Pioli & Personnel – Inherited Players

Over the next three days we are going to take a comprehensive look at the player personnel decisions made by Chiefs GM Scott Pioli since being appointed to the job in January 2009. We’ll look at the moves in three parts:

  • TODAY – Inherited players.
  • TUESDAY – Veteran players acquired as free agents, in trades, on waiver claims and all other manners.
  • WEDNESDAY – Draft picks and rookie free agents.


Last season, Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said in an interview with a Kansas City radio station that when GM Scott Pioli walked into Arrowhead Stadium he found “the cupboard bare.”

Nothing could have been further from the truth. Despite the complete revamping of the team’s operation, from locker room to front office, there’s one spot with the Chiefs that has retained far more employees than any other – the roster of players.

If the cupboard was bare, then 12 of the team’s 24 starters (including kicker and punter) would not be holdovers from the previous regime of Peterson/Edwards/Kuharich. If there was nothing to build on, then 23 of those players would still not be part of the Chiefs organization as the league gets ready to get back to work after the owners’ lockout.

By the time the 2011 season gets underway, that total of 23 holdover players will be smaller. It will be even smaller in 2012, then miniscule in 2013 and 2014. That has nothing to do with a bare cupboard. Rather, it’s the normal personnel rhythm of the league.

The roster that Pioli inherited wasn’t good enough to be a contending team. In 2008, the Chiefs went 2-14 and while they were not nearly that bad a team, they found no luck that season on the field or with injuries. The quarterback position was in turmoil with Damon Huard, Brodie Croyle and Tyler Thigpen. A strong class from the ’08 NFL Draft provided hope, as DL Glenn Dorsey, OT Branden Albert, CB Brandon Flowers, CB Brandon Carr and RB Jamaal Charles became immediate starters or major contributors as rookies. It was a season of growing pains.

Intent on establishing his own personal mark on the franchise, Clark Hunt began the process of wiping clean the Chiefs that had been built in the final years of his father’s life. Every part of the franchise was touched and revamped.

But amazingly, it was the roster and the starting lineup that underwent the least amount of change. Pioli, head coach Todd Haley and his coaching staff began the process of establishing their foundation and they ended up relying on the bricks they found when they were hired. 

There was the natural attrition that comes in the NFL each year, and a few more bodies were sent packing. Overall by the time the Chiefs started the 2009 season, 31 of those 67 players were no longer around, either unsigned, released or traded away. While that number was high, it wasn’t even 50 percent of the inherited roster.

Hindsight shows us that there were a few mistakes and several decisions made by Pioli that should have taken a different form or manner than they did. Some of those holdover players were sent packing without being given a chance to compete for a job. Others were ignored as their contracts were up and they were free agents.

Overall, the decisions made by Pioli on his inherited roster while not outstanding, were functional and did not hurt the franchise. In fact, keeping and developing those dozen players that are starters helped the team get through a transition season in 2009 and then a division championship in 2010.

Here’s a complete list of the players who were in the house when Pioli got the keys to the front door. There’s also information on what happened to those players that left.

Several of those early moves deserve a second look:

TONY GONZALEZ – The trade of the Chiefs all-time leading receiver and the NFL’s all-time tight end receiver was the clearest indication that things were going to be different with the team under the direction of Pioli.

He was able to squeeze a second-round choice out of the Atlanta Falcons, although the payoff did not come until the 2010 NFL Draft. Gonzalez had been asking for a trade for the previous two years and a deal with Green Bay could have gone down right before the 2008 training deadline, but Gonzalez nixed the deal when the Packers wouldn’t renegotiate part of his contract. So the fact that Pioli traded away one of the greatest players in Chiefs history was not a surprise to anyone, whether it was Gonzalez, the locker room or the Chiefs fans.

There’s no question that not having Gonzalez hurt the ’09 Chiefs and especially new QB Matt Cassel. In his last five seasons with the team, Gonzalez had averaged 90 catches for 1,059 yards and 6 TD catches per season. In those years (2004-08) he was the team’s leading catcher in receptions in all five seasons and was the leader in receiving yardage four times.

By dealing him and not adding an accomplished receiver of any type – whether tight end or wide receiver – it left the Chiefs offense struggling to get anything done that season.

Gonzalez went to Atlanta in 2009 and caught 83 passes for 867 yards and 6 TDs, all numbers very close to his seasonal average over his 14-year career. The Chiefs used four different tight ends as receivers that season – Sean Ryan, Brad Cottam, Leonard Pope and Jake O’Connell – and they totaled 45 catches for 436 yards and 3 TDs. There was not a receiver on the Chiefs ’09 roster that came close to matching what Gonzalez did that season with the Falcons.

His production dropped to 70 catches for 656 yards and 6 TDs in the 2010 season with Atlanta and while Gonzalez has said he’s coming back for another year his career is coming to a close.

