NFL Nation: Clark Hunt

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – Running back Jamaal Charles publicly revealed an interesting tidbit after recently signing a two-year contract extension with the Kansas City Chiefs. Charles indicated the process started last fall when he was approached by the Chiefs, even though his deal had two full seasons remaining.

Smart move by the Chiefs to be proactive. The entire world knew Charles, who was scheduled to make less money this year than 13 other NFL running backs, was underpaid. By engaging Charles, the Chiefs were able to engender some goodwill with their star running back, who took less money in the extension than he probably could have squeezed from the Chiefs.

“Clearly Jamaal Charles is a special player and one of the greatest players already in his young career in the history of the Kansas City Chiefs,’’ Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said in an interview after Saturday’s training camp practice at Missouri Western State University. “We had two years left on his existing deal. The structure of the contract gave us the opportunity to approach him and get an extension that was good for both parties. Naturally, he was looking for an increase in compensation which we felt based on his production was warranted. We wanted to tie him down for another couple of years as a Kansas City Chief. Hopefully he plays the majority of his career as a Chief.’’

The Chiefs weren’t similarly proactive with another one of their players in a similar situation. Linebacker Justin Houston, who is scheduled to make $1.4 million this year, has also outplayed his contract. He stayed away from offseason practice in an effort to spur negotiations but reported to training camp without a new contract.

Houston and quarterback Alex Smith are in the final season of their contracts.

“We’ll get to that at the right time,’’ Hunt said of Houston’s contract. “He does have one year left on his contract, like Alex Smith does. Both of those guys are important to the organization and we would anticipate that process will follow due course over the next six months or so.’’

Thanks to last year's trade for quarterback Alex Smith, the Kansas City Chiefs will have just one of the top 86 picks when the draft rolls around in May. The Chiefs still have their first-round pick, No. 23 overall, but sent their second-round choice to the San Francisco 49ers as part of the deal that brought Smith.

So in a draft that many league scouts are calling the deepest in years, the Chiefs will get just one of the top 86 players, in theory at least. Though it's a situation of their own doing since they agreed to the Smith trade, it's still not a predicament that chairman Clark Hunt, general manager John Dorsey or coach Andy Reid want to be in. They believe in building through the draft.

That's why fans who want the Chiefs to trade up far enough to allow them to draft, say, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, are bound to be disappointed. The Chiefs may not have enough premium picks to allow them to make that trade. Even if they do, it would in effect make this a one-player draft for the Chiefs. They'd have to give up enough of their top picks that the likelihood is slim of the Chiefs getting another solid player through the draft this year.

Maybe that's not such a bad thing if Watkins turns out to be a star. But what if he gets hurt, or is otherwise a bust? Then the Chiefs have been set back for years. So if you're in favor of a trade like that and it eventually doesn't work out, you'd better be ready to accept the down seasons that inevitably come with a zero draft. If you're wondering why the Chiefs of the late 2000s were so lousy, look at their drafts in some of the preceding years.

The bold moves always get the headlines, but the draft is about playing the percentages. The teams that generally do the best in the draft are the ones with the most picks. They -- like all teams -- make their share of mistakes but still have the numbers to make it a productive draft.

Look at the Chiefs' 2008 draft, their best in years. They had two picks in the first round and six in the first three rounds. Their top pick that year, defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, never became the player the Chiefs hoped. That didn't kill the Chiefs, because with two of those extra picks in the early rounds they were able to draft tackle Branden Albert and running back Jamaal Charles. The picks used to draft those players, by the way, were obtained in the trade that sent defensive end Jared Allen to the Minnesota Vikings. The Chiefs also drafted cornerback Brandon Flowers in the second round that year.

That's why a trade down for the Chiefs makes more sense than a trade up. They need more of this draft's top 86 players, and it's more than just a blind guess that Hunt, Dorsey and Reid agree.
Kansas City radio station 610 KCSP is reporting the Kansas City Chiefs will let left tackle Branden Albert, their franchise player in 2013, become an unrestricted free agent as opposed to signing him to a long-term contract.

That wouldn't be a surprising move. We've already told this is going to be a different type of offseason for the Chiefs. For a change, they won't have much wiggle room under the salary cap and have possible replacements lined up and already on their roster for four of their main free agents: Albert, wide receiver/punt returner Dexter McCluster, defensive end Tyson Jackson and free safety Kendrick Lewis.

In a recent interview with KCSP, Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt wasn't speaking specifically about these players, but alluded to some roster upheaval.

