Clark Speaks! Did He Say Anything? … Cup O’Chiefs

The initial reaction to the comments made by Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt to the Kansas City Star about his franchise, general manager and head coach was predictable.

It’s always the same with public figures that aren’t chatty and looking to get their name in the headlines on a daily basis. Half the people are mad at them because they don’t talk, while the other half get mad at them when they do talk. It’s one of those can’t win situations.

What Hunt said, what he didn’t say and when he said them were items worthy of consideration after his comments hit Friday’s fish wrap.

Hunt told the Star that Scott Pioli and Todd Haley are both doing fine jobs, that they get along in their professional relationship and that they’ve both matured into their roles. The franchise is moving forward and they are leading the way.

It’s no accident that Hunt should make his comments this week, rather than last week or next week. The Chiefs will be on national TV for the first time this season when they host the Chargers for Monday night football. Hunt and his minions were looking to mitigate any mention of the internal discord surrounding the franchise that’s gone public in the last month.

The insatiable media beast must continually be fed and with the Chiefs-Chargers being the only action on Monday’s schedule, there will be a lot of extra attention around the country, and especially on ESPN, on the game and the teams. The network has about three dozen NFL experts who all know what’s going on, or like to think they do. They’ve had plenty to say about Haley being on the hot seat this year and dysfunctional dynamics of the Pioli-Haley relationship. That ground figured to be tilled many times in the coverage of the action.

Hunt’s comments about Pioli and Haley working well together is a bunch of crap and even he knows that. If he doesn’t, then he’s the worst sort of absentee owner possible – gone and without a clue. He’s heard enough from both parties and even third parties about the problems these two have had getting along. These public comments were an attempt to get out in front of the situation before the nation’s football eye is turned completely to Kansas City.

But they came up short. He made no mention of how long Pioli and Haley would be in their current jobs. While pouring on the positive comments about Haley’s performance as head coach, Hunt would not entertain any talk of a possible contract extension. Haley is in the third year of a four-year deal.

The time for establishing an extension beyond next year for Haley was before this season started. Nothing good will come from having him go into the final season on his deal as a lame-duck coach. Before the season started, Hunt should have worked out a deal with Haley that would have taken care of the situation, especially given how well the owner says his coach has performed. He could have given him a long-term deal, or he could have gone for a rolling option, a contract that would always have two years on it and would never put the franchise in a position where the coach was a lame duck.

Without providing an extension to his head coach, what Hunt doesn’t say publicly is what everyone has known since the owners’ lockout ended and the 2011 season began – Haley is coaching this year for his job.

Part of the problem is that doesn’t seem to be the case with Pioli. Hunt said in the interview that his GM was responsible for identifying and signing talented players and “that we have a whole lot of very talented young players who are going to be around for many years, and we can continue to build the team around them.”

Left unsaid by Hunt is that the nucleus of young players he’s talking about were not brought to the franchise by Pioli, but by the previous administration of Peterson-Edwards-Kuharich. Hunt once said Pioli inherited a bare cupboard when he took over the team. Yet that nucleus was sitting there waiting for the new regime.

Those names are all familiar, but in case they’ve been forgotten that group would include Dwayne Bowe, Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, Brandon Flowers, Brandon Carr, Dustin Colquitt, Wallace Gilberry, Andy Studebaker, Branden Albert, Barry Richardson, Jackie Battle and Demorrio Williams.

If Hunt wanted to put to rest the situation of his GM and coach not getting along, he should have had his little cadre of speech writers put together something that would have gone like this:

“There’s been a lot of attention in the last few weeks on the relationship between Scott and Todd. I can only go by what I see, and that’s two people that have worked together to field a team that’s gone 13-10 in the last two seasons, with one appearance in the playoffs. Considering our 10 total victories in the three seasons before that, I believe it’s evidence of their ability to work together.

“Should there be any doubt on the importance of either one to the turnaround of our team, then let everyone understand this: they are tied together. If one goes, all go. If one stays, all stay. Their futures here with our franchise depend on each other.” 

In his comments to the newspaper, Hunt evoked the name of the Pittsburgh Steelers as the organization he admires and wants his franchise to emulate. Continuity he said is important. He’s made this point many times in the last few years.

He needs to stop. Same with references to the Patriots Way. The game of football, how to win and how to build a successful franchise was not built in Pittsburgh or New England. The Steelers and Patriots have been successful, but these NFL franchises are not coffee shops that can copy business operations and plans from one city to another and generate big daily gross revenues.

NFL teams all have very different circumstances and copying the Steelers or Patriots Way does not work. If it did, Eric Mangini would still be the head coach of the Jets, Romeo Crennel would still be the head coach of the Browns and Josh McDaniels would still be the head coach of the Broncos.

