The "Don" Pioli Way

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After a disappointing 2-14 season, the Kansas City Chiefs can only go up. Right?

As a life long fan I sure hope so. I have studied the Chiefs and just about every possible move they have made this offseason, and I believe that Scott Pioli and Todd Haley are setting the Chefs up for success in multiple ways.

The first way would obviously be in wins. Scott Pioli was stolen from the Patriots and hired on as the Chiefs General Manager on Febuary 13th, 2009.

Quite a sweet Valentine from the Chiefs if you ask me. Since then Pioli has turned the franchise upside down, something that that has needed to be done for years.

His first move was the firing of Coach Herm Edwards. While I put the blame more on former general manager Carl Peterson, Herm Edwards was the coach and quite frankly he just could not get it done on the field.

Pioli quickly snatched up Todd Haley, offensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals, a team that had just lost a very entertaining super bowl. Haley was previously a wide receivers coach, and it was obvious that he knew how to do his job as he coached Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, two top ten wide receivers.

Pioli and Haley then evaluated quarterback Tyler Thigpen, who amidst all of the losses, showed great potential and helped the Chiefs at least be competitive in their games. They believed that while Thigpen did show flashes of greatness, he was not a legit franchise quarterback.

The news first broke of Mike Vrabel, outside line backer of the Patriots, being dealt to the Chiefs for an undisclosed draft pick. A day later and I wake up to find out that Matt Cassel was also added to the trade.

My heart dropped when I first heard this. Cassel took the place of an injured Tom Brady (and if you are a real NFL fan you should all know why Cassel was playing) and led the Patriots to an 11-5 record, throwing for 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

He showed potential, and it was thought that he would be going for at least a first rounder. As a Kansas City fan, I did not want to trade our third pick in the NFL draft for Cassel and Vrabel.

Then I found out that it was only a second rounder for both players. I did not believe it at first.

A second rounder for a franchise QB and a starting linebacker? As it sunk in I became a lot happier with this trade.

As the new coaching staff eventually filled in, rumors spread that the Chiefs would be switching to a 3-4 base defense. Glenn Dorsey, the fifth overall pick from the 2008 draft who plays defensive tackle in the 4-3, would be rendered almost useless as a nose tackle in the 3-4.

It also would limit defensive end Tamba Hali, another first round pick. The new coaching staff however believes that a 4-3/3-4 hybrid could work, much like the Arizona Cardinals defense used last season.

As the 2009 draft approached, mock drafts everywhere had several choices penciled in for the Chiefs third overall pick. The most intriguing was Aaron Curry, linebacker out of Wake Forest.

Curry was considered the best defensive player, a linebacker that is consistent in every area. The Chiefs, who went through several rounds of linebackers last season, would be stupid not to take a player of his caliber.

Through all the problems the team had on defense however, there were also holes to fill on the offensive side of the ball. Eugene Monroe was an offensive tackle from the University of Virginia.

He played left tackle so well that Virginia’s coaching staff felt it was appropriate to move Chiefs current left tackle Branden Albert to left guard. The last and final pick for most mock drafts was Michael Crabtree, the wide receiver from Texas Tech.

Crabtree is widely considered the best receiver in this draft class. Some may consider it a stretch for Kansas City to even consider him, but with a 2-14 record almost every position should be considered.

With the addition of Mike Vrabel, our line backing corps was boosted a slight bit. It was a nice surprise to hear that the Chiefs inked veteran Middle Linebacker Zach Thomas.

It was more of a leadership move rather than a future investment move. Thomas can bring stability to a program that had limited veteran presence last season.

He will help mold younger linebackers on the roster into the best players they can be. I personally loved the move, although it did set off a flare in my head: we added two new starting linebackers, and we already have a solid starter in Derrick Johnson. It made me slightly question what position the Chiefs would be drafting.

About a week before the draft, a report published the Chiefs were in love with Defensive end Tyson Jackson. Jackson was another prospect out of LSU, a school that the Chiefs were beginning to repeatedly draft out of (Dwayne Bowe in 07, Glenn Dorsey in 08).

Most analysts scoffed at the idea of KC taking Jackson with the third pick. He was not projected to go until the bottom few picks of the top ten.

However, his size (6’3”, 295) was a perfect fit for the new defense the Chiefs were beginning to run, and it all goes back to what Scott Pioli said “It’s not about the best 53 players. It’s about the right 53 players.”

Of course when Kansas City got on the clock, Tyson Jackson was not a very likely choice. It stunned many different people when Commissioner Roger Goodell called his name.

