AFC West: Scott Pioli

Pioli needs to take blame for problems

September, 4, 2013
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Nice get by SI's Peter King to get former Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli to offer his 10 things he learned about being a GM. It’s an interesting read, but Pioli didn't offer the words Chiefs fans deserved to hear: that at least part of what happened on his watch was his fault.

Pioli lamented all the time he had to spend on non-football issues. One of Pioli's failings was that he couldn't delegate authority over matters that didn't relate to the reason he was hired. He had his hand in everything, including matters that had nothing to do with winning and losing games.

Pioli also lamented that different factions within an organization can pull in different directions. Pioli fostered that kind of atmosphere when he operated the Chiefs. That he quarreled with Todd Haley (not blaming this all on Pioli) and had to hire another coach (Romeo Crennel) with whom he’d previously worked speaks volumes about Pioli’s inability to get along with others.

A case for Corey Liuget

August, 21, 2013
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In an Insider piece, Mike Sando thinks San Diego defensive end Corey Liuget is on the cusp of being one of the top 100 defensive players in the NFL .

I think Liuget, the team’s first-round pick in 2011, should already be on the list. He is a monster.

In other AFC West notes:

Oakland backup quarterback Terrelle Pryor has switched from No. 6 to No. 2. He wore No. 2 at Ohio State. Perhaps the Raiders thought enough time has passed since the last No. 2 played quarterback in Oakland. Yes, JaMarcus Russell. Pryor said when he was drafted that then-coach Hue Jackson wouldn’t let him wear No. 2. Punter Marquette King moved from No. 2 to No. 7.

Oakland rookie tackle Menelik Watson is practicing for the second time this camp. He had a calf injury. If he can stay healthy, he has a chance to play early.

U-T San Diego reports Chicago rookie linebacker Jon Bostic was fined $21,000 for a hit on San Diego receiver Mike Willie last week.

Scott Pioli, the man who drafted Jon Baldwin in the first round two years ago, stuck up for Baldwin. He was traded to San Francisco for fellow former first-round pick A.J. Jenkins.

San Diego tight end Antonio Gates doesn’t think the Broncos “will miss a beat” during the six-game suspension of star pass-rusher Von Miller.

New Orleans cut tackle Jason Smith. Oakland needs depth at the spot.
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs and Andy Reid needed each other.

A year ago, as the Chiefs were toiling through their summer preparations, this pairing seemed more than unlikely. It appeared implausible.

The Chiefs were embarking on the Romeo Crennel era. The franchise was focused on salvaging the Scott Pioli leadership by having one of his former New England colleagues take over the coach's headset on a full-time basis after he had guided the team following Todd Haley's dismissal in December 2011. There were no thoughts of Crennel being a temporary caretaker for one of the biggest coaching names in the game. Reid was entering his 14th season in Philadelphia.

But 2012 ended up being an awful year for the Chiefs and for Reid. Change was necessary for both.

When Reid was let go by the Eagles, Kansas City owner Clark Hunt acted swiftly, turning from Pioli and Crennel to Reid. It was a bold move from the Heartland, where the Chiefs usually stay out of the national spotlight.

Hiring Reid was bold. And while technically neither Reid nor his new team has accomplished anything just yet, the fit seems right. Reid is resplendent in red. The Chiefs’ players are energized by the top-notch coaching and energy Reid has brought.

“I don’t look to the past and we can’t look to the future yet; all we got is right now,” Reid said. “And the 'right now' is pretty good. … I really like where we are and what these guys are doing.”

While it is just August, the Chiefs look nothing like the 2-14 team they were in 2012. Most teams that earn the No. 1 overall draft pick look like it the following training camp. Instead, the Chiefs look like a complete team with few holes, one that is ready to make a big move.

“We don’t even talk about 2-14 anymore,” said safety Eric Berry, one of six Pro Bowl players from what was, despite the record, a talented 2012 outfit. “We are all focused on getting better and getting coached by Coach Reid and his staff. … We can’t wait to get out here every day to see how we can get better. Everybody feels that way. We’re all so happy right now.”

