CHIEFS – The Week In Review

What happened this week in the world of Chiefs football? What does it all mean? Nick Athan is here to recap it all and offer his analysis.

Chiefs Draft Weekend in Review – April 27, 2009

As the draft unfolded over the weekend, it became clear that General Manager Scott Pioli correctly recognized that the previous coaching staff and the man pulling the trigger on draft day had blundered repeatedly over and over again the last seven to eight years in Kansas City.

In a matter of 16 hours the Chiefs added two starting defensive ends (Tyson Jackson and Alex Magee) that could be partners in crime on the defensive line for the next five or six years. It signaled that last year's top pick, defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, might be a bust in their eyes. He's already fallen on the depth chart from nose tackle to back-up defensive end. His new head coach, Todd Haley, already has admitted he's not sure Dorsey can play on the outside so you have to wonder how devastating it will be if that scenario plays out.

I'm sure Pioli found out early in watching tapes that Dorsey wasn't a fit for KC's new 3-4 scheme. Despite the fact that the Chiefs paid him $25 million guaranteed they didn't try to draft players to fit around Dorsey. That takes courage and support from team owner Clark Hunt.

That's why Pioli is now in charge instead of Carl Peterson.

If there was a downside to this weekend, it was the fact that Pioli didn't manufacture more trades. Sure, he sent a 2010 seventh-round pick to Miami for tight end Jake O'Connell. But the fact he didn't trade out of the three spot, trade Brian Waters or Larry Johnson, make a run at either Julius Peppers or Anquan Boldin, or trade Dorsey, leads me to believe he may not be done shaking up his roster. He never found a trade he really liked.

Instead he was somewhat conservative, but to his credit he stayed true to his draft board and drafted players that fit KC's system. It was the right decision. He resisted taking the best available athlete (often Peterson's M.O.), and resisted putting square pegs in round holes.

In any trade scenario that involved the Chiefs picking in the 20's, there's no way Jackson would have fallen to the Chiefs. He will cost the franchise a lot of money for a player who would have been taken in the 7-12 range, but when you want someone badly you take a stand. That's what Pioli did.

Overall, the Chiefs ended up having the best draft in the division this year. Is that enough to make them the favorite in the AFC West? Not yet, but it certainly gives them a better chance if this year's rookie class steps up.


Remembering Frank Gansz - April 28, 2009

When he was Chiefs head coach from 1987-1988 I remember him as a fiery and passionate man. Gansz was adored by his players and when Lamar Hunt decided to fire John Mackovic after five years of terrible football, Gansz wasn't initially considered.

However, after kicker Nick Lowery and other players lobbied for Gansz, eventually he was given two years to turn the Chiefs around. It didn't work out well as he led the franchise in back to back 4-11 seasons. At the end of the 1988 season Carl Peterson was hired and Gansz was let go.


Frank Gansz - gone but not forgotten
James Bryant - PonyStampede.com

But if there is one game I remember from the Gansz era, it was a December game at home against the New York Jets. At one point the Chiefs were up 21-10 in the first half but in the fourth quarter they were down 10 points. After Christian Okoye scored a late touchdown, the Chiefs trailed 34-31.

The Chiefs got the ball back and managed to drive down the field one more time before facing a fourth and goal from the one-yard line with just two seconds left. Gansz, with his job on the line and a miserable season already in the books, decided he would not kick the game tying field goal with Mr. Reliable, Nick Lowery. Instead he went for it and running back James Saxon punched it in for the score and a 38-34 Chiefs victory.

Reporters asked Gansz if he went for it on fourth down because he wanted to save his job. Instead, his answer was that he felt his team needed to learn how to win a tightly contest game. He wanted the Chiefs to experience a win with everything on the line.

In the end Gansz was not the right head coach, but he was one of the best special teams coaches in the business and a great person. He may never go down as one of KC's best head coaches, but he was probably one of the most passionate people to walk the sidelines at Arrowhead Stadium.


Kevin Harlan Returns – April 29, 2009

It's only for a pair of meaningless preseason games, but I was thrilled to learn I now have a reason to DVR the Chiefs' final two exhibition games this year. That's because former Chiefs' play-by-play announcer Kevin Harlan is back. I grew up listening to Harlan cover Kansas Basketball games and Kansas City Kings games. He was the voice of the Chiefs for years before he went big time on us with CBS Sports. But he maintains his residence in Kansas City and for my money, is as good as it gets.

Where will Harlan rank among the great announcers when he retires? He could be remembered among the top 10 or 15 voices of all time, and the only thing preventing him from becoming the top man at CBS is the fact Jim Nance is such a stable icon for the network. Harlan should take over Monday Night football for ESPN. He could restore some of the luster that is missing from their broadcasts. However, CBS isn't likely to let him go, so he may never reach the place he deserves.

He may end up as a local boy who reached big-time heights but never the summit. That's unfortunate because what he brings to an NFL, NBA or NCAA game is a sense of passion that draws you into the broadcast. Unlike other broadcasters, who sometimes reach for things to say, Harlan lets the action drive his voice. If you're listening to one of his broadcasts you always know what's going on regardless of the score or time on the clock.

So at least we get to hear that two more times in Kansas City. It'll be must see TV!