Aaron Curry looked devastated, and Crabtree looked slightly disappointed. As a Chiefs fan I was outraged.

I wanted Curry without a doubt.  A few hours later I headed off to work, and I was able to clear my head throughout the day.

Scott Pioli knows what he’s doing. He helped the Patriots win all of these super bowls right?

Two defensive linemen, a wide receiver, an offensive tackle, a tight end and a running back later, Pioli and Haley had their first draft class. It was not considered a stellar draft class, but a stable one. It had Pioli written all over it.

As of now, this is how our starting roster looks:

QB: Matt Cassel

RB: Larry Johnson

FB: Mike Cox

WR: Dwayne Bowe/Mark Bradley/Bobby Engram

TE: Brad Cottam

LT: Branden Albert

LG: Brian Waters

C: Rudy Niswanger

RG: Mike Goff

RT: Damion McIntosh

LE: Tyson Jackson

NT: Tank Tyler

RE: Glenn Dorsey

LOLB: Tamba Hali

MLB: Zach Thomas, Derrick Johnson

ROLB: Mike Vrabel

CB: Brandon Flowers, Brandon Carr

FS: Jarrad Page

SS: Bernard Pollard

K: Connor Barth

P: Dustin Colquitt

 

As of now, I believe that there are still several holes to fill on our roster. Although we added Bobby Engram and a few of our high round draft picks, wide receivers can still be used.

Dwayne Bowe is a fantastic playmaker, but is only one man. He cannot hold the wide receivers down on his own.

Mark Bradley is a receiver that I like a lot. He isn’t great at anything, but he is very good at almost everything.

Todd Haley has already said that he likes Bradley a lot. If Haley likes him, I’m already excited.

Our offensive line could also use some help. Our left side is extremely stable with Albert and Waters holding it down.

But on the right side, we could use an upgrade. Rudy Niswanger was a mediocre center last year, but I’m sure he can be a solid starter if given the opportunity.

Mike Goff is a new player, and though I think he can be a solid starter for KC, I would prefer a younger player. Damion Mcintosh has no place on our offensive line. I know it sounds harsh, but this guy would have a tough time going against a high school defensive line.

Although we added Mike Vrabel and Zach Thomas, we did not draft a single linebacker. Scott Pioli rarely drafted linebackers in the first three rounds in New England, picking up solid starters in the later rounds.

Thomas and Vrabel are both in their thirties and have slowed down considerably these last few seasons. Yes, both are upgrades at what we had, but both are nearing the end of their careers.

Linebacker is a huge hole for us. If either player decides to retire next season, or both get hurt, the Chiefs are left with last year’s crew. And look at what they did for us.

I feel safe in saying that Quarterback, Running back, Tight End, Defensive Line, and the Defensive back position are all safe at the moment. Larry Johnson is getting up there in age, although I believe he can still pound the ball for another season or two before we have to start looking for his replacement.

Jamaal Charles is one of my favorite players on the Chiefs, and I would like to see him in a more expanded role next season. Brad Cottam has the size to be a great red zone target (6’8”, 270), and after a year behind Tony Gonzalez I believe he can do great things.

Glenn Dorsey, Alex Maghee, Tyson Jackson, Turk McBride and Tank Tyler all provide depth on our defensive line. I imagine that a few of these players will be rotated in and out quite often (Maghee especially). Defensive line is nothing to worry as of now, even after our atrocious lack of a pass rush last season.

And well…defensive backs….From the great show Flowers and Carr put on last year I think our cornerback position is going to be locked up for years to come. Add in fourth round pick Donald Washington and we are going to be set.

Bernard Pollard and Jarrad Page are also solid starters. They did not look so well last season, but without a pass rush or a run defense at all I don’t think anyone on our defense looked very good.

The biggest area that would need an improvement would be the special team’s area. The Chiefs have not had a very good special teams unit in years.

Kansas City brought in Keith Williams for a workout a few months ago. Williams was the Cowboys special teams’ captain, and a good leader on the field.

I wouldn’t mind seeing him in a Chiefs uniform next season, leading our special teams up and down the field. We still don’t have a solid kick or punt returner.

We haven’t since the great Dante Hall left a few years ago. However, there are several guys on the roster that have the ability. Dantrell Savage, Jamaal Charles, Donald Washington and draft pick Quinten Lawrence can all contribute.

I believe that Scott Pioli and Todd Haley have put together a fantastic set of players. Some of the moves they have made aren’t my favorite, but I do agree with everything they have done thus far. I trust our new management and coaching staff. In Pioli we trust.

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