THREE HOT TOPICS

[+] EnlargeAlex Smith
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesAlex Smith's smooth transition at quarterback is just one reason behind the Chiefs' bright outlook.
1. The quarterback: Thus far, the transition to Alex Smith has been a success in Kansas City. Of course, we won’t find out anything tangible until we see if he can make a difference in the regular season. But so far, Smith has taken to Reid’s coaching and shown he is the leader of this team. He has been good in training camp, and he was excellent in the first preseason game. If Smith can be the smart, mistake-free player he was in his best San Francisco days, the Chiefs can be a real contender. This team has been screaming for solid quarterback play, and it may be about to get it.

“He’s a smart guy,” Reid said of his quarterback. “He gets it. He makes it easy. He doesn’t run out of gigabytes.”

2. Finding a No. 2 receiver: There aren’t a lot of issues with this roster, but finding a solid No. 2 receiver behind star Dwayne Bowe is a focal point of this camp. Free-agent pickup Donnie Avery will likely be the guy, and he has shown he can be a capable NFL player. He can get open. The team would like to see 2011 first-round pick Jon Baldwin finally develop. He has big ability but has failed to show the consistency to be a top-of-the rotation player. The Chiefs have a varied offense, so this will not be a huge problem, but it would be beneficial if Bowe had some legitimate help opposite of him.

3. Dontari Poe: If training camp is any indication, Poe has a chance to be among the breakout players in the NFL this season. The No. 11 overall pick of the 2012 draft has been terrific. He has taken to the new coaching. The light has come on. The super-athletic Poe is getting the playbook and has been dominant at times. Nose tackle sets the tone for the defense, and it seems Poe is up to the task. To his credit, Poe made strides late in his rookie season and seems to have carried it over to his second training camp.

REASON FOR OPTIMISM

The Chiefs' roster is loaded. There are not a lot of holes. Sure, the Chiefs could use a deeper group of receivers, a deeper defensive line and a few odds and ends here and there. But in today’s NFL, that is not a deep list of concerns. Add a top coach like Reid, a capable quarterback like Smith and several fine free-agent additions to a roster that featured six Pro Bowl players, and there is a lot to like about this team. This is not your average club trying to rebound from 2-14.

REASON FOR PESSIMISM

There isn’t much not to like here. The worst thing Kansas City has going for it is simply rebuilding from a 2-14 season. Just how many wins can a 2-14 team expect in the first year of a new regime? The Chiefs will be much better. But what does that mean? A 7-9 season in Kansas City would signify great progress. But if the Chiefs want to make a run at the playoffs, they likely will have to go 9-7 or better. A seven-win improvement is never an easy task in the NFL.

OBSERVATION DECK
    [+] EnlargeJamaal Charles
    AP Photo/Gerald HerbertJamaal Charles' role in the offense does not figure to be diminished considering he touched the ball eight times and scored a TD on the Chiefs' first drive of the preseason.

  • The Chiefs like their offensive line. They think they have a lot of depth. Jeff Allen, Geoff Schwartz and Donald Stephenson give the team a lot of options.
  • The Chiefs have no remorse over using the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft on right tackle Eric Fisher. He is a natural talent who works hard and fits in with his teammates. He is a hard-hat player who just happened to be the top pick in the draft.
  • The coaching staff is pleased with the way star running back Jamaal Charles has adapted to the offense. He has embraced the chance to catch more balls out of the backfield. For anyone who thought Charles’ role would be diminished because of Reid’s arrival, just look at the New Orleans game last week. Charles touched the ball on eight of the 14 plays the Chiefs’ first-team offense was on the field.
  • Players love the scheme of new defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. It is aggressive and player-friendly.
  • One of the strengths of this team going into camp was the defensive backfield. It continues to be. This is a deep, talented unit.
  • One young player to keep an eye is undrafted rookie receiver Rico Richardson. He is catching everything that comes his way. He's a long shot, but there could be room for him.
  • Reid is pleased with the addition of spread game analyst Brad Childress and consultant Chris Ault. They are focusing on the pistol offense and working with both the offense and defense in installing it.
  • The Chiefs’ special teams look good. The return game was fantastic against New Orleans.
  • Berry came on strong at the end of last season after missing virtually all of the 2011 season with a torn ACL, and he looks to be in top form this camp. Expect a brilliant season from this young star.
  • The team likes the work of fullback Anthony Sherman, who was acquired in a deal with Arizona for cornerback Javier Arenas. Sherman will be a part of the offense.
  • Fourth-round pick Nico Johnson continues to push Akeem Jordan at inside linebacker. The instinctive, bright Johnson has been a camp standout.

