Q: What are you arguing about? Is it positions of need or specific players?
PIOLI: “Some guys like to argue about anything up there because it’s part of the mood. I say that kiddingly. Arguing is probably too negative of a word to use. What happens is different people see things different ways, see players different ways in meetings with players when different people sit down with the individual players they can be involved in answering the same questions or hearing the same questions and just have a different perception of where the player may be coming from or what they’re saying or how they’re saying it. The discussions range from anything about agreements and disagreements on the players’ ability, their athleticism, their production, because believe it or not, you can disagree when it comes to production when you’re talking about things that aren’t on paper, whether the block was a good block or whether a player played off a block well enough. Disagreements range everywhere from physical abilities and even test numbers because some people don’t have all the information, they’ll just see the numbers. Perhaps there is a scout who doesn’t have the information about a players’ injury history so there will be a disagreement initially on what the players’ time was and how fast it was and how good it was or wasn’t and there will be additional information. So when I say arguing, it’s just more disagreements that reveal a greater or stronger truth.”
Q: Sometimes in a group dynamic like that, some people are hesitant to express an opinion or challenge someone else’s opinion. Do you encourage that?
PIOLI: “Absolutely. Talking about it from a scouting standpoint, all of the scouts that we hire and/or develop within the program, we make sure that they want to disagree, not for the sake of disagreeing, we want them to have their own opinions. They understand and know that it’s a healthy thing to disagree and it’s the same way with the coaches. We encourage it just by doing it and there’s never a feeling of intimidation or shutting people down. I’ve seen and heard of places where when there are disagreements they’ll either throw someone’s opinion out the window or they’ll talk a person down, just be disrespectful. There are no components of disrespect within our meetings. We encourage it and it’s important because we have a nice mix of older coaches and scouts and younger coaches and scouts. I think the younger generation sees how the older generation works and they’re encouraged to speak up and/or disagree. Again Doug, we don’t get into a situation where we want people disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing it’s just we want people to have opinions. Last year was a perfect example. A couple of times some of the people in the leadership group didn’t necessarily see players or a player a certain way and a couple of the scouts really understand how to disagree, to bring information to the table and it’s a matter of bringing information – don’t just make a statement for the sake of making a statement and saying ‘I disagree.’ Well, that’s fine, but why do you disagree? We ask them to play lawyer so-to-speak and have evidence why you disagree. You can’t just disagree to disagree. I think it’s a great teaching tool because when they start presenting evidence, and there have been plenty of times where evidence has been produced by the scouts and/or the coaches that I didn’t have and I hadn’t done a thorough enough job of or Todd (Haley) hasn’t and we get convinced or we at least get convinced to go back and do more work.”
Q: How many people are in those meetings?
PIOLI: “There are different meetings. Going back to the first real sit-down group of meetings that we have in December while the season is going, we bring in the entire scouting staff and it’s all the area scouts, all the regional scouts, Phil (Emery), the director of college scouting, Joel (Collier), the assistant general manager, and all the people that we call the young scouts that are the young, in-house guys who just help the operation go. Coaches obviously can’t be involved in those meetings at that time. Then we get to February and we have our pre-Combine February meetings which are after the crosschecking. When we get to the crosscheck component, again it’s that same group of all the area scouts, regional scouts, the directors, Ray Farmer is also in there, Todd gets in on some of those meetings, a couple of the coaches are in those meetings. Now we get to this point in time where coaches have had a chance to be out of season, to watch tape, to see some of the workouts, do campus visits, to also have players visit us here and they get to a point where they have what they feel is solid footing. These meetings, it will be a group where it’s myself, Todd, Phil, Joel, one of the scouting assistants who is actually our scouting administrator and then the coordinators and the position coaches each go through their own personal stack as to how they feel or believe the players at their particular positions are. Then we’ll go back and have more meetings about these meetings, like through this weekend, to kind of whittle things down and a lot of what’s done here, and again I said there’s times there are arguments, there aren’t that many arguments and there aren’t that many disagreements. Right now, this is an important time for us to listen and not try to talk coaches or scouts out of ideas. Then we have another group of our higher-level scouts, our regional scouts are also in now and they sit in on some of these meetings as well.”
Q: What is the most important thing that you guys think the Kansas City Chiefs need right now? Have you gotten it narrowed down to that point?
PIOLI: “I don’t know if I’ve ever gone through any draft and said that this is the absolute total number one thing that is our number one need. That’s not avoiding the question. That’s the truth. Because of the way this league is now, there are these cycles where you have free agency and what is in need today immediately for 2011 to line up in September, you can’t be so short-sighted to not understand what might happen to your roster at the beginning of 2012. So the answer to the question is I don’t think that there is a position on this football team where there isn’t a need. Something that I feel strongly about and Todd feels strongly about is the mentality that we had and have experience with is the mentality we had in New England, which is it doesn’t matter who you have at any position, you have needs and you have to fill those needs. You’re never set at any one position because whether a player leaves you or not via free agency, there are bad things that can happen to players and your team so you better be ready with the next player. So the answer is we have a need at every position. Some are ranked higher than others for immediacy but that doesn’t mean that you run from another position. This goes into the whole thing of trying to find a delicate balance between best player available and need. It’s obvious to people I think what you all perceive and what we perceive certain needs are but again, you have to think ahead. You can’t focus in on a one-year or even a two-year frame of thinking because then you set yourself up for failure if you’re trying to build a consistent winner.”
