A Reader’s Look: Consistency Missing Under Hunt

Clark Hunt inherited control of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2006 when Lamar died. Since then, the Chiefs have had two general managers, three head coaches, four offensive coordinators, three defensive coordinators and the other coaching positions have been a revolving door. When this season ends, the coaching staff will be overhauled again. By the time the 2012 season begins, the Chiefs will have likely undergone the most coaching changes in the shortest amount of time in the history of the franchise.

Hunt has also fired most of the front office personnel, with most being escorted from the building by a security guard. Almost all of the public relations staff has changed. The scouting staff that drafted the most successful draft class in the last ten years (2008) and that drafted most of the franchise’s core players (Johnson, Hali, Bowe, Carr, Flowers, Charles, Dorsey, Colquitt, Albert) was disregarded and summarily dismissed in 2009.

Under Hunt, the franchise has become secretive and security now has a high priority. One wonders why. Since Clark took over full management of the franchise, the Chiefs are 25-52 with one division title. It is the second worst five-year stretch in franchise history, surpassed only by the 1974-78 stretch, when their record was 21-51. It is highly unlikely that any other franchise is nosing around attempting to replicate that record. By contrast, from 2001 through 2006, the Chiefs were 53-43 with one division title and one wildcard appearance. Hunt didn’t inherit a bad team or a bad organization.

Since Clark Hunt arrived, the Chiefs have started seven different quarterbacks (Green, Huard, Croyle, Thigpen, Cassel, Palko and now Orton) in five years. Every position on the offensive line has changed at least once, with the right tackle and right guard undergoing multiple changes. Every position on the defensive line has changed at least twice, and the Chiefs scrapped the 4 – 3 alignment for the 3 – 4 alignment because Scott Pioli was supposedly the best talent evaluator for that defense. I’ve lost count of the number of different starting wide receivers in 2009, but it’s safe to say that there have been at least 15 different wide receivers that started since 2006.

The franchise is performing worse than it was the year Lamar passed away. At the end of the 2006 season, the Chiefs ranked 16th in total offense, scoring an average of 20.7 points a game. Right now, they rank 28th and average only 13.3 points per game. At the end of 2006 the defense ranked 16th, giving up an average of 19.7 points per game. The Chiefs currently rank 14th and yield 23.5 points per game.

Under Pioli’s direction, the Chiefs are 19-26 and one division title which will likely be sandwiched between two last-place finishes. The Chiefs ranked 24th in offense and averaged 18.2 points per game the year before Pioli arrived, and had to start three different quarterbacks due to injuries. They now rank 28th in offense and average 13.3 points per game, and will start at least three quarterbacks this year, due in large part to injuries. The Chiefs ranked 31st in defense, giving up an average of 27.5 points a game before Pioli arrived and now rank 14th in defense and give up an average of 23.5 points a game. Most of the key players on defense are the same as they were in 2008 – Hali, Johnson, Carr, Flowers, Gilberry and Dorsey – with the exceptions being safeties Pollard and Page, now with Baltimore and Minnesota, respectively. DE Jason Babin, now with Philadelphia (15 sacks this year) and NT Ron Edwards, who signed with Carolina and is now on injured reserve were here as well.

Hunt’s first coach was Herm Edwards, who took over a veteran laden high performing offense/low performing defense team and tried to make them into a complete team. Edwards tried to rebuild the team through youth but wasn’t allowed to finish the job because the team lost so many games. Edwards came to the Chiefs with a winning record and exited with an overall losing record. Edwards thanked the Hunt family for allowing him the opportunity to coach the team and they presumably continued to pay him hundreds of thousands of dollars per month for the remainder of his contract.

The franchise mantra went from rebuilding through youth to changing the culture when Hunt hired Pioli and Haley. Hunt changed it to “consistency” when he fired Todd Haley for not being consistent. Haley thanked the Hunt family for allowing him the opportunity to coach the team and they presumably will continue to pay him hundreds of thousands of dollars per month for the remainder of his contract.

After sitting through negotiations across the table from each other during the NFL lockout, Brian Waters, Mike Vrabel and Clark Hunt decided they no longer wanted to be part of the same organization. Vrabel retired after telling everyone that he would return. Waters now starts for the 10-3 Patriots after both he and the franchise decided they would be better off without each other. The offensive line has suffered in Waters’ absence. Through 13 games, the offensive line has allowed 33 sacks compared to 32 during the entire 2010 season. The team’s rushing average is down from 4.7 yards per rush in 2010 to 3.9 yards. The offensive line has performed below expectations.