"In the NFL today, it's constantly a building process," Hunt said. "You can count on over 20 percent of your roster turning over in any year. That's just life in the National Football League. We'll be looking to get better. Part of that will be through free agency and a big part of it will be through the draft."

The Chiefs began preparing to lose Albert on the April day last year they selected another tackle, Eric Fisher, with the first pick in the draft. The Chiefs have Fisher and Donald Stephenson to play tackle and won't have room under their salary cap to re-sign Albert at a big price.

The same may ultimately hold true for McCluster, Jackson and Lewis as well.

Hunt talks about Alex Smith

February, 4, 2014
Feb 4
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Few issues are more important to the Kansas City Chiefs over the next few months than re-signing quarterback Alex Smith to a long-term contract extension. The recent comments of chairman Clark Hunt to Kansas City radio station 810 WHB are another indication the Chiefs intend to do so.

“When we made the trade for him a year ago, that was part of the thinking," Hunt said. "I don’t think that thinking has changed. He came in and did a nice job. We’re glad to have him as a part of the Kansas City Chiefs and we hope it’s longer than a two-year stay."

[+] EnlargeKansas City's Alex Smith
John Rieger/USA TODAY Sports"We're glad to have [Alex Smith] as a part of the Kansas City Chiefs and we hope it's longer than a two-year stay," Clark Hunt said.
Smith had two seasons remaining on his contract with the San Francisco 49ers when the Chiefs acquired him in March 2013. If the Chiefs don't extend his contract, he will become an unrestricted free agent next year.

Smith had a solid first season for the Chiefs, throwing for 3,313 yards and 23 touchdowns and rushing for 431 yards. He has some room for improvement, such as his completion percentage. He completed 60.6 percent of his passes, which was 20th in the league.

As Hunt pointed out, there's reason to believe better things are ahead for Smith and the Chiefs' offense. Smith and his teammates were in the first year of coach Andy Reid's system, and the Chiefs went 11-5 and earned a wild-card berth.

"Alex is somebody who demonstrated he could play at a pretty high level with the 49ers the last several years," Hunt said. "Certainly, we were hopeful we would see that version of him. One of the things I enjoyed about the season was watching him get better as we went along, which makes sense. Andy’s offense is pretty complicated, even for someone as bright as Alex. But the longer he played in it, the longer the rest of the team was in this offense, you could see him getting better. I think it’s very exciting for 2014 to see where that offense goes."

Smith's passer rating of 89.1 was better than that of Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, Tom Brady and Andrew Luck. It was still only 14th in the league, so there's work to do. But Smith exceeded Kansas City's expectations, in his first year at least.

“You have to give him credit earlier in the year, when the offense was maybe not in sync, for playing smart, not making the mistakes that someone else might have made that would have gotten us beat," Hunt said. "Certainly, as the season went along and we needed to score more points, he and the rest of the offense showed they could do that. The NFL is a quarterback-driven league. You have to have somebody who is capable, experienced, somebody who protects the ball at that position, and Alex has shown he can be all of that."

This is beyond Chiefs' wildest dreams

December, 15, 2013
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Their season will ultimately be defined by what happens in the next few weeks and whether the Kansas City Chiefs can win a playoff game for the first time in 20 years.

But it was validated Sunday in the oddest of places, in a building the Chiefs have always considered a monument to everything evil. It was here, in the basement of the Oakland Coliseum, that the Chiefs celebrated their return to the postseason.

With two games left in the regular season, the Chiefs clinched nothing worse than a wild-card playoff spot by beating the Oakland Raiders 56-31. At 11-3, they pulled into a tie with the Denver Broncos for first place in the AFC West and would win the division championship by picking up a game in the standings on the Broncos over the next two weeks.

That’s a concern for next week and beyond. For one afternoon, the Chiefs were content with their stunning achievement. They had come from a very bad place -- they were a league-worst 2-14 last year and endured the murder-suicide involving teammate Jovan Belcher -- and still managed to thrive. The unexpected thing is that it hardly took any time at all.

"You can’t really explain it in words," said linebacker Derrick Johnson, the longest tenured Chiefs player. He is playing for his fifth head coach in Andy Reid and, until this season, was mainly known around the league for being a great player stuck with some bad teams.

"We’re a humble group," Johnson said. "Last year was a year we wouldn’t wish upon any team, on or off the field. But it’s just gratifying how we’ve grown in the short time, with the new [coaches] coming in."

The big move, of course, was the hiring of Reid as Kansas City’s coach. It looks now like a no-brainer, but the move carried some risk. Reid looked burned out after 14 sometimes difficult seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and endured last year’s death of his son Garrett.

Reid was so energized by his move to Kansas City that he looks like a first-year head coach.