Scott Pioli takes career turn

June, 17, 2013
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Scott Pioli has found steady work for the upcoming NFL season.

As anticipated, it will be outside of an NFL building. NBC announced Monday that the former Kansas City Chiefs general manager will join its "Football Night in America" broadcast team on Sunday nights during the season. He will be part of the studio team.

It is not a surprise that the articulate Pioli received a high-profile broadcasting position. He will offer some solid insight. It is also not a surprise that Pioli is, at least for now, stepping away from working for an organization. It was expected when Pioli was fired after four seasons in Kansas City that he would take some time off.

When will Pioli return to a front office? That’s difficult to answer. First, he will need an offer, but he may decide the high profile, less-pressured world of broadcasting suits him at this point.
For those Kansas City Chiefs fans who are still looking for a reason to bang on the Scott Pioli era, here is your chance.

Javier Arenas is a former Chief.

The new Kansas City regime -- Pioli was fired after four years in January -- sent Arenas to Arizona for fullback Anthony Sherman on Wednesday. Arenas will always be remembered in Kansas City for being the compensation the Chiefs received for tight end Tony Gonzalez.

Gonzalez is one of the most decorated players in Kansas City history. Arenas is a player who barely made an impact in three seasons in Kansas City. Pioli traded Gonzalez to Atlanta in 2009 for a second-round pick in 2010. Pioli took Arenas, a cornerback/returner out of Alabama, with the 50th overall pick in 2010.

Arenas had his moments but never became a huge part of the plan in Kansas City. The Chiefs have continued to upgrade at spots Arenas played and there was no chance he’d make the roster this year. If so, he wouldn’t have had a huge role. The Chiefs are set at cornerback with the free-agent additions of Dunta Robinson and Sean Smith. Along with Brandon Flowers, they are considered the NFL's best trio of cornerbacks.

With Arenas now expendable, the Chiefs used him as a piece to help their offense with the Sherman addition.
The decision to end the Scott Pioli era and to hire Andy Reid is already paying off for the Hunt family. The ownership of the Kansas City Chiefs answered calls from fans to fire Pioli as general manager and Romeo Crennel as coach after a 2-14 season.

The Chiefs then hired an accomplished coach in Reid to take over. Since then, the Chiefs have made huge splashes by keeping several key free agents and trading for quarterback Alex Smith.

It is playing big in the fan base. According to the Associated Press, tickets sales are up 112 percent from a year ago. That is vital in Kansas City, where the fan base was starting to waver in recent years. But the Chiefs appear on their way to filling Arrowhead Stadium once again, and the season is still six months from starting.

That wouldn’t be the case if Pioli’s regime was kept. Fans loudly voiced their opinion about the four-season Pioli era last year, complete with airplane flyovers with banners asking the team to make a change. A change has been made, and it is clearly paying off in Kansas City.

In other AFC West news:

ESPN.com columnist Jeffri Chadiha doesn’t believe Terrelle Pryor is ready to be a starting quarterback.

Predictably, the Chiefs will meet with Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel later this month. He is considered a favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick by the Chiefs.
Giving some life to a dead story, San Francisco Jim Harbaugh coach slammed former Oakland Raiders receiver Tim Brown for his January comments when he accused former Oakland coach Bill Callahan of “sabotaging” the team’s Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay 10 years ago.

Harbaugh was then on Oakland’s staff and he said Friday Brown should be “ashamed” of the comments. Brown repeated the claims last month, but when Callahan harshly rebutted and demanded a retraction, Brown backed off.

In other AFC West news:
There is no recent Kansas City Chiefs’ draft choice more often connected to the previous regime than Tyson Jackson.

It is reasonable to think the new Kansas City regime will not be interested in moving forward with him.

The drafting story of former Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli, who was dismissed last month, starts with Jackson. Pioli took over the Chiefs when they had the No. 3 pick in the draft in 2009. He focused on Jackson out of LSU unexpectedly. Jackson was widely considered a top-20 pick, not a top five pick. But Pioli went with position need and the fact that Jackson was a strong character and over-drafted him.

