Lori, we appreciate you sharing Carl with us through the years and all that you have done and will continue to do for the Chiefs in your role with HOK. For 20 years Carl has dedicated his life to this organization and our family appreciates the tremendous job that he has done. Carl leaves a great legacy with a long list of accomplishments. He returned the Chiefs to prominence in the 1990’s. His teams won 176 games, including three 13-win seasons, nine playoff appearances and a trip to the AFC Championship game.
Perhaps my favorite stat is that his teams beat the Raiders 30 of the 41 times that we played. He helped make Arrowhead one of the best stadiums for Chiefs fans and one of the worst stadiums for opposing teams. He placed a strong emphasis on community involvement and along with our community relations staff he pushed the Chiefs to be outstanding corporate citizens.
Perhaps the greatest testament to his legacy will be the outstanding people he brought into the organization, including many of you who are here with us today. In addition to building a great off-the-field team, he brought a number of marquee players and coaches to the organization throughout his time with the Chiefs. Many of these individuals were the cornerstone faces of the modern era of the Chiefs, names like Marty Schottenheimer, Derrick Thomas, Joe Montana, Marcus Allen, Priest Holmes and Dick Vermeil, just to name a few
But more than his long list of professional accomplishments, Carl has been an outstanding ambassador for our family since he arrived in Kansas City. Through his work with the Chiefs he has left an indelible mark on the community and he will be greatly missed.
On a personal note, I want to thank Carl for his leadership and most importantly his friendship throughout the years. He has been a tremendous representative of our family and has been a great mentor to me in the National Football League.
Thank you, Clark, and thanks to all of you for coming today. I’m a bit overwhelmed. As I look out over the audience I see many friendly faces and it causes me to think back to how this organization has grown in the last 20 years.
When I came through the door, it had 58 fulltime employees. Today we have 178. We have tripled. The NFL and every franchise has grown. Much has transpired with the Chiefs and the NFL in 20 years. How does one capture 20 years in 20 minutes?
First let me say this is not going to be a wake. Secondly, Lori says we will not use the ‘R’ word. I am not retiring.
Both Lori and I do look forward to 2009 to see what that brings. But most importantly I appreciate having this moment to speak to you and some of the media, one final time, before leaving the Chiefs.
Let me first off say how appreciative my wife Lori and I are for all the many messages, e-mails, voicemails and letters of kindness that we’ve received since I made known my decision to step down as the President, CEO and General Manager of the Kansas City Chiefs at the conclusion of this 2008 season. The warmth of your words, the expression of your friendship means more to us than you can ever imagine. You have given us memories that we will treasure forever. We do look forward to continuing those friendships and again we appreciate the kind words. These words have come from media, fans, season ticket holders, employees, friends, coaches, players, scouts, not only locally, but nationally.
You’ve heard many of our coaches past and present say that they don’t read the newspapers or listen to the talk radio or watch the TV news. Well, I did. I did read much of what you wrote and much of what you said. I thought it was my job to know and to know what our fans were hearing and what they were reading.
Obviously, I did not always agree with what was being written or said. I was always amazed at the inaccuracies and inconsistencies. Most of the time I think you were writing opinion, and maybe not so many facts. As we know, everyone has an opinion, and that’s what’s great about this country. Everyone has a right to an opinion.
I did my own survey with our fans when I first came here. We did focus groups, research groups, demographic groups, and yes I even did a weekly radio show, for 20 years. I had the pleasure of visiting with fans, season ticket holders, and even some of the media that would come to the shows. And while I didn’t always agree with what they said, the only time it really upset me is when they had wrong information. Unfortunately sometimes there is a lot of misinformation out there.
I do understand the job that you have. It’s not an easy one and many times you’re under the gun to be first, and maybe not quite as accurate as you would like to be, or as we would. However, it was imperative for me that at no time could I let the media influence my decisions. They get paid to speculate, in the NFL this business is not about speculation.
Professional sports can be very much like politics. Winston Churchill once said, “In war you can get killed once. In politics, many times.” I think, in professional sports, many, many times. But the criticism goes with the job and we in the business accept that. As a man from right here in Independence said, the buck stops here. That edict is on my desk and has been for 20 years. I have accepted that.
The thing about criticism is to use it properly, constructively. But don’t become obsessed with it. It can make one bitter and warp one’s judgment. Our only guide of what is true is our own conscience. I do know what has gone on here every day, for 20 years. And I am so very proud of those who are sitting here today who have contributed to the efforts of the Kansas City Chiefs these past 20 years.
My task today is not to chronicle a long list of achievements or lament our disappointments. Because in sports, you’re always going to have both. That’s part of the public record, and most of you here today know what has gone on over my time with you. My goal today is to tell you how I came to this decision to step away from the Chiefs. Most importantly, to convey my thanks to all of you who have made this such a wonderful ride.