Other major steps followed, all accompanied by danger. The Chiefs hired longtime Green Bay Packers scouting college director John Dorsey, giving him the job as general manager for the first time. They traded for quarterback Alex Smith, who was benched last season with the San Francisco 49ers.

"I don’t know if it validates everything I’ve done, but I’m so pleased to see it come together like it has," said Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt, who hired Reid and Dorsey and approved the trade for Smith. "It hasn’t all been easy. We went through a three-game stretch where we didn’t win a game. It was tough. The guys knew Andy had been there and he had done it. They maintained their confidence and continued to let him lead and as a result we’re sitting here today in the playoffs."

As if the Chiefs needed a reminder of how far they’ve come in one season, there’s also this: They played their annual game in Oakland on this very weekend in the middle of December 2012.

They were shut out, losing when Oakland scored just five field goals. On Sunday, the Chiefs played like they encountered little resistance. Their 56 points is the most they’ve ever scored against the Raiders no matter where the game was played.

"It’s pretty tough to put into perspective," guard Jeff Allen said. "It’s actually amazing. It’s unbelievable. We all believed that we could do it but for it actually to happen is indescribable."

From the outside, that can be difficult to believe. Even at 2-14, the Chiefs were talented. They sent six of their players to last season’s Pro Bowl.

So they didn’t feel this would be a rebuilding season.

"Early this year we saw Andy taking over the team in [offseason practices] and later in training camp," Hunt said. "It was clear to me the process was moving faster than I had anticipated. I had no idea where it would finish."

To the Chiefs, that’s the great thing. They still don’t know when or where it will finish. They just know it won’t end with the final regular season game in two weeks against the Chargers in San Diego.

This journey will continue into January and perhaps beyond. If the Chiefs are being honest, they will tell you that part is beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- No matter where he goes on the Kansas City Chiefs' practice field, Alex Smith has had his human shadow following. Andy Reid casts a larger silhouette than Smith, but the quarterback doesn't mind the fact nothing he does escapes the watchful eye of his coach.

[+] EnlargeAndy Reid, Alex Smith
AP Photo/Ed ZurgaMoving to the Chiefs provided a much-needed new start for coach Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith.
“Certainly, very hands-on," said Smith, one of the Chiefs' first player acquisitions after Reid's arrival in Kansas City in January. “He's standing right behind me, every single play with me, in the huddle at practice and he sees it all. He’s about as hands-on as it gets."

That was the idea when Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt and Reid agreed to the contract that would bring the coach to Kansas City. Reid would shed some of the personnel responsibilities he had during his last few seasons as coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, a move that would allow him to resume a more hands-on approach to coaching.

Shortly after hiring Reid, Hunt brought in a general manager, John Dorsey, who had 20 years of scouting experience with the Green Bay Packers. The plan was then put into place.

“He mentioned to me [during the job interview] that over his last several years in Philadelphia that he had assumed too many roles and had gotten too far away from coaching," Hunt said. “He wanted to return to being able to fully concentrate on coaching. The way we restructured the organizational chart in Kansas City with Andy and John Dorsey being on equal levels and reporting to me has given him that opportunity and he’s fully embraced it."

Reid had the worst of his 14 years with the Eagles last season, when they went 4-12. After being fired at the end of the season, Reid knew he wanted to get right back to coaching.

The move to Kansas City seems to have energized Reid. He has attacked the job vigorously, and the Chiefs, 2-0 heading into Thursday night's game in Philadelphia against Reid's former team, already have won as many games as they did in all of 2012.

“I’m enjoying this," Reid said. “I am enjoying it. It's good to be back coaching a little more than I was doing before, on the field coaching with the offense than maybe what I was doing before.

“Sometimes change can be good. I enjoyed that [personnel] phase for the time that I did it. I’m enjoying this part, too. It’s different. It’s just a little bit different. I was a little more involved with the personnel there. It’s good to have John here doing that. I have ultimate trust in him. Not that I didn't in Philadelphia. That’s not what I’m saying, but I also trust that he has it under control."

The Chiefs have been refreshed by the change as well. They won a weak AFC West in 2010 with a 10-6 record, but bowed out of the playoffs meekly with a lopsided home loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Otherwise, there has been little but hopelessness for the past several seasons. Beginning in 2006, the Chiefs started every season 0-2 or worse, with 2010 being the exception.

The Chiefs had many good young players last season. Six, an unheard of number for a 2-14 team, went to the Pro Bowl.

But a startling lack of direction left the franchise faltering. Reid has provided that direction.