Unfortunately for the Chiefs, history has proven that Pioli’s reputation as a top-notch talent evaluator was overstated. This should not have come as a surprise, as a well-researched article compiled by the Kansas City Star’s “Under Further Review” showed that Carl Peterson’s drafts were equal to or slightly better than Pioli’s for the same time period, even taking Tom Brady into account. Nonetheless, fans hoped for more, as the success of the Patriots over the same time period was undeniable and unequaled.

Although Hunt doesn’t talk much, what he does say is as revealing. When he talked about the arrival of Scott Pioli and Todd Haley, he told us: “Looking back, maybe it looks easier than it was at the time. Clearly we were in a pretty big hole going back two or three years. The team was not performing well. I didn’t feel that we had drafted well for a number of years. The talent cupboard was empty. It was time for us to make a change which we did.”

As we now know, the talent cupboard not only wasn’t bare, but contained the core of today’s team, including Hali, Johnson, Bowe, Charles, Flowers, Colquitt, Carr, Dorsey and Albert. Also there at the time were Babin, Waters and Tony Gonzalez, who was all-pro during that time.

The foundation for success was there in 2006. The team was not handicapped by the salary cap. The facilities at Arrowhead are first-rate and the franchise had received support from taxpayers to improve the facilities. The fans were fanatics in the true sense of the word, and games had been sold out for years. The franchise was well regarded and ranked high in team sales. The personnel running the franchise were highly experienced.

The Haley firing and the timing of it removed any doubt as to who is running this franchise. Clark Hunt showed up and read his prepared statement looking calm and cool with his hair perfectly combed while Pioli sat next to him with bags under his eyes due to the stress and probable lack of sleep. It was Pioli who acknowledged that he was accountable, while Hunt just sat there. Both of them refused to answer any hard questions, sticking with their pre-arranged agenda.

All signs point to Clark Hunt as the weak link. He’s the only guy who has been in charge for five years. He fired all of the other decision makers and most if not all of the personnel on both the business and football sides of the franchise. Haley, Pioli and most of the coaches on this team are highly experienced, and they get fired if they don’t win, so it is highly unlikely that any of them would have advised Hunt to stand pat when it was obvious that they were lacking in depth for the offensive line, defensive line, quarterback, linebacker and secondary positions. They would have pushed him to sign more available players during the off-season and into the season, when LB Aaron Curry became available. At the very least, they would have pushed him to retain Shaun Smith, Ron Edwards and Brian Waters.

If I’m wrong and these are all decisions made by Haley and Pioli, then Hunt should have fired them both. If I’m not, then we better hope that Hunt either learns from his mistakes or turns over control to new management. The on-field results since he took over the franchise have been historically dismal and he just fired the guy most responsible for temporarily interrupting that trend.

17 Responses to “A Reader’s Look: Consistency Missing Under Hunt”

  • December 17, 2011  - Michael says:

    Much of what you say here is what many Chiefs fans have been saying for awhile now. Hopefully, Mr. Hunt will both learn from his mistakes and allow the football people to go out and get the players needed to make the team a consistent winner. Pioli drafts haven’t been consistently outstanding, but he drafts well enough, and will get better. Free agency can help a team make up for some of what it can’t get done with the draft, and KC has to be much more active there.

  • December 17, 2011  - Kenny says:

    I seem to remember Clark wanting to keep herm but left the decision to Pioli. I remember Clark also said Pioli discussed the hiring of Haley but the decision was also Pioli’s. I believe Pioli has also said that he has never went to Clark to say he wanted to pay for a free agent and have been told no. More importantly Pioli has never been handcuffed by Clark. It’s been the opposite. He seems to have given the team over Pioli and has given him all his support in order to give the fans a winner.

    Yes, there is turnover is the offices and Who knows what is going on there. The reality is, i dont care. I also won’t care if he let’s go of the groundskeeper, the guy behind the scoreboard, the people in the concession stand, security or anyone else who doesn’t play the game. Why anyone else would is beyond me. He will be holding the men in charge who report directly to him. If he started firing coaches and it wasn’t Pioli’s doing, we’d have what so many readers want and should never get.