Kuharich's Legacy – April 30, 2009

With Scott Pioli firing Bill Kuharich Wednesday, we have to look back at the last three or four drafts to see the improvement the Chiefs made during Kuharich's time in the player personnel department.

Perhaps there was a lack of results on the field, but was that Kuharich's doing or the coaching staff? I mentioned this in regards to Chuck Cook, but coaching is the final piece to the ultimate success and grading of any personnel department.

Kuharich's father was a coach at Notre Dame and in the NFL and knew how to scout players. I think his son inherited that talented. Kuharich had a bad rap after the infamous Ricky Williams trade in New Orleans, but was a sold evaluator of talent. What's often overlooked is that Tom Benson and Mike Ditka ignored Kuharich's recommendation in trading for Williams.

But he was the scapegoat, and eventually landed in Kansas City. Like with Chuck Cook, I spent a lot of time with Kuharich talking draft, players and talent evaluation. He came across as a smart man who knew what he was doing.

When Kuharich took over for Lynn Stiles shortly after Herm Edwards was hired, he changed the entire scouting department and the way they viewed talent. He did that despite the fact he had just a little more than three months to prepare for his first draft in Kansas City.

His first draft produced Tamba Hali, Bernard Pollard, Brodie Croyle, Marcus Maxey, Tre Stallings, Jeff Webb and Jarrad Page. We can all do the math. The best player out of that draft was Page, who many thought would sign a professional baseball contract. But Kuharich was insistent that he knew Page wanted to play in the NFL. He was correct.

Right now only Hali, Page and Pollard have shots at being starters this season. Croyle will probably be KC's third-string quarterback. So Kuharich's first draft really didn't produce much of anything that will have a huge impact in 2009.


Kuharich had mixed success as KC's draft guru
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In 2007, Kuharich selected Dwayne Bowe, Turk McBride, Tank Tyler, Kolby Smith, Justin Medlock, Herb Taylor and Michael Allan. Four of those players might start this year. Bowe is a lock and so is Tyler, while Smith and Taylor might get a shot.

Clearly the Medlock pick was a bust. However, Kuharich had no hand in that, as we discussed this week on our premium forum.

Last season Kuharich had his best draft that included Glenn Dorsey, Branden Albert, Brandon Flowers, Jamaal Charles, Brad Cottam, DaJuan Morgan, Will Franklin, Brandon Carr, Barry Richardson, Kevin Robinson, Brian Johnston and Michael Merritt.

Three of those players have already been cut - Franklin, Robinson and Merritt. However, the rest could all start this season. If Dorsey is on the roster and the Chiefs run a hybrid 3-4 scheme, he could play one of the end positions. Albert, Flowers, Carr and Cottam will likely start. Richardson, Morgan and Johnston, with solid training camps, could each crack the starting unit. Morgan could supplant Pollard.

In KC's latest draft, it's my opinion that Kuharich's responsibilities were only to prepare scouting reports and offer opinions. With Pioli in charge he may not have been much of a factor.

So how do we grade Kuharich? His first class was bad, as only Page emerged as a productive player. His second year was better and could have a significant impact this year. Clearly the 2008 class was his signature draft and rates as his best.

The one thing I admired about Kuharich was that if he really liked a player, he fought for him on draft day. He told me that no matter who he selected that once the process was finished, it was out of his hands. He never offered his opinions, at least not to me, if he saw a player he drafted was not being developed properly by the coaching staff. He was the ultimate team guy at every level.

Two years ago Kuharich turned down an opportunity to become GM of the Minnesota Vikings, and this past year he could have moved into the Detroit Lions' front office. Unfortunately Pioli didn't want any teams hiring away his personnel evaluators until the draft was finished.

Part of that was because he didn't want Kuharich, Cook or anyone else to give away hints concerning KC's future draft plans. It made sense from a business standpoint.

Kuharich will likely end up in a similar position with another team at some point in the next several months. He's a good football man. He leaves behind a Chiefs roster that is in far better shape today than when he took the job.


Chiefs Land New Starting Center - May 1, 2009

It appears Scott Pioli wasn't kidding around when he told us he'd add more veteran players after the draft. He told the media last Sunday that some free agents the Chiefs had been speaking with in March and early April would be revisited after the draft.

Thursday night he signed former Cincinnati Bengals center Eric Ghiaciuc. What does that mean for last year's starter, Rudy Niswanger? He could be moving to right guard, where he has played in the past. What does that mean for right guard Mike Goff? He could be moving to left guard. What does that mean for veteran Brian Waters? He could be shuffling off to Buffalo.

If we've learned anything about Pioli to date, he never makes a move unless he knows his next two, three or four moves. The signing of Ghiaciuc signals that a change in the offensive line is coming.

He started most of the last four seasons for the Bengals and gives the Chiefs a veteran presence at center. He gave up four sacks last year (one more than Niswanger), but it's difficult to grade a center on that kind of statistic.

If I were a betting man, I'd say the Chiefs offensive line will look something like this in 2009.

LT – Albert
LG – Goff
C - Ghiaciuc
RG – Niswanger
RT – Brown/Richardson

I reserve the right to change right tackle. Colin might be the best suited to play that position from a pass-protection standpoint, but Richardson has talent that needs to be refined. Hopefully the new coaching staff can get him NFL ready. Either way the Chiefs have options.

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