Draft & Development … Thursday Cup O’Chiefs

We touched on this item during Super Bowl week, but it’s an important fact to remember as the Chiefs head into the acquisition period of the annual NFL schedule.

In the last three Super Bowls, the winning teams have shared at least one thing in common: the Giants, Steelers and Saints all had a linebacker who entered the NFL as a draft choice of the Chiefs:

  • Kawika Mitchell was the starting middle linebacker for the New York Giants in their victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. He was a second round pick for the Chiefs in the 2003 Draft.
  • Keyaron Fox was the key special teams performer for the Pittsburgh Steelers in a Super Bowl LXIII winning performance over the Arizona Cardinals. Fox was the Chiefs third-round selection in the 2004 Draft.
  • Last Sunday, Scott Fujita was a starting outside linebacker for the New Orleans Saints against the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. He was the fifth-round pick of the Chiefs in the 2002 Draft.

It’s a stunning example of why the Chiefs are experiencing the worst period of losing football in franchise history.

“Pretty amazing,” Fujita said after walking off the field as part of the Saints 31-17 victory over the Colts. “That’s some bad decisions being made.”

Last year, the Chiefs defense featured four starting linebackers. Only one was a Kansas City draft pick: Tamba Hali, who made the switch from defensive end to outside backer. At the end of the ‘09 schedule there were nine linebackers listed on the roster and only Hali and Derrick Johnson were KC draft choices.

So why are Chiefs linebackers picking up Super Bowl rings, rather than playing their games in red and gold? They are just three very visible personnel mistakes the franchise made in 2006 (Fujita), 2007 (Mitchell) and 2008 (Fox).

They are examples of the breakdown in the personnel process that’s dogged Arrowhead Stadium in the just completed decade. Understand that the process is far more than just drafting players or signing free agents. It’s about taking those players and developing them into contributors, starters and stars. A well-oiled personnel operation has decision makers, scouts and coaches all working together in evaluating, selecting and developing players. 

It works this way. An organization establishes its foundation. That sends the scouts into consultation with the coaching staff to define what they are looking for in players. The personnel department goes out and evaluates players with an eye towards what the coach and his staff are seeking. Come draft day, the decision makers step forward and draft the type of players the coaching and personnel staffs were seeking. And then the coaching staff goes out and develops those players into contributors, starters and stars.

That’s a personnel chain that must stay intact to achieve success. One link out of whack and the domino effect starts stacking up seasons with double-digit defeats. They only way to shift the flow backwards is to make changes and making changes fosters the instability that is so deadly to a team’s football bottom line.

Stability has not been the case around the Chiefs, especially on the defensive side of the ball, for the better part of the last decade. Combine those failures with the instability that comes with constant changes in the operation and we probably shouldn’t be surprised. In the last decade, the Chiefs had:

  • 4 head coaches.
  • 5 offensive coordinators
  • 4 defensive coordinators
  • 3 personnel department leaders

And going into the next decade with the 2010 season, they have new coordinators on both offense and defense. Based on history, it seems Todd Haley and Charlie Weis are on the same page when it comes to offensive philosophy. But Romeo Crennel appears to be quite a bit different in approach and philosophy than Clancy Pendergast. That leaves last season as a lost season.

Finding, acquiring and developing players when the team’s personnel approach is a moving target increases the chances for mistakes in drafting and developing. With the Chiefs, it wasn’t limited to just linebackers. Ryan Sims, Eddie Freeman, Junior Siavii, Kris Wilson, Craphonso Thorpe, Bernard Pollard, Turk McBride, Tank Tyler would all qualify on a list of draft choices for the Chiefs that produced little in the way of production. For the Chiefs, they can now be called failed selections, but these guys all went on to play for other teams in the league or are still playing and some are starting for their new teams.

It’s one thing when valuable draft picks are used on players that do not make big contributions because they can’t crack the starting lineup of a successful team. That’s not the case with the Chiefs, who had only three winning seasons in the 2000s. Draft picks that do not start, or start and are replaced on bad teams, are obviously bad decisions.

The best thing the Chiefs organization can do to stop this chain of personnel mistakes is provide some stability in the coaching ranks, so that filters down to the personnel department. It’s a waste of time for an organization to draft players that don’t match what the style of play desired by the head coach and the coaching staff. When that starts happening, then you’ve got a football operation that’s a lot like a dog chasing his own tail. Round and round they run and they never catch a title.

Study the failures of the league’s worst franchises over the last 25 years and the lack of stability and direction is a very common denominator. It happened in Detroit, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Arizona, San Francisco and Oakland. There have been good seasons for those teams, but they never experienced consistent success. Of the 60 seasons those teams had in the last decade, 36 included double-digit defeats.

Teams that had stability – New England, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Denver and Philadelphia – never found themselves scuffling along at the bottom of the standings. Of those five teams in the 2000s, they had only four of 50 seasons with double-digit defeats and six of the ten Super Bowls.

If the Chiefs are going to get back to contender status and if they are going to do that largely through the Draft, it’s imperative they fix what has been a broken personnel process. The 2009 process was not a good start.

That must change.