As Clark has stated earlier in the press, we have had many discussions regarding my stepping down. In fact, we started in January, in Dallas, in 2008. Obviously Clark and the Hunt family were not going to wait until I walked out the door to start searching for a replacement. I told Clark that this franchise and the NFL have become too complex for one individual to wear both hats – President/CEO and GM.
I had a reason why I came here, to request that from Lamar, but in 20 years both job descriptions have changed dramatically.
The general manager’s job, I’ve always believed, was to selected the head football coach and then give him what he needed to win. That includes his staff of assistant coaches, player personnel, football support staff, facilities and an environment conducive to winning – Arrowhead.
The duty of the head coach was to built a solid foundation of players and coaches, develop them, coach them and win. The duties of the President/CEO were to build an organization that was innovative, efficient, productive and sensitive to their fanbase and season ticket holders. It was the President/CEO’s duty to create an environment for success such that the franchise would be as competitive and hopefully respected and emulated off the field as our football team would be on the field.
In the NFL you compete 365 days a year in all aspects of your franchise, both football-wise and business-wise. We are in the most competitive of all sports. We wanted to build the best franchise possible, and my strong suggestion to Clark was to split the position. Upon having these discussions with Clark, about a transition plan and the future of the Chiefs, one thing became crystal clear, because I went through the same situation 20 years ago when I was hired on December 22, 1988, by Lamar Hunt. The window for finding a GM is short. It’s basically the last two weeks of December followed by 30 days in January, and then the window begins to close. Clark needed to get started, and I concurred.
I stated when I signed my contract in 2006 that this would be my last contract with the Chiefs. In fact, Lamar said that we may have been in violation of the Constitution of the United States – a President cannot serve more than two terms.
Twenty years with one team is a lifetime in this business. I’m very comfortable with this decision of stepping down from both jobs, and I’ve told Clark that I will always be available to give him what perspective and counsel I can. I will always be a Chief, but very simply, it was time.
From the first day I came on the job until I leave it today, I continue to feel honored to have been chosen by Lamar Hunt to lead this franchise. It’s humbling to work for a man as esteemed as Lamar, and that extends to his entire family, who it has been my privilege to serve as well these past 20 years.
As most of you know I’m not a native of Missouri, but I spent a great deal of my professional life here now in the heartland of America. Enough so much that I consider myself somewhat of a native. I had worked in football on both coasts, West and East, and then I came to the heartland. How fortunate for me, and what tremendous people are here. It is truly, truly a great place to live. The people are genuine, courteous, filled with common sense, and I was fortunate to meet and marry a beautiful, talented woman from Kansas, my Lori.
I have said this many times, and I believe it with all my heart. The greatest fans in the NFL are right here in the heartland of America. In taking over the Chiefs in December of 1988, I had an advantage – I had come up through the ranks. I was a high school, college and professional football coach. I’d been a head coach at a small college. I had coached and even taught at a Division I school, my alma mater, UCLA. I had worked with a very successful coach as the personnel director for an NFL team. I had run an entire football franchise in a fledgling league, the USFL.
When I was first named President of the Chiefs, one local columnist wrote that he didn’t know whether to offer his congratulations or his condolences. Many people thought I was stepping into a hopeless situation. We know the history from 1974 through 1988, the Chiefs had only two winning seasons and six head coaches. But the thing I detected more than anything else was apathy. Apathy surrounded this franchise. Fans began to no longer care whether the Chiefs won or lost. That had to change.
Someone once said that a pessimist is a person who has been intimately acquainted with an optimist. I have always been an optimist, and I don’t apologize for how I feel about the Chiefs. Even in the low moments that represent so much of this past season, for me the glass will always be half filled, never half empty.
The goal in December 1988 was to bring back the pride of the Chiefs to Lamar Hunt, his family, this great KC community, and the heartland of America. Whatever we have achieved or experienced here since 1989 has been the work of more than one man. When I came to Kansas City I was fortunate that I could call upon my years working at other franchises where we either rebuilt, as we did at the Eagles, or a startup franchise, as with the USFL. I was also extremely fortunate to now be working for one of the most visionary people I have ever met, Lamar Hunt.
If what I have done here is deemed to be a success, it is because I understood early that the sense of shared leadership is an important component to a team’s and a franchise’s success. You people here, you Chiefs employees, have heard me for 20 years talk about my simple administrative philosophy. I want to hire the most creative, innovative, talented, hardworking people possible, those who do not care who gets the credit or care how long it takes to become the best. I want to give them a goal, all the support I can, and then get the heck out of the way and let them do what they do best.
