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Pioli Era Comes To An End

With the hiring of General Manager John Dorsey and head coach Andy Reid, the Kansas City Chiefs are ushering in what they hope will be more successful days ahead.  The changes officially close the curtain on the tumultuous, four-year Scott Pioli era.

By the time the final seconds ticked away for the last home game at Arrowhead last month, the stadium had already emptied.  There was very little to cheer about.  It didn’t sit well with Clark Hunt, the Kansas City Chiefs chairman of the board.

“I don’t want to say that there was any one moment where I said, ‘I have to do something about it.’  But clearly when you’re not successful in the National Football League it’s a certainty that change is coming,” said Hunt.

Hunt figured he had the right combination when the duo of General Manager Scott Pioli and Coach Todd Haley came aboard.  Here’s what Hunt said four years ago:

“Most importantly, we were looking for a head coach who could partner with Scott to build the Chiefs into a championship organization,” said Hunt.

During the early days of the Pioli tenure, one of the catch-phrases associated with him caught on quickly.

“There’s different times for different parts of the process,” said Pioli.

The process started with the acquisition of quarterback Matt Cassel from the New England Patriots, where previously Pioli was part of three Super Bowl championships. 

That success hardly carried over to Kansas City. After two losing seasons in the first three years, Pioli’s highest profile pick-up never caught on as a popular figure in Kansas City.  Cassell was even booed during a celebrity softball game as part of last summer’s All-Star festivities at Kauffman Stadium. 

While the infusion of rookie quarterbacks turned around other teams, Pioli stuck with Cassel.  Another Pioli catch-phrase was finding "the right 53” for the Chiefs 53-man roster.

“When you go through the evaluation process, the evaluation process and the strategy, when you go through the evaluation process, you look at the full body of work,” said Pioli.

Pioli said that when the Chiefs drafted Jon Baldwin two years ago after Baldwin brought with him the reputation of trouble with his teammates at the University of Pittsburgh.  During Baldwin’s rookie season with the Chiefs, he injured his arm in a Chiefs locker room fight and missed several games. 

Pioli didn’t mix very well with his head coach either, and after two and a half seasons fired Haley.

“We’re clearly not at a spot where we need to be with our record the way it is and with us being in the position we’re in, so clearly I need to do my job better as well,” said Pioli.

Pioli chose Romeo Crennel to take over for the rest of the 2011 season and named him as the permanent coach for 2012.  The season proved to be disastrous, and in the midst of it, even tragic, with linebacker Jovan Belcher committing murder, then suicide. 

The Chiefs marked their 50th anniversary in Kansas City as one of their most forgettable seasons at 2-14. 

But while Pioli lived in Kansas City, he made no secret about his appreciation for the local arts scene.  He reminisced in an interview with KCUR in 2010 about making the connection between sports and arts while watching a rehearsal of the Cleveland Orchestra.

“The whole thing has fascinated me. I’ve watched other people build teams, so to speak, in other areas of greatness,” said Pioli.

However, he was never able to pull off the greatness he had hoped for on the football field in Kansas City.  In his departing statement last week, Pioli issued a public apology.  The bottom line, as Pioli noted in the statement, “is that I did not accomplish all of what I set out to do.”

Sports have an economic and social impact on our community and, as a sports reporter, I go beyond the scores and statistics. I also bring the human element to the sports figures who have a hand in shaping the future of not only their respective teams but our town. Reach me at gregechlin@aol.com.
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