  • RAMS – named Nolan Cromwell as wide receivers coach.
  • SEAHAWKS – signed LS Pat McDonald.
  • STEELERS – named Brandon Hunt as the team’s pro scouting coordinator.


Born on February 11, 1954 in New Orleans was S Gary Barbaro. He was a third-round selection in the 1976 NFL Draft out of Nicholls State University in Louisiana. Barbaro played seven seasons with the Chiefs (1976-82), appearing and starting in 101 games over that time and never missing a game because of injury. Barbaro had 39 interceptions, including 10 in the 1980 season. In his career, Barbaro returned three of those interceptions for touchdowns, including one that he took back 102 yards in 1977. In his last six seasons with the Chiefs, he had 459 total tackles. In 1983, Barbaro signed with the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League, playing that one season before a knee injury ended his playing career. He was voted the Mack Lee Hill Award winner in his rookie season and was named to three Pro Bowls (1980-82). Today, Barbaro is back in his hometown of New Orleans, where he works for Marketing Agents South, a firm that represents manufacturers of equipment for the food service industry.

19 Responses to “Draft & Development … Thursday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • February 11, 2010  - Jim Lloyd + says:

    Fox also played a lot of the S.B. game – linebacker for the Steelers .
    He hurt his foot & was out about a year .
    I asked Larry Johnson if he was doing ok & he said no one paid any attention to him .

  • February 11, 2010  - Jim Lloyd + says:

    When Vermiell was leaving and Carl and Herm were starting out I think there was a lot of nothing in the way of working together .
    Everyone was getting a lot of money for doing little or nothing .
    A team gets a good player , or they say so at first in their bio., then there was never the proper level of coaching to finish the job .
    Measure from the top down # 1 Bill Walsh , # 100 Herm Edwards , he just didn’t know where to start!!!!!
    Someone said he looked like a deer in headlights … LOST ——–
    Walsh proably never looked at a clock when he prefected Joe Monanta- Rice and those other recievers , they just worked untill they got it down peferct .

  • February 11, 2010  - ThunderChief says:

    Excellent views on the good teams having to have competence, continuity and stability in their coaches, scouts and front office folk, Bob and thank you for this. I recall coming on this site last year before the season when you were providing observations and views of the current roster in varying outlooks.

    I knew then that the 2009 Chiefs would struggle and struggle they did. At least now, with a full year under their belts, Pioli-Haley must at least have a good view of the outline of the monster and how to right its path?

    I’ll be reading your reports with considerable interest in the weeks and months ahead to see if you’re seeing the kind of improvement needed to turn this thing around.

  • February 11, 2010  - gorillafan says:

    Outstanding article today Bob, thanks. I really think the start of this season is the true beginning for this regime. They have THEIR coaches in place, now they have to be totally resonsible for the outcome. We have an impressive coaching staff and I think this staff will stay together for some time. This is great news for our Chiefs and us fans. It starts with a solid staff like Bob said, and I think we may have that now, and we havent had that since Marty left!!! We may not win a ton of games this coming year, but we are finally going in the right path in my mind!! We are seeing this turn around, and we will no longer be the shit in the bottom of the toilet!!

  • February 11, 2010  - gorillafan says:

    GREAT article today Bob. I think we have our coaching staff in place finally since Marty left. Thanks to Pioli on making this happen. I think we are turning the page and the outcme of this decade will far exceed this last decade, which thats not hard to do! HA. but you get the point. We will not be the in the bottom of the toilet any longer!!

  • February 11, 2010  - Mad Chief says:

    Fujita said, “That’s some bad decisions being made.”

    That sums it up right there. So now, the people making those bad decisions are no longer employed by the Chiefs. And rightfully so.

  • February 11, 2010  - Stiv says:

    Carl Peterson.

  • February 11, 2010  - Danny W says:

    I knew it was a huge mistake letting go of Key Fox that guy made every tackle on special teams for the chiefs it seemed like. That is a huge role if a guy is that big of a contributor on special teams because it is one third of the game. Field position is just as crucial as anything. When Mitchell was let go he had over 100 tackles. That is not under achieving in any way. Like Demarrio Williams the inside linebacker we have now. I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point he was let go. Why I guess because he had a 100 tackle year too. Maybe the new regime wont just cut him because he isn’t a star like Carl used to lets hope he is full of production.

  • February 11, 2010  - jimbo says:

    Foundation is described as a basis by which something stands or is supported. I can honestly say the 2009 Chiefs established that foundation. I agree with Bob, the lack of continuety with the coaching staff & player personnel for the last decade, has crippled this franchise. A slow death if you will. Granted we had a few good years (2003) most notably, resulting in a decade of no playoff victories.
    We then hired Scott Pioli, all of Chiefs Nation was ecstatic. He & Clark Hunt decided to hire a new & unproven Head Coach. (a trend in the NFL of late). I am of the opinion that both our GM & Head Coach will not relax, will not quit, nor slow down until the Lombardi trophy(s) is(are) displayed at 1 Arrowhead Dr. I like Todd Haley, he has this fire in his gut. It’s obvious to us all “He loves football”. He has alot to improve & prove for the Chiefs fans to rally behind him. We reminisce constantly about a man named Marty. I for one, am sick of hearing about the woulda, coulda, shoulda’s of our past.
    We have the Foundation of what I believe, our best opportunity in many years to succeed in the NFL.
    Go Chiefs.

