NFL Nation: Scott Pioli

The next big thing: Falcons

January, 23, 2014
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The Atlanta Falcons have plenty to accomplish over the next few months as they try to rebound from this past season's 4-12 implosion.

The first step in the retooling process was adding toughness with new line coaches Mike Tice and Bryan Cox. Then came the addition of new assistant general manager Scott Pioli to help bring expertise and a new perspective to talent evaluation.

Next, the Falcons have to see how they can improve the team via free agency come March 11. Cox said he already started breaking down the potential free-agent defensive linemen, so it will be interesting to see if the Falcons can find a pass-rusher at a bargain price. On the offensive line, the Falcons seem likely to target a free-agent guard while addressing tackle in the draft.

Safety, linebacker and tight end also are areas the Falcons need to improve either through free agency or the draft. And it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Falcons add another quarterback to the mix as added insurance, although Dominique Davis has plenty of tools behind starter Matt Ryan.

It's too early to say which players the Falcons might target, although there is plenty of speculation ongoing. Pioli, currently an analyst for NBC Sports Network and SiriusXM Radio, won't even technically start his new position until Feb. 3. Certainly general manager Thomas Dimitroff -- who still has the final say -- will value Pioli's input throughout the process.
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.
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.
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.

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.

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.
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.

Chiefs go big with Andy Reid

January, 4, 2013
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The Kansas City Chiefs have struck quickly and they have struck big.

Andy Reid is coming to the Heartland.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter are reporting the Chiefs and Reid have agreed in principle to a deal for him to coach the team. The deal is expected to become official later Friday.

Reid is one of the biggest names available this season. The Philadelphia Eagles fired Reid after 14 seasons in which he won 130 games. The Chiefs have beaten out the Chargers and Cardinals for Reid’s services.

Reid will have power in Kansas City and is expected to be able to hire his own front-office staff. Earlier Friday, the Chiefs parted ways with general manager Scott Pioli.

Pioli’s hiring four years ago was met with great expectations. It didn’t work as the Chiefs floundered to a 2-14 record in 2012.

But there is talent in Kansas City, and the Chiefs have the No. 1 pick in the draft. Reid’s biggest challenge will be to fix the quarterback problem in Kansas City, and the Chiefs clearly think he is the man for the job.

Please check back for much more coverage on this huge AFC West story throughout the day.

Scott Pioli is out in Kansas City

January, 4, 2013
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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.

Will Chiefs go after a big fish?

December, 31, 2012
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Monday’s events make the Kansas City Chiefs' head-coaching job one of the most intriguing openings in the NFL.

It makes me wonder if Kansas City owner Clark Hunt is priming to go after a big-name coach.

There are clearly some indications that that could be the case. Hunt fired coach Romeo Crennel but said this about general manager Scott Pioli in a statement announcing Crennel’s dismissal: “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."

[+] EnlargeRomeo Crennel, Clark Hunt
Zumapress/Icon SMIClark Hunt now shifts his focus to finding a new coach to replace Romeo Crennel.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Hunt will lead the coaching search and then he and the new coach will discuss Pioli’s future.

That means the team will not be hiring another high-powered general manager. It seems like the coach will have more power than Pioli. I think that means Pioli will likely go. Remember, four years ago, Hunt kept coach Herm Edwards on board until he hired Pioli. The reverse may be in play here.

I just don’t see it working between Pioli and a new coach unless the choice is someone like Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz or former New England assistant and current Penn State coach Bill O’Brien.

But it seems like the focus is more on the future and not making it work with Pioli.

So, perhaps Hunt will go for a big fish such as Oregon coach Chip Kelly. There has been some speculation Hunt could be interested in former Eagles coach Andy Reid.

However, a wrinkle in that though is the report from ESPN’s Chris Mortensen that the Chiefs will interview Atlanta offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter this week. Koetter is not an experienced NFL coach and he is not considered a big-ticket candidate. I’d have a hard time thinking Koetter is prepared to give any input on the future of the general manager.

But it’s early in the process. There is a lot to play out. But Monday’s steps show that Hunt is going about his search in a way that was unexpected. Hunt has a reputation for being immensely private and he doesn’t show his cards much. The word is even his closet confidantes are in the dark.

Hunt apologized to the fans in his statement Monday and he used strong words like “embarrassed.” He knows Kansas City fans are fed up. He saw the empty seats in beautiful Arrowhead Stadium. He knows dramatic changes are needed.

So, this might be the team for a big splash. If Bill Cowher ever would want to get back in the NFL, maybe it could be for the team where he was the defensive coordinator from 1989-91.

I think anything is on the table and I think coaches will listen to Hunt.

Of course, the biggest ding on this team is the lack of a quarterback. That is a huge problem and the Chiefs will have figure something out, perhaps bringing in a bridge veteran opposed to staking its future to a risky rookie from a weak quarterback class. But there are a lot of things to like about this team.

It is a talented roster with a lot of salary-cap room. After all, the Chiefs had five Pro Bowl players despite going 2-14. They also have the No.1 pick in the draft. The fan base is good and the team’s facilities are top notch.

This is an attractive situation.

For those who think Hunt will not shell out financially for a big-name coach, remember that Pioli was the general manager prize four years ago and Hunt got him. Hunt may think it is time to go for it again, this time with a high-profile coach.

Chiefs' problems extend beyond Crennel

December, 31, 2012
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The fact that Romeo Crennel is out in Kansas City and Scott Pioli is still employed may imply that the Chiefs are pinning their problems on the coach.

That is the wrong tact to take.