Q: So do you have the coaches more involved this year because of the lockout?
PIOLI: “We have the coaches involved every year. I think in the first year here because of the transition, with certain individuals there was greater involvement, with others there was less Bob. I would say we involve them the same every year, or we try too. I think part of the evolution of the involvement of the coaches is also getting to know the team better as and we get to know the strengths and limitations of every evaluator because we all have limitations in terms of knowing what your strengths and limitations are as an evaluator. Perfect example, I know what some of my limitations are as an evaluator, or some of the mistakes that I’ve made in the past as an evaluator. And you have to not only think about yourself on that, but think about the people that are providing the information and evaluation and put that into the mix and understanding where things might be so you don’t make the same mistake again.”
Q: So you constantly evaluate the evaluators?
PIOLI: “Yes, yes we do, but we do it I think in a different way. I know when I first got into the league some of the…here’s the wrong way to evaluate an evaluator; I know teams in the past would evaluate the jobs that their scouts did based on where a player was drafted. I personally believe that’s flawed, because what we need here and what our specific needs are in terms of a player making it with the Kansas City Chiefs, there will be certain players who can make it here, perform well in our system and not perform well in another system. Then there are others players, whether it’s a physical capability, or trait, or their makeup, players who can be successful in other programs but not be successful here. When you set up a certain environment and how things are going to be done, we talk about the culture that’s here, there are certain demands on people that players can handle, and other players can’t. That doesn’t mean that they’re not a good player, that doesn’t mean that their not a good person, it just means that the fit isn’t right. In order for anyone to grow or develop within this league there needs to a compatibility of the environment and what people can tolerate and what they can’t tolerate. Because this program and the way we’ve set things up isn’t for everyone, we’re not for everyone, and that doesn’t mean the people who don’t remain here and develop aren’t good or aren’t good people, it’s just the way it is.”
Q: Scott, do your needs change based on certain, like say the defensive end are really deep in the draft or quarterback really deep in the draft. Do your needs change based on that at all?
PIOLI: “No because I don’t think that changes our needs, I think it changes where the depth is and where a particular position and when you’re picking. Right now it appears to be that there’s depth at one position, two positions, three positions, but by the time you get to 21, that depth may be wiped out so you don’t really know until names actually start coming off the board. And as much as we think we know what’s going to go on in the 31 other draft rooms, it’s really difficult to predict. But your own team’s needs are what they are; you can’t start changing your needs. The most important part of whether it’s the draft, free agency, of player acquisition or claiming players with waivers is being, again, acutely aware of what your limitations are and where your holes are, and acknowledging those and trying to fix those they best you can based on the opportunity that’s put out in front of you. We can want a certain position all we want, but if we get to that spot and there’s not a player that’s good enough or the right fit for us on a multitude of levels, then it doesn’t make sense.”
Q: So if there’s a stud guy there at the same position that you don’t have valued as high but the guy keeps falling and you really don’t need that as much as you need position B, would you draft that guy because he is such a good player even though he doesn’t fit what is your biggest need at that point?
PIOLI: “I think that’s where it gets into strategy, where you have to think about, OK, you look at your roster and you start considering, where’s this roster going to be a year from now? Maybe it doesn’t make sense to take a defensive lineman right now because you know we feel good about our defensive line, but there may be in the long term, a year from now, those things might be very different. I guess it’s not black or white. I think you have to evaluate the situation, you have to evaluate “can I trade back?” Can you trade back and still get a good player and pick up additional value that will give you organizational currency or organizational value where you still get a good player by moving back but then you’re collecting picks for the future. It’s not like there’s a perfect formula, so to answer the question, they’ll be times we will do that and then there’ll be other times when we can’t put enough value together for the total package to move back or to move up because sometimes what you’ll do is you’ll move up because there’s a player that’s getting close to you who you didn’t think was there.”
Q: Are you allowed to trade future draft picks this year?
PIOLI: “We are allowed to trade, yes we are. Nothing involving players but we can talk about future picks.”
Q: We know you don’t like to grade or judge drafts until way down the line, but your first draft here, it’s looking like it’s not going to be a productive draft, and your draft last year’s looking like it’s got a pretty good chance to be a productive draft. How do you explain the difference in those two drafts as far as the results go?
PIOLI: “I guess what I would say is your perception of it is that it’s not a productive draft but I look back to that draft and think the fact that I think we do have a good player in
Q: You brought up Tyson Jackson earlier, if you had that to do over again would you draft Tyson Jackson?
PIOLI: “I’d take the same player again. Absolutely. Absolutely.”