For those unaware, the Kansas City
Chiefs were started by an NFL legend, Mr. Lamar Hunt. He promoted
football, soccer, basketball, tennis and ice hockey and was a true
American sportsman at a time when competitive sports as a marketable
product was in its infancy. Lamar Hunt is not in just one hall of fame but in three. He was
the principal founder of the American Football League (AFL), Major
League Soccer (MLS) and is in the International Tennis Hall of Fame
for his work co-founding World Championship Tennis. We all owe him a
debt of gratitude for what we view today as our passion and it’s why
I had to sit down and write this today.
Let’s first honor some of the legends
that made the Chiefs great. Just to remind the people that there was
a time when the Chiefs were great.
Who can forget Christian Okoye, Derrick
Thomas, Neil Smith, Marcus Allen’s time with the Chiefs or a bit
earlier, Len Dawson or even Art Still? For me though, what I fondly
remember is the string of quarterbacks that defined the Chiefs over
the decades. Len Dawson of course as already mentioned, arguably the
best quarterback in Chiefs history even today, but allow me to toss
out some names from history that all wore a Chiefs uniform at some
point in their career. Steve DeBerg, Joe Montana, Trent Green, Rich
Gannon, Elvis Grbac, even Warren Moon and Ron Jaworski (who finished
his career with the Chiefs) have been a part of the story of the
There is the Todd Blackledge story in
1983 whom the Chiefs decided to draft ahead of well, Dan Marino and
Jim Kelly but there are dark moments in their history too.
The irony in the Chiefs of today? The
Chiefs have, for all of their history, been lead by a capable
quarterback. In fact, since their existence they’ve been defined by
the position. With no disrespect intended to Matt Cassel or Brady
Quinn, I think both solid guys, I just feel it’s time for a change.
To see the Kansas City Chiefs in the
state they’re in somehow saddens me. I am a student of history, I
think that most lessons in life have already unfolded and the more
you learn about the past, the more you can learn about the future.
History is a kind but fickle teacher and in the case of the Chiefs,
it makes for a modern day tragedy.
To be fair, it’s not just the
quarterback play that is to blame for the woes of the Chiefs. Let’s
take a step back to understand some recent history, that helps us
realize how the team is structured. The Chiefs front office and
various coaches are disciples of the New England Patriots
championship years. Scott Pioli, the architect of the Patriots and
now Chiefs, is not the man for this job. Head Coach Romeo Crennel,
with an incredible 5 Superbowl rings, isn’t either. Offensive
coordinator Brian Daboll, with the Patriots from 2000 – 2006 and
followed Crennel around the NFL, is also part of the problem. Romeo
Crennel was calling defensive plays up until this week when the
Chiefs promoted linebacker coach Gary Gibbs to defensive coordinator,
taking that duty away from Crennel so that he can focus on the bigger
picture. When the head coach has no idea why Jamaal Charles had just
5 carries in a game, it is time to plug him into that conversation
in-game, not post-game.
The Chiefs have some good men that I’d
advocate for. Jim Zorn at quarterbacks coach stands out. I feel bad
for Jim in a way, given his lengthy career in the sport. Zorn was a
quarterback for the Seahawks from 1976-1984, the Packers in 1985,
then after a stint in the CFL, the Buccaneers in 1987. After his
playing career he coached Boise State from 1988-1991, Utah State from
1992-1994, and Minnesota from 1995-1996 before joining the ranks of
coaching in the NFL. He coached the Seahawks from 1997-1998, Lions
from 1999-2000, Seahawks again from 2001-2007, and was the Redskins
head coach from 2008-2009, he was with the Ravens in 2010 and now has
found himself here with the Chiefs, staring at wide-eyed Brady Quinn
and Matt Cassell in the film room, likely wondering just how the heck
he managed to get himself into this?
There is also defensive backs coach
Emmitt Thomas, he himself played defensive back for the Chiefs for 12
years and bleeds Kansas City Chiefs. There’s nothing like someone
you can trust in your organization that does it out of reverence for
It’s nice to see Bernie Parmalee at
tight ends coach, he was a long time fantasy draft pick in the 90’s
who played for the Dolphins. I’ll never forget the story about
Parmalee. He was working for UPS and decided to try out for the
Dolphins, made the team, and became their bruising starting running
back. He’s a story of a guy that literally walked onto an NFL field
one sunny day and made his own future. He can be a coach in my
organization any day of the week.
With that history in mind, let’s
proceed shall we? So how exactly do we fix the Chiefs? As much as I
respect many of them, you start by kicking anyone that even sniffed
the Patriots during those championship years, straight to the curb.
Those laurels don’t fly anymore and the Chiefs desperately need a
fresh start and given the state of the team today, this would seem to
be a perfect juncture in their history to push the reset button. The
Chiefs need to change their culture short term into a “what have
you done for me lately” mindset until they get the combination of
players and coaches right. There is no magic bullet, if there were,
everyone would be using it but you can make modifications to a
variety of areas in the organization with infusions of culture change
to achieve better results.