Jackson has been a decent player in Kansas City. But he has not been a game-changing player.

He has a salary-cap number of more than $14 million this season and he is expected not to be brought back by new coach Andy Reid and new general manager John Dorsey. If they do bring back Jackson, it will very likely be with a huge pay cut.

With Jackson’s future in doubt and Glenn Dorsey a free agent, the Chiefs have already begun to consider other options. Veteran Chris Canty, cut by the Giants this week, visited the Chiefs and he could sign with the team. The Chiefs have the No. 1 overall pick and they could take a defensive end.

It’s a new beginning in Kansas City. That means underwhelming reminders of the past may be shown the door.
Jim Harbaugh could have been a Chief.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter details how the Chiefs, in the early days of the Scott Pioli era in 2009, tried to talk to Harbaugh but the timing was not right. The Chiefs instead hired Todd Haley.

I think Pioli was set on Haley all along. They both had Bill Parcells ties and had previously worked together. Pioli waited several weeks for Haley and the Cardinals to play the Super Bowl before hiring him. Yes, he talked to other people, but Haley was the target.

Yes, Harbaugh should have been. I’m sure he would have found a way to fix the Chiefs’ quarterback problem by now. Instead, Harbaugh is going to the Super Bowl with San Francisco while Pioli has been fired and the Chiefs are starting the Andy Reid era. He is the Chiefs’ third head coach since the Pioli hire.

In other AFC West news: Here is a podcast with Denver receiver Eric Decker explaining why he will not watch Sunday’s Super Bowl which features Baltimore, the team that knocked Denver out of the playoffs.

AFC West notes

January, 30, 2013
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On "The Dan Patrick Show" (via Arrowheadpride.com), former Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli talked publicly for the first time about witnessing Jovan Belcher kill himself at the team’s facility Dec. 1. Belcher killed himself after killing the mother of his infant daughter. Pioli’s words are chilling and a reminder of what a horrible thing he witnessed.

Never shy of sharing opinions on his former team, LaDainian Tomlinson gave his thoughts on what the Chargers need to do this offseason.

Former San Diego offensive line coach Hal Hunter has joined the Colts’ staff.

Chiefs make Pro Bowl history

January, 23, 2013
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The Kansas City Chiefs are Pro Bowl history-makers.

When linebacker Justin Houston replaced Denver linebacker Von Miller (he has a minor injury) on the Pro Bowl roster Tuesday night, he became the sixth Chief set to play in Sunday’s Pro Bowl in Honolulu. He joins fellow linebackers Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson, safety Eric Berry, running back Jamaal Charles and punter Dustin Colquitt.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Chiefs will be the first team to have six Pro Bowl players and less than six victories during a season.

The Chiefs went 2-14 and earned the No. 1 pick in the April draft. Both general manager Scott Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel were pushed out of the organization. The only team since the 1970 merger to send more players to the Pro Bowl with a losing record were the 1981 Falcons. They were 7-9 and they had seven Pro Bowl players.

What does it all mean?

The Chiefs clearly do have talent and there is hope as Andy Reid takes over. The problem is none of the Chiefs’ six Pro Bowl players is a quarterback. It all starts there. The surrounding pieces are in place, but the position that most directly affects the win-loss ledger is lacking horribly.
There has been an AFC West switch-out at linebacker for the Pro Bowl.

Kansas City's Justin Houston will replace Denver’s Von Miller, who will miss the game with a minor injury. It will not have an effect on his 2013 season.

Houston was a third-round pick in 2011 and has been an outstanding pass-rusher, totaling 10 sacks in 2012. He joins fellow Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson on the roster for Sunday's Pro Bowl. The Chiefs, who fired general manager Scott Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel after their 2-14 season, have six players in the Pro Bowl.
The Kansas City Chiefs' hiring of John Dorsey as general manager on Saturday night was likely since Andy Reid was hired as the head coach Jan. 6.

Dorsey takes over for the fired Scott Pioli. But make no mistake, the power structure of the Chiefs has changed. This is Reid’s show. Dorsey will be Reid's right-hand man. And he will be a good one. These two are close friends from their time together with the Green Bay Packers in the early 1990s.

Dorsey joins the Chiefs after being a successful executive for the Packers and arrives with a reputation for being an astute judge of talent.

