KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It’s safe to be a candy wrapper at Arrowhead Stadium again.
Scott Pioli is gone. After five days of hand-wringing, preceded by four years of paranoia, promises broken, delusions of grandeur and embarrassing defeats, the Kansas City Chiefs on Friday morning announced that they’d parted ways with their massively unpopular general manager.
In offices and cubicles and coffee shops around Kansas City, they danced. They danced the way the Munchkins danced when Dorothy Gale’s house landed on the Wicked Witch of the East. Everywhere around Oz, folks reached for their Chiefs gear, the shirts and hats they’d buried in the back of the closet with disgust.
@BigMacDak: Pioli is done … best news I’ve heard since, ever.
It gets better, kids. In the soap opera that is the first week of the Chiefs’ offseason, the plot has taken another twist — Pioli is officially out, and Andy Reid is almost officially in. Morning reports indicated that former Philadelphia Eagles coach, probably the sexiest of the recyclables in the candidate pool, had reached an agreement in principle to replace Romeo Crennel in Kansas City.
To call this encouraging would be an understatement: Reid was 130-93-1 over 14 seasons in Philly, including a run of five straight years of 11 victories or more. He’d be a quarterback guru coming to a team that needs a complete reboot under center; an offensive whiz coming to a club that just set a franchise record for fewest points scored in a 16-game season, a bunch that finished last in the NFL in passing yards per game (169.6) and points per game (13.2). Reid would immediately put a giant, mustachioed visage to this organization, replacing the sad-face emoticon that’s held court out on Arrowhead Drive over the past four months or so.
These are all good things. But, to be honest, it’s not the thing fans wanted to see most.
They wanted blood.
They wanted Pioli’s blood.
And for most, they’re weren’t going to feel sated — like Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt had truly and genuinely cleaned house — until they got it.
@BAM4Play: If they fire Pioli tonight, I will start shopping for tickets. If not, I will contemplate a larger TV for next fall.
They said their piece Thursday, through Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and via any other social-media outlet with a pulse. They’re happy with the prospect of the burly Reid plopped down in the middle of their world. But they’re far happier now that Pioli is no longer a part of it at all.
@RJonesing: I say we use trial by ordeal to determine Pioli’s fate.
Despite the assertions of tackle Eric Winston, Kansas City is not Philadelphia — the locals will, and have, put up with a lot of guff before they start reaching for the pitchforks. But after four years; two coaches (going on a third); Matt Cassel; Brady Quinn; the prime of tailback Jamaal Charles’ career going to waste; one playoff appearance; three losing seasons; and a 23-42 record since 2009, the people have seen enough.
Dumping Crennel was not enough.
@schultzd24: Bye bye (expletive) Pioli
To understand the joy, you have to first understand the bile. When Pioli was hired away from the New England Patriots, he’d been named NFL Executive of the Year multiple times for his work on the east coast. The Chiefs, in the meantime, had just gone 2-14 under coach Herm Edwards, mired in a ditch of disarray. The feeling was that general manager Carl Peterson, who’d helped to get the franchise back up on its feet some 20 years earlier, had outstayed his welcome.
On paper, at the time, it seemed like a home-run hire. Pioli was given absolute authority by Hunt, free reign to cast the Chiefs in whatever image he liked. Pioli, flashing his Super Bowl rings, promised the city diamonds.
More often than not, his teams delivered coal.
But that wasn’t the heart of the disconnect. Pioli hired the hottest offensive assistant of the moment, Todd Haley, but it wasn’t long before the two clashed publicly. Pioli signed Cassel over from the Patriots to a six-year contract, declared the quarterback position solved, and then, rather than give Cassel more competition, gave him more and more rope.
But that wasn’t the heart of it either. Reporters were pushed further and further away, following the standard set under Bill Belichick in New England. Whispers emerged that Pioli was playing the heavy backstage, severing ties with longtime Chiefs employees while simultaneously cutting corners that would help the Hunt family’s bottom line — color copies of team memos were out, for example, in favor of black and white alternatives.
Several former staffers went public last January in widely circulated report, claiming that a family atmosphere within the club had been replaced by a mood of fear and distrust, that Pioli was pinching pennies while upbraiding employees over such sundry sins as finding a loose candy wrapper inside a stairwell. There were assertions that Pioli had bugged his coach’s cell phones and offices.
In recent years, the Chiefs had always come off to the public at large as a bit frugal. Under Pioli, now they seemed small and petty, too.
But the fall of 2012 was, in hindsight, the last straw. During June and July, Pioli’s Chiefs had been tabbed by the experts as a possible AFC West sleeper. At the end of December, they were 2-14.
Fans wore black to games. Others paid thousands of dollars to have anti-Pioli banners flown over the stadium on Sundays. Many stayed home.
Every pro sports town has its divisive figures. Pioli wasn’t merely divisive anymore. He’d become repellant.
@shultzie12345: Pioli out, Reid in … good, good morning
Several outlets of repute have reported that Reid would prefer to bring in his own right-hand man — most likely Tom Heckert, an old Eagles running buddy, or Green Bay’s John Dorsey — to act as general manager. Others said there might’ve possibly been room for Reid and Pioli, a career Belichick guy, in the same front office.
There wasn’t room for both them in the hearts of Kansas City. Not even remotely.
@foxyjag: Got to hand it to Clark. Went out and got his guy. Now fire Pioli and we can all live happily ever after. #Chiefs
By all accounts, Hunt finally found his lion. The faithful finally got their sacrificial lamb. The Wicked Witch is dead, and the Munchkins are wearing red.