I know a little something about the Steelers and I can assure Clark Hunt that the first step in recreating a franchise like the black and gold would be for him to move to Kansas City. The Rooney family runs the Steelers and they are Pittsburgh through and through. They love the city. They are the city. That’s an important element of the foundation that makes that franchise work so well.

And it’s not like the Steelers haven’t had their problems in the past. In fact, go back to the late 1990s when the two people on top of the football operation in Pittsburgh were not getting along – director of football operations (essentially GM) Tom Donahoe and head coach Bill Cowher. For years these two fought among themselves over the direction of the team, personnel, just about everything having to do with football. At times it was bloody infighting, with leaks to local media and attempts to make those involved look foolish or incompetent.

The Rooney Family was forced to make a decision. Donahoe had been a Steelers ball boy as a child. His family and the Rooneys were friends. He was as Pittsburgh as the three rivers that run through the city. But it was Donahoe who was forced out by the family in January 2000, and Cowher became the football power in the building. At the end of the 2005 season, the Steelers won the franchise’s fifth Super Bowl championship.

Whether Clark Hunt wants to admit it or not, decisions are going to have to be made with the situation at the top of his football operations. There’s one way to make sure the two men in charge do everything they can to make it work between them – join them at the hip.

Continuity in and of itself is worthless without the right people continuing on each year.

17 Responses to “Clark Speaks! Did He Say Anything? … Cup O’Chiefs”

  • October 29, 2011  - KC_Guy says:

    I’m not sure I agree to the need to sign Haley to an extension halfway through his contract. But it definitely needs to be done before the final phase of draft preparation in 2012 kicks off – if he’s supposed to stay around for a while.
    Although I’m not a big fan of Haley I think he should stay. Continuity is important – and the coaching ranks at Arrowhead have been a revolving door way too much for my liking. With Crennel they have a great DC and I hope Muir (or someone else already on the coaching staff) will be able to develop the Offense as much as Crennel has done with the Defense. If Baldwin shows up from now, Charles and Moeaki return from injury next year they have all the weapons to build a good O – unless Cassel blows it.

  • October 29, 2011  - Milkman says:

    Great article. It is good to hear someone else who is tired of hearing that we need to mold this organization by someone elses blueprint. If Clark Hunt wants to distance himself from his fathers legacy, the best way to do that would be to come up with a plan of his own. I also agree that it would be nice to have a “Kansas Citian” running Kansas City’s most popular sports team. That is the only thing that didn’t fit with all the love we gave to Lamar Hunt. As much as we all adored and appreciated him, at the end of the day he was always a Texan and Kansas City was always his second choice. If the young Mr. Hunt could find a way to build a stable, winning franchise, it would put those thoughts in the back of a lot of minds. Think outside the box- If Haley is more of the reason for our recent success, we don’t HAVE to keep Pioli around, do we?

  • October 29, 2011  - Josh says:

    One can inherit wealth, but the ability to own and properly guide an NFL franchise is a learned experience. Good luck being anything like your amazing father, little Clarkie.

  • October 29, 2011  - Tenand6 says:

    A hall of fame commentary. Thanks, Bob. This piece alone covers my yearly subscription and guarantees renewal. Can’t overstate the importance of this piece for every Chiefs fan and a “must read” for all NFL fans.

  • October 29, 2011  - David says:

    Great article Bob… I appreciate your insight.

  • October 29, 2011  - 3WinsSinceSBIV says:

    Great article, Bob. I really like your comments about Haley and Pioli. Hunt is trying the defuse the issue, but the media aren’t blind or deaf.

    The biggest problem I’ve always had with the Hunts is their absentee status. You called Clark out on that, and brilliantly tied his own words of following the Pittsburgh model around his neck.

    I only wish that had been the focus of the article right out of the box. That is a point that should be made by more media and fans. Thanks for shining the light on it.

  • October 29, 2011  - Blake says:

    Bob the only question that I have is why don’t Haley and Pioli get along? Is there any situation that actually happened that you can tell us about. Because I have heard media people say they don’t get along but I have not ever seen them not get along or an example or discussion when they did not get along. I know that it happens but I would like to hear about a certain situation that happened that they did not get along about. I am guessing you will not tell us until one or both of them are gone. I really like Haley, I truly believe that he will coach a team to the Super Bowl and probably win it, it might not be here but I think he can do it. If Haley is fired after this season then that is going to be a big disappointment to me, I love how KC is always one of the top conditioned teams, I love how Haley isn’t just an offensive guy or just a defensive guy. Yes he coached offense but his dad played CB. I think he could coach both if he wanted. I want a head coach that wants to be good in ALL phases of the game, passing offense, rushing offense, run defense, pass defense, and special teams. Vermeil was offense, Herm was defense and running the ball. But if you look at the best teams, they are good at it all. Look at Green Bay good everywhere, NO is kinda the same way. That is what I want KC to be like and I think Haley gives us that chance!

