecutive blowout losses at Arrowhead and the news of offensive guru Charlie Weis bolting for Florida.

Pioli has seemingly addressed the Weis void. Former Redskins Head Coach and Ravens Quarterbacks Coach Jim Zorn was hired on to aid Matt Cassel's development. Jonathan Baldwin, a wide-receiver from Pittsburgh, was taken with the team's first pick in the draft. Steve Breaston, a former Haley protege in Arizona, was signed to allow Dexter McCluster to be used more effectively and to provide more of a deep-threat to the arsenal.

But what about the defense?

If there was anything we learned from those final two games at Arrowhead last season, it was that the team's biggest weakness is its defensive front-seven. The Raiders and Ravens ran the ball straight through the Chiefs defense en route to easy wins last January.

Three of those seven — defensive tackle Ron Edwards, defensive end Shaun Smith, and Vrabel — have moved on from Kansas City. To replace Edwards, Pioli snagged 35-year old Kelly Gregg from Baltimore last week while the younger and potentially more permanent fixture, San Francisco's Aubrayo Franklin, remained on the market.

Tuesday, Pioli was outbid by the Denver Broncos for former Patriot defensive end, Ty Warren's services. Warren accepted a two-year, $10M contract to play in Mile-High, apparently much-too steep for the Chiefs', who sit almost $30M under the NFL salary-cap.

So that leaves former first-round pick and to-this-point underachiever, Tyson Jackson and last year's third-round selection, Allen Bailey on a rotation opposite Glenn Dorsey to man a defensive line already considered below average.

It gets worse.

The team has yet to really address the linebacker position at all this offseason. Justin Houston was a nice selection in this year's draft, but until he can pass a drug test he'll remain on the sidelines throughout training camp, no help to the team. He is the lone draft pick yet to agree to terms on a contract.

And speaking of linebackers who can't agree to terms, if you haven't heard, sack-artist Tamba Hali  hasn't reported to camp and is HOLDING OUT for a long-term contract. Maybe some of those cap-dollars can be used for something good? One would hope, but it hasn't happened yet. Hali is the most irreplaceable player on the defensive unit, and has already stated he will not return to Kansas City if he does not get a long-term deal before the 2011 regular season starts.

So an already questionable front-seven has lost three starters, has multiple players who haven't seen a snap since January, and did I mention what the schedule looks like this season?

You heard of the Jets? How about the Patriots? Maybe the Steelers? What about the Super Bowl Champion Packers? Yep, the Chiefs play all of those teams, plus the Colts, Vikings, Bears, and Chargers — twice. It's brutal, folks, and without a real improvement on the defensive side of the ball the Chiefs have no chance in 2011.

We know Pioli wants to win, so what gives? It's possible the Chiefs are saving a little dough in preparation for the looming cap-bottom (all teams must spend at least 89% of the salary-cap), which will be implemented in 2013. It's been speculated the team has had a smaller budget of late (the team has been last or second-to-last in payroll the last two seasons) to compensate for Clark Hunt's $125M contribution to the stadium renovations years ago.

In either scenario, it's unacceptable and shameful. Pioli's been caught with his pants down, no other way around it.

And for those who remain determined to defend the powers that be, just let this be a friendly reminder as we all contemplate purchasing tickets and breaking the bank on a team that refuses to even consider breaking its own.


  1. Update: Hali has been signed -- 5 years, $60M. Love the deal, wish it happened sooner. But again, 31 other teams deal with signing their own free agents every year. The Chiefs aren't unique. Improving the team when possible shouldn't be a burden for a GM. The front-seven is seriously lacking depth right now.

  2. I'll give Pioli the benefit of the doubt based on his track record, but I am disappointed with the nonchalance with which the organization has pursued free agents. The difference in fan reaction to a 5-11 campaign is quite different from a borderline playoff contender. The fans will not forget the availability of top-tier free agents. We turned our backs on what could have been the best secondary in the NFL.