“Andy has put his full heart and effort into it," Hunt said. “I didn't expect anything less from him, based on what I heard during the interview process. But seeing it in person has been exciting.

“I think the players have felt his energy and his passion as well. It’s shown in the energy they’re playing with and the tempo they’re playing with. I really think that’s a reflection of Andy’s personality. They transferred what they learned on the practice field to the preseason games. We saw an improvement throughout the preseason. They were just prepared. They were ready to go and very confident in what they were supposed to do. That carried over now to the regular season."

Smith, who joined the Chiefs via a trade with San Francisco in March, was one of the players who needed the fresh start provided by Reid. Now in his ninth NFL season, Smith is a hardened veteran, having been put through an ever-changing series of coaches and offensive systems for the first several years of his career until Jim Harbaugh arrived as the 49ers' coach in 2011.

Harbaugh provided him with some long-awaited stability until Smith got hurt, then was benched midway through last season in favor of Colin Kaepernick. So Smith is learning from being in the constant presence of Reid, who calls the plays and spends all of his practice time watching over the offense.

“I’ve just been trying to soak it up," Smith said. “[Reid has] a lot of knowledge from over the years. There have been a lot of different quarterbacks he’s coached [who had] different strengths, different tools.

“He does a great job of seeing things fundamentally: my feet, my posture, my weight. He sees all of that. And then the X's and O's, not just on the offense, but on the defense. He has a great understanding of defenses. For me, I’m just trying to learn."
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.”


[+] 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.


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.


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.

    [+] 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.

AFC West notes

January, 14, 2013
Sports Illustrated has reported that former San Diego executive Jimmy Raye has taken over as the vice president of operations for the Colts. That is the job Tom Telesco left to become the Chargers’ general manager. He beat out Raye for the job. Raye was with the Chargers for 17 years.

In a radio interview, Kansas City owner Clark Hunt made it clear the Chiefs would be open to trading the No.1 pick in the draft. That is not surprising, considering that the top talent doesn’t fit with the Chiefs' needs.

But it may be difficult trading the pick because of the lack of a top-draw quarterback and because there are several top defensive players available, so teams may not feel the urge to trade up because there isn’t a clear-cut top prospect.

Fox Sports is reporting Arizona wants to conduct a second interview with Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported that McCoy is eyeing the San Diego job, which he is interviewing for Monday.

The Patriots have added former Kansas City offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. He will start working with the Patriots, who will host Baltimore in the AFC title game, immediately. Daboll was unsuccessful in his one season with the Chiefs.
Scott PioliJohn Rieger/US PresswireOn the same day the Chiefs hired their new coach in Andy Reid, they parted ways with GM Scott Pioli.
Some Chiefs fans became so dissatisfied with GM Scott Pioli this season that they hired a plane to carry a banner over Arrowhead Stadium on game days with the message to fire Pioli. There's no need to go to such lengths anymore.

The most reviled man -- whether it’s deserved or not -- in Kansas City sports is no longer in the picture.

As part of the movement to bring high-powered coach Andy Reid to the Chiefs, the organization has parted ways with general manager Scott Pioli.

This is not the way it was supposed to happen.

As excited as Kansas City is to welcome Reid, they were just as excited when ownership hired Pioli nearly four years ago. He was the top GM candidate available in 2009 and the Chiefs were given a lot of credit for bringing him on board.

He was well-respected for being part of New England’s success as Bill Belichick’s right-hand man.

But, in the end, Pioli didn’t succeed as the main decision-maker in Kansas City. The Chiefs made the playoffs just once in Pioli’s tenure (in 2010) and they flatlined in 2012 with a 2-14 record, earning the No. 1 pick in the April draft.

As the 2012 season unraveled it became evident that ownership likely would have no choice but to fire both Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel. However, Pioli was kept on Monday after Crennel was jettisoned.

Owner Clark Hunt was open to keeping Pioli, perhaps in a simliar role to the one he had in New England. But the franchise will move forward with Reid as the main decision-maker. He is expected to bring in his own general manager who he can work closely with. The favorites are John Dorsey and Tom Heckert. Reid has a history with both men.

This is the right way to go. I don’t think it would have worked between Reid and Pioli. Starting a new era without Pioli makes sense for everyone.

[+] EnlargePioli protesters
John Rieger/USA TODAY Sports Fans became fed up with Scott Pioli's leadership after suffering through the third losing season in the past four.
Pioli said in a statement that he leaves Kansas City knowing he didn’t get the job done. Ultimately, Pioli will be remembered in Kansas City for failing at his two biggest tasks: Finding a quarterback and a coach.

