The Buck Stops With Clark Hunt

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Being the owner of an NFL franchise is a tough job if you choose to do it correctly.

While you are trying to build your franchise, there are 31 other organizations trying to persuade players to leave your team, hire away your good coaches, sign the free agents you want, beat you to the undrafted free agents that you want, figuring out your players’ weaknesses, your coaches’ weaknesses and your weaknesses. All of those organizations who missed the playoffs will be sitting down to make changes in the next few weeks, and they will be looking to steal talent from you, just as you should be looking to steal talent from them.

Clark Hunt has staggered out of the gate in his role as owner of the Chiefs. His teams have four last place finishes and one first-place finish. The Chiefs’ record is 27-54 and they have been outscored by 474 points in the regular season.

The Chiefs have been outscored by more than 100 points in only six seasons in their entire 52-year history and four of them are on his watch. They have been outscored by at least 109 points in 4 of the last 5 years and were outscored by 126 points this year. The 2011 team set a record for the fewest points scored in a full season during their entire history, and many of those seasons were 14 games.

If Clark Hunt was in charge of Clark Hunt, he would have fired himself. Instead, he has fired one general manager, two coaches, a president and most of his other staff at least once, and apparently three or four times in the public relations department.

Playing the blame game might have worked this year with the firing of Todd Haley. In a perfect world, the Chiefs would have won three straight under Romeo Crennel, repeated as division champions, and made the playoffs for the second season in a row. The .500 record could be blamed on injuries and Haley’s faults as a coach, and a majority of the fans would have looked forward to 2012 with renewed confidence in the brain trust for the Chiefs.

With no minimum salary cap requirement for 2012, Hunt could once again have justified a conservative approach in the offseason in the hope that the return of Jamal Charles, Tony Moeaki and Eric Berry would inject the offensive life and defensive spark necessary to win the division.

He could have stuck with the organization’s mantra of building through the draft, let a few veterans get away and trusted that Scott Pioli and his staff could draft players with immediate impact like they did with the 2010 draft. That would have allowed the Hunt family to pocket the cash they would otherwise be forced to spend if the minimum salary requirement kicked into gear in 2012 instead of 2013.

That perfect world exploded when the Chiefs got beat by the Raiders in Kansas City for the fifth straight year. Instead of playing for the division crown, the Chiefs ended the season in the cellar of the AFC West, and will pick either 11th or 12th in the 2012 draft.

Although no loss to the Raiders is ever a good thing in the short term, it may be a good thing for the franchise in the long term because it should force Hunt to stop playing the blame game and to focus instead on how to improve the franchise going forward.

Here are a few unsolicited suggestions. I am sure that Bob Gretz’s readers can supply a few I missed:

– Forget the Patriot Way, unless Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are defecting to the Chiefs next year. This is Kansas City, not Boston, and without Brady and Belichick New England wouldn’t have won one championship, much less three. Until Brady arrived as a sixth-round draft choice, New England hadn’t won a Super Bowl. Since he arrived, they have appeared in 4 and won 3. That is probably more than a coincidence. Steve Young certainly thinks so, as after the Kansas City Patriots game earlier this year, he pointed out during post-game comments that the Patriots, without Brady, were the Chiefs.

– Forget about trying to model this franchise after Pittsburgh unless you are willing to move your entire operation to Kansas City. As Pittsburgh’s players and coaches regularly proclaim, the franchise is run by the Rooney family, based on their values, as it has been since its inception. You don’t live in Kansas City, and your principal office isn’t in Kansas City. Don’t try to emulate Pittsburgh unless you intend to change your lifestyle, become a fixture at One Arrowhead Drive and want to actively manage the franchise on a day to day basis.

– Give Brandon Carr and Dwayne Bowe new contracts, or trade them for draft choices in advance of the draft. As they are coming into the prime of their careers, be prepared for the fall out if you decide to let them go.

– Sign a few free agents. Don’t let anyone tell you that free agency is fallacy. It’s just a tool, like anything else. Use it wisely and you win. Use it like Dan Snyder and you lose. Priest Holmes was a free agent. So was Mike Vrabel when the Patriots acquired him. Sometimes even the marquee free agents work out. Green Bay did pretty well with Reggie White and Charles Woodson. Darren Sproles worked out pretty well this year with New Orleans.

– Tell Pioli to learn to trade with teams who don’t have ties to the Patriots or Bill Parcells. There are teams other than Atlanta (Dimitroff), New England and Miami.