CONCLUSION – Getting a second-round pick for an aging tight end – even if he was the leading TE receiver in history – was a strong plus for Pioli. But his failure to provide Cassel with any type of quality receiver in that first year – whether it was a tight end or wide receiver – hurt the team. In the 2010 NFL Draft, Pioli used a third-round draft choice on TE Tony Moeaki who raised the talent level at the position in his rookie season. Ultimately, the success of the trade will depend on Moeaki’s continued development and that of the second-round choice received from Atlanta for Gonzalez – CB Javier Arenas. His rookie season was at best just a shade above average.

DE JASON BABIN – It might be easy for Chiefs fans to forget that Babin wore a Chiefs uniform over the final seven games of the 2008 season. He was a former first-round draft choice of the Houston Texans who never really established himself and was hurt by injuries. After three seasons with Houston, he was traded early in the 2007 season to Seattle, where he spent the rest of that season. In early ’08, he was released and was on the street until signing a one-year deal with the Chiefs on November 12. He replaced rookie draft choice Brian Johnston who was sent to the injured reserve list.

In that ’08 season, a year when the Chiefs had an NFL record setting low 10 sacks over the 16-game season, Babin had 20 percent of those sacks in just seven games. He showed explosion off the edge and provided a nice compliment to Tamba Hali coming off the other defensive end.

Babin became an unrestricted free agent in early 2009 and the Chiefs made no attempt to re-sign him. He landed eventually in Philadelphia with the Eagles, but signed in Tennessee for the 2010 season and was one of the AFC’s top pass rushers, producing 12.5 sacks.

CONCLUSION – The Chiefs should have made an attempt to sign Babin when he was coming off that ’08 season. There were few if other legitimate pass rushing threats on the roster at the time and Babin was not in a position to demand big money as a UFA. There’s one caveat with this – at 6-3, 260 pounds, Babin is not a classic DE for the 3-4 defense; he lacked the size to hold down that spot, where the Chiefs were looking for a guy some 30 to 40 pounds heavier. But Babin is the same size as DE Wallace Gilberry (6-2, 268) who is now the second best pass rusher on the team behind Hali. Finding a place for Babin would have made sense and it appears the Chiefs never considered that possibility at the start of their reign.

WRS WILL FRANKLIN AND KEVIN ROBINSON, BOTH ’08 DRAFT CHOICES – As we now know, the 2008 class in the NFL Draft for the Chiefs is the foundation for the rebuilding of the franchise’s fortunes on the field. When they walked into the building, Pioli and Haley did not believe that – eventually it was proven to them that the group topped by DE Glenn Dorsey could be their type of players.

Pioli and Haley never gave Franklin and Robinson a chance to impress them. They had been in the building for just three months and there had not been an on-field session when they released Franklin, who had been selected in the fourth round of the ’08 Draft.

The move to cut him loose was based largely on what were lackadaisical work habits exhibited by Franklin. There were other problems with Franklin and his play that were visible in the ’08 season, including the fact he was a poor route runner, who had trouble picking up and processing the offense. He played 13 games and caught seven passes for 83 yards. On special teams, he contributed one kickoff return for 16 yards.

CONCLUSION – chalk Franklin up as one of the few poor selections in the Chiefs ’08 draft class selected by Peterson/Edwards/Kuharich. He was fast, but provided little else. Although claimed by two other teams, he was eventually released by both the Lions and Raiders and to this day has not yet caught a pass in the NFL.

Robinson was a sixth-round choice in the ’08 draft class, and was limited in his participation as a rookie by a knee injury he was still rehabbing from the previous college season. He opened the schedule on the PUP list, but ultimately was activated and appeared in eight games. He averaged 8.5 yards on 11 punt returns and 22.1 yards on 19 kickoff returns. He also contributed three special teams tackles. At Utah State, he had eight career return TDs and was one of the best returner prospects in his draft class, with an average punt return of 14.2 yards and a 24.8-yard average on kickoff returns.

CONCLUSION – given the college record that Robinson had as a returner, his outright release without a chance to compete on April 21 was a surprise and hard to understand. He should have been allowed to compete for the return job in 2009. Ultimately, the Chiefs return game in ’09 was dreadful and whether Robinson could have made a difference is unknown. From the Chiefs perspective, they can point to the fact that Robinson has not had much of a career, landing only in the CFL where in 2009 with Hamilton, he returned one kickoff and four punts in a single game.

K CONNOR BARTH – As opposed to Franklin and Robinson, Barth was given a chance to compete. At least it seemed that way, as he and seventh-round draft choice Ryan Succop spent the off-season in a kicking competition supervised by special teams coach Steve Hoffman.

The competition was called off on the first day of training camp when Barth was waived and Succop had the job and the kick all to himself. Barth signed almost immediately in Miami, but was released about three weeks later. It wasn’t until November that he found his way back into the league, signing with Tampa Bay.

