Hunt told Warpaint Illustrated he thought the Chiefs had an outstanding draft and was proud of the job his staff carried out Saturday and Sunday.
As I interviewed Hunt Sunday evening, it was fitting that construction workers outside Arrowhead were digging what appeared to be huge moats, laying the foundation for the new stadium. The same can be said about the work inside Arrowhead.
Since September, Bill Kuharich, Chuck Cook and Ray Farmer, the architects of KC’s player scouting department, have been laying the foundation for potentially one of the greatest draft classes in team history.
It might be premature to make that judgment, because NFL games aren’t won on paper. But when you collect the kind of talent the Chiefs did this weekend, it’s tough not to be optimistic.
Hunt had plenty of optimism even after the first day of the draft, despite the fact that it will cost him tens of millions of dollars in signing bonus money and player contracts. But the financial aspect of the game was not on his mind when the Chiefs selected LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, Virginia offensive tackle Branden Albert and Virginia Tech cornerback Brandon Flowers.
"The term I used to describe it was a home run," said Hunt. "Clearly, that was after two rounds, but we had picked up three very good football players. Three guys who really ought to be able to come in here and compete for a starting job and hopefully win a starting job next year."
"The way the first round played out, where we were able to get the offensive tackle, which was the big need going into the draft, and then you sort of throw Glenn Dorsey in as a bonus, that’s a pretty good bonus, to say the least. We were ecstatic over that."
But that was only the beginning. The Chiefs had nine picks on day two, and when it was all over, Hunt was equally impressed with second-day crop.
Hunt was ecstatic over KC's choice of Glenn Dorsey in the first round.
Jim McIssac - Getty
"We picked up a bunch of good football players," he said. "Several will compete for starting jobs this year and many of them will see significant playing time. All in all, it was a very exciting draft."
The root of all that excitement came from KC’s scouting department, according to Hunt. He said his personnel department was ready for every opportunity that presented itself on Saturday and Sunday.
In fact, they were so prepared, the Chiefs’ coaching staff was impressed like never before.
"Just talking to the coaching staff, their comment to me was – and some of these coaches have been coaching for 30-plus years – they had never seen preparation like this," said Hunt. "It was just the best they’d seen, the most thorough. I think that sort of bore itself out as the draft unfolded, so I’m very positive from that standpoint."
"There was a lot of like-mindedness between our general manager and our head coach and Bill Kuharich, who was running the draft. There wasn’t any dissention on which player we should take or what position. I always like to see that, that’s very important."
Hunt credited Kuharich for the groupthink in Kansas City’s war room over the weekend. About a month before the draft, he said offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham and head coach Herm Edwards met with Kuharich to go over every player entering the draft.
"They all rate the players, and Carl’s part of that process as well," said Hunt. "At the end of the day, the grade we have on a player is a grade that’s a by-product of everybody’s thought process. There’s a lot of buy-in when Bill includes the coaching staff. Bill’s been doing this for awhile at one level or another in the National Football League. I think he has a real good feel for it, he’s a very thorough football person, and we’re lucky to have him."
Of course, in order for the 2008 Draft to be so successful, Hunt had to make a difficult decision – the trade of All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen to the Minnesota Vikings. It wasn’t easy for Hunt.
First, he had to deal with the public sentiment for one of Kansas City’s most popular players. Second, he had to deal with the realistic chances of signing Allen long-term. Hunt had a good relationship with Allen, which means it may have been difficult for him to weigh what he wanted and what was best for the football team.
"He’s going to go on to do great things in Minnesota," said Hunt of Allen. "We’ll miss his passion and energy on Sundays. On the other hand, the compensation that was offered by Minnesota finally got to the point where, from a football standpoint, we had to make the move. I believe it was the right decision, but also a difficult one. We gave up a good football player. But now that we’ve had the draft, I know we got some good football players in return for him."
And what about those other football players? The rest of KC’s roster was watching as Carl Peterson sent Allen to the Vikings in exchange for three draft picks.
Allen signed with Minnesota for a bundle of cash. What does that mean for the future players who might be in the same boat a year or two years from now? Will they face a similar route out of town, or will homegrown stars have the option to remain Chiefs their entire NFL careers?
Hunt’s answer Sunday night was that every situation is different.
"The first key is making sure you’ve got good drafts, because if you have good drafts you’re going to have some of those quality young players who will play out their first contract,” he said. "Our philosophy generally will be to re-sign those players."