Everyone in this organization is a leader in the sense that everyone is constantly reminded that he or she has a significant contribution to make to the organization is expected to make one. Everyone in the organization is important. Everyone in the organization is important. I have tried to instill that philosophy from the minute I began this watch, and I hope I’ve been able to do that.
My experiences that the most successful teams I’ve had here and other places I’ve been were those where the players drove the team, in the locker room, in the meeting rooms and on the practice field. The players did as much for our success as any one man could. This is not to diminish the four fine head coaches I’ve had here – Marty, Gunther, Dick and Herm, plus their fine staffs. But the truth is championship teams are driven from within. In every organization and on every team, there is a core of people that sets the tone for everyone else. They are your leaders and I was fortunate to have had many positive ones here, both on the football field and in the business aspect of our business. Many of you are here today and I say thank you.
With the advent of the salary cap and the CBA in 1993, an NFL GM began to fill more roles than ever before. The business is fluid, with administrative and personnel decisions that have to be made every day. It takes up a lot of time.
You must compete in these areas as aggressively as you do in games, or you will get left behind. Both jobs, President/CEO and GM, entail making decisions every day. Some decisions are larger than others, and some are smaller than others. But you had better be ready to make them.
There are few days off, because you want those decisions to be well thought-out, and reflect well on the Chiefs and the NFL. I readily accepted that responsibility every day and I know that I will miss that part of the job on both fronts, the business administration side and the football side.
There’s a great deal of turnover on teams today, much moreso than the days when the Pittsburgh Steelers ruled professional football in the 70s. The Steelers won four Super Bowls with essentially the same coaches, the same administrators, same players, every year. If you look at the championship teams today, you’ll see that the cast of characters changes dramatically from year to year. The not-for-long league is definitely a truism today. The only constant in the NFL is change. Patience for change from our media and fans is sometimes short lived.
As you make your way in this business you realize that every year is a new one. You begin building for the next one even before the present one is finished. The speed, pace and complexities of this business increase each year. The results of my 20-year hitch, as Lamar would call it, are concluded. The victories are there as well as the defeats, the wins and the great games here at Arrowhead, the trips to the playoffs and the heartbreaking defeats in those playoff games are all part of my time. But I want to share with you what Lamar Hunt shared with me shortly after we had lost the divisional playoff game with our third 13-3 Chiefs team.
Three times this franchise, while I’ve been here, has been the number one seed, had the bye week, had two games at home before the big show. Two games at home in the greatest and most difficult stadium to win at in the NFL. And yet on all three occasions, and I don’t know what those percentages are, we didn’t get past the first game.
You remember I’m sure those excruciating losses, one in which neither team punted, an amazing game. I was about as low as I could ever be, in my office after the game, and my office is adjacent to Lamar’s office, and he gets up and comes across to me and says:
“Carl, there will be those who will say it was coaching, and there will be those who will say it was player personnel, and yes there will be those who will say it was management, and yes there will even be those who will say it’s ownership. I choose to say it was bad luck. We’ve had a magnificent 13-3 season, it’s been thrilling all the way. I know that you’ll get up tomorrow and start rebuilding and whatever I can do, let me know how I can help.”
What a magnificent, magnificent owner, and how fortunate this guy was to work for him.
I can pretend to be a private man, but as a President/GM one dwells in a fish bowl and it’s hard to hide one’s feelings when we win and when we lose. I know that I cannot. Perhaps Mitch Holthus and Len Dawson and our KCFX radio crew can attest to that better than anyone, having sat next to me for the last 20 years on gamedays. And let me say it’s the finest broadcast team in the NFL.
While my time here in Kansas City has ended, I have little cause for complaint. I’ve shared in a few successes, saw this franchise emerge, saw it capture something called Red Fridays, the refrain “Home of the Chiefs” at national anthems both at home and on the road, a sea of red fans in the parking lots, season ticket holders in 48 states plus Washington D.C., and Lamar I’m sorry we didn’t get Maine and New Hampshire done. Those fans created the loudest stadium in the NFL, Arrowhead. The imagination and excitement of the community, and a region, was awakened.
I’ve shared in more love and laughter regarding our Chiefs than any man deserves. My life has been a series of friendships and terrific associations. Many of them are the people gathered here today and in this community. I would be much less without them. I should be content that like anyone else in this business I feel a bit of dissatisfaction. There is more I wish I could have done, and certainly that goal of handing the trophy that bears his name to Lamar Hunt, who put his trust in me a long time ago.
Yet what really counts is not just achieving things, but in hopefully creating a better environment for all the people in this franchise and in this community. I am so proud of all those former Chiefs employees who have gone on to other successes in our great world of pro football. From the Bill Cowhers, to the Jeff Irelands, to the Tony Dungys, to the late Mark Hatley, and so many more. I’m so proud of all of them who have remained with the Chiefs.