  • October 29, 2011  - aPauled says:

    During the Tampa preseason game Clark was in the booth with the announcers giving his spin for a few minutes. While Clark was talking the Chiefs made a “highlight” and the announcer interupted Clark to get to the play. Clark paused momentarily, seemed slightly aggitated and continued with his spin as if nothing happened.

    Contrast that to Jerry Jones who was doing a similar interview several days later. The Cowboys made a play and Jerry interupted his own spin, was extremely excited and and announced the play himself before continuing.

    To add to Bob’s point, without that passion from the top as the Steelers, Patriots, Packers, Cowboys have…the Chiefs can retain the same GM/Coach combo for decades and never solidify the franchise.

  • October 29, 2011  - Niblick says:

    I too would like to know what were some of the specific examples of the disconnect between Pioli and Haley. I keep hearing about the rift on talk radio, various websites and on Bob’s website. Perhaps, it is assumed that Haley was not Pioli’s first choice because he was hired late by Clark. I guess this might be assumed to be the reason for the rift. I doubt if if we will ever hear on talk radio or from other media. Have any of you ever heard of specific examples?

  • October 29, 2011  - Tim says:

    Nice article Bob, but I disagree with some of it. I don’t agree with your opinion about the time for a Haley extention. The appropriate time for that, I believe, would be this offseason. There may be an issue between Pioli & Haley BUT, until there are specifics, its all talk – even from you. I suspect that much, if any, of the alleged problems stem from how the offseason was run & how the season began. I posted during that time that its long season & we need to see how it plays out. So far, Haley’s approach may turn out to be beneficial in the long run in enabling us to compete against a very difficult schedule without several of our best weapons.

  • October 29, 2011  - Tim says:

    …additionally, it woud certainly be difficult to answer the questions that would come about “stability” if a Head coaching change were to occur this fast. Barring a total collapse, I don’t see this happening.

  • October 29, 2011  - ED J says:

    Personally guys I see the Pioli/Haley fued to be overblown. Anytime a team loses its all of a sudden a rift in the relationship. Where was this last yr. When we won 10 games I didn’t hear any rift. Or during Haley 1st season I didn’t hear any rift. If Pioli disliked Haley so much he could’ve easily fired him after the 2009 season. Going 4-12 and getting rid of Gailey. I think media is just speculating as always on their relationship. Bottom line if the teams continues to win Haley isn’t going anywhere. Personally I like it that way.

    Haley has gotten the most out of the players Herm left behind. From Bowe to Charles to DJ. I mean now even Tyson Jackson is looking good. So he’s definately the man for the job. Now if we just get QB position solved will be ok. Jury is still out on Cassel. Hopefully he develops into the guy or Stanzi does or we fine someone else.

  • October 29, 2011  - Niblick says:

    Tim and EdJ-Great posts. I couldn’t agree more. I don’t see Haley implemnting his off-season program without Pioli’s approval. I too think any rift is overblown unless I hear more specifics. let’s get a win over the Chargers and into a tie for first. I would have never thought that possible after our first two games.

  • October 29, 2011  - txchief says:

    The font of this article reveals a great deal of hostility toward the Chiefs organization. It makes me wonder if the author really wants the team to fail to validate his pint of view.

  • October 29, 2011  - johnfromfairfax says:

    If it really is that he wants to validate his pint of view that would tell us a lot. I think enough has been reported from other quarters to indicate there is some discord there. I’m guessing we would all like to know the nature and extent of the discord and whether it’s something they can work out or not. I suppose time will tell but I do think the point Bob made is a valid one. Clark Hunt can put an end to the speculation and rumors by pointing out that both are accountable and will be judged as a pair. That would be true regardless of his animosity or not for the organization and is the point of his report.

  • October 30, 2011  - Carl says:

    I’m sorry, but I really don’t believe a GM and a head coach should both go or both stay. Each should be judged on their own merits.

    Some differences of opinion are healthy in an organization since they cause those involved to consider different aspects of the decisions they make. If they think exactly alike, one isn’t really necessary. While different viewpoints are healthy, working together in “complementary” fashion is just as important as “complementary” football – to use a fashionable term.

    If they are not working “complementary” and effectively, then get rid of one or both based on their individual merits.

    So much for philosophical discourse. Now back to football.

    Go Chiefs, beat those Chargers!

  • October 30, 2011  - cychief24 says:

    If young Clark was committed to winning we wouldn’t be $30mil under the cap.
    If Pioli was a great GM we would have had so many draft busts and would have signed more quality free agents to improve the roster. He also wouldn’t accept the $30mil under the cap.
    Haley is getting great results with a team of limited talent that lost 3 of our best 6 players.

    And Ed j- newsflash…we’ve won 3 in a row. We get it, you hate Cassel. WE GET IT.
    Bring something else to the table, your schtick is old.

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