The Pioli Power Problem


With the Chiefs' General Manager search in high gear, Clark Hunt is focusing on one man - New England Patriots V.P. of Player Personnel Scott Pioli. But is he the right man for the job?

In the last month Hunt has accepted Carl Peterson's resignation, watched his football team finish 2-14, and is now trying to rebuild his organization in the mold of the Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers.

To that end, Hunt has counted on some advice from acting President Denny Thum, former Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer and others that he trusts. Any good businessman has his advisors, and the great ones take their advice and mix it with their own instincts to formulate a plan. Hunt's initial meetings with his inner circle likely focused on former Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Bill Cowher and Pioli.

Everyone wants Hunt to hire Pioli. However, every NFL source and insider said early on Pioli was a lock to be signed by Cleveland Browns Owner Randy Lerner. But Lerner found out early in his discussions that Pioli wasn't going to leave New England unless it was for the right job with absolute power.

I don't believe Pioli really wants to leave the Patriots. Why would he? It's the greatest gig in the NFL. He has the best coach in the game in Bill Belichick and works with one of the best owner/son combinations in the league in Robert and Jonathan Kraft.

Pioli calls the shots at Belichick's side, controls information through the media and has a keen eye for talent, either through the draft or within free agency.

So why would he leave New England? There can only be one answer – power.

Reports from Cleveland suggest that Lerner was floored when he learned Pioli wanted to be Cleveland's President and General Manager. In Hunt's first meeting with Pioli, it's my guess the same thing happened, but I bet Hunt was far more prepared for such a revelation.

The Browns have acted all along as if Pioli would accept the job. Lerner has been interviewing head coaching candidates, which really isn't his place. To contrast, in Kansas City, Hunt has made it clear that the status of Chiefs Head Coach Herm Edwards will be decided once a new GM is hired.

Lerner wants to hire former New York Jets coach Eric Mangini, and that means Pioli likely is out of the running in Cleveland, thanks to Mangini's involvement in the ‘Spygate' fiasco.

But that doesn't mean Pioli will automatically become a Chief, because Hunt wants to divide the duties of his President and General Manager between two separate men. There is little doubt that Denny Thum will become KC's President so the business side of the organization can report directly to Hunt.

Cleveland has given up absolute power in recent years with disastrous results. First it was Butch Davis, and then recently-fired GM Phil Savage. Neither could handle the power or deliver the goods. In Kansas City, the Hunt family has given all the power to Carl Peterson in the past, and that has certainly been a mixed bag.

Lerner is not likely going to give up that kind of power again, and it's doubtful that Hunt would, either.

So where does that leave Pioli? Probably in the exact same place that he is now.

Pioli is asking for the moon and hoping either Lerner or Hunt flinch. My guess is that it won't be Hunt.

If he's going to leave Camelot, Pioli has a clear plan to extract as much power as possible from another organization. Depending on who you believe, Pioli wants to bring in Iowa's Kirk Ferentz to be his next head coach in the NFL. Cleveland's situation is better suited for that combination than Kansas City's.

In Kansas City, Hunt is not talking and information has been tough to gain in regards to his interview. He'd love to get Pioli, but doesn't seem to be as desperate as Lerner. Because there are still outstanding GM candidates available from playoff teams, Hunt can sit back and consider others until he finds Mr. Right – someone who doesn't want ultimate power.

The Chiefs won't be held hostage to time or the demands of one man, even if he's capable of taking the franchise back to the Super Bowl. There's no doubt Pioli can do that in Kansas City, but at what price?

For the last 20 years, we've seen what one man with multiple titles can do. There is no question the first 10 years of the Peterson era were electric, but as he acquired more power, there was less success on the field.

It's hard to see Hunt giving all that power to Pioli from the start. He should have to earn it over a period of time, just as Peterson had to when he arrived in 1989. Even in that event, Pioli's upgrade in power should come after a couple of Lombardi trophies are added to the lobby of the renovated Arrowhead Stadium.

So does Pioli want power, or does he want to work for a man like Hunt who has integrity, morals and decades of experience in the family business? If Pioli is intent on leaving New England for another challenge, he should take the job in Kansas City and earn his power. Recommended Stories