Survival Of The Fittest?

Three great players, all are multi-Pro Bowlers: Tony Gonzalez, Brian Waters and Larry Johnson. All three of them can't wait to get out of Kansas City. As we've all heard, each one of them seems to have a different beef against the team.

Johnson thinks Kansas City doesn't like him or want him anymore (according to C.E. Wendler's The Case for Larry, that couldn't be further from the truth). Gonzalez wants to play for a contender and Waters was dissed by the powers that be.

The unifying circumstance for these players is change. The new triumvirate of Clark Hunt, Scott Pioli and Todd Haley are singing off the same sheet of music, and the kids don't like it. Hunt has appropriately delegated control of football operations to Pioli, who has appropriately delegated the management of the players and coaches to Haley. What's the issue?

Don't forget, by the players own admission, Herm Edwards was a "players coach." Carl Peterson treated many of these players "like his sons." Even Lamar Hunt ran the organization more like a country club than a business operation.

The younger Hunt is now running the Chiefs like a business. Pioli treats his players like employees and Haley is managing them as such. This is a professional organization with many different layers of responsibility. What the players will come to realize is that even though they are playing a game, they are playing the game for a paycheck. In most cases, a fairly lucrative paycheck.

For an organization to be successful, the managers of the organization need to take responsibility. Effective managers don't allow the inmates to run the asylum. When players are allowed unfettered access to "the boss" and their input is considered in decision making, the true nature of those in command is revealed. That revelation is usually some degree of weakness or lack of fortitude.

While there may not have been any significant degree of absolute abdication to the players under Peterson, I think that many times when a player bent Carl's ear, especially one of his sons, he listened. Pioli doesn't play that way.

When Waters "requested" a meeting with Pioli, the boss did the right thing. This is just a guess, but it's possible the word that came down to Waters was, "follow the chain of command." When Waters approached Haley in the hallowed halls of One Arrowhead Drive, it was reported that the head coach informed his left guard that "22 people off the street could win two games."

Waters was reminded that he's a player, not a decision maker. Point well made.

Let's be clear about this entire course of action - "under new management" isn't just talk. This team is positioning itself for success. It's not about who's right or wrong or any other pie in the sky theme; this is about taking an organization with a solid foundation and leading it to the next level.

When 20-, 30-, and sometimes 40-something multi-millionaires complain that they aren't being treated right because nobody is listening, or the town doesn't like them, or they need to play for a team that is going to win, the concern is they are not being "team players." It becomes "me, me, me" and "I, I, I," and forget the team.

What some of these players are missing - or perhaps forgot - is they are part of a team. As in any profession that relies on groups of people to accomplish objectives, if the group doesn't work together effectively, they lose. Many times they lose big, or frequently. They don't believe in the message being preached and they stop caring about the consequences. Solo performances satisfy the individual. Group performances satisfy everybody.

Fans have the tendency to expect immediate results when a change occurs. Younger players want to see that instant reversal of fortune that a new view sometimes brings. Older players want to win, if possible, but most it seems are content with their paycheck. This team is trying to make the moves necessary to get to the business of winning games.

Even the most casual observer is going to feel the difference, even if the change doesn't startle them. Patience will be the key for both fan and player alike. The need to get that burst of pleasure associated with the rush of an exciting victory sometimes overcomes the necessity of taking a deliberate course. Don't confuse the lack of obvious activity as anything other than taking the time to get it right.

Change is a necessary evil in life. It doesn't have to be scary but many think it is. Change doesn't have to be profound to make a difference. What change has to be is embraced by those affected and turned to produce a positive result. I recently heard a quote from a character on a new TV show that fits the current theme of embracing change and surviving it: "Survival of the fittest is not about being fit, it's about being adaptable to change."

Gonzalez, Waters and Johnson should take a step back and look at the big picture. This community, this team and these fans are among the best in the NFL and looking forward, the winning is really only a step or two away.

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