• Shawn Garrison: Pioli's presence preventing Chief progress

  • For a franchise that's been to the playoffs just once in the last six years, the Kansas City Chiefs sure know how to keep things interesting.

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  • For a franchise that's been to the playoffs just once in the last six years, the Kansas City Chiefs sure know how to keep things interesting.
    After four of the most tumultuous seasons franchise history, I assumed it was a foregone conclusion that general manager Scott Pioli would be sent packing with fired head coach Romeo Crennel.
    But with the Chiefs, nothing's that simple. On Monday, Chiefs owner Clark Hunt finally stepped out from behind his curtain of privacy to announce one of the most significant structure shakeups in the team's 53-year history. Traditionally, the head coach has reported directly to the GM in Kansas City. Now, Hunt plans to lead the Chiefs' coaching search and whoever he selects will answer directly to him.
    Pioli, who might be even more unpopular than stingy Royals owner David Glass, remains in limbo. Hunt didn't comment on whether Pioli would be retained and said his status may not be determined until February. Effectively, he's keeping Pioli around – for now – in a much-reduced role.
    Why Hunt needs more time to evaluate a guy who's been a train wreck of a GM takes some reading between the lines. There's no point in rehashing Pioli's failures. No one's making a case for keeping him after he inherited a 2-14 team and in four years netted one playoff appearance, two fired coaches, zero franchise quarterbacks and prompted public protests from a fed-up fan base.
    Why he's still around, in any capacity, is puzzling. The only theory that makes sense is that Hunt prematurely inked Pioli to a contract extension and is in the process of working out a buyout. Rumors of a Pioli extension have been floating around for months and it would make sense that Hunt – a savvy businessman – would find it hard to stomach eating millions of dollars.
    Hunt's reputation is that he's an owner who only cares about the bottom line, and this would feed into that stereotype. I don't buy that. We're talking about the son of Lamar Hunt, someone who grew up in Kansas City and understands the team's history and importance to the community. That he no longer resides in KC – something not unusual amongst NFL owners – and is an intensely private person creates a false perception.
    “It has been by far the hardest year I've ever had as a professional,” Hunt told the Associated Press on Monday. “I was miserable throughout the season, just in terms of what I was seeing. It was so hard on me because I want the team to succeed, not only for everyone in this building but mostly for our fans. It just killed me that we weren't competitive. I hated it.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Hunt's frustration sounds genuine. But the fact of the matter is that Pioli's presence, diminished or not, is hurting the team's chances of building a Super Bowl contender. Pioli's garnered the reputation of being a coach killer after his well-documented falling out with Todd Haley. Reportedly, established head coaches and future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning would not even consider coming to Kansas City because of how difficult Pioli is to work with.
    Even if Pioli stays, we know he won't wield the same power as before, and that's good. But as Hunt brings Pioli along for this coaching search as a tag-along, trying to figure out if the beleaguered GM can coexist with a coach within this recalibrated organization, there are other franchises looking for coaches that don't have this issue.
    Right now, there are three available head coaches actively seeking jobs in Andy Reid, Lovie Smith and Ken Whisenhunt who have led teams to Super Bowl appearances. I'm not sure any of those guys are right for the Chiefs, but they're coaches who should be considered and they'll undoubtedly want to work for an organization that can offer some semblance of stability. Because of Hunt’s reluctance to part ways with Pioli, that doesn’t exist in Kansas City.
    This comes down to a simple business decision. Pioli, an employee of Hunt's, has fostered an environment that's proven to be unsuccessful and unattractive to other potential employees. Hunt and Pioli are close friends, which will no doubt make handing him a pink slip more difficult. And a high-profile dismissal like this will inevitably cost a chunk of cash.
    But Hunt has to think about what's in the long-term best interest of this operation. When looked at through that prism, it's clear that it's time to cut Pioli loose.

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