After successive seasons of 4-12 and 2-14, the Chiefs predictably cleaned house after the 2008 season. The Carl Peterson reign of 20 years, had brought comfort and complacency to many in the Chiefs organization.
That comfort and the lack of challenged ideas culminated with the youngest, and arguably least talented, team in the NFL taking the field for the Chiefs in 2008. Change is abound with the 2009 Chiefs—but are the Chiefs headed in the right direction?
The Chiefs turned to the current model NFL franchise, the New England Patriots, for GM Scott Pioli. Pioli had the title of VP of Player Personnel with the Patriots but largely performed the role of GM during the Patriots’ championship years.
Pioli worked his relationships with the Patriots to acquire Matt Cassel for a second-round pick, signed some veteran free agent specialists to stabilize the roster, and then had a draft that was commonly graded as a ‘C’ by the pundits. The debate is on as to whether Pioli was a branch (Thomas Dimitroff) or a leaf (Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel) on the Patriots championship tree.
Todd Haley takes over as the Chiefs Head Coach after having served as the Offensive Coordinator for the NFC champion Arizona Cardinals. Haley is a first time head coach, with just two years of experience as an offensive coordinator.
Haley's time as Offensive Coordinator was under the tutelage of offensive-minded head coach Ken Whisenhunt. Was the success of the Cardinals offense the result of Whisenhunt and talented players like Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Bolden, or is Haley truly a blossoming NFL talent?
QB Matt Cassel was brought in after leading the Patriots to eleven wins in 2008. The former seventh round pick has exactly 15 starts in his NFL career after serving as a backup his entire collegiate career. Cassel’s 2008 season totals of 3,700 yards and 21 TD’s are impressive and lead to a top 10 NFL passer rating.
The question remains, is Cassel a product of the Patriots’ system, the genius of Bill Belichick, or is he indeed a franchise NFL QB?
After the 2008 season, Chiefs TE Tony Gonzalez and G Brian Waters were named to the Pro Bowl. These two men were clearly the leaders on the field and in the locker room for the Chiefs.
Gonzalez has since been traded to the Falcons, satisfying his demand to finish his career with a winner. Waters has also demanded a trade and has not attended any of the Chiefs voluntary workouts since being snubbed by Pioli and Haley on an unannounced visit to the Chiefs facilities.
Neither player was compelled to be a part of the current rebuilding process in Kansas City.
2009 will certainly be a year of transition for the Chiefs. Executive, coach, and player turnover has been high this off season. The long-time faces of the franchise, Peterson, Gonzalez, and Waters are gone or absent.
This is what happens in organizations in which results fall far from expectations. Everything is looked at and much is changed. The Chiefs have made the decision to move ahead with unproven, but high upside talent.
The question remains, are the Chiefs headed in the right direction?