This season in the NFL, we’ve seen a GM build an 8-0 team, a GM come back from an 8-game suspension, and a GM fired in just week 7. But one man has tried convince us for years that he is the next great NFL GM. That man is Scott Pioli. He comes from New England where he was the Vice-President of Player Personnel until January 13, 2009, when the Kansas City Chiefs stole him away from the Patriots and named him their General Manager. He may have been a great complement to the man in charge in New England, Bill Belichick, but he hasn’t shown much on his own. Pioli is still the Chiefs’ GM, and for all his work, the Chiefs have a 1-7 record so far in 2012. Right up there with the Jags for the worst record in the league.
But let’s look at how Scott Pioli has transformed the hapless Chiefs into…the hapless Chiefs. When he was hired in 2009 to succeed Carl Peterson, he was handed the reigns to a roster that included a young Jamaal Charles, a troubled Larry Johnson, a young Dwayne Bowe, Tony Gonzalez, corners Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers, and was coached by Herman Edwards. Not a bad young core to start with. Let’s remember this when we look at the roster of Pioli’s only winning season in his tenure.
As expected of any incoming GM, Pioli brought in his own head coach, former Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley. He then made two very big moves to add to the young core he inherited. Pioli traded a second round pick to his former team, New England, for QB Matt Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel. Pioli wanted his man in Kansas City after Cassel helped lead the Patriots to an 11-5 record despite the injury to franchise QB and the then reigning MVP Tom Brady. Cassel was then signed to a six-year $62.7 million contract extension. To end his first summer of major moves, he traded Chiefs icon Tony Gonzalez to the Atlanta Falcons, where he has helped the Falcons become regular playoff contenders. Despite these moves, the Chiefs finished with a record of 4-12 in 2009
In 2010, the Chiefs surprised everyone by winning the AFC West with a record of 11-5. What did the roster look like for that season? It was lead by QB Matt Cassel, with 27 TDs 7 INTs 3,116 YDs 58% completion, RBs Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones, who combined for 2,363 yards, WR Dwayne Bowe and solid defense. They won by embracing a bruising running game with pass plays sprinkled in where appropriate. By taking the pressure of Cassel he had the best, and only passable, season as the Chiefs starting QB. Let’s look at the players the Chiefs sent to the Pro Bowl that year, Matt Cassel, an injury replacement, Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, Eric Berry and Brian Waters. The only players that were drafted or brought in by Pioli were Cassel and Eric Berry, their top pick in Pioli’s second draft with the Chiefs.
The Chiefs went back in the tank the next year and have stayed there ever since, with Cassel posting poor numbers each year since he was an injury replacement in the Pro Bowl. Pioli has failed to bring in talent to the Chiefs since he joined the team. and has not done much better in his 4 drafts with the team.
It is much to soon to judge the 2012 NFL draft, so we won’t look at any of those players, beyond the fact that none of them have become starters in their first year so far. In 2009, Pioli took defensive lineman Tyson Jackson with the third overall selection after his predecessor had taken Glenn Dorsey with the fifth overall selection a year earlier. Jackson is now a starter by default but has only posted 19 tackles and zero other stats on the season. Sadly, the only other player from that draft was the number 256 pick, Ryan Succop, their starting kicker.
In 2010, the first pick was a successful one when they took defensive back Eric Berry with the fifth overall pick. He went on to be elected to the Pro Bowl in his rookie season. with the next three players, McCluster, Arenas and Asamoah, being rotation players and third round pick Tony Moeaki is an oft-injured starter. This can be seen as a rather successful draft because it contained several players that still receive time on offense or defense. However, several rotation players on a team that aside from 2010 has averaged about 4 wins a season isn’t saying much.
Finally, in 2011 the only players to become contributors were second round center Rodney Hudson and third round linebacker Justin Houston. Their first round pick Jonathan Baldwin has been a terrible bust, not only because he has failed to produce, but in his rookie season he got in a fight with team leader Thomas Jones. Baldwin has done nothing to redeem himself sense and every other pick from this draft has failed to contribute on the field.
It’s clear, based on his failure to draft well and his signing of an unproven QB to a 6 year contract, Pioli has been a below average GM since he began working with the Kansas City Chiefs. He may be the best second man to work with Bill Belichick but he can’t be trusted to run a franchise on his own. All you need to look at is his track record and realize that a lucky 2010 season was the product of a great running game lead by players drafted by the General Manager that preceded Pioli. The Chiefs would be smart to let Pioli’s contract run out and bring in a new head honcho to get their team back on track.