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The Chiefs QB: Lack Of Opportunity Or Total Pioli Failure?
Iíd like to start this piece by making two statements. First, I believe Scott Pioli deserves to be fired. Second, I donít believe Scott Pioli will be fired this season. Without going into a big debate about why I believe these two things, Iíll just say this. Pioli should be fired because the overall product he has put on the field four years into his tenure as GM of the Kansas City Chiefs is not good enough. However, I think because of his relationship with Clark Hunt and how much money he saved Clark over the past 4 years, he will be given a chance to finish out his contract and will go into the 2013 season as the Chiefs GM once again. Iím not happy about this, but if I had to guess, thatís my prediction. If Iím wrong, and Pioli is fired before the season is over, I will be a\one happy fan/blogger.
But that is not what I want to debate today.
IF I am correct that Pioli will be back for another season as the KC general manager, how worried should Chiefs fans be about Pioli calling the shots this offseason? The absolute #1 objective for this offseason is to find a franchise QB, so what should KC fans think about Pioli being the guy to make that decision?
Obviously, since 99% of us want the guy run out of town, the answer is probably that we want Pioli to have no part of that decision. I agree, I do. However, letís set aside the Pioli torches and pitchforks and the ďevery decision that Pioli has ever made SUCKS!!Ē mentality and see if when it comes to drafting QBs, Pioli has earned that reputation?
Now, again let me say that Iím not trying to be a Pioli apologist. The Chiefs QB situation is indefensible. I think itís impossible to argue that Pioli has done enough at that position during his time in KC. Would it have helped if he had brought in some better QBs via free agency? Sure, but I donít think thatís what most of us that want Pioli gone are really wanting. We donít want another FA stop gap, we want the Chiefs to draft and develop their own franchise QB. So Iím not going to waste any time looking at what free agents Pioli could have brought in to challenge Matt Cassel. I will focus on the draft.
During the four seasons that Pioli has been drafting for the Kansas City Chiefs, 14 current starting QBs have been selected in the draft. Thatís about 44% of teams in the NFL that have found a starting QB via the draft since Pioli came to KC. When you hear that number by itself, it seems ridiculous that Pioli couldnít have selected one of those players or the Chiefs. However, in his interview with sports radio 810 last week Pioli implied that the Chiefs havenít been in great position to draft a first round QB. Does he have a point? It sure seems like the Chiefs have had enough early 1st round picks to make it happen. However, when I went back and looked, 9 of those 14 current starting QBs that have been selected since Pioli came to KC were taken before KC had their first pick. Those players are:
2009: Matthew Stafford
2010: Sam Bradford
2011: Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder
2012: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill
Now, I think itís reasonable to take Stafford, Bradford, Newton, Luck, and RG3 off the table and say that KC had little to no shot at landing any of those QBs regardless of what Pioli may have wanted. The only one of those that would have even been up for discussion was the RG3 pick and with Washington forking over three #1 picks and a 2nd to move up just a couple spots, its hard to imagine what KC would have had to give up to beat them out while moving up 9 spots. So the question is, should Pioli have moved up to take Locker, Gabbert, Ponder, or Tannehill?
Looking at the situation in 2011, KC was coming off a 10-6 division championship where Cassel made the Pro Bowl with 27 TDs and only 7 INTs. Yes, he was horrible against the Ravens in the playoffs and many fans had their doubts about him long term, but with their other holes was anyone clamoring for Pioli to move up and take Locker, Gabbert, or Ponder? If so, I donít remember that. In hindsight, would KC have been better off if they had? Sure, but I donít know that Pioli should be ripped for not moving up to take one of those guys considering where they were at, what they would have had to give up, and what kind of season the team and Matt Cassel were coming off. So that leaves us with Ryan Tannehill. The overwhelming majority of KC fans seemed nervous about the Chiefs taking Tannehill at #11 if he was still there. Tannehill was a prospect that scouts said had NFL ďtoolsĒ but didnít win a lot of games or put up huge numbers while at Texas A&M. The Chiefs did have Tannehill in for a private workout, so Pioli did at least look into it. Tannehill has looked like a good pick thus far, so it appears that the Chiefs may have been well served to move up and get him. Maybe they looked into it, maybe not. Who knows what the Dolphins (or one of the teams in front of them) would have been asking for. I think there is more room to criticize Pioli on this one then the 2011 draft, but if not trading multiple picks to move up for Ryan Tannehill is Pioliís biggest mistake in terms of moving UP for a QB, I donít know if that is all that bad.
So now letís look at the QBs that KC could have drafted since Pioli took over as GM. Here is a list of Pioli picks over the past four years and the QBs that they could have had with those picks in the first three rounds. The QBs in BOLD are current NFL starters.
#3 Ė Tyson Jackson Ė Mark Sanchez (#5), Josh Freeman (#17)
#34 Ė (Traded for Cassel) Ė Pat White (#44)
#67 Ė Alex Magee Ė Stephen McGee (#101)
#5 Ė Eric Berry Ė Tim Tebow (#25)
#36 Ė Dexter McCluster Ė Jimmy Clausen (#48)
#68 Ė Jon Asamoah Ė Colt McCoy (#85)
#21/26 Ė Jonathon Baldwin Ė Andy Dalton (#35), Colin Kaepernick (#36)
#70 Ė Justin Houston Ė Ryan Mallet (#74)
#11 Ė Dontari Poe Ė Brandon Weeden (#22)
#44 Ė Jeff Allen Ė Brock Osweiler (#57)
#74 Ė Donald Stephenson Ė Russell Wilson (#75), Nick Foles (#88), Kirk Cousins (#102)
So letís look at these one year at a time. In Pioliís first year in KC he traded our 2nd round pick for Matt Cassel (and Mike Vrabel) who was coming off a pretty solid season filling in for Tom Brady. In hindsight, would Josh Freeman have been a better pick than Tyson Jackson? Yes, but Freeman was seen as a bit of a risk at #17 that season, let alone at #3. The only QB even considered in the top ten after Stafford was Sanchez and he has struggled as much as Cassel has. I donít think Pioli deserves a bad rap for not drafting our QB in his first year here. You can criticize him for signing Cassel to his long term deal, but I think the draft (QB wise) was justifiable.