    Clark is the business person. Pioli is the gm and in charge of the team. I’m sure he will be hiring many other people to be in charge of other parts of the organization while he manages the business side and tries to stay out of the way. I for one, don’t want to seem him unless he is supporting Pioli or firing him.

    And for all of you who hate Pioli, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t go from very good gm to terrible. I think he probably had a little bit of hand in how good they were in New England, especially given the very few playoff wins they enjoyed since his departure.

  • December 17, 2011  - iwriter says:

    Wow…good points. I have listened to hours of reporting the past week on talk radio with many people interviewed. THe angle that Bob takes here seems to be one that is pretty unique.

    Also it seems that people either like or hate Haley. I have heard some commentators blame Pioli and others blame Haley. For sure Haley seems to have a Dr Jeckel Mr Hyde type personaliy. I do know that Bill MOss on 610 reported that he talked with many coaches and players on Arizona team where Hailey was offensive coordinator, and none of the coaches nor players wanted to work with him. Moss said Haley had a bad reputation around the league. He said he had numerous sources. And as an independent confirmation of this Mike Vrabel said he would never work with Haley if he became a coach.

    What I am wondering is if Haley’s bad reputation had an impact on the chiefs signing free agents. If so I can see that there is a good reason Pioli cooked the books as far trying to get rid of Haley. That is what Moss was implying in his Talk on 610…

    I personally think that much of our problems stem from a quarterback issue.. and until we get that corrected we will be in the state of limbo. Blaming the owner is a new angle and certainly the way Bob laid out his arguement is very impressive. I do know that Pioli was in high demand before he left New England. Interesting that Petersons stats are the same as Pioli’s …how many thought that peterson was that good at talent evaluation before he left. Most felt that he had lost it… Fascinating stats…

  • December 18, 2011  - rufus says:

    clark hunt — the face of the new nfl.

  • December 18, 2011  - cychief24 says:

    Oh my gosh… what QB will ever be good enough for some of you?
    Some KC bums booed HOF Qb Len Dawson. I know I heard it. Not saying Cassel is HOF but our O-line is historically awful. That is need #1, #2 and #3.

  • December 18, 2011  - Morten says:

    Good read Bob; sad part is that you are right on All points…. The only thing we Can do is wait for Hunt to mature and grow into a great man like his father were…. I still Think he eventually Will be a good Leader; but surely that remains to be seen.

  • December 18, 2011  - bhive01 says:

    I think this is an interesting look at the situation we find our team in. I say we give this Packers team and the Raiders and Donks a run for their money and sort this out in 2012.

    BTW, this wasn’t Bob.

  • December 18, 2011  - RW says:

    Sadly for the longtime followers of this once proud franchise, both Hunt Jr. and Pioli have been exposed for what they are and the word is, incompetent. Pioli hid behind the skirts of Belichick in NE while Jr. had his father keeping him in check. That said, now what happens?

    After severly trimming payroll, sprucing up the stadium and remaining several millions under the cap, on the surface it seems possible if not likely that Jr. is preparing the team for a sale. If that’s the case, I say, Go Jr., Go Jr. but make it to a local person or group?

    If that’s not the case and Jr. continues to think he’s the smartest guy in the room, then the Chiefs are destined to become and remain the Washington Senators of the new century.

  • December 18, 2011  - johnfromfairfax says:

    The post was written by Douglas Wymore and thanks for an excellent and well researched examination of the current state of the franchise. As indicated by another reader, many of us may have touched on some of the issues dissected in your work but none more comprehensively or persuasively than your work details. It pretty well sums up the state of our franchise at this point. Clark Hunt is the new face of the team for better or worse. I won’t bother to compare him to his father further but will comment on others’ who’ve expressed disregard about how Hunt goes about the business of reshaping the franchise in areas beyond the field. I’ll comment on the reason why anyone should care about how he treats others in the franchise on the business side of the organization. It is because it tells you a lot about him as a person and leader of the franchise. It matters when you dismiss people who’ve given the majority of their adult lives to your organization and have been an integral part of helping to make it a respected community enterprise and successful sports team on the field and off, which the Chiefs were for at least the decade before Clark became little commander in chief. Change is inevitable and necessary but the way you go about it matters. When you summarily dismiss long time, loyal members of the organization and have security take them out of their office and to the exit it might just say a little about the type of person YOU are. You might also be the type of person who doesn’t have a clue about what it takes to organize and run a large enterprise successfully. It might say something about your (or your minion’s) need to control and show everybody how disciplined and in charge you are. It might also say something about how you might respond when you have somebody else do what you can’t which is run the team on the field. It might say something about whether you’ll react in kneejerk fashion when things don’t go right and keep switching coaches, GM’s and other members in the organization and never establish the consistency you speak of wanting to achieve. See the Washington Redskins owner little Danny Snyder for reference. Clark Hunt is a young man and perhaps he’s feeling his way and will learn and turn into a great and respected leader that the rest of the league will recognize. Perhaps he will turn the franchise around. As a longtime fan I hope that’s the case but the signs aren’t positive in that regard as anybody not dismissing or overlooking his actions in a leadership role since inheriting (that’s a key word) a billion dollar enterprise might surmise.