It wasn’t all Crennel’s fault. Yes, his team was terrible. The Chiefs finished 2-14, which is tied for the worst record in team history. Interestingly, Herm Edwards went 2-14 in 2008. That prompted the team’s hiring of Pioli four years ago.

Fans and league observers alike applauded the hiring. Now, after two coaches, Pioli’s team is 2-14.

The Chiefs didn’t look at many other coaches last January when Crennel was promoted from interim coach to the permanent spot. The primary reason was because Crennel was so well-liked and respected by players. The Chiefs went 2-1 under Crennel to end the 2011 seasons. They stunned then-13-0 Green Bay in Crennel’s first game as the replacement for Todd Haley and Crennel was essentially considered the future coach from that day on.

This was a team that was widely expected to contend for a playoff spot. However, Crennel and his staff did not do a good job this season. There was little fight in this team. They were blown out routinely. Their 13.4-point differential was last in the NFL. The Chiefs averaged 13.2 points this season, which was last in the league.

The Chiefs -- a talented team that netted five Pro Bowl players despite earning the No. 1 overall draft pick -- were tied for the NFL high with 37 turnovers.

Crennel ends his Kansas City career with a 4-15 record. He is 65 and there is a lot of talk the highly decorated defensive coach may retire. It's been a great career for Crennel, who won five Super Bowl rings with the Giants and Patriots. It was just a bad ending. But not all of the Chiefs’ issues are solely on him, even though he stands as the fall guy at this moment.

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.”

Schefter: Chiefs mulling big change

December, 30, 2012
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ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Sunday that he expects the Kansas City Chiefs to fire coach Romeo Crennel.

As for general manager Scott Pioli, Schefter reports the Chiefs -- mired in a miserable 2-13 season -- are leaning toward firing Pioli.

If I had to guess, I’d say both Crennel and Pioli are going to be fired. They are a package deal. I think if the Hunt family had its druthers, it would give both men another chance. But the fan fury is so great in Kansas City, I think the Hunts will be compelled to make a move.

I don’t think firing one of the two and keeping the other will work.

Pioli has hired two coaches -- Todd Haley and Crennel -- since joining the Chiefs in 2009. I don’t necessarily think he will get a chance to hire a third. If that is what is the case, I think the Chiefs will likely make a clean sweep and hire a new general manager (Bill Polian, anyone?) first and then a head coach.

We shall soon see. I don’t think the Hunts will wait long before making a decision.

AFC West wrap: What was and will be

December, 27, 2012
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NFC Season Wraps: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five things to know and my all-division team.

Division MVP: This is not difficult: Denver quarterback Peyton Manning. There is a strong chance Manning will win his fifth NFL MVP award in his first season with Denver. His biggest competition is likely Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson. Manning has far surpassed expectations with the Broncos. Manning, 36, has not shown any signs of slowing after enduring a neck injury that kept him from playing all of last season with the Colts. He has spearheaded a 10-game win streak for the Broncos, who are 12-3 and have a chance to be the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. Manning has gotten better as the season has progressed, and he's having one of his best seasons in the NFL. This was a franchise-changing signing.

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesHe might appear calm under center, but Broncos QB Peyton Manning admitted that he'll be a bit nervous before Thursday night's season opener.
Biggest disappointment: It has to be Kansas City. The Chiefs were expected to be competitive and many folks (including myself) picked them to win the division. Yet Kansas City is 2-13 and on pace for the No. 1 pick in April's draft. The biggest issues were terrible quarterback play by Matt Cassel and his replacement, Brady Quinn, and questionable coaching. The result of the disappointment will likely be a clean sweep of the team’s brass and the search for a new quarterback.

Coaching searches about to commence: We all expected the Chargers to give the gate to coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith last year. Now that San Diego will miss the playoffs for the third straight year, both Turner and Smith are expected to be gone. And in the division, they may not be alone. Chances are strong Kansas City general manager Scot Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel will both pay for the Chiefs’ failures with their jobs. While Dennis Allen is probably safe in Oakland, there are no guarantees, and there could be big changes in store to his staff. So, January will be a busy month in the AFC West with at least half the division undertaking huge leadership makeovers.

Rivers has to be focus in San Diego: Philip Rivers, who turned 31 this month, is ending his second straight disappointing season and is no longer considered an elite quarterback. Still, he must be the centerpiece of the changes in San Diego. Rivers still has several years left and he can still help the Chargers win. But he needs help, and the new San Diego leadership must make it a priority to build around Rivers in an attempt to fix him and utilize him moving forward.

Help is on the way: The Broncos have won 12 games and the three other teams in the division have won 12 games ... combined. But there will be a payoff in the draft. The Chiefs are in line for the No. 1 pick, the Raiders are angling for the No. 3 pick and the Chargers are on pace to select 10th. Thus the draft season will be of supreme importance for this division. The Chiefs need a quarterback, but there are no top choices, so Kansas City may have to take a defensive gem in a top-heavy defensive class. Oakland has big defensive needs and will score a top defensive player, and the Chargers will be on the hunt for offensive line help early on. Expect us to heavily focus on the April draft in the coming months since no division in the NFL will be better represented at the top of the draft.

And now we present our 2012 AFC West team. A few notes before we get to the list.

I used a 3-4 defense because half of the division (Kansas City and San Diego) uses it as a base defense and I thought the linebackers were stronger, so I wanted to recognize four of them. This list features the best players at the position, so I used two left tackles instead of forcing a right tackle, etc. I did use a fullback, Oakland’s Marcel Reece, because I thought he was deserving of recognition.

The 26-man team features 13 Broncos. Excessive? Well, considering the 12-3 Broncos have accounted for half of the AFC West’s wins this season, it is fitting.

On to the list. I’m sure you’ll have a lot to say in the comments section below.

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