First the cuts. It’s not that they
deserve it, it’s just that they don’t fit with the change we’re
enacting. I wish you much luck and thanks for your service but GM
Scott Pioli, head coach Romeo Crennel and offensive coordinator Brian
Daboll, thanks for coming, it’s been fun. Matt Cassel, I see you
hiding back there, you too, pack those bags. The Chiefs need to
cleave the entire history of the Patriots clean out of their
organization, as it’s a feather in their cap that they have used as a
crutch for far too long. There are literally binders full of
football men (so rry, couldn’t resist) that are better equipped to
both motivate and run the Chiefs in our recreation scenario. Men
with character, men with heart, men that will not rest until they see
the job through. It is time to rebuild the organization with a
different focus and a different mindset.
The next priority is at the position
that drives every team in the NFL, the quarterback. In today’s NFL,
franchise quarterbacks usually come from the draft and that must be
the Chiefs top priority on the player acquisition and development
side of their house. The Chiefs of today should also take note of
their history and take note of their success with quarterbacks in the
twilights of their careers with a few serviceable years left on those
retreads. Players like Michael Vick, out of favor quarterbacks with
distinguished pasts (on the football field), make good Chiefs
projects while they develop their young quarterback on the side.
Next, there needs to be a long-term
plan for continued growth and health of the organization, it’s not a
one, two or even five-year plan, it’s a culture shift that infuses
success into the fabric of their organization. Anything less than
the hard road will be the wrong road for the Chiefs. There is no
band-aid big enough that can be applied, the Chiefs need to hit reset
and be reborn in the image of some of the better team builders in the
league like for example, the Indianapolis Colts.
Say what you want about Colts owner Jim
Irsay but ex-GM Bill Polian and current GM Ryan Grigson are exactly
the kind of hires the Chiefs need to make to start their rebuild.
Jim Irsay and his father before him, have the gift that enables them
to pick the right GM for the job. The Irsay family set the tone and
when they hire a staff member, one of the primary criteria that must
be met is that the candidate’s character must fit the mold that the
Irsay family wants to project across their entire organization.
The Colts (and some of the other teams
in the NFL) get it. Character starts at the top and cascades down
the organization, with the ultimate goal of constructing a foundation
of character all through your organization that was built from a
trickle down approach. It is no accident that the Colts have
recently had Marshall Faulk, Peyton Manning and now Andrew Luck, each
cornerstones of a franchise with character to spare.
It’s a long and tough road for the
Chiefs but it’s a road they must travel to get to their destination.
I am going to assume Clark Hunt, Chairman and CEO of the Kansas City
Chiefs doesn’t read a column on a fantasy football website but he is
where the turn around needs to begin, it lays at his feet.
Clark Hunt took over the interests of
the team in 1996 after the passing of his great visionary of a
father, Lamar Hunt. The AFC Championship trophy is named after Lamar
Hunt, due to all his contributions to the founding of the NFL. This
turnaround starts with the Hunt name, in the mirror, in the legacy,
in the father-to-son bond. I certainly do not mean to be
disrespectful here, it’s truly not my style but sometimes tough love
and hugging it out, is the only way to present something. I can
sugar coat the pill but ultimately, you still have to take the pill.
In the 6-years since the passing of
Lamar Hunt, the Chiefs have had three presidents. Two resigned and
the current president, Mark Donovan recently was elevated to that
post in January 2011. It’s a clue that perhaps not everything is
rosy at the top. Since it starts at the top, it starts with Clark
Hunt and it begins with him not only streamlining the organization
but infusing a culture of openness. He has the power to breed trust,
a culture of togetherness to breed unity, and infuse a culture of one
to breed loyalty. One goal, one mission, one mind. There is
opportunity to be had here, a chance to bring the Chiefs back, it
will take strong and tough choices, there will be many dark hours
filled with self doubt but through that darkness can rise a phoenix
to take it’s rightful place in the NFL.
Mr. Hunt, let me address you directly
if I may be so bold. I realize that the other football (soccer) is
your first love. I get that. I know you are an exceptionally bright
man, finishing first in your class at SMU where you were captain of
SMU’s nationally ranked soccer team. I’m going to assume that given
where your family originated, from your grandfathers fortune in oil
to the living legend that your father is, you’ve lived in big shadows
your entire life. Part of the challenge for you, as your own man,
has been to demonstrate that you are perfectly capable based on your
own merit. What an opportunity for you here to prove just that.
I understand that you are also a
founding investor in Major League Soccer and also oversee operations
for not one but two MLS franchises, the FC Dallas and the Columbus
Crew. Given your collegiate exposure to the sport, 2 + 2 = soccer is
your passion, but you are no dummy, that is evident as well and you
fully realize the Chiefs are the cash cow. Valued at just under 1
billion dollars, the franchise can finance many passions. But Mr.
Hunt, the Chiefs need you, they need your attention now more than
ever. Rest only when the Chiefs win the Lamar Hunt trophy for the
man it was named after. That sir, should be your driving focus for
success, as it will be met with more praise than I think you know.