He’s still there, having kicked in the last 25 games for the Bucs. Succop has kicked in the last 32 games for the Chiefs. A check of their numbers shows there’s been very little difference, other than Succop has had more games and more chances.




























All the talk at the time was that Succop had the stronger leg. His longest NFL field goal is 53 yards. Barth’s longest is 54 yards. On kickoffs, Succop has averaged 61.5 yards; Barth has averaged 62.5 yards.

CONCLUSION – Succop appears to be a solid seventh-round selection. But had the Chiefs identified Barth’s abilities earlier, they could have used that selection on another position and helped develop the roster faster. The decision hasn’t hurt the Chiefs, but it will be interesting watching the career arcs of Succop and Barth.

SS BERNARD POLLARD – It’s hard to understand how the Chiefs handled the starting strong safety they inherited from the previous regime. There were indications early that Pollard might not fit with the new regime. He had some moments with then defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, including one practice field “discussion” during a mini-camp. Haley eventually had to step into that moment to end the conversation. That was in June.

Pollard was sent packing on the final cut of the pre-season, as the Chiefs trimmed the roster. A two-year starter and a major special teams contributor was simply thrown on the waiver wire. That was a missed opportunity for Pioli and the Chiefs. With doubts about how he was going to fit in the mix, Pollard should have been traded before he was let go. He was a former second-round choice, and he would have drawn interest.

As it was, he signed soon after being released with Houston, where he spent two years starting with the Texans. Pollard was a significantly better player in ’09 than the man who replaced him with the Chiefs, long-time veteran Mike Brown, whose lack of speed severely hampered the K.C. defense.

And without an established starter, the Chiefs were forced to spend a draft choice in 2010 on a safety, not only a draft choice but the fifth pick in the first round. That appears to have been a good selection after Eric Berry’s rookie season.

CONCLUSION – Would Pollard have made a difference? He certainly would have in ’09. Anything else is debatable. But there’s no doubt the Chiefs should have been able to get something for Pollard. A year later they held onto the rights of Jarrad Page before finally finding a buyer when they traded him to New England.

COMING TUESDAY – A look at the veteran players that Pioli has acquired in trades, as unrestricted free agents, street free agents, waiver claims and all other personnel avenues.

10 Responses to “Pioli & Personnel – Inherited Players”

  • July 18, 2011  - aPauled says:

    The cupboard could have been:
    a) kitchen cupboard which was bare due to the fat boys on the roster at the time.
    b) coaching cupboard which featured HC Herm Edwards (“I used to work for Tony Dungy” and “I’m not responsbile, the players play”)and OC Mike Solari.
    c) reserve cupboard featuring 46% of the roster that was cut…many/most of whom never played in the NFL again and for good reason.
    d) work ethic/attitude cupboard that required addition by subtraction (Pollard, LJ).

    Those were rough days to be a Chiefs fan.

  • July 19, 2011  - xen says:

    Re: kickers
    Considering that kicks over 50 yards are mostly bonuses, if you take the 50+ yard kicks out of the equation, Succop holds an 89% to 80% advantage over Barth on kicks inside 50 yards. There’s nearly a 20% point difference between the two on kicks from 40-49 yards. That’s pretty huge.

  • July 19, 2011  - KC#9 says:

    I agree with Clark. By NFL standards, the cupboard was bare. Nothing more needs to be said other than 2-14. It has been almost 3 years; why does Bob still feel the need to write these articles defending Carl Peterson?

  • July 19, 2011  - Blake says:

    I dont blame Pioli for not resigning Babin. I could tell he could be a good pass rusher opposite Hali but he just cant play in the 34 defense.

  • July 19, 2011  - Dan says:

    this is a Herm homer article did not expect it

  • July 19, 2011  - John says:

    How bad were the 12 players starting that aren’t any more? Not to mention the lack of depth behind them.

  • July 19, 2011  - Mark says:

    You can fault Philly more than the Chiefs for releasing Babin, since they had him last and are a 4-3 team like Tenn, not a 3-4 team like us where he wouldn’t fit as anything more than a backup.
    Ditto with Miami and Barth, rather than us.
    Funny how Bob doesn’t even address the other failures of the 2008 draft, like the 3rd round Safety, or the fact that it took an attitude adjustment by the current regime to get Dorsey on track.

  • July 19, 2011  - bakjon says:

    Bob get over whatever problems you have with the new Chiefs philosophy or go to another NFL city. There had to be roster changes because even though Kansas City made the playoffs in 2006, the roster needed to be overhauled. It showed in 2007 and 2008 why it needed to be done. Pioli and Haley are going in the right direction and will keep the Chiefs competative for the next several years.

  • July 20, 2011  - Rin Tin Tin says:

    Yup, these are STILL Herm Edwards Chiefs alright -the heart & soul of the team, 50% strong!


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