Always Looking For Talent … Weekend Cup O’Chiefs

Finding football players good enough to participate in the National Football League is a dirty, rotten, stinkin’, 24/7, 365 days a year journey.

It never stops. Ever.

Holidays, vacations and birthdays do not darken the lights of the NFL personnel office when it comes to finding players. The NFL’s annual March meetings will begin on Sunday in Orlando, and here’s betting that GM Scott Pioli and head coach Todd Haley will spend more time talking about potential Chiefs, than they will about other league business, or even Mickey Mouse and his friends over at Disney World.

The football calendar is broken up into segments when it comes to finding players. From the college football season, to all-star games, to the NFL Combine, to Pro Days, private workouts, the NFL Draft, signing undrafted players as free agents, mini-camps, off-season programs, OTAs, spring practices on college campuses, the CFL, the indoor game, training camps, pre-season games and then it’s fall and the cycle starts all over again.

When the family is made up of 32 brothers, none want to be left out. So they spend millions of dollars every year. The good teams look under every rock, check every tip and assume nothing in the journey. Some 90 percent of the information is nobody’s secret, shared alike by the whole family.

But it’s that 10 percent of the information that can make a difference, and allow a team to inject talent into their roster. Here’s an example where 10 years ago the Chiefs never stopping the personnel process and that produced a talented player.

It was in the early months of 2000, the new millennium. The Chiefs had been beaten by the Raiders in the last game of the ’99 season and thus missed the playoffs. Dick Vermeil’s St. Louis Rams would go on to win the Super Bowl. Chiefs LB Derrick Thomas would survive a car accident on an icy KC freeway, only to die in a Miami hospital for injuries he suffered that day.

Kansas City and the Chiefs were in mourning, but the personnel work went on. Led by Vice President of Player Personnel Terry Bradway, directors Chuck Cook and Bill Kuharich and a group of veteran scouts that included Jeff Ireland, the current GM of the Miami Dolphins, the Chiefs never stopped beating the personnel bushes.

Down in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Greg Wesley was getting ready for his final year of college football with the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions. At 6-2, 202 pounds, Wesley had put together a strong ’99 season, starting 11 games at free safety, totaling 62 total tackles and four interceptions.

However, in early March the NCAA handed down a ruling that said Wesley had no more college eligibility. If he wanted to play football, he had to move on to the NFL. But this decision came down after the January all-star games and the NFL Combine. There were about five weeks before the NFL Draft when the league announced he was eligible.

A quickly arranged workout was scheduled for the A-PB campus. Only eight of the NFL’s then 31 teams showed up and watched Wesley go through his paces. Why 23 other teams decided it wasn’t worth their time is unknown. A year later, Greg Robinson joined the Chiefs as defensive coordinator after spending a handful of years in Denver. Robinson said that in preparing for the ’00 Draft, Wesley’s name never came up in discussions between coaches and scouts with the Broncos.

“I didn’t know anything about him,” Robinson said then. “At least not until he got on the field and you saw him on tape. It didn’t take long to learn about him then.”

During the two days of the 2000 NFL Draft I was allowed to sit in the Chiefs war room and watch the action. Gunther Cunningham was the most vocal and powerful person in the room, and before the day even started he confided that there was a wildcard in play. There was a twinkle in his eye.

That was Wesley. After taking WR Sylvester Morris and CB William Bartee in the first two rounds, the Chiefs began preparing for their third-round choice, the 85th player that would be selected in the draft. A lot of names were on the draft board. A group of five names was always set aside by the decision makers – essentially Cunningham and Carl Peterson – and as the picks came off the board, the Chiefs discussion would eventually whittle that group of five down to a single name.

It was a near unanimous decision in the room that if the Chiefs were going to grab Wesley, they needed to do it with that 85th choice.

So with one of their premier draft choices, they grabbed a guy that two months earlier wasn’t even on the draft radar screen. He wasn’t evaluated at the all-star games. He wasn’t picked apart and tested at the Combine. The only reason the Chiefs knew enough about him came from their 365-day attitude towards personnel.

Greg Wesley will never find himself inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame. He never went to a Pro Bowl. But he played 120 games over eight seasons. Wesley moved right into the starting lineup and stayed there until his final season in 2007. He finished with 701 total tackles, 29 interceptions, six sacks, 12 forced fumbles and four recovered fumbles. Wesley had interception returns of 50, 51 and 65 yards in his career. In November 2005, he picked off Patriots QB Tom Brady three times.

He was a good, not great safety. The timing of his career was bad for Wesley. He joined the Chiefs when they were transitioning from a team led by the defense, to one where the offense was the leader. During his eight seasons, only one player from the Chiefs defense went to the Pro Bowl: FS Jerome Woods (2003). Wesley gave the Chiefs a solid safety for the better part of a decade and who knows what he could have accomplished with a little help.