For me the most rewarding moments may not always have been the most obvious. I will not forget the cars crowding the highways as we made our way back from a magnificent road win over Houston in January of 1994. The smell of charcoal from thousands of grills and the electricity in the air just before the Chiefs returned for the first time in years to Monday Night Football against the defending AFC Champion Buffalo Bills. The Bills had no chance that evening, never. They knew it, too.
The Monday Night Football games. Denver, Elway versus Montana. In Oakland - and I did love to beat that guy out there - Elvis Grbac to Andre Rison and Al Michaels screaming, “Andre Rison has just burned Al Davis’ house down!”
I will never forget the endless line of mourners and outpouring of love at the funeral of our beloved Derrick Thomas, right here at Arrowhead Stadium. We will also remember the same outpouring of love and respect at the memorial for our founder just two short years ago.
Seeing George Brett and Jamie Quirk here reminds me of all the playoff games we’ve had and those two guys down there yelling and screaming their hearts out with other guys like Tom Watson and Roy Williams. And I want you to know, George and Jamie, we got fined every time you did it, because you were not supposed to be on the sideline, but we were very happy to pay those fines. George and I go back a long way, we were both beach boys from southern California and both came to the midland of America and how fortunate we are.
And yes, even the excitement in this city of just two short years ago as the day and evening wore on when only one home team out of four, our Chiefs, were victorious to get to the 2006 playoffs. Every restaurant, tavern, hotel, and home TV in Kansas City followed each game as the improbable happened. All three other teams lost. In each place in Kansas City people burst with joy because their Chiefs were going to the playoffs again. Yes, we may have received a little divine intervention from Lamar, and both Lori and I concurred on that, but it simply showed once again how much this city loves their Chiefs. Those are great, great memories.
Most of us are pulled into this wonderful business of professional football by examples of lives worth following. Certainly Lamar Hunt’s life is one of those. Next to my father, there is no one I admire more than Lamar. Of course I must give a special thank you to another guy now in Pennsylvania by the name of Dick Vermeil, who gave me my opportunity to enter the world of pro football. And I must thank many coaches and administrators that I’ve hired and worked with and seen rise through the ranks to hold jobs similar or equal to mine in the NFL. I’m extremely proud of all of them.
I’m so pleased that we were able to make Lamar’s vision of college football games at Arrowhead come true. The numerous Division I and Division II games we have hosted, the five Big 12 championships, and the one Lamar really wanted, KU-MU at Arrowhead. It has been great for the participating universities, great for Jackson county and the Kansas City community, and I must thank all of those from inside and outside the Chiefs for making those games happen.
Ours is truly a people business, and one should never forget that. The most important aspect to our business is to establish relationships with coaches, players, staff and fans. Certainly Lamar knew that more than anyone else. What other owner would come up from Dallas, early, to judge tailgating and Chiefs car decoration contests? Only Lamar Hunt.
I will surely miss my pre-game walkarounds to meet and greet our fans at the pavilion, the tents, at the Arrowhead Club and in the parking lots. I will miss seeing TeePee man from Wichita, and his fire and brimstone show, and the friendships of the people who traveled great distances to come to the games, from Missouri, from Kansas, from Iowa, from Nebraska, from Oklahoma, from Arkansas. I will miss the Chiefs-decorated RVs, the Chiefs flags, the memorabilia, and the greatest tailgating in all the NFL.
I will miss our red-coaters, thank you for being here today. What a magnificent group of devoted Chiefs fans and workers, and they were here when I came because of Jack Steadman.
And I will miss a group that we started when I arrived, our Chiefs ambassadors, the Bobby Bells, the Ed Buddes, the Ted McKnights, the Walter Whites, the Curtis McClintons, the Larry Marshalls, Jerry Cornelius, Deron Cherry, Keith Cash and so many more. What a terrific group of men who have connected the past with the present and the future of the Chiefs. I must personally thank both groups for what you have done for the Chiefs these past 20 years. You have been magnificent.
Thank you so much for these past years. This 20-year ride has been an honor, a privilege and a marvelous journey. All the games, all the records, all the great trips have been wonderful. But it is the people that I have met along the way. You people, you have made the difference. Thank you for who you are, you are simply the best at what you do.
I have attempted to lead this franchise with dignity, with integrity and with professionalism. I have never taken this responsibility lightly. As my watch concludes I hope that I have pleased the quiet man from Texas and brought some pride, plus excitement, back to the heartland of America.
As another gentleman in this great game would say, ladies and gentlemen, I have taken far too much of your valuable time, but it has been a pleasure and I now say goodbye.