Pioli acknowledges he has to find more talent
"I need to do my job better. We need to have a
better roster and I feel that we have a good, solid core of players and
clearly it's not good enough and I need to do my job better."
Those words came from Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli on the December day that he and team chairman Clark Hunt fired
Todd Haley as head coach. It was an acknowledgement that Haley could
have used more help last year from the personnel department when
injuries and a lack of depth made for a losing season.
It is four months later and there will be an
interesting dynamic at play when the Chiefs go through the mechanics of
the seven-round 2012 NFL Draft.
Not only is the always opinionated about personnel
Haley gone, but the Chiefs lost one of the key figures in their
personnel operation. Phil Emery had been the team's director of college
scouting for two seasons when he was hired by the Chicago Bears to
become their new general manager, replacing the fired Jerry Angelo.
Emery has been banging around the NFL personnel
landscape for 15 years and developed the reputation for being a
stickler for detail and organization. That became very apparent when he
joined the Chiefs' operation after the 2009 draft and helped organize
Pioli arrived in January 2009 from New England and
brought with him scout Jim Nagy. In essence, they were the Chiefs'
personnel operation for the '09 draft. Previous vice-president of
player personnel Bill Kuharich, director of college scouting Chuck Cook
and their staff of scouts were still employed and attended some of the
pre-draft personnel meetings. But Pioli paid no attention to the
reports, ratings and opinions of the holdovers in the run-up to the
Instead, he relied on the information from the
Patriots that he and Nagy brought with them. Those ratings would prove
to be quite different than what was available to him from Kuharich and
his crew, and that proved to be bad for the Chiefs.
Pioli selected eight players in that draft, giving
up their second-round choice in a pre-draft trade with the Patriots for
quarterback Matt Cassel and outside linebacker Mike Vrabel. They
selected defensive end Tyson Jackson, defensive end Alex Magee,
defensive back Donald Washington, offensive lineman Colin Brown, wide
receiver Quentin Lawrence, running back Javarris Williams, tight end
Jake O'Connell and kicker Ryan Succop. The previous personnel staff did
not have Magee, Washington, Brown or Lawrence on their early draft
boards because of concerns about character and/or level of talent.
During the 2011 season, only four of those eight
'09 draft picks played for the 7-9 Chiefs, appearing in a total of 52
games with 21 starts - Jackson (16 games/14 starts), Washington (12/3),
O'Connell (8/4) and Succop (16). At a time when the team needed all the
help possible while going through the worst three seasons in franchise
history, the '09 draft class failed badly at making a difference.
The Patriots also did not have much success in
that '09 draft. With the same ratings and evaluations that Pioli had in
Kansas City, Bill Belichick drafted 12 players. Only five appeared on
the field during New England's 2011 season that ended with a loss in
the Super Bowl to the Giants: safety Patrick Chung (8/8), defensive
tackle Ron Brace (7/0), wide receiver/defensive back Julian Edelman
(13/0), defensive tackle Myron Price (2/0) and tackle Sebastian Vollmer
(6/5). That's a total of 36 games on the field with 13 starts.
Things turned around dramatically for the Chiefs
when Pioli hired Emery to run the college scouting operation after the
'09 draft. That led to an important 2010 class that produced four
starters (safety Eric Berry, guard Jon Asamoah, tight end Tony Moeaki
and safety Kendrick Lewis), along with important contributors (running
back Dexter McCluster and cornerback Javier Arenas.) Last year's class
included one rookie starter in outside linebacker Justin Houston and
Rodney Hudson, who will start at center this season. Three others
figure to make big contributions in wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin,
defensive end Allen Bailey and cornerback Jalil Brown.
Luckily for the Chiefs, Emery did not leave the
organization for the Bears until after he helped set up the board and
organize the rankings for this month's draft. They'll have his
expertise in some fashion. The Chiefs have to hope that will help them
connect with the talent the team so badly needs.
"I do want to say that I believe in the players
that we have here," Pioli said. "I need to do my job better and we need
to continue to improve this roster and improve the depth on this
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