  • December 18, 2011  - Tenand6 says:

    Robert Kraft said that the owner is just as important as the HC or GM. There is no evidence that Clark Hunt is a strong owner in that triangle. There is little evidence that Scott Pioli is a strong GM (remember, Pioli was under the HC on the Patriot organizational chart). Pioli did not serve as a typical NFL GM with the Pats.

    The mass front office and scouting firings are all the evidence I need to know Clark Hunt/Scott Pioli lack the skills and wisdom to effectively lead any organization that require team work (all of them?). Not much inspiration coming from One Arrowhead Drive these days.

    A great HC can’t compensate for an inept owner and/or GM. A great HC teamed with a top QB might be able to overcome other weaknesses. The question many of us are asking is will this owner/GM insist the next HC go to war with Matt Cassel? If that is the direction for the Chiefs, it is hard to imagine consistent winning records. An easy schedule? Maybe. A tough schedule? I wouldn’t be on it.

    Consistency in a hyper-competitive league is difficult. Consistency in a hyper-competitive league which favors the offense requires a top-tier QB.

    Hopefully, the Chiefs recognize this and don’t hitch their wagons to a consistently average to above average QB.

  • December 18, 2011  - Milkman says:

    The blame for this mess MUST start from the top and work it’s way down. No matter how incompetent the head coach, or how bad the general manager drafts, the man at the top must take responsibility because he is the only one who can change it. This franchise we all hold in our hearts so dearly will only be as good as Clark Hunt’s decisions pertaining to it. The only thing we can hope is that he holds it as close to his heart as we do. If that’s the case, then let him make some mistakes while he is learning how to run a successful franchise. If this is just another one of his businesses meant to show the color black on the bottom line, I’m afraid we’re all in for many more mediocre seasons of NFL football. The best we can hope is that he is as passionate about the Chiefs as we are.

  • December 18, 2011  - Tim says:

    Nice article. Perhaps its been done before, but could you refresh us as to what Clark has actually done, and been successful at on his own – if anything? I’m not suggesting he’s anything but quite educated & good with all the analysis, etc. BUT has he ever actually run anything before this club?

  • December 18, 2011  - el cid says:

    Good read, interesting comments.

    Young Hunt is a man without an identity. For whatever reason, he has chosen to tie his rep. to Pioli and the NE way. We paint he as we are allowed to seem him with a Pioli filter. Money is the business of the NFL and Hunt has let it be the all ending to his legacy of the Chiefs. If he pass on right now, most would consider him a miser, franchise wrecker, and over all cheapy.

    The real interesting thing is the posters, all regulars, their point of view is the same if Bob writes it or someone else. Finally pointed out, “guest writer”…..wow why some of you paid to post here is amazing, just a bunch of Bob haters.

  • December 18, 2011  - Blake says:

    I have a few disagreements with this story. First Peterson was part of the problem he had his chance for many years and never accomplished the main goal. He was right to be fired. Herm Edwards was a TERRIBLE coach, he wanted to be a college football coach in the NFL by only playing young guys and not the best players. I think this whole thing is partly because of Herm Edwards being hired. KC did have an old roster when he got here but there is a little thing called free agency and he didn’t use it he only started young guys just to give them experience, did he even care about winning???? Pioli has made some terrible moves but I still have no doubt he is better at draft time. 2 out 3 drafts have been good. Peterson was not consistent, one draft in the last ten years is not good. Most players aren’t here that were drafted in the early rounds many years ago. Did you forget about Ryan Sims? Siavi? Morris, Tait, and Riley? Where are they now? Don’t try and say just because they had one great draft that they should be here because of it. I believe firing Todd Haley was a bad decision. I think that Pioli will continue to have good drafts and as long as he is bringing talent and good players then he should stick around unless he screws up and hires a terrible head coach like Josh McDaniels.

