Q&A with GM Scott Pioli

Posted Apr 15, 2011


PIOLI: “How’s everyone doing? That clock is wrong. I’m actually one minute late. Thanks for coming down everyone. I feel a lot better that it’s actually a miserable day outside and I’m not taking anyone away from a short Friday on the golf course or anywhere else. I was telling Pam on the way down here, I’ve been looking forward to this and I’m glad we’re down here right now because I’ve spent probably two-to-three weeks in the same room with too many familiar faces and arguing. So hopefully we won’t do too much arguing here, we’ll just do talking. I just want to talk about the draft, where we’re at, take some questions as to where we’re at in the process and where things are, where we’re at in our third draft together as a group – this group that we’re working with right now in terms of the overall staff. In terms of the coaches and scouts, this is our second draft together as a much larger group and as a smaller group, two years together and we see a team here that’s started to make some progress and we’re encouraged by some of the things we did last year but also have an acute understanding that we are still very far off from where we want to be and what kind of football team we want to have. We’ve started to put some of the building blocks in place in understanding the world and the environment that we live in, that there are a lot of needs across the board. We’ve been in some very interesting meetings, some very spirited meetings in terms of the group of people at this point in the process, this is now the time the last couple of days and possibly the last week where coaches are coming in off the road and we’ve worked a lot of players out, spent time with a lot of players individually getting more insight, more work done on the players and having players come in here where we get to spend more personal, up close time with them and finalize some of the thoughts that we believe we have on the players – not only physically but make-up wise and who they are in digging further into background. I want to open it up to questions and let’s talk the draft.”


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 Tyson Jackson, and I know the jury is still out, we all need to see that. Everyone in our organization is pretty confident still that Tyson is going to be a good player. I also look at the second round and see the fact that we’ve got a starting NFL quarterback that’s playing at a Pro Bowl level for a second round pick, I think that’s a pretty productive decision we made as an organization. I also think that picking up a player like LB Mike Vrabel, for the second round, when you get out of that draft and you include those players, I think there are a lot of people who would have loved to have QB Matt Cassel as a second-round pick that year. I also think, like I said, getting a player like Mike Vrabel, who really helped immensely, not only as a player but as a mentor and a culture-changer, so to speak, and knowing how he affected and impacted some of the younger players from previous drafts that really needed to understand how things were changing. Again, I think looking at drafts through a very, very narrow scope of things can be damaging sometimes and I also look at a player like K Ryan Succop, who’s a good NFL kicker, again I think the jury’s still out on that draft and time will tell, but I think looking at it in its entirety is important to do. In terms of the differences, I think if you’re going to be good consistently, you have to continue to evolve and improve and get better in everything we’re doing – it’s not just on the field it’s in player acquisition, it’s in the draft, free agency, and managing the entire operation and I think it’s just natural and normal when you get a group of people that work together collectively, and at the end of the day I’m the person who pulls the name and submits the name to the league on draft day, and I’ve said this time and time again, no one, no good leader, makes decisions in a vacuum without the help of others and I think as we continue to evolve and spend more time together, and there’s a greater understanding of what we’re looking for, for this program, that will continue to improve and hopefully be solid. I think the jury’s still out on the 2010 draft, we don’t know where that is going to end up. Sure, we had a number of good young players that came in and contributed as players, but again, the greater contribution that that group of players made was from a make-up standpoint, how they helped us on that continuum of changing the culture and buying into and believing, buying into the way the head coach wants to do things, the way he’s doing things, and the way we are organizationally doing things. The jury’s still out on that Adam, I really do believe. You need to have consistency, if I say something like that, there needs to be consistency, we don’t know where the 2010 group’s going to end up yet.”

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.”

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