Next up is the 2010 draft. Does anybody want Tim Tebow, Jimmy Clausen, or Colt McCoy to be the future of the QB position in KC? I donít, so I donít think we can hold it against Pioli for not drafting our franchise QB in the 2010 draft.
The 2011 draft is interesting to debate. In hindsight, Andy Dalton looks like he would have been a MUCH better pick for the Chiefs than Jon Baldwin. I donít think anybody can argue that KC is better off for having Baldwin over Dalton. However, as I mentioned before, the Chiefs were coming off a division win and Cassel going to the Pro Bowl. Plus, the WR position was so bad that the Chiefs started Kevin Curtis who they had just signed off the street at WR in the playoffs. As much as we as fans can now look back at this draft pick and go ďWhat was he thinking?Ē itís hard to argue that Pioli was wrong to take a WR given the previous season. You can make an argument for Dalton, but much like the Tannehill discussion above, Iím not sure that it shows Pioli to be incompetent when it comes to drafting QBs because of this choice. Kaepernick and Mallet may prove to be great QBs, but its hard to judge that until they start multiple regular season games in the NFL. Iím pretty happy with the Justin Houston pick anyway.
That leaves us with the 2012 draft. This one (in my opinion) contains Pioliís biggest mistake. Iím not upset that the Chiefs didnít take Weeden. His age made taking him at #11 too big of a risk (in my opinion). Iím still not sold on him as a long term franchise QB. He may end up being a solid starting QB, but Iím not upset that Pioli didnít reach for him at #11 (or trade back, etc). Osweiler is still an unknown. Heís supposedly very raw and I donít think any scouts thought he was ready to walk in and start as a rookie. So again, Iím not upset that we didnít take him in the 2nd round. However, the 3rd round selection of backup tackle Donald Stephenson instead of either Russell Wilson, Nick Foles, or Kirk Cousins looks like a huge mistake by Pioli. Foles and Cousins are both unknowns both showed some real upside in training camp and preseason action. Russell Wilson has walked in as a 5í11″ rookie and already looks better than Matt Cassel in his 5th season as a NFL starter. Pioli could have picked Wilson in the 3rd, signed another OT in free agency, and been MUCH better off than the team is now. Plus, drafting Wilson in the 3rd would have allowed Cassel to still enter camp as the starter, there wouldnít have been expectations to play a 3rd rounder right out of the gate, plus if Wilson never materialized, no big deal, it was just a 3rd rounder. It was a no lose situation and Pioli blew it. I think if you look at his KC draft history, that was his biggest miss when it comes to drafting QBs.
So if Iím ranking Pioliís biggest QB draft mistakes in KC, I would go:
1. Not drafting a QB in the 3rd round this year instead of a backup OT.
2. Not trading up for Ryan Tannehill.
3. Not being able to admit that Casselís Pro Bowl was probably a fluke and drafting Andy Dalton instead of filling the hole at WR with Jon Baldwin.
Other than that, I donít know that you can complain about much else in terms of Pioli and drafting QBs. I suppose you could add passing on Brandon Weeden, not reaching for Josh Freeman, or not trading every draft pick for the rest of time for RG3, but that seems like reaching for the sake of bashing someone we all want gone. Are those three mistakes listed above enough to make you objectively say that Pioli could not draft a franchise QB? Itís not like he has let Pro Bowler after Pro Bowler slip through his fingers. On the other hand, if heís so good at evaluating talent, why didnít he recognize sooner that Cassel wasnít good enough? I think that is actually the biggest strike against him, as opposed to anything specific he has done or not done in the draft when it comes to QBs.
There will be no doubt about it this time around. The Chiefs will go into the 2013 offseason needing to find their new QB. Even if Scott Pioli is still around, he wonít be able to put it off anymore. There will be no sticking with Matt Cassel this time. So if the Chiefs stay on their current course and end up with a top 5 pick, Scott Pioli will be in uncharted waters. Heíll be in the market for a new QB while sitting in position to draft one of the elite prospects. If that happens does his track record leave you with no confidence for him to choose correctly? Has the overall failure of Pioli to build a consistent winner unfairly branded him as unable to find a good QB in the draft or is that reputation deserved?
For once, Iím not sure what I think.
I still think Pioli should be fired.
I still think Hunt will probably keep him around for at least one more year.
Iím just not sure what Pioli will do with a high draft pick and QB at the top of his wish list. As much as I donít want Pioli to be around to answer this question, if Iím honest with myself, I donít feel as bad about Pioliís track record of drafting QBs now that Iíve looked at the actual picks and the situation he was in at the time. Iím not excusing the state of this franchise overall, itís pitiful. Iím sure some will choose to label me a Pioli apologist just for suggesting this is up for discussion. Iím just trying to be objective. Iíd love to hear what you all think about this in the comments. Has Pioli proven he canít find a QB in the draft or has he simply not been in a good position to land one? Sound off Addicts!
As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I totally wrote the exact same article
three months ago (for the SAME site), but this is still well written.