– Kudos to you for hiring Romeo Crennel, presuming that he doesn’t want to blow things up or re-invent the wheel. That’s the approach San Diego took when it hired Marty Schottenheimer back in 2001 and it worked out well, even though his quarterbacks at the time were a second-year Drew Brees and Doug Flutie. Experience is the best teacher, and with both you and Pioli being in charge of an NFL franchise for the first time, you need experienced help. Please listen to him. If you don’t then the chances of you failing increase dramatically and you will have to blow up the coaching staff and roster. Again. Be prepared for the fall out and take responsibility for the decision. It’s your team.

– As Ron Wolf noted, it is insanity not to have a competent back-up quarterback. If your general manager and your head coach think it’s a good idea to go into a season with back-ups who have never started an NFL game when your starter hasn’t started 16 games in a season in his entire career, they need a reality check. If you agree, then you need a reality check.

– Develop a relationship with the local press and the internet sites that regularly report on the Chiefs and tell Pioli to do the same thing. Your fans come from Kansas City and its surrounding area. They pay your bills. Many of them drive hours each way to attend games. They read their local papers and the local internet sites, not the Dallas Morning News, the Boston Globe or ESPN Boston and most of them want to believe in you and report positive news for a winning team because it’s good for ratings and circulation. For you, it’s free marketing. Embrace it. These are difficult times and you need all the positive press you can get.

– Don’t evade questions during press conferences and tell Pioli not to blink and act incredulous when the press asks him hard questions. Answer the questions directly. Admit mistakes. Give credit to others. Be positive. Disagree when it’s appropriate without talking down. You, and especially Pioli, could get a few pointers from watching Tim Tebow talk to reporters. He may not have what it takes to be an elite NFL quarterback, but he shines in press conferences.

– Make the offensive line a priority. The Chiefs have won when they had strong offensive lines and lost when they didn’t. Carl Peterson and Scott Pioli (hopefully) have learned this the hard way. Unfortunately, so did their quarterbacks. In 2009, Todd Haley thought that he could mix and match offensive lineman from game to game and that the cohesiveness developed from playing together was overrated. The Chiefs were 4-12 that year, 10-6 when they put together a good offensive line and 7-9 this year when they went back to changing the line.

– Hire a good quarterback coach and give him talent to develop; if Jim Zorn is that guy, great. Get his opinion, Romeo’s opinion, and talk to the rest of the coaching staff to see what they think of Matt Cassel and Ricky Stanzi and act accordingly.

– Learn from the experience of other owners. Wayne Weaver, in reflecting back on his 18 years as majority owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, advised the new owner that the keys to success were “draft well and get the right coach.” Tell the personnel department they better start drafting better, and if they don’t, get rid of them. Next time there is a rift between the coach and general manager, err on the side of firing the general manager. San Diego went with their general manager and fired their coach after a 14-2 season while Pittsburgh stuck with their coach and fired their general manager. Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl and San Diego descended into mediocrity. The right coach is more important than the general manager.

– A huge step in the right direction would be to tell Pioli to spend more time on finding talent and less time focusing on bits of trash on the floor. If Donovan truly thinks putting that discarded wrapper into an envelope and bringing to an executive meeting as a coaching moment, as reported in the Kansas City Star, then you need to sit down everyone in a meeting and say: “Guys, can we get back to football and stop focusing on the little stuff that has little or nothing to do with football?”

– Don’t let your general manager hire coordinators, or pressure your head coach to hire coordinators. San Diego took that approach when it fired Mary Schottenheimer and even A.J. Smith admitted he had made the wrong decision.

Teams win when they create a positive working atmosphere where everyone knows their role, likes their job, is encouraged to help and interact and where all members are rewarded when the team wins. Games are won on the field by players, and coaches win with good players, so the goals of the front office need to be to support those two realities. An objective review of your record, coaching turnover, staff turnover, office morale and increased participation in litigation suggests that you need to make changes in your approach.

You have a tough, high profile job and will have to change if the results are going to change. The AFC West hopes you don’t step up your game. Kansas City Chiefs fans hope that you do.


33 Responses to “The Buck Stops With Clark Hunt”

  • January 16, 2012  - Petey says:

    Wow Douglas, really well done. I wish I had the ability to articulate like this. It’s really too bad that this is going to fall on deaf ears…no doubt it will never find it’s way to Dallas and the Hunts.

    Anyways, nice article.


