Chiefs strip Pioli of power, so why keep him?
DEC 31, 2012 8:05p ET
As of Monday night, on the last day of the worst calendar year in franchise history, the thorn was still there. It just wasn't lodged as deep.
Oh, there were promises that the thorn wouldn't be picking the next coach, that the thorn may or may not have the final word on personnel decisions anymore.
But, at the end of the evening, the thorn was still around. Dangling, but still around.
"We're ultimately going to be satisfied when Scott Pioli is no longer employed by the Kansas City Chiefs," McDonald, founder of the fan movement Save Our Chiefs, said of Pioli, the Chiefs' rather unpopular general manager. "We love and appreciate the attention that (CEO) Clark Hunt is now giving the franchise. It's long overdue.
"Frankly, after the game (a 38-3 shellacking at Denver), this franchise was at a 'Y,' or a fork, in the road, and it could've gone either way. Clark woke up (Monday) morning and... he did the right thing for the organization when he informed coach (Romeo) Crennel last night that, 'Hey, we no longer need you.' It was good to see that this was Clark's decision and it isn't Scott Pioli's decision."
Well, yeah, there is that. Crennel was let go Monday, a foregone conclusion after a season that many earmarked for nine or 10 wins in actuality played out like a four-month Three Stooges sketch. The Chiefs put up the fewest points over a 16-game schedule in club history (211) and were outscored by 214 points, besting the previous franchise record for negative-point differential (minus-149, set in 2008) by 65.
According to ProFootballReference.com's Simple Rating System, in which an average team rates as roughly a 0.0, this was easily the worst bunch in Chiefs history, with a mark of -14.0. Point of reference: The 2008 Detroit Lions, who were 0-16, posted a rating of -13.1.
There were light-hearted moments, such as the weekend when a fan's family penned an obituary that cited the team's poor performance as one of the causes of death. And there were truly awful, harrowing moments, such as the grey morning of December 1, when Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher turned up at the team's practice facility after having killed his girlfriend and shot himself in the head.
In every sense, 2012 was the lowest of the low, the sort of thing to purge and never speak of again. Which begs the question, of course:
What the devil is Pioli still doing here?
"We're not happy," offered McDonald, who organized protests, leaflets, blackouts and most famously, banners that flew over Arrowhead Stadium during games calling for Pioli's dismissal. "You would think if you're not going to have a guy involved in the process, why keep him around?"
Why indeed? And yet, faced with two seemingly obvious choices on Black Monday -- double down on Pioli, and watch the fans riot, or show him the same door he showed Crennel -- Hunt instead called an end-around. He went directly to the franchise's media partners and, in so many words, made the following declarations:
• He's conducting the search for the next coach, not Pioli.
• The aforementioned next coach will report to him, and not to Pioli.
• A decision on Pioli will "come later," but that no timetable had been set for the decision.
And this is where things get complicated, at least on the surface.
If Hunt is to be believed, the Chiefs' new coach will now drive the train in terms of personnel, staff, vision, wallpaper, the whole shebang. It's an obvious play to attract the biggest name possible (Andy Reid?), including those with Super Bowl rings who've since moved to television (Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher), just to see if they'll nibble.
It's also a very significant (and public) neutering of Pioli's status, an attempt to either shame the man into resigning of his own accord or a means of psychologically torturing him for a few more weeks until the axe actually falls. There are whispers of buyouts and lawyers, too, of legal tangles that might be delaying an inevitable divorce.
Either way, the job that Pioli interviewed for four years ago, in Hunt's mind, no longer exists; that power, going forward, will be shared.
It remains to be seen with the Chiefs' current general manager could swallow enough pride to be subservient to the whims of a superstar coach. Or, more to the point, if that superstar coach would even want Pioli sniffing around the place.
"Our understanding with the process is that it's focused on (Pioli's) buyout and the financial issues at hand," McDonald allowed, "and that Clark would rather go out and get a coach right now rather than (have to) deal with Pioli on this matter."
While this doesn't thrill McDonald, obviously, he's curious to see where the knife turns next. It sure as heck beats the status quo. Then again, in 2012, just about everything else beat it, too.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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