  • February 11, 2010  - DBo says:

    Great article. I’m curious…on 2 points (1) Have you or can you take the stability analysis and dig deeper? Meaning, what has the turnover been in the positional coaching ranks and personnel department? The decision makers rely on input from more people that the OC, DC, and PDL. (2) Can we analyze how well each of our current scouts and positional coaches have done in selecting and developing players that “do not start”, “start”, and “Star”?

  • February 11, 2010  - Dantes says:

    Fujita had made it clear earlier in the week that he held Gun responsible for the bad decisions. He said “Cunningham was treated like a legend around there. I could never see it”.

  • February 11, 2010  - Mike says:

    Nice piece, Bob. I won’t agree that 2009 process was not a good start though. I think Haley wanted Romeo all along and he intended for Pendergast to be the DB coach. I think these guys, Haley & Pioli, are on the same page which is why the personel people were let go, even though they may be very good talent evaluators. Pioli and Haley want their own people that they know and trust, and I think that is the right approach. Will it work? I sure hope so. Only time will tell and I don’t think one or two years is enough. Look at Pittsburgh, they are the perfect example, give the people time to grow and develop and the wins will come.

  • February 11, 2010  - Jim Lloyd + says:

    Danny W
    There was a Balt. game that Fox did make almost every tackle on kick offs .
    I said that the guy was unreal (at the game) and how can that be over looked in films ????
    The only other problem was Ray Lewis sacked the Chiefs QB about 100 times and LJ did nothing . When you ADD nothing to nothing , what do you get , He’s gone , now they have a chance and Todd is not going to stop untill he see’s ball movement and controll .

  • February 11, 2010  - PnS says:

    Bob …..I find it interesting that on your list of personel changes,you didn’t mention the one person that wasn’t changed Peterson.While I can understand your friendship ….If you are going to look at the why.Then Peterson has to be call out as the biggest reason for our fall.He hired/fired/all of the people mentioned in your post.While Pererson was a great Pres. he need to leave the ( hire/fire ) team aspect to someone else.That maybe why Hunt now has 2 people doing Peterson old job.Time well tell if this is the right approach.

  • February 11, 2010  - aPacificChief says:

    Excellent piece Bob, and well thoughout.
    What the Chiefs need to do is take the approach that the Steelers have taken. That is define its own identity as a franchise and stick with it. Such as we will only play a 30 defense, and we will find the best and brightest Defensive coaches who FIT our defensive philosophy, and on Offense we will be a power running team then have a passing offense based on playaction. If we have that kind of stability in our identity we will always make use of our draft choices, and not get caught up with the NFL’s fashion trends.

  • February 11, 2010  - Bakjon says:

    Nice article Bob but like PnS said the common denominator was Peterson. Mitchell had his issues with Cunningham but they worked them out. In fact in the playoff game in 2006 Mitchell played a solid game. He wanted to come back to KC but Peterson lowballed him in negotiations and he went to New York. Fujita had some solid seasons but when it came time for a new contract he lost out because of Peterson and Gunther’s love affair for Kendrell Bell who was a total bust. Fox’s problem is that he got hurt because he did make plays when healthy. Had Herm and Carl been on the same page probably these players might have stayed in the red and gold.

  • February 11, 2010  - CK-31 yrs STH says:

    After LJ was injured vs. GB in ‘07 we have had no hope. It’s been a long drive to KC from Des Moines and an even longer drive back.
    The hiring of Charlie and Romeo has given me enough hope renew all of our Season tickets. That tells me Haley is willing to delegate.
    Bob, thanks for the great insight again. I really miss your professionalism on the FOX.

  • February 12, 2010  - vincent belt says:

    Excellent article. I find that all great football programs have a well defined idenity. Pittsburg; big, physical players; New England, versatle, smart players, Indianapolis; faster players, WR-smart and football saavy etc
    What is the Chief’s identity? I hope they have a clearly defined idea of who they want. I also hope the next coach has a similar philosophy. the Steelers have not changed philosophy from Cower to Tomlin.
    Do you see any players from the Chiefs that are posed to have breakout years in 2010? Pioli seemed to want players that were developmental; 4-7th rounds last year-players with high ceilings but 2-3 years from contributing.

  • February 13, 2010  - Lee says:

    Hey Bob. As always, enjoy your stuff.

    I would say that if you put these three linebackers on the 09 Chiefs, the record is still likely to be around 4-12. I don’t see these guys making the difference on this team. So were they mistakes? Probably. But big ones? Probably not.

    However, I’m in complete agreement about stability in the franchise, and a clear vision for the future. One reason the Steelers are consistently good is that they’ve had a clear and consistent vision for what they want for many years.

    I do think Pioli and Hunt appear to understand this, which is why I’m hopeful for the future. But they will have to draft and develop players better than what we saw in 2009.

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