  • January 16, 2012  - Kenneth says:

    I loved it Doug, i’m 55yrs old and have been a Chiefs fan since I was a kid they moved from Dallas to KC and I don’t think I saw anything that I disagree with at all.


  • January 16, 2012  - txchief says:

    Sheesh! More of the same.


  • January 16, 2012  - johnfromfairfax says:

    Douglas,
    Thanks for an excellent state of the franchise report. I sincerely hope Clark Hunt reads it and takes it to heart. As they say, if one person calls you a horse’s *** you can ignore it. If a dozen people call you one you might want to invest in a saddle. Hopefully he’s listening.


  • January 16, 2012  - Petey says:

    See ya, tx.


  • January 16, 2012  - Johnfromwichita says:

    Wow. That was not an earthquake; that was Lamar clapping.


  • January 16, 2012  - Jonathan Fortune says:

    This was an excellent thought out and very well written article. Not emotional like someof the others are on this and other Chief websites are from time to time.


  • January 16, 2012  - rufus says:

    well done, bravo. Minor to your point — I would not say the Pats can’t EVER win a championship without Brady — that first one was shaky offense and quarterbacking, mostly a good defense back when the NFL was playing a different game and defense could stop ya, the Ravens did just that the season before, the Bucs did it the season after with Sapp and Lynch. Anyway, the point is, it can be done — winning a championship with a so so QB, you just have to put a good roster of playmakers around him, like Pioli and the Pats did for Tom Brady from day one.

    But, the root point here is, the Chiefs are not anything like that Pats team Pioli and BB took over back in the day, so no, This needs it’s own treatment, it’s own identity.

    I think this has been the case for the most part. I think the staff has done well to adjust schemes to strengths.

    But, if all this is true (I believe it is), what Gretz and others around the team have said about Pioli’s spying & sabotage of the staff — IE Todd Haley, if Pioli did not fortify this roster in order to help Haley fail, Pioli should be fired.

    But the worst part is wondering if perhaps Clark Hunt signed on to this effort as well.


  • January 17, 2012  - ED J says:

    good article


  • January 17, 2012  - Nathan says:

    There are some good suggestions in the piece but I’m a little confused about the offensive line part. We had the same five starters for the vast majority of the season. How is that mixing and matching?


  • January 17, 2012  - Tenand6 says:

    Clear thinking on parade.


  • January 17, 2012  - Chuck says:

    DOUGLAS; I commend you my friend. This is an incredibly well thought out and thought provoking article. One of the best I have ever read. By the way I toooo have been a SUPER CHIEFS FAN ever since Super Bowl #1. Yes, Iam an old timer. Let me just say this. I had 4 season tickets for years in the Arrowhead Club, section 245, row ONE. When Pioli was first hired I wrote him a letter detailing a couple of the weaknesses on the team and told him that I was a long time season ticket holder with all the “details” in the letter. HE NEVER ANSWERED THE LETTER. I TRIED TO CALL HIM AND HIS SECRETARY (Emily Clavin) will not put the call thru or let me have his email address. I knew at that point I didn’t like the arrogant ass. By the way those tickets cost me $10,800 per season. The very least he could have done was drop me a “short note” in the mail and atleast “act like he actually cared”.


  • January 17, 2012  - Doug says:

    Nathan;

    Good point. I thought it was mixing and matching as they let Waters go, moved Lilja over to LG, and then put Asamoah in at right guard. Really, they only changed two positions, let a valuable team leader and arguably their best pass protector go, and failed to provide depth on the line. You’re right – pretty much the same starters for most of the season.


  • January 17, 2012  - Merwin says:

    Nice well written and thoughtful article Douglas, just wish the ones at one arrowhead drive would read it. Most likely it will never be seen as it doesn’t fit with their outlook on the Chiefs. The best way to judge yourself, is to ask others for their opinion of your. Will not work when you surround yourself with yes men.


  • January 17, 2012  - Nathan says:

    Doug:
    They had to replace Waters. He didn’t want to be in KC or they didn’t want him, either way he had to be replaced. Lilja was a LG with the Colts, I believe, so he wasn’t really out of position this past season.
    They had to play Asamoah. He’s young and they drafted him to replace one of the older guys, Lilja and Waters. Next year they’ll put in Hudson as he was drafted to replace Wiegmann.
    I don’t see it so much as mixing and matching as it is an attempt to get younger and more athletic.
    Cohesiveness would be nice but you can’t sacrifice building a roster for the sake of it. I say let’s get a few more good young players and build the cohesiveness.
    I enjoyed the article. I know many there in KC are frustrated with the losing as am I. Who knows if Pioli and our resident band of ex-Patriot coaches will be successful.
    I’m not ready to give up on Pioli yet. Heck, we gave Carl 20 years and many fans called for exactly the kind of things Pioli is doing to the Chiefs organization. I don’t care what people say the Chiefs look like to the other 31 teams or what the media says. I just want them to win games and be successful.


