Warpaint Roundtable – Offseason Edition IV

This week we discuss Todd Haley's plans as KC's new head coach, Tony Gonzalez and the leadership situation in Kansas City, and Larry Johnson's future.

With Haley hired, if he has as bad of a season as we did last year and this team doesn't improve in one year, do you see us dumping him and pursuing some of the big names next year? Cowher, Shanahan, Holmgren?

Nick Athan: No. Haley is the guy and based on the fact the Chiefs signed him to a four-year contract worth $12 million, they've committed to him. Now if they had promoted Chan Gailey as head coach, then I could buy that theory. But with Haley in the fold, that ends the Chiefs flirtations with the big guns.

Michael Ash: Why give him an entire season? Why don't we see where the 2009 Chiefs are after the first month, and if they haven't improved enough from 2008, we can fire Haley right then and there! Then we can be the first team in line to talk to all those exciting, big name coaches!

C.E. Wendler: This question is so absurd I don't even know where to begin. If we're going to come up with a realistic scenario in which Haley leaves Kansas City after only one season, well, anything is possible, so he could pull a Nick Saban and leave the franchise high and dry. But Scott Pioli is a better judge of character than that, don't you think? Chiefs fans should forget about Cowher, Shanahan and Holmgren for at least four years, and maybe forever.


With Haley aboard, do you think Pioli and he will target offense in the draft and defense via free agency?

Nick Athan: That's a good question. It depends on which theory you subscribe to in building your team. The Chiefs' strength is offense whereas the defense is the weaker link. If you add to your strength I could see Kansas City being aggressive in trying to lure another stud wide receiver or an offensive guard or tackle. On the other hand, with some high-priced talented defensive players likely on the market, the Chiefs could shore up their weakness rather quickly. My guess is that they'll look for offense and defense in free agency and then take the best available athletes in the draft.


What's Haley's plan?
Charlie Riedel - AP

Michael Ash: I don't think they'll divide it up like that. If the Chiefs go into the draft with the mindset of targeting offense, what happens when the best player on their board is a defensive player? Do they pass on him and reach? Whether it's free agency or the draft, they'll target players who can make the Chiefs better, regardless of which side of the ball they play on.

C.E. Wendler: The draft is one thing, but because of the position the Chiefs are in on defense – they are dealing with a unit that needs a complete overhaul – don't they almost have to attack free agency to upgrade their personnel? Unless the defenders we saw on the field last season were being held back by the previous coaching staff, there's just not enough talent on that side of the ball right now. In that event the Chiefs need to add players who can make an immediate impact. They can't wait for rookies to find their way.


With the rumors of Tony Gonzalez maybe leaving, who do you see stepping up and being a leader for this team?

Nick Athan: Offensively it has to be the quarterback. If it's Tyler Thigpen, then he has to be the glue that holds the team together despite his lack of experience. I don't think Gonzalez is going anywhere at all so he'll continue to lead where he sees fit. Defensively speaking, it should be Derrick Johnson, but I do think ultimately it'll be Jarrad Page. He never makes excuses and has it in him to be that leader the defense sorely needs.

Michael Ash: I would be surprised if Gonzalez went anywhere, but if you're counting on an aging tight end to lead the team, you're in trouble anyway. The team's leader on offense should be the quarterback, and I'm sure that's something Pioli will look to address in the offseason. Don't forget, though, there's also a guy like Brian Waters keeping people in line.

On defense, one of the things that appeared in a lot of scouting reports on Glenn Dorsey was his leadership. You're rarely going to see that kind of thing emerge from a rookie, but as he gets more experience and his confidence grows, he may fill that spot.

C.E. Wendler: It's sad that Larry Johnson's attitude has taken such a turn for the worse, because with his past accomplishments and the size of his contract, by now he should be the unquestioned leader in that locker room. But he has chosen to shirk that responsibility. The Chiefs sorely miss Trent Green's leadership in this area. One player who might be able to stand up and shoulder some of the burden is Dwayne Bowe, who is outspoken, has proven himself as a solid starter in the league, and has the right attitude toward his NFL life. Bowe also doesn't appear to be as much of a headcase as some of the other receivers in the league, like Terrell Owens, so there's another positive.


With the current Larry Johnson situation and the fact he still has legal issues to resolve, what exactly can the Chiefs expect to realistically get for him in trade, or from him if the legal issues move forward?

Nick: Either way the Chiefs are in great shape. If Johnson loses his court cases, the Chiefs could get $5.1 million of his signing bonus back and void his contract. If they want to release him, they can absorb the $10 million cap hit. If they trade him, my guess is that the team he wants to play for, the Dallas Cowboys, could give up a pair of draft picks for Johnson. He still has some game but his game is all but washed up in Kansas City.

Michael Ash: I can't see Johnson having much trade value at all. A team would need plenty of cap room and be desperate for a running back to take on his contract. If he parts ways with the Chiefs, they'll probably just cut him.


Will Larry Johnson turn his back on KC?
G. Newman Lowrance - Getty

In the bigger picture, the situation with Johnson is obviously an extreme case, but parting ways with popular players is something fans here will have to start adjusting to. Jared Allen notwithstanding, we're all used to Carl Peterson trying to keep his best players for as long as possible. But the Patriots have let numerous players walk away in recent years once it wasn't financially sound to keep them anymore.

If Pioli had been in Kansas City two years ago, these situations with L.J. and Gonzalez might not be happening, because he probably wouldn't have re-signed either of them in the first place.

C.E. Wendler: I believe Johnson will win his court cases, but no team is going to offer much for him. He's damaged goods at this point, and besides, his value to the Chiefs is much higher than a pair of mid-round picks. Kolby Smith is no feature back, and Jamaal Charles can't carry the load.

I have a feeling that once Johnson sits down with his new head coach, things may be smoothed over. After running into brick walls for Herm Edwards, LJ should welcome someone like Todd Haley, who is going to put every offensive player in the best possible position to succeed.

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