Were the Chiefs lucky to get such a player in 2000? Not hardly. Remember the old saying, repeated often by coaches in all sports: luck is when preparation meets opportunity.

The teams that get things done in the personnel department aren’t lucky. They are prepared.

REPORT SAYS D.J. IS READY TO SIGN HIS TENDER OFFER

One of the 200-plus NFL players who saw their free agency status affected by the lack of a salary cap was Chiefs LB Derrick Johnson. After five seasons in the league, he would have been an unrestricted free agent last year. But this year, he’s a restricted free agent and the Chiefs gave him a tender offer that would force a team interested in signing him to give up a first-round draft choice.

That has kept teams away and Scout.com reported Thursday night that D.J. will sign the tender offer with the Chiefs sometime soon. That will guarantee him the offer of $2.475 million for this season. By signing, he will be allowed to take part in the team’s off-season program that begins soon. Players without a signed contract can only take part in the workouts if they sign off on an insurance document covering them for possible injury.

THE PERSONNEL UPDATE – DAY # 14 OF THE 2010 OFF-SEASON

  • BROWNS – re-signed OL Billy Yates.
  • EAGLES – released DE Darren Howard and WR Kevin Curtis.
  • 49ERS – GM Scot McCloughan is out, taking a “leave of absence” from the team.
  • JETS – RFA S Eric Smith signed his tender offer.
  • PACKERS – RFA CB Will Blackmon signed his tender offer.
  • SAINTS – assistant defensive line coach Travis Jones was charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud in a real estate case out of Florida.
  • SEAHAWKS – signed RB Quinton Ganther (Redskins).

24 Responses to “Always Looking For Talent … Weekend Cup O’Chiefs”

  • March 19, 2010  - The Morning Fix | Arrowhead Addict | A Kansas City Chiefs blog says:

    [...] Always Looking For Talent … Weekend Cup O’Chiefs-BobGretz.com Still, Croyle has outdone Whitehurst, who hasn’t been good enough to get out on the field and throw so much as a regular-season pass. The Chargers thought so little of Whitehurst that they traded for Billy Volek to be the main reserve for Philip Rivers. [...]


  • March 19, 2010  - ThunderChief says:

    At the time he was drafted, I recall reading about Wesley being able to do a 360 dunk and thought this guy must be some tremendous athlete and he was a gifted player that showed flashes of brilliance here and there but no overall consistency. It could be the players around him and the emphasis on offense as Bob points out but Wes sort of disappointed a bit, never realizing his full potential.

    Still, an another excellent article on the importance of NFL teams running out every grounder, looking under all the rocks and all those other trite cliche`s that apply. Seeking out those hidden gems is one the main reasons I find the draft such a compellingly interesting event.


  • March 19, 2010  - Mark says:

    Wesey should have made the pro bowl at least once. The year Jerome Woods made it, Wesley deserved it alot more.


  • March 19, 2010  - jimbo says:

    Great “inside the war room” story Bob, Thanks.

    Oh to be a fly on the wall during the draft, what a treat that would be.
    Woods & Wesley were a good tandem for us & were an integral part of our last great season in 2003.
    Alot of Chiefs fans are slobbering over the thought of us drafting Eric Berry. Maybe it is about time we picked up a safety that can remind us of Deron Cherry. Yeah, That guy was very good.
    Go Chiefs.


  • March 19, 2010  - aPauled says:

    I understand the point of diligently working to find players, but was Greg Wesley really an over-achiever as a Third Round pick?

    This wasn’t a stellar day for the Chiefs with Sly Morris and William Bartee being the first two picks. Then taking Wesley with Adalius Thomas, Dhani Jones, Marc Bulger, Mark Tauscher, and oh yes Tom Brady still on the board. It doesn’t exactly paint a picture of a bunch of smart guys uncovering great players.


  • March 19, 2010  - Big Lee says:

    With all of the exposure of players, will there be many more Deron Cherrys? He set Rutgers records for punts and yards rushed-not the skill set of a safety. He remade himself into a safety.

    Chiefs need to hit a home run with #5 pick on defense, unless they can trade down, which rarely happens.


  • March 19, 2010  - el cid says:

    Many college picks do not pan out. Remember, Broderick or Derrick Thomas? We did it right then. Look at all the early picks at DL, how many misses are still plaguing the team? My heartburn is the wasting of the 09 draft. Yes, yes, some may work out in a few years but no, repeat, no hits that matter. Reaching for a kid out of college is a major error. Any team needs to take the best athlete available unless they are one or two players away from the superbowl and the Chiefs are not. Pioli needs to get players would contribute from day one not need developement.


  • March 19, 2010  - DaWolf says:

    I dunno Bob, this sentence tells me all I need to know about our personnel department, their “preparation”, and why this team was pretty bad over the last decade:

    “After taking WR Sylvester Morris and CB William Bartee in the first two rounds, the Chiefs began preparing for their third-round choice, the 85th player that would be selected in the draft.”