  • January 17, 2012  - el cid says:

    I like it. To bad there is no way to get into the Chiefs view. It is nice to see some fans are able to think independly from the herd mentality.


  • January 17, 2012  - Gerald Titus says:

    Well said Nathan.


  • January 17, 2012  - Jimbo says:

    Mr. Wymore,
    Excellent points & thoughts. Little finger pointing with very sound solutions. Should there be an award for common sense from a common football fan directed at a uncommon NFL owner you would be the clear winner & crowned Director of Football Operations at 1 Arrowhead Drive.

    Your analogy of New England & Pittsburgh were spot on. The Fuhrer mentality that is overtaking this proud & historic franchise is disappointing to say the least. I sincerely hope that the recent Kent Babb article is more sour grapes than fact. I also hope that Pee Wee Hunt is listening & preparing a public response addressing the eye opening allegations set forth in that story.

    I’m also an “old school” Chiefs fan from the 60′s & to witness the downward spiral of how this organization is being interpreted or perceived is a downright crying shame. I want answers from the big guy… Not Lawsuits.

    I Love this team…Go Chiefs.


  • January 17, 2012  - BigJimInWisconsin says:

    Great article. Well thought out and presented. You get an A+! ;)

    Thanks for the contrast between the current Chiefs Way and the “Patriots Way” and “Steelers Way”. We’re doing neither.

    I love this team, too. Fix it and win! The Packers have been a good distraction, but they are not my first love.

    Go CHIEFS!

    By the way, Mr. Hunt, this is the first year that I did not buy ANY Chiefs stuff. Think about all your revenue streams. Winning increases all of them.


  • January 17, 2012  - Johnfromwichita says:

    BigJimIW, anybody reading/posting on this page already has TOO much Chief stuff. Face it; it’s in your blood. When I’m burried I want to be dressed in shorts (may be hot where I’m headed), my Priest Holmes Jersey (Priest. Get it? Can’t hurt) and with a heavy coat because if the Chiefs ever get back to the superbowl it may get very cold. Hey, were’re Chief fans for life. And maybe even longer.


  • January 17, 2012  - Howard says:

    Man…..that was AWESOME! Seriously right on, I loved every word!! Now, how do we get it Hunt Jr?
    Clark, if you’re reading this, I am a HUGE Chiefs fan. I live in Sacramento CA, and watch and read about how the Raiders do business on a daily basis…..please, please, PLEASE don’t let US become THEM!


  • January 17, 2012  - Doug says:

    Nathan;

    You are right about the Chiefs needing to get younger and more athletic on the offensive line, and I think the drafting of Jon Asamoah and Rodney Hudson are steps in the right direction. With the changes they made this year, the Chiefs got worse at LG, as Lilja played worse, particularly run blocking, than Waters, got more inconsistent at RG with Asamoah, although he improved as the year went on, and the chemisty on the right side declined as Richardson and Asamoah just didn’t have the same cohesiveness that Lilja and Richardson had. I think the thing that bothered me most was the underlying reasons why we parted with Waters. I think after sitting across the table from Hunt during the labor negotiations that neither one of them wanted any more to do with other. Seems to me that a long time team leader and owner should be on the same page. Maybe I am seeing it incorrectly, but that bothers me.


  • January 18, 2012  - Nathan says:

    Doug:
    Crud, I had a nice reply all typed up and when I went to post it it said I wasn’t logged in…arrgghh.
    In a nutshell, I don’t care if Brian Waters got his feelings hurt. He wasn’t going to be around much longer regardless of what happened.
    Hudson should’ve started at center and there should’ve been some real competition for Richardson. Those were the two biggest mistakes in my opinion.


  • January 18, 2012  - el cid says:

    Would have been nice to see Hudson at Center at least for one or two plays. Also I like the Mims kid, wish he was prepared and game ready, he has the size maybe next year.

    Bob got Hudson as the new center but I do not see how, never saw him snap one ball.