Trading Allen wasn't easy for Hunt.
Jim Mone - AP
"But there will be times when one way or another, we’ll let a quality young player go. I don’t like doing it, but if you look at the examples of Pittsburgh and New England, they’ve been willing to let quality players who are still in their prime go, through trade or just outright through free agency, because they don’t believe the compensation that would be required to keep that player is in the best interests of the team."
"I think you’ll see a mix. Certainly I’d like to keep as many of the quality guys that we draft as possible, but it won’t be possible to keep them all, and that’s just the nature of the business. It’s tough to deal with but that’s part of building a successful football team. You have to identify which players need to be a part of your franchise long-term and which players you can replace."
Ultimately, Hunt knows that he’s serving the fans. Can they endure another losing season while this year’s draft class matures? Hunt thinks so.
"I do realize that in the short run, going with young players could have some shortcomings in terms of our performance on the field," he said. "But that’s OK. I think those guys will learn and our fans will enjoy watching those players develop."
"What I’ve come to learn is that the fans are actually really studied. They’re really smart. It must be because there’s 24-hour news on the National Football League. It’s Warpaint Illustrated and all the cable channels that cover the NFL and the constant media attention and the internet. Fans have become very smart in terms of how championship teams are built, and I sense they understand what we’re doing and will support it."
What exactly are the Chiefs doing? Successful football teams, the ones that compete for division titles, conference championships and Super Bowls have nearly flawless systems.
Hunt realizes his franchise needs to develop one of those systems, but believes the Chiefs are on the right track.
"There was a path we could have gone, and a lot of teams go this direction, that probably has a higher probability of yielding a mediocre football team in the short run," he said. "That involves hanging on to more veteran players, signing more veteran free agents, but mediocrity is not what we’re after."
"We’re trying to build a championship football team. I’m not interested in having a team that year in and year out wins eight or nine games. That’s not what the exercise is about. The only way you can give yourself a shot at building a championship team is by drafting outstanding football players. That’s where you get them, you bring them into your system, they learn your philosophy. Hopefully the end product two or three years out is a team that’s capable of competing for a Super Bowl."
Hunt believes Chiefs fans will have patience with his young team.
Jamie Squire - Getty
"Long-term for this organization, this is how we want to do it. I want the approach to be independent of both the general manager and the head coach, because those people, over time, will change. I’m not saying in the short-term that they will, because we have good people in those positions, but I want the philosophy that the organization uses to build the football team to always be the same."
"One by-product of doing that is you don’t go through these difficult transitions when you have a change at the head coaching position. We’re living through that right now having gone from Dick Vermeil, who preferred the veteran player, to Herm, who prefers the young player."
"If the organization can have a consistent philosophy and exercise it year in and year out, then when you have changes at the head coaching position – which will happen, because head coaches, even the most successful ones, burn out, step down, etc – if your philosophy is the same you won’t take a big step backwards. You just pick up right where you were and keep building."
Does that mean Hunt has anything but complete confidence in his head coach? Not at all. Sunday he reiterated the support for Herm Edwards that he’s shown in the past.
"We’re very lucky to have Herm, because of his preference for young players," said Hunt. "We have a coach who not only likes young players, but who will play them. That’s what we need right now, so Herm’s absolutely the right person to be doing what we’re doing."
Hunt now faces a 2008 season filled with unknowns. With an A+ draft under the team’s belt, fans may have expectations that might not previously have existed. Hunt, at the moment, will refrain from offering any predictions on the team’s record.
"I do expect us to be a better football team than we were last year," he said. "I think particularly on the offensive side of the ball we’ll be greatly improved over last year. With the way the draft unfolded, it’s pretty exciting to be able to think about what we might be able to accomplish on defense as well. Clearly losing Jared should hurt us in some aspects, but picking up Glenn Dorsey is going to help in some others. How those two offset I don’t think we’ll know until the games start playing."
And even though it’s over 100 days until Kansas City kicks off the season in New England, Hunt is already anticipating a 2008 season that will be filled with youth. Fortunately, there’s plenty of time to get the new batch of Chiefs up to speed.
"The thing about the day after the draft is you’re ready for the season to start tomorrow," said Hunt. "But since we’ve got so many young players I’m glad we’ve got a few months to get them here, get them in the system, get them familiar with the playbook, and then we’ll get after it in August."