In Pioli’s first move big move as Chiefs GM, he traded for quarterback Matt Cassel from New England. He thought Cassel could enjoy the same success in Kansas City as he did as Tom Brady's injury replacement in 2008. Cassel was good in 2010, but his play slipped in 2011.

Instead of finding a replacement (the Chiefs were rebuffed by Peyton Manning early in the process and they bypassed quarterback Russell Wilson in the draft), Pioli rode with Cassel again. The quarterback struggled and was benched during the 2012 season.

Pioli also failed with two coaching hires in Todd Haley and Romeo Crennel.

These moves made it very difficult for Pioli to succeed. They weren’t his only failures, though. He drafted just one Pro Bowl player -- Eric Berry in the first round in 2010. Four of the Chiefs’ five Pro Bowl players were on the roster when Pioli took over. He also failed to take advantage of a strong salary-cap situation.

Pioli also has a reputation for not being easy to work with. Haley went as far as to say he thought Pioli spied on him and there were accounts of other employee uneasiness.

Friday’s decision has been met with celebration by much a fan base that was fed up with a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game in 20 years. Like his hiring did four years ago, Pioli's dismissal brings hope to the fan base.

In the end, Pioli is still a smart football man and I can see him getting looks at other spots. If he doesn’t become a candidate for other openings, he could end up in Atlanta, Chicago or New England. He has ties to all three places.

As for the Chiefs, it is now all about Reid’s leadership. The Chiefs hope he has enough success to keep any flying protests grounded.
On Monday, hours after firing yet another unsuccessful head coach, Clark Hunt reached out to season ticket holders of the Kansas City Chiefs with a personalized email.

In it, Hunt expressed his sorrow and embarrassment over what has become of the franchise that his father, the legendary Lamar Hunt, made one of the most respected franchises in NFL history. The young Hunt, who has always preferred to stay in the background, promised better days ahead.

By the end of the week, the franchise's CEO gave his fan base huge reason for optimism.

By hiring Andy Reid -- arguably the biggest and best name of the available coaches -- Hunt has shown he is serious about making his team a winner.

“This is instant credibility,” said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. “It’s much like Denver hiring John Fox and St. Louis hiring Jeff Fisher ... it’s great for the long haul.”

[+] EnlargeAndy Reid
Eric Hartline/USA TODAY SportsAndy Reid brings lots of playoff experience and professionalism to Kansas City.
It became clear early that Hunt’s plan to revive the Chiefs -- who went from an expected playoff contender to a 2-14 team that has earned the No. 1 pick in the April draft -- was to get a powerful coach.

Four years ago, Hunt tried to keep the same structure that the franchise held from 1989-2008 when Carl Peterson ran the organization. Hunt hired Scott Pioli as general manager and it was met with high expectations because of Pioli’s success as part of the process in New England. The team parted ways with Pioli on Friday, shortly before finalizing the Reid hiring.

Pioli was the hot general manager candidate in 2009. Hiring him was a sign of Hunt going for it. Now, after the Pioli experience didn’t work, Hunt is going with a different strategy. But he’s still going for it.

Hunt is giving the power of the team to a coach. Reid will report directly to Hunt. It is a sign to the fans that Hunt is really serious about fixing this issue. A look at Reid’s track record suggests it is a worthwhile endeavor.

He won 130 games in Philadelphia and was a fixture in the playoffs. He knows how to run a team and an organization.

Reid is known for being a good man and for being a fair coach. He needs to create a happier atmosphere at Arrowhead Stadium. Pioli was known for being abrasive to some employees and it wasn’t always a pleasant work atmosphere even though recently fired coach Romeo Crennel was well liked by players and team employees.

The tone of the atmosphere is set by the man running the program, and Reid can change the feeling around the building. The importance of that cannot be underscored. In Denver (even before Peyton Manning arrived), players and employees raved about the atmosphere Fox created after the not-always fun regimes of Mike Shanahan and Josh McDaniels.

The hiring of Reid and the departure of Pioli pushes the restart button for everyone involved. Everyone needs a new start.

In addition to the losing, the Chiefs had to deal with the December murder-suicide of starting linebacker Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend Kasandra M. Perkins. Belcher killed himself in front of Pioli and Crennel in the team’s parking lot.

Reid also is coming off a terribly painful season. His son, Garrett, died at the team’s training camp before a terrible on-field season commenced.

This is a fresh start for everyone. Still, there is plenty of work to be done.

Reid needs to find a quarterback and find a way to get success out of a talented but underachieving roster.