  • January 18, 2012  - Doug says:

    Nathan and El Cid;

    One thing we could all agree on is that the playing time should have been determined by competition at every position, particularly the offensive line. Were that the case, I’m betting Waters would have been the starter at LG, and they would have paid him the money rather than letting him go. Worked out well for Waters as he finally won a playoff game and got another pro bowl bid, which appeared unlikely here.


  • January 18, 2012  - el cid says:

    Doug you are right. The NE way is to trade older veterans before they lose a step or two. Waters got away because management made a mistake. As for Waters, do not look back. Guys move on. Happened before and will again. Want to lose some sleep? Carr and Bowe can walk (one franchise tag available) Does either fit in the Waters walking mode? Pioli will probably sign both very soon (my trip down the lane of milk and honey, LOL).


  • January 18, 2012  - BigJimInWisconsin says:

    JohnfromWichita, thanks. That made me grin and laugh. It seems a lot of us here have decades of Chiefs experience.

    Packers got their first taste of one and done. Chiefs have been there and done that too often.

    My sister is a season ticket holder for the Houston Texans. I told her last week that the Texans have won more playoff games since 1994 than the Chiefs. She couldn’t believe it.

    Go CHIEFS!


  • January 18, 2012  - JB says:

    Lamar Hunt only had one failure in his life–he raised an insufferably entitled, spoiled brat of a son. The Chiefs organization and Chiefs nation are not and will not be well served. I’m sure the father reveled in his son’s birth and now grieves from the grave for his son’s hubris and incompetence. Clark will wreck his Dad’s beautiful creation. That son a bitch didn’t earn it but he will damn sure ruin it. Too much money not enough brains. My sympathys Lamar, I’d be embarrassed too


  • January 19, 2012  - iwriter says:

    Actually nice and interesting enough it sounds like BOB’s analysis most of the time…. Remember Pioli was the best general manager material at the time and most every one who commented said this was a great move…. Lets see if it is….lets see if he changes some…

    I do not buy into the idea that they sabotoged Haley…. If so why did they sign ORton? I left a whole slew of reaons why haley himself sabotoged his own reign in the post above this…. and too many people said that Haley was his own worst enemy by playing favorites and tearing people down so he could build them up his way Etc… Also other members of his teams said they would never work with him…personaly I think Pioli might have a hard time signing free agents because of Haley’s reputation. BIll Moss on an interview on 610 said made that point because he interviewed and talked with other players around the league about Haley and they all said negative things about playing with him…. Players talk so maybe this is one reason why they are not coming here…Also maybe it is that KC Is percieved as a cheap franchise… but Haley according to Moss was certainly holding the chiefs back . But I agree lets hope that Pioli changes some…


  • January 19, 2012  - brainsmasher says:

    Great article! I agree 100% with most of what was written except the part about automatically choosing the head coach over the GM. We and the entire nation witnessed the Monday Night Meltdown that came about as a result of Marty Schottenheimer being allowed to wrest control of player personnel away from Carl Peterson.

    We have seen guys like Mike Shanahan and Mime Holmgren fail after assuming the duties of GM while still a head coach and we are about to see what happens with Jeff Fisher.

    I also disagree about the candy wrapper that was used as a teaching moment. To me that indicates a lack of attention to detail.


  • January 19, 2012  - Johnfromwichita says:

    Acutally, that candy wraper stunt happend to me once. I was an Air Force NCO at Hickham AFB in HI when I walked into a mens room, discoverd a paper towel on the floor, picked it up and threw it away. Out popped the Col that was in charge of all aircraft maintence. He made a big deal about it. I remember thinking I wished that’s all I had to worry about. Kinda same thing. We had two aircraft crash within next six months. A paper towel. Really?


  • January 19, 2012  - cychief24 says:

    Interesting article.
    My parents took my brother and I to the first home Chiefs game in 1963. Season Ticket Holder since 1978. So like many here I have alot invested with our Chiefs.
    I hope Haley was most of the problem. We will find out soon. Must sign Carr and Bowe. Must sign some free agents that can fill holes like Lilja and TJones did in 2010 and Breaston in 2011. Also, like McClain and Gaither could have if Haley would have played them. They don’t have to be Pro Bowlers but solid starters. The more holes Pioli fills with solid free agents the more flexibility he can have in the Draft.
    IMO, in order, we need immediate help at: OT, C or LG (Lilja to back up), Back up QB (that has played in the NFL), NG, RB (replacing TJones), TE, ILB (Belcher to back up), Safety.
    If these needs are met in March, Pioli can draft for depth.
    Go Chiefs!




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