GM John Dorsey guides make-over Chiefs to playoffs
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — John Dorsey is a man comfortable in his own skin. He may be even more comfortable in a gray Chiefs sweatshirt and a pair of khaki pants.
It seems he has seven of each, those sweatshirts and khakis, one for each day of the week.
Dorsey laughs in a hearty baritone when asked about his ensemble, but comfort is a big deal to him. It’s one of the reasons Dorsey kept turning down overtures when he worked in Green Bay, and also why he ultimately decided to accept the general manager job in Kansas City last January.
It simply fit, loose and relaxed, just like a sweatshirt.
Now, after taking on a franchise in disarray — one that won just two games a year ago — and embarking on a massive rebuilding job, Dorsey has helped usher the Chiefs into the playoffs, where they’ll open against AFC South champion Indianapolis on Saturday.
In an interview with The Associated Press this week, Dorsey pulled back the curtain on how the turnaround happened: The decisions to give wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and punter Dustin Colquitt long-term contracts, luring free agents such as Sean Smith and Donnie Avery, what went into selecting Eric Fisher first overall in the draft, and how he developed depth on the roster.
He also stressed, on several occasions, that the rebuilding isn’t complete. Dorsey envisions a franchise that is always in the playoffs, one hoisting trophies regularly.
"It’s nice that we’re here, but by no means are we content," Dorsey said at an office inside the practice facility. "We just got an invitation to the playoffs. Now let’s see how far we go. I keep saying there’s patience here. Let us build some stuff and let’s see if we can do this over the long haul. That’s the objective."
The long-term objective, at least. But there were also short-term goals, such as reaching the playoffs, and it took a busy offseason to make that happen.
Shortly after arriving, Dorsey spent "five or six days" with Andy Reid — who’d just been hired as the coach — and his scouting department, going through the roster and identifying needs.
Quarterback was the most glaring one, so Dorsey dialed up 49ers GM Trent Baalke. In relatively short order, the two of them agreed to a trade that would send Alex Smith to the Chiefs for a second-round pick in 2013 and what has turned into another second-round pick in 2014.
Meanwhile, Dorsey was securing talent already on the roster.
He signed Bowe to a $56 million, five-year deal; Colquitt to an $18 million, five-year contract; placed the franchise tag on left tackle Branden Albert, worth about $9.3 million for the season; and then reworked an albatross contract of defensive tackle Tyson Jackson.
"And then as we went along in the cycle of free agency," Dorsey explained, "you began to get some players that filled the characteristics and traits you were looking for in your team."
Sean Smith and Dunta Robinson upgraded the secondary. Avery helped at wide receiver and Anthony Fasano at tight end. Offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz and linebackers Frank Zombo and Dezman Moses all gave the Chiefs depth that they would rely on throughout this season.
"It was the atmosphere, coming in here and seeing the guys, how they work together," said Akeem Jordan, another free-agent linebacker. "It was just nice. Family-like."
Then the draft, where the Chiefs picked Fisher to be their starting right tackle, running back Knile Davis to back up Jamaal Charles and several others to be key role players. Finally, the waiver wire, where the Chiefs claimed several useful pieces just before the season.
In all, there are 28 newcomers on the 53-man roster readying for the Colts this week.
"I was in Indy and I knew how the rebuild was there," said Avery, who helped turn around the Colts last season. "If everybody bought in, I knew it would be a success."
Upon reflection, Dorsey is matter-of-fact when it comes to the roster.
There were "pieces that needed to be filled," he said, "and we went out there systematically and addressed what we needed to address."
The defense had some talent, but the offense was lacking. Depth was a pressing concern on both sides of the ball.
"Your first goal as you go through this thing is do everything you can to make it as competitive as you possibly can in terms of the whole roster," Dorsey said. "That’s what we did."
The result has been resurgence, if not a renaissance: An 11-5 record, a playoff spot secured with a week to spare, and now a trip to Indianapolis on the horizon.
The foundation, too, for what Dorsey believes will be years of prosperity.
"It’s nice, but we’re just getting to the playoffs," he said. "The chase is fun, it is. We chased it, we got in the door, that’s done. Now it’s time for another chase, and that’s kind of where we are. Let’s see what happens."