But Reid picked this job instead of talking to the Cardinals and the Chargers for many reasons. He likes the stability of the Hunt family. He likes the roster. He likes having the No. 1 draft pick. He likes the passion of Chiefs fans. He probably also likes the fact that coaching in Kansas City will be less of a fish bowl than in Philadelphia.

He likes the idea of making Arrowhead Stadium a dreadful place for opponents to visit again.

And Hunt likes the idea of Reid getting the job done. Will it work? That is to be seen. But there is no doubt Reid is equipped to handle the job, and give Hunt credit for quickly recognizing that in an attempt to end the misery in Kansas City.

Scott Pioli is out in Kansas City

January, 4, 2013

The Kansas City Chiefs made a big move Friday morning that will probably soon be followed by an even bigger move.

The Chiefs announced they parted ways with general manager Scott Pioli after four years with the team. Monday, when the team fired Romeo Crennel, it indicated that Pioli would be under review.

The team is on the brink of hiring former Philadelphia coach Andy Reid. Barring a breakdown, the Chiefs should have their targeted coach by the end of the day. ESPN is reporting that Reid has canceled planned interviews with the Chargers and the Cardinals. Reid’s focus remains solely on finishing a deal with the Chiefs.

Reid is expected to get significant power in Kansas City. That is likely a reason why he canceled in San Diego. Reid is from Southern California and has been said to be intensely interested in working for the Chargers. But the Chargers want to maintain a more traditional structure.

That is not a problem in Kansas City, where Pioli is out. There was little chance a strong-willed, powerful coach like Reid would work with Pioli, who is also strong-willed. Pioli’s time in Kansas City was met with great anticipation, but it produced little.

I will be back with more thought s on Pioli’s departure. Here are some statements on the move.

From owner Clark Hunt:

“After several productive conversations, we made the difficult decision to part ways with Scott Pioli and allow him to pursue other opportunities,” said the Chiefs Chairman and CEO. “Scott has been an invaluable member of the Chiefs family since joining us in 2009, and we sincerely appreciate his tremendous contributions over the last four years.

“I know that this was a difficult decision for Scott as well. He has a great deal of appreciation for the history of this franchise, for our players, coaches and employees, and especially our great fans.

“There is no way to overstate the level of respect and admiration I have for Scott on a personal level. His character, loyalty, integrity and commitment to a team are extraordinary, and throughout the last four years, he has consistently put the best interests of the Chiefs ahead of his own. I know he will go on to enjoy further success in the National Football League, and I certainly wish him the best in the future.”

From Pioli:

“I would like to thank Norma, Clark and the Hunt Family for the opportunity that they gave me four years ago. I’d also like to thank the players, coaches, scouts and countless other employees, throughout the organization and at Arrowhead Stadium that have worked so hard during my time here. I would also like to genuinely thank Chiefs fans.

“The bottom line is that I did not accomplish all of what I set out to do. To the Hunt family -- to the great fans of the Kansas City Chiefs -- to the players, all employees and alumni, I truly apologize for not getting the job done.”

With Reid out, the Chargers’ search might be focused on former Chicago coach Lovie Smith and Indianapolis offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.

The Kansas City Chiefs have begun the cleanup project after a miserable 2-14 season.

And they are taking an unusual route.

The team announced head coach Romeo Crennel has been fired. But the team will not fire general manager Scott Pioli ... yet.

Owner Clark Hunt released a statement announcing Crennel’s firing. In it, he apologized to fans for the terrible season and said this about Pioli: "The entire football operation will remain under review, and there may be additional changes to come. No final determination has been made at this point on the future of general manager Scott Pioli.”

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Hunt will lead the charge to hire a new coach and then Hunt and the new coach will discuss the direction they want to take at general manager. That is very unusual, especially when there is a strong-willed general manager such as Pioli in place.

This could be an indication that the Chiefs will target an experienced, high-profile coach. I couldn’t imagine Hunt would rely on the input of a young coach regarding the future of the general manger position.

This, at the very least, suggests Pioli’s power will be greatly decreased if he stays. I can’t see Pioli being excited about that prospect.

This is an interesting developing story. I will have more reaction later. Here is Hunt’s complete statement:

"I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for Romeo, both personally and professionally. He is an accomplished coach, a man of great character and he helped guide our football team through some extremely challenging circumstances this season.

“However, I am embarrassed by the poor product we gave our fans this season, and I believe we have no choice but to move the franchise in a different direction. I will immediately begin the search for the next head coach of the Chiefs. The entire football operation will remain under review, and there may be additional changes to come. No final determination has been made at this point on the future of general manager Scott Pioli.