  • March 19, 2010  - colby says:

    Yeah, they were prepared enough to take William Bartee and Greg Wesley with premium picks when both guys would have still been there in the 5th in all likelyhood. Carl was clueless outside of the 1st round and I got so tired of him reaching for mediocre players EVERY YEAR!

    Wesley was a nice pick, but how does THIS old saying go? Even a blind squirrel……


  • March 19, 2010  - big vess says:

    Where is Greg Wesley ?Is he still in the league I know the Raiders release him sometime ago.


  • March 19, 2010  - BillyBob says:

    Taking WR Sylvester Morris and CB William Bartee in the first two rounds. “Remember the old saying, repeated often by coaches in all sports: luck is when preparation meets opportunity”. Were they prepared?


  • March 19, 2010  - chewbone says:

    Bob since you sat in the war room that year tell us about william bartee. What in the world happened with that guy, I honestly can’t remember him doing anything positive for the chiefs. What were his “negatives” in the chiefs scouting profile? I am not sure he was even as good as Carlton Gray!


  • March 19, 2010  - PA Chief says:

    All Bartee gave us was a good nickname to laugh at. Burn-tee


  • March 19, 2010  - Kevin B. says:

    I say forget the defense for the first two rounds. Trade our two 2nd rounders to move up to fifteen and get a good RT, with Okung at LT. Turn our greatest weakness into our greatest strength. Stupid? What if we had taken two tackles in the 1st round in 08?
    LT-Okung-LG-Albert-C-Waters-RG-Lilja-RT-Williams
    Thats Trent Williams. If we do this, we will be solid and will only need to pick up one more O-Line in the next couple years when Waters retires.
    Stupid? I think not. The the O-Line is the foundation of a team in my opinion. This would help our Defense more than taking Berry in the first, and solve what could be years of screwing around trying to get it right, after Waters retires. Yeah Lilja is fine, but what about RG and Tackle? Same problem now for 4 years.. If I had Herm Edwards 08 Draft, I would have taken Albert 5th, Otah at 15.


  • March 19, 2010  - Kevin B. says:

    In fact, in this years draft, I would keep the left side, with Albert Waters adn Lilja, and reach with the 5th for the highest paid RT in football, and get C Pouncey W/ my first 2nd, and a RG with my second 2nd rounder. Call me stupid but when we are looking back that may not be so crazy.


  • March 19, 2010  - el cid says:

    Kevin, do what you say and you are back in the Vermeil era. All your money invested in the Offensive side of the ball and no money left for the defense. Some day there will be a return to salary cap, the owner want to keep some of their money. When that happens every team will be limited to what their contracts say. YOU CANNOT INVEST ALL YOUR MONEY IN THE OFFENSIVE LINE, there will be nothing left for your skill positions.


  • March 20, 2010  - Kevin says:

    El Cid…Chicago just signed three players equaling the entire dollar amount we paid our whole team last year. I think we could draft 5 lineman with our first five picks and we wouldn’t have to pay for all of them combined what Julius Peppers is getting….


  • March 20, 2010  - el cid says:

    Kevin, I did not say not to spend money just not on one side of the ball. Heck, I wish Clark Hunt had to drive last year’s limo. Spent it all but on BOTH sides of the ball with a dab on special teams.


  • March 20, 2010  - Kevin says:

    I just think we are 75% of the way to square one on D-fense. Our 3-4 is not working at all. Teams ran at will through our defense,wasn’t it like three games in a row with rushing getting over 200 yards? I just wouldn’t know where to start on defense. The 3 years of the Vermeil Era did bring us a 11-0 start with a 1st seed playoff birth, although obviously we lost first round. I would have liked to have stuck with the cover 2. Although we would be in serious need of a pass rusher, and a safety, I doubt it would be as ugly as it has been.


  • March 20, 2010  - el cid says:

    May not be fond of the 3-4 but unless the Chiefs throw away 09 like they did Pendergast the 3-4 is the defense of choice. We will see but would be shocked if they dumped it. Can agree with a lot you say but I want a stud MLB also. Don’t you feel T. Jackson is the DE to answer a lot of questions??LOL


  • March 21, 2010  - Kevin says:

    I wish I did. We’ll see. I just don’t see our defense getting much better with a pick or two.
    I don’t envy Romeo Crennel…. but maybe he will surprise us.


  • March 21, 2010  - el cid says:

    Hope so. My major heartburn with Pioli is/was his draft in his first year. It was like he just walked in off the streets and did not know anything about any player coming out of college or the Chiefs and their needs. DO NOT CARE, if he signed last or did not have his scouts. What was he doing in NE to propare them for 09? I believe the K was the mistake because he was the only success of that draft, the rest were not just guys but guys who could not help a 2-14 team (they had to learn their positions, something not necessary with most other NFL team but what we do in KC)>




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