Warpaint Roundtable – Offseason Edition VII

This week our crew discusses expectations for 2009, Mike Vrabel, defensive free agents, and Matt Cassel.

Do you believe that Pioli is "rebuilding" or will he expect results this year?

Nick Athan: After Saturday's trade you bet he is expecting results. With the major cap room the Chiefs have and the one-sided way in which Pioli stole Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel away from New England, he's already set the tone for expectations. When he came to Kansas City all he had to do was look around the AFC West and see that this division is weak.

With these additions, and a few more likely heading to Kansas City in the coming weeks, not to mention the NFL Draft, there's no question Pioli expects the Chiefs to win this year. That's a sign of a good leader.

Michael Ash: Both. There's no question the Chiefs have to rebuild, and that process is going to take considerable time. It's not an issue of getting to a certain amount of wins or finding good players at two or three key positions. It's about putting together a 53-man roster that not only has talented starters, but that also has backups who can step in and play at a high level. That element – the ability of players to come off the bench and contribute - was a big part of the Patriots' success over the years.

But as that process goes along, it's clear Pioli and Haley expect far better results than what the Chiefs have been seeing the last two years. Haley's soon-to-be-legendary comment to Brian Waters about how players off the street could win two games says everything about the results they expect to see.

C.E. Wendler: Trading for Cassel clearly indicates Pioli had no designs on waiting to develop a quarterback. In the past we were sold a bill of goods by Herm Edwards and Carl Peterson that losing was necessary for long-term success. Well, perhaps there are examples of that scenario, but if you know what you're doing at the quarterback position, and know how to identify and use talent appropriately, there isn't much losing. When you're wasting time with Damon Huard and Brodie Croyle at the quarterback position, and you don't know how to identify and use talent appropriately (Glenn Dorsey, Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, etc), losing follows.


Why is Pioli trading for a declining player with one year left on his contract who probably wont even play on every down when the Chiefs could sign anyone they want?

Nick Athan: He was a New England defensive leader and has three Super Bowl rings. He's not the pass rusher that he once was, but he did notch four sacks a year ago and that's more than any single Chief in 2008. But the primary reason I believe Pioli wanted Vrabel was so he could be a mentor to Derrick Johnson.

The Chiefs' former number one pick is entering year five of his NFL career and it's a make or break season for Johnson. If Vrabel can show him the path to success, it'll be worth adding him to the roster despite the fact he's on the decline.

Michael Ash: Because adding Vrabel to the roster is less about the on-field ability he has and more about what he'll bring to the Chiefs in many other respects. Vrabel has always been known in New England as a leader, someone who set the tone, someone whose presence was like having a coach on the field.


What does Mike Vrabel bring?
Rick Stewart - Getty

He'll come to Kansas City to join a young defense that's changing to a new system and, ideally, he'll help make the guys around him better. He'll take teammates aside, he'll get into their faces, he'll make sure they know exactly what they're supposed to do. More importantly, he'll make them understand why they're supposed to do it. During games he'll do much of the same, making adjustments, helping guys get into the best possible position to succeed.

Once he's done playing in a few years, hopefully he will have rubbed off enough on his young teammates that some of them will have become Mike Vrabels in their own respect. At the moment it's hard to find many leaders on the entire Chiefs' roster, let alone the defense. Vrabel brings that element. Hopefully he can help develop it in others.

C.E. Wendler: Michael pretty much nailed it, but let me throw out a comparison for you. Do you remember when the Chiefs brought in Sammy Knight in 2005? Knight was one of the few player acquisitions Gunther Cunningham got right. Knight didn't have the speed of Ed Reed or the hitting ability of John Lynch. But he was like a coach on the field, to steal Mike's phrase, and KC's defense was better with Knight than without him. Bernard Pollard hasn't come close to replacing him, and Knight actually had a fantastic season in Jacksonville after leaving Kansas City.

What Knight did for the Chiefs in 2005 and 2006 is what Vrabel will now do for the Chiefs for a few seasons. You can also bet Vrabel won't be a defender who makes mistakes in gap control, and after last season's terrible run defense, the Chiefs need as many of those kinds of players as possible.


How are we supposed to attract defensive free agents into coming here when they have no idea who's calling the plays or what kind of scheme they're going to be in? Or is this something that had been determined and for some unknown reason Pioli thinks it's fun to keep the same fans that pay his salary in suspense?

Nick Athan: I don't think there is any doubt that the Chiefs, or any defensive players that might come through the halls of Arrowhead in the next week or two, know who is going to be the defensive coordinator. The name Romeo Crennel keeps popping up and with the addition of Vrabel, it's certain the team is switching to a 3-4 scheme. So what better man to implement it than the man that developed the defense for those three Super Bowl championships in New England?

It may seem like a problem but in my opinion it's not that big of deal. It might be the worst kept secret in the NFL if indeed it's Crennel. If not, any defensive player will likely come to Kansas City based on one overriding factor – money!

Michael Ash: Considering the trade for Vrabel, it's safe to say the Chiefs know exactly what kind of scheme they plan to run. Who knows where the coordinator comes from, though? Presumably, it's down to two people: either Romeo Crennel, or whichever existing member of the staff (Pendergast? Gibbs?) will get the nod if Crennel opts to stay home and relax for a while.

If the coordinator position isn't finalized, it shouldn't be too difficult to tell free agents, "We're hoping to add Crennel, but if we don't, this member of our staff will run the defense." As for how that method would help attract free agents, it probably depends on the player.

C.E. Wendler: Why does Pioli owe the fans an explanation for anything? What purpose does it serve, other than to make them feel better about what the Chiefs are doing? Maybe Carl Peterson would have stroked a few egos by letting people know every little detail, but Pioli knows this – the only thing that really matters is winning and losing.

Do you really believe Pioli would keep something secret if it hindered Kansas City's ability to sign free agents, hindered the franchise's ability to win football games? There's not a snowball's chance in hell of that happening. I assure you he doesn't do it for his own personal amusement.


What does Matt Cassel do for the Chiefs?

Nick Athan: He instantly makes KC's offense a unit that will win more than two games this season. He brings 11 wins under his belt, which is more than any other Chiefs starter has had since Trent Green left for Miami two years ago. He's going to take over the offense and become more of a leader than Tyler Thigpen ever could be.

Nothing against Thipgen, but when you can put the entire team on your back like Cassel did in New England a year ago, that's like getting a degree from Harvard. Essentially, Cassel attended the NFL's finest university and learned how to become a leader, make plays and win football games, all under the watch of Tom Brady. That's what he brings to Kansas City.


What does Matt Cassel bring?
AP

Michael Ash: He plays quarterback. Yuk yuk! In all seriousness, he gives the Chiefs a solid starter at quarterback, someone who demonstrated the leadership, the physical ability, and the accuracy that teams covet. He also won 11 games in his first season as a starter, which shouldn't be glossed over.

Ideally, he'll continue to improve and become the kind of quarterback the Chiefs can build around. Cassel also gives Kansas City quite a bit of flexibility with the #3 pick in this year's draft.

C.E. Wendler: He raises the expectation levels in and around the organization. No one will be waiting for a rookie quarterback to develop now. The offense will be expected to function at a competent level from the first game.

For the players themselves, Cassel represents an unquestioned leader with the full backing of the head coach and general manager. He'll command respect from day one, and that shouldn't be discounted.

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