A Legend's Approach

"Failure to prepare is preparing to fail." – John Wooden

Outside, the temperatures dip below freezing. The rain falls relentlessly, but the journey must continue to what is now an unknown destination. Between swipes of the windshield wipers, ice collects in tiny fragments.

Suddenly, the wheels of the entire Chiefs' organization loses contact with the road's surface, only to regain contact a short time later on sheer ice. The vehicle is out of control. The driver knows it, the passengers know it and the rest of the world knows it. It's a sure thing - this baby is crashing.

Let it. For the love of Arrowhead, let it.

This operation - called the Kansas City Chiefs - is exactly that, a wreck. It's a mangled heap of shoddy workmanship from the front office to the peanut vendor. It was built to run hard, fast and flawless the day Carl Peterson rolled it off the assembly line and that it did.

Each time, however, when this model was traded in, the quality deteriorated - much like making a copy of a copy of a copy, until nothing remains.

A new model for success needs be forced upon this operation. Herm Edwards' trademark "Know your role. Do your job," approach falls short of this in every facet. The slogan sounds more like a spinoff of Larry the Cable Guy's "Git-r-done."

It promotes individualism. It assigns blame whenever disaster strikes. Most of all, it creates a gap between staff and players because when things turn sour, the players don't believe the coaches are doing their jobs and the coaches don't feel the players are, either.

The solution? Insert arguably the greatest teacher of all time in any sport, former UCLA Bruins head basketball coach John Wooden. Not the 97-year old living legend himself, but rather his brainchild for achievement, formally known as the "Pyramid of Success."

This approach is not only unmatched in the sports world, but the corporate arena as well, and the National Football League represents both entities.

Industriousness, friendship, loyalty, cooperation, and enthusiasm make up the foundation of this formula for triumph. As it stands now, the Chiefs, with the glaring exception of Tony Gonzalez, lack miserably in all five key ingredients found in Wooden's blueprint.


For several games now it seems the Chiefs have thrown their hands to the sky, screaming in unison, "Poor us!" Often, this tragedy occurs with an entire quarter left to play. Success discriminates. Going through the motions will not work. Hard work is a necessity. If winning was easy, every team would finish the season at 8-8 and the Houston Texans might end up playing the Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl.


This is not to say that Kansas City's coaching staff and players need to hit gentlemen's clubs together, or even toss back a few cold ones together every now and again. This is about something else entirely - camaraderie and respect. There is little to none of that right now between these ranks.


Many fans have thought for years that the Chiefs' organization has been more loyal to lining their pockets than making a commitment to being a top tier NFL franchise. It's hard to argue with that. As the saying goes, "To thine own self be true." If the leaders of the Chiefs make commitment to this new approach, loyalty amongst the ranks beneath them will abound, and the team will flourish.


The best ideas do not always come from a coach or general manager. A successful corporation listens to all ranks. If Tony Gonzalez has something to say, everyone in the front office had better listen. If legendary broadcaster Len Dawson is calling people out, people better listen. Frustration is an effect, not a cause.


Simply put, the Chiefs are forgetting football is a game. First and foremost, it's supposed to offer some semblance of enjoyment.

Without this foundation realized, it's premature to discuss the team's current state in the areas of intentness, initiative, self-control, skill, confidence, poise and ultimately competitive greatness (the upper levels of Wooden's pyramid). Look no further than a franchise like the New England Patriots or the Indianapolis Colts. It's no secret why these teams have been so competitive for so long.

This new model must be implemented from the top down. Think of a bottle of champagne pouring into the highest glass of a pyramid before inevitably filling every glass beneath it. Whether the Chiefs' brass can soften their egos enough to commit to a different approach remains to be seen. It's not for yours truly or the fans to decide.

Fortunately, as the Chiefs spiral their way into being not only one of the worst teams in football but also one of the most poorly run franchises, all it takes is one person in the front office to hit the emergency brake. The current conditions will then be seriously assessed without financial reverence because, lo and behold, industriousness, friendship, loyalty, cooperation, and enthusiasm are absolutely free of charge.

The John Wooden Pyramid

WarpaintIllustrated.com Top Stories