The Kansas City Chiefs kick off their preseason slate against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday night at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs may not have had the free agency that some fans or scribes were hoping for or expecting, but Scott Pioli is plenty satisfied with the players the Chiefs did add as they try to build on their surprising season in with an even more competitive and spirited run back to the playoffs in. And as you’ll hear, it wasn’t for a lack of trying that the Chiefs weren’t able to add another talented player or two this month.
Pioli joinedKCSP in Kansas City with Bob Fescoeto talk about his impressions of the Chiefs squad two weeks into training camp, how it’s finally starting to feel like a normal camp now that the whole team has had a bit of time to work together, all the collaborative work that went on between Tamba Hali’s camp and the Chiefs in order to get a new free agent deal done, how both sides compromised in those negotiations and why that ultimately led to both parties being happy with the final result, why he’d prefer to not talk about some of the other guys that the Chiefs pursued in free agency but were not able to sign, why he tries to minimize the amount of information that is leaked to the media and other teams during free agency, why he was so pleased to sign Kelly Gregg to a free agent deal, how and why he emphasizes finding the right fits scheme and personality wise in free agent signings rather than simply going after the biggest names on the market, and how it would be immature and dangerous of him to root for any one individual like Tyson Jackson — his first draft pick as the Chiefs GM — over focusing on which of the 53 men on the roster are going to give the team the best chance to win.
How he’s feeling about the Chiefs’ training camp nearly two weeks in:
“It’s been different, it’s certainly been different. There’s this large amount of work that’s compressed into a small time-frame and fortunately we had a group of people that were prepared. The coaches obviously prepared for how things were going to go down to the best of our knowledge. But then a lot of support people. Training camp, it looks like normal training camp but there were a lot of things that were done in compressed time just in terms of getting everything set up. The people here at the university and how good they were…it’s been wild. There’s been some long hours by a lot of people that have put in a lot of work and a lot of time to get things going. But it’s finally starting to feel like normal training camp now that we’ve got all the players. The way we started in here, it was broken up — we had a group of players that were in early and then we had to wait for the second wave of players. But now we’ve had a couple of days with the full team. So it’s starting to feel like a normal training camp now, that’s for sure.”
On the work that went into re-signing Tamba Hali to a huge five-year free agent deal:
“Well it was certainly a lot of work that went into it by a group of people, and the thing is what’s missed on this is we always talk about team and teamwork, and people think we’re focused purely on the teamwork of the players in the locker room and the players on the field. And I don’t mean to sound corny but the teamwork that went into getting this deal done not only on Tamba’s side, but the people internally here, Tripp McCracken and Brandt Hilis, two guys that work on contract research and work on and are involved closely with me in the negotiations, put in countless hours. Because it wasn’t just the Tamba Hali deal that was going on, there were all these other free agents we were trying to get signed. Whether it was McClain, Kelly Gregg, Brandon Siler, and a bunch of other names that were out there. I’ve talked about it before — sometimes you want a dance partner and no one wants to dance with you.
There was plenty of other people that we pursued that we didn’t get done. But the Tamba thing, I don’t ever want to get into the details of someone’s personal business and how things went down, but the bottom line is what I can say is it was clear Tamba wanted to be here, it was clear we wanted Tamba to be here, and it took a lot of work, a lot of time, a lot of exchanging of proposals and exchanging of ideas. And fortunately, because Tamba was involved with this process, and his desire to be here was really strong, there was legitimate compromise and thinking of things that were, for lack of a better term, outside the box that led to us getting something done where both sides were happy. Both sides had to compromise, but in the end both sides are happy.”
Since he alluded to it, who were some of those other guys that the Chiefs pursued in free agency but were unable to sign:
“I’m never going to give that up guys! Are you kidding me? Let me ask you: back in your earlier life when you were single and asking girls out on dates — were you ever turned down? Did you run out to tell your buddies who the girls were that turned you down?”