Dorsey will be charged with helping Reid identify the team’s next quarterback, either in free agency or the draft. A candidate could be Seattle Seahawks backup Matt Flynn. Dorsey is familiar with Flynn from their days in Green Bay. Also, the Chiefs have the No.1 pick in the draft and Dorsey will assist Reid in making that pick.

The Chiefs are starting fresh and Reid will put his trust in Dorsey to help him guide this team to respectability. There is talent on this roster. So, a quick turnaround is possible, but the Chiefs have to hit it big with key decisions.

McGahee gets back to practice

January, 8, 2013
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Denver running back Willis McGahee returned to practice Tuesday for the first time since suffering a knee injury Nov. 18 against San Diego. He is eligible to play in the AFC Championship Game if Denver beats Baltimore on Sunday.

The decision on whether he does play will likely not be made until late next week. If Denver doesn’t think he is ready to play on Jan. 20, the Broncos can wait, then activate McGahee for the Super Bowl if they qualify.

“He’s worked very hard,” Denver coach John Fox said of McGahee. “Greek (head athletic trainer Steve Antonopulos), our trainer, his staff and Willis have worked very hard to get him back. He had a good first day.”

In other AFC West news:

On the general-manager front, CBS Sports reports that Green Bay executive John Dorsey interviewed for the open job in Kansas City. This is no shock -- Dorsey has been considered the favorite to be Andy Reid’s right-hand man.

CBS Sports also reports that the Chargers are expected to hire their general manager Wednesday. In-house candidate Jimmy Raye and Colts executive Tom Telesco are considered favorites. Once they settle on a GM, the Chargers will focus solely on a new coach.

The Broncos named guard Chris Kuper their winner of the Ed Block Courage award. Kuper has dealt with injuries since training camp.

ESPN columnist Jeffri Chadiha wonders when Peyton Manning will be ready to hang ‘em up. My opinion? I see at least two more years. He fought all the way back from a neck surgery that could have ended his career. He had a career year at age 36. Why consider quitting now?

Atlanta executive David Caldwell has become Jacksonville’s general manager. That leaves an opening that could potentially fit Scott Pioli, whom the Chiefs let go from that position last Friday. Pioli has strong ties to the Falcons. If he wants to work next season, this could be his opportunity.

When Andy Reid took over as the Philadelphia Eagles coach in 1999, they ended up with the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft.

They took quarterback Donovan McNabb, and the Reid era in Philadelphia immediately was on the right track.

Will Reid try to take the same approach as he begins his tenure as the Kansas City Chiefs’ coach? The Chiefs have the No.1 pick in the draft and they badly need a quarterback.

The problem is it doesn’t appear that any of the quarterback prospects will be worth the No. 1 pick. The top choices -- North Carolina State’s Mike Glennon and West Virginia’s Geno Smith -- will likely be available later in the first round.

So, I don’t think the Reid selection will change the Chiefs’ draft plan. They will go for the top defensive player available. Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei and Notre Dame middle linebacker Manti Te'o may be the best bets for the Chiefs.

But that doesn’t do anything for the team’s quarterback plans.

I’ve heard several analysts say perhaps Reid can fix Matt Cassel. I don’t think Cassel should be an option. Like with Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel, the Chiefs need to completely start fresh at the position. Cassel is what we all know he is -- a backup. It would be a waste to start the Reid regime with Cassel as the starting quarterback.

I think the Chiefs will need to find a veteran bridge quarterback. It is natural to think perhaps Reid will try to reunite with a former Philadelphia quarterback such as Michael Vick or Kevin Kolb. He could probably get either of them if he wants.

Still, there is a faction that believes that Vick is too turnover prone and because Vick will soon be 33 years old, Reid may not be overly interested in him. Reid was ready to talk to the Cardinals this week, so that means he could be open to getting Kolb.

I think anything is on the table. What if the new Eagles brass doesn’t like second-year quarterback Nick Foles? Perhaps Reid can find a way to get him.

Like before the hiring of Reid, the Chiefs’ search for a quarterback is wide open. But there are now more possibilities. But the reality remains the same -- Kansas City won’t truly succeed until it gets a successful quarterback. That is Reid’s greatest challenge.

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