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Tribal Warfare
01-15-2009, 05:56 PM
Instant credibility (http://www.kcchiefs.com/news/2009/01/15/instant_credibility/)
Jan 15, 2009, 8:40:50 AM by Jonathan Rand - FAQ

piolibradyScott Pioli will bring a lot of good things to the Chiefs, though most are only conjecture at this point.

There’s no way to know for sure if the former Patriots executive can improve upon his astonishing resume. He’ll be taking his first crack at running an entire football operation, and won’t have the benefit of Bill Belichick, a championship coach and a terrific judge of talent.

Yet, the Chiefs new general manager already brings them renewed credibility. Pioli was the front-office version of Bill Cowher – at the top of everybody’s wish list but in no hurry to take the plunge, especially not for a situation that didn’t seem quite right to him.

Pioli’s arrival instantly changes the way Kansas City will view the Chiefs, and how the Chiefs will view themselves. In several respects, it’s 1989 all over again.

The Chiefs of early 1989 left in their wake two four-win seasons. Once-rabid fans were apathetic and the organization was broken. But then owner Lamar Hunt hired Carl Peterson, a respected general manager, and the city sensed a new deal. When Peterson hired Marty Schottenheimer, fans could hardly believe that a big-name coach considered Kansas City a place he could win.

A new message immediately was conveyed: Good people wanted to be here.

The new regime had the fourth pick of the 1989 draft, and used it for linebacker Derrick Thomas. He soon became a franchise changer.

The Chiefs were in similar straits after 2008, the worst year club history. But their season ticket base has remained remarkably strong, suggesting that frustration may not yet have slipped into apathy. The Chiefs hold the third pick of the April draft and again have a shot at a difference maker.

And Pioli restates the message: good coaches, scouts and players will want to be here.

Among the troubling aspects for the 2008 Chiefs were complaints by running back Larry Johnson and tight end Tony Gonzalez, both multiple Pro Bowl invitees, that they’d prefer to play elsewhere. Before the draft, Jared Allen, who led the NFL in sacks in 2007, got his wish to be traded to the Vikings after he became upset with contract negotiations.

On a winning team, such incidents could be written off as business as usual in professional sports. With a 2-14 team, however, the inference was: good players don’t want to be here. That message can become toxic for a franchise if top free agents back away or key players become disenchanted.

It’s hard to imagine that one good hire can change a team’s outlook. But that’s testimony to Pioli’s body of work. The Patriots built such a juggernaut that news reports routinely list their three Super Bowl triumphs in four years, but don’t even mention an historic season – their 16-0 regular season in 2007 and a run at perfection that ended in the Super Bowl.

Those who caution against public hyperventilation in Kansas City point out that Belichick’s magic has not rubbed off on protégés Romeo Crennel in Cleveland, Eric Mangini with the Jets and Charlie Weis at Notre Dame. Keep in mind, though, that nobody accused Belichick of having much magic when he got fired by the Browns after the 1995 season.

Besides, a more relevant snapshot of a Belichick U. front office grad comes from Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff. Formerly the Patriots’ director of college scouting and once a Chiefs part-time scout, Dimitroff needed just the 2008 season to turn the Falcons from the NFL’s most chaotic and scandal-ridden franchise into a playoff team.

Football people learn a lot in New England, but they’re probably not clueless when they arrive. The franchise has a keen eye for smart, passionate people who are eager to learn. And those kinds of people have wanted to be there.