On if he makes it a point to try to limit the amount of information that is leaked to the press or around the league:
“The bottom line is I’m not sure what purpose it serves sometimes to help us win football games. And the thing I said the day I arrived here is everything I do, and everything that everyone else does in this football operation is going to be focused on and where primarily the intent is to win football games. We just don’t believe in spending a lot of time or energy on things that don’t help us win football games or make our football team better.”
Why the interest in defensive lineman Kelly Gregg?
“Well a couple of things: he’s obviously a good football player but he’s also a very good technician, he’s played 2-gap defense. One of the things about Kelly that was most attractive I would say is he has played 2-gap nose in the National Football League at a solid level, and at a high level at different times for a lot of years. He’s also a guy who’s got a gregarious personality and he’s also got a teacher’s mentality. He’s the kind of guy that he’s not only going to compete and play hard at his position, he’s also going to share and teach all the young players around him. I don’t know how much you’ve had a chance to see in practice in terms of him in between drills and even during drills…We have a very young group of defensive linemen who have been coached by coaches, and what helps supplement that sometimes is hearing from a veteran player that’s actually done things and can teach them and done them at a high level. The other thing that Kelly brings is most of the other players that we’ve brought in this year also have a degree of playoff experience and have been with successful teams. They’ve been with organizations that know how to win and they know what it takes to win. Kelly has some of that, LeRon has some of that, certainly Brandon Siler has been on a pretty good team out in San Diego for awhile, Steve Breaston was on a team that went to a Super Bowl. So they’re players who have, again, it’s not always about what they bring to the table physically for the system; it’s also what they bring to the club make-up wise. But, again, the thing with Kelly is he’s been in a system very similar to this and knows how to 2-gap.”
On his approach of signing high-character, experienced players rather than high-profile free agents:
“And that’s what I hope everyone believes that I’m doing as well. Again, there needs to be a lot of work that goes into it. I can turn around and ask my eight-year old daughter who she thinks is the best player, and if she sees or hears that name enough, my little girl will tell me that Joe Smith is the best nose in the league, or she’ll say ‘daddy, he’s on TV a lot, he’s got to be good.’ And that’s an easy thing to do. What we also have to be careful not to be overly analytical. You’ve got to put this puzzle together and take as much information and get as many pieces of the puzzle together and then put it together. It is watching tape, it is doing background checks and communicating with people that you do have relationships with that you know you can trust. Because something that I think I’ve learned over time is you have to first get a player offensively or defensively that fits your scheme philosophically;
then you also have to have a player that you know is going to buy into the program and the leadership group of the program; and that’s not always easy to do. But by knowing who the people are, and knowing not only what the people are — we talk about character and sometimes that gets misunderstood because I don’t always do a good job of explain it — when I talk about character it’s who they are and whether that’s going to mesh with the expectations of the leadership group here. And the expectations here aren’t better than another place, they’re just different than other places. And you have to find places where those things come together where they’re going to be able to react and respond to the culture that’s created here. Because one player that can’t fit in this culture, it doesn’t mean they’re not a good player or that they’re a bad player, it doesn’t mean they’re not going to be able to be successful in the NFL. Sometimes it’s just not the right fit. So finding the right player that fits your scheme and fits all the other things is really an important part of building a football team.”
If he is cheering extra hard for Tyson Jackson to play well this year being that Jackson was his first pick as the Chiefs GM:
“I don’t get into stuff like that. With all due respect, that’s silliness. I mean, we’ve talked about it time and time again when we talk about it internally, it doesn’t matter how you got here — whether you’re a first round pick, the first pick in the draft overall, or the last guy picked in the draft or a rookie free agent — we’re all rooting for the same things. We’re rooting for the best players that are going to help us win games and win the right way and be the right kind of people. So you have to be able to separate things like that, and the day that anyone of us gets caught up in our own ego in rooting for any one individual over another player who’s part of the 53, that’s just a bad way and a silly way, and truthfully it would be an immature way of doing business.”