“Finally, I want to personally apologize to our fans for our performance this season. We are blessed to play for some of the best and most passionate fans in the National Football League and they deserve better than what we gave them this season. I want our fans to know that I will do everything I can to provide them with a dramatically better team -- both next season and in the seasons to come -- and our entire organization appreciates their support.”
The Kansas City Chiefs just announced they have formed a trust for the 3-month-old daughter of Jovan Belcher and Kasandra M. Perkins.

The trust has been established through contributions from the Hunt family as well as from players, coaches and staff to help Zoey Michelle Belcher. Jovan Belcher killed Perkins at their home and then killed himself at the team’s facility last Saturday.

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families and everyone affected by the heartbreaking events of last Saturday,” Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said in a statement. ”As we continue to struggle with the emotional pain from the tragedy, the Chiefs family is focused on helping 3-month-old Zoey Michelle Belcher as she faces the challenge of growing up without the support of her parents. Zoey will always be a part of the Chiefs family, and we hope that this trust will help to ensure she has the resources necessary as she grows up.”

According to the team, contributions may be sent to:

Zoey Belcher Trust

UMB Bank – Attn: Trust Division

P.O. Box 419226

Kansas City, MO 64179

Any checks should be made payable to:

UMB Bank, N.A., Trustee of the Zoey Michelle Belcher Irrevocable Trust.

Clark Hunt discusses tragedy

December, 2, 2012

The Kansas City Chiefs released a transcript of a media briefing with team owner Clark Hunt on Sunday as he discussed the murder-suicide involving starting linebacker Jovan Belcher and his 22-year-old girlfriend, Kasandra M. Perkins:

Opening statement: “It's been a rough 24 hours for our family and the entire organization. We have so many guys on the team and the coaching staff who are really, really hurting.”

On the state of mind of head coach Romeo Crennel, general manager Scott Pioli and linebackers coach Gary Gibbs: “I spent the evening last night at the team hotel with them. I wanted to be there with the team, with the coaches, to let them know that I love them and that I know what they are going through. Particularly for the guys in the parking lot when Jovan took his life -- I know this has to be incredibly difficult. We have a lot of players that are really struggling, people who have spent countless hours with Jovan for several years, the linebacking group in particular. I just know it is going to be a very difficult day. I told them all we can do in a situation like this is pull together as a family and support each other.”

Where were you yesterday when the incident occurred? Were you in town? “Scott called me from the parking lot shortly after the incident took place, and I was informed at that time. I flew up in the afternoon to be with the team last night.”

On this tragedy compared to other losses suffered by the organization: “I spent a fair amount of time reflecting on the other losses the organization has suffered and no two of them are the same. Yesterday there were two victims; we lost two members of the Chiefs family. Kasandra was part of our Chiefs Women’s Organization and had done things in the community with the CWO group. They have a daughter now, Zoey, who is an orphan, and I just imagine how difficult that is going to be.”

Did the team give any thought to not playing this game? Did you talk to the league about postponing? “I had a number of conversations yesterday with Commissioner [Roger] Goodell, and at the end of the day, I decided to leave it up to Coach Crennel and the team. I asked Romeo to call the captains and ask the captains whether or not they felt we should go through with the game. Of course, the captains had been in conversation with their teammates, and they unanimously believed that the right thing to do was to play the game. So, that's how the decision was made.”

How eerie is this day today? “It's just different. I think you mentioned earlier, there's really nothing you can do to prepare for this. It's tough and, again, I come back to the fact that the guys rally around each other to make it through the day.”

What do you expect from the team today? “Honestly, I don't know. There are not a lot of examples like this that you can point to. I know they'll be out there battling for each other, but beyond that, I really can't say.”

AFC West coaching possibilities

November, 30, 2012
We are exactly a month from the end of the NFL regular season. Thus we are a month and one day from the start of the first process of the 2013 season: the firing of head coaches.

With five games remaining, both the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers have to be considered prime candidates to make a coaching change. The Chiefs are 1-10, and Romeo Crennel has to be in danger even though he is in his first full season as coach. In San Diego, Norv Turner’s team is 4-7. It was a major surprise that the team kept Turner after last season. I don’t see any way he makes it to another season, barring an unlikely playoff berth.

The coach firings might not be the end in both cities. If Crennel is fired, general manager Scott Pioli will likely suffer the same fate. I get the feeling Kansas City owner Clark Hunt wants to keep both Pioli and Crennel, but the fan fury is so great, I doubt he'll be able to. San Diego general manager A.J. Smith may also be on the firing line, but I can see a situation where he is kept and Turner is not.