  • December 18, 2011  - ED J says:

    I disagree with this article. Hunt did inherit a bad organization because when he took over it had no youth. All the good to great players were old and on the downside. The draft picks from 2001-2006 were horrible except for a few. Besides we only have about 2 or 3 players from that stretch of draft picks still on the team. This organization was headed for a hard fall due to philosphy of building the team through free agency instead of the draft. Sometimes when organization tries to crawl out of darkness change will happen as it continue to evolve into something great. I think Pioli will get ir right this time on head coach and once he does his next move needs to be get a franchise QB. Whether its Barkley or RG3 or if we even get lucky and find out its Stanzi he needs get that right. Regardless who’s the head coach is you can’t consistently win in this league or win playoff games something we haven’t done in 18yrs. So saying Hunt took over a good franchise is absolutely STUPID. When you haven’t won a playoff game in 18yrs that’s not good. Which is a whole different issue screw the reg season wins.

    Fans need move on from being successful in reg season and demand this team makes strides in the playoffs. So to say he took over an organziaton that has won only 1 playoff game in 19yrs is ridiculous. So lets see how Clark does over next 18yrs with this franchise way too early to judge what he’s doing. Lamar failed by not making any changes to this organization whereas I think Clark will succeed because he’s not afraid to shake it up if people aren’t getting the job done.

  • December 18, 2011  - aPauled says:

    The foundation of succes wasn’t exactly here in 2006 as claimed. Success starts with a franchise QB. Trent Green was 36 and backed up by Brodie Croyle. Carl should have been getting a young QB in place. On the OL, Carl should have been replacing the aging stars with young talent rather than retreads. Year after year, Carl reached for players that didn’t work out while ignoring core weaknesses.

    As for Herm Edwards…give me a break. Terrible game day coach. Took no responsiblity, i.e. poor leader. Half his young guys that “just needed to play” were not NFL players and were gone from the league shortly after Herm. If Herm was such a talented coach…he would be coaching in the NFL. I don’t recall the last time I heard his name mentioned when there were coaching openings. For good reason.

    With Pioli…I lost a lot of respect for him with this move “in season”. The “Coward of KC” let someone else take the fall when he had a major hand in the issue. That will catch up with him…hopefully sooner rather than later.

  • December 19, 2011  - txchief says:

    What really is the point of the endless character assassinations of Clark Hunt a Scott Pioli on this website? The author of this post blames the current owner and general manager for every player injury, coach/player retirement, draft bust and personnel decision for he past five or more years. Perhaps they are also to blame if the weather is inclement on game day!

    Under Carl Peterson the franchise was completely stagnant for years after Schottenheimer (the beast coach in Chiefs history) was dismissed for wanting more authority on personnel decisions. The draft busts and underachieving players were innumerable. Just as those who accuse Pioli of meddling, Peterson dredged in a string of hapless free agents and the perfectly awful Gunther Cunningham as head coach before a brief period of improvement under Dick Vermeil. Vermeil and Peterson then traded draft picks for older free agents, leaving little future talent to develop. How soon some facts are forgotten. Don’t fprget that Herm Edwards was also hired by old Carl.

    I think the the jury is still out on Scott Pioli. He really needs to have a great draft, retain Bowe and Carr and bring in free agents to plug some holes in the roster. (Peyton Manning, I hope, I hope, I hope!). I am still waiting for anyone to name the key free agents that Scott Pioli “should have” brought in before this season.

    In terms of dismissing scouting and administrative personnel, it is entirely within the discretion of the owner and GM to replace employees who they believe have failed to perform.

    What a way to sour the most uplifting victory in recent memory. Despite injuries and only a few days to prepare under a new head coach, the Chiefs players demonstrated on the field against the Packers that Todd Haley was not the right man for the job. The performance of the team was immediately elevated with his departure. I, for one, hope that Romeo Crennel is given a second chance as a head coach. He developed a great game plan and the players showed what they could do on the field.

    Firing Haley may really be the best decision that Hunt and Pioli have made so far!

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