There is always a chance Oakland owner Mark Davis can lose patience and end the Reggie McKenzie-Dennis Allen tandem after one season (or just get rid of coach Allen). But I believe Davis will stick with the current situation despite a disappointing first year.

With potential change in the air, let’s look at some of the coaching candidates, in alphabetical order, who could be available:

Brian Billick
AP Photo/Gail BurtonBrian Billick went into broadcasting after he was fired by the Ravens in 2008.
Bruce Arians, interim Indianapolis head coach: I’m intrigued by Arians. The longtime offensive coordinator is doing a fantastic job with Colts coach Chuck Pagano out because of his fight with cancer. This is a unique situation. Teams could hire a coach who may lead a team to the playoffs without any restrictions -- and what an audition Arians is having. He has worked with Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh and Andrew Luck in Indianapolis. I could see the Chargers being interested in pairing him with Philip Rivers. The Chiefs could also be a fit for Arians.

Brian Billick, former Baltimore head coach: Billick is interesting because he is a Super Bowl-winning coach who might be reasonably priced. He has a reputation for being a strong offensive mind and a strong leader. He could fit in both San Diego and Kansas City, and I think he could work with an established general manager.

Bill Cowher, former Pittsburgh head coach: When Cowher decides he wants to come back, he will likely have his pick of jobs. I’m not sure if any of the AFC West jobs would be more attractive to him than others. Still, Cowher has a history in Kansas City and is the dream coach for many Chiefs fans. But he may be way too pricey for the team.

Jack Del Rio, Denver defensive coordinator: Del Rio has done a terrific job in Denver and had lots of head coaching experience in Jacksonville. I have a feeling he may remain Denver’s defensive coordinator, but he could be a reasonably priced option for the Chiefs or Chargers.

Jon Gruden, former Oakland and Tampa Bay head coach: The most frequent question I get from readers is this: Is there a chance Gruden could come back to coach the Raiders? I’ve heard that countless times since Gruden was fired by Tampa Bay after the 2008 season. My answer now is the same as always: Probably not. There have been plenty of opportunities for Gruden to come back to Oakland and it has not happened. Never say never, but I’d be surprised. If there is a fit this offseason in the division, I’d say it would be San Diego. I think Gruden -- some reports say the University of Tennesee wants to hire Gruden -- would love to live in San Diego, and he’d love to work with Rivers. I’m not saying Gruden is a favorite to end up in San Diego, but it wouldn’t shock me.

Chip Kelly, University of Oregon head coach: See Cowher. Kelly will get his pick of jobs and he will cost a ton. I’m not sure he’d fit in the AFC West, although working with Rivers could be intriguing to him.

Mike McCoy, Denver offensive coordinator: He is going to be a hot candidate. I think the preferred destination for McCoy, a former Panthers assistant, is to go to Carolina if the Panthers fire Ron Rivera; he is highly regarded there. I could see him receiving interest from the Chiefs as well. He is young, bright and won’t break the bank.

[+] EnlargeChip Kelly/David Shaw
AP Photo/Paul SakumaOregon's Chip Kelly, left, may be too pricey for the AFC West; Stanford's David Shaw could fit better.
Wade Phillips, Houston defensive coordinator: The only reason I put Phillips on this list is if Smith remains in San Diego. Smith admires Phillips from Phillips' days as the Chargers’ defensive coordinator. I think he’d be a candidate if Smith is making the choice.

Andy Reid, Philadelphia head coach: Reid is very likely entering his last month in Philadelphia after a tenure that started in 1999. The word around the league is that he will get instant interest. If Reid doesn’t opt to take time off, I could see San Diego being a fit. He has a home in the area and he’d work well with Rivers. But would the Chargers want to replace Turner with a veteran coach who just flamed out after a long stay with a team?

Rex Ryan, New York Jets head coach: It is no sure thing he will be fired, but there’s a chance. I think he could get some interest in the AFC West. He was a finalist in San Diego when Turner got the job. I think the Chiefs could also be interested. They have the makings of a good 3-4 defense -- Ryan’s specialty. Putting him in a small media market could also save Ryan from himself occasionally.

David Shaw, Stanford University head coach: This is one of my favorites. I can really see Shaw ending up in San Diego. He was born there and may be one of the hot young coaches available. I think he’d be perfect for San Diego whether Smith is there or not. His father, Willie Shaw, was a longtime NFL assistant. David Shaw played for Bill Walsh. He worked for Al Davis. He was an assistant to Jim Harbaugh and he has coached Luck. And he has won as a head coach. If I was hiring a coach next month, I’d seriously investigate this 40-year-old.


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