Q&A: Scott Pioli Fan Forum

Yesterday, we received some quotes about leadership from Scott Pioli when he met with Chiefs season ticket holders.  Here are the highlights from the entire fan forum hosted by Kendall Gammon.

On Brian Waters winning the Man of the Year Award:

“Personally, I was very happy for Brian and I think the entire organization is happy for Brian.  Obviously, his commitment to the Chiefs and the Chiefs community is something that we all feel very strongly about.  Brian did a great job and he has represented himself in such a way as others in the past have done that.  As you mentioned, the Chiefs themselves, we have a great tradition in terms of how we represent ourselves in the community, and Brian certainly received the ultimate acknowledgement this season.  We are all very happy for him and proud of him.”

Are there areas where the Chiefs got better in 2009 that maybe the fans didn’t see?

“I think one of the main places we saw, and I certainly saw a difference were in the areas of preparation, accountability and work habits.  Those things, they’re not visible to the fans and a lot of other people in the organization on a weekly basis.  They’re not obviously the most apparent.  Now, to me, I’m a firm believer in preparation.  Todd’s a firm believer in preparation.  An old quote says ‘Success always comes when preparation meets opportunity.’  We talked about that much of the season, we talked to our players about preparation, we talked about the off-season program – how much weight we had to lose as a team, how sloppy we were coming into the off-season.  We harped on preparation and what you’re trying to do with players is prepare them, teach them how to prepare.  This team, when we got here, didn’t seem like a group of people that really knew how to prepare and they embraced it.  They embraced it in the off-season program; they embraced it when we got into training camp.  One of the things that we saw a lot of as time went on was an increased amount of time that players were spending in the facility at night, in the mornings, between meetings, after meetings.  We’re a very young football team and they needed some leadership and some of the players that we brought in here, they had a strong work ethic, they just didn’t know what the right work habits were.  They spent more time in the training room, taking care of their injuries, taking care of their bodies, trying to get themselves prepared for games.  Those are little things that eventually become big things.”

Do you think moving the team’s training camp back to Missouri is a positive move?

“I absolutely think it is.  Personally, I’m very excited about this move.  I’m excited that we’re going to have our football team closer to our fan base.  It will be a lot easier for the people who are closer in Chiefs Kingdom to get there.  One of the things about training camp is, and you know this, it is grueling.  There are a lot of things that aren’t fun about it and it’s easy to get distracted, it’s easy to wonder about what am I doing, and that’s not just the players; everyone’s wondering that.  It’s just a very draining experience.  All the places I have worked prior to this, we had our training camp close to home.  What happens when you have it close to home, you get more of your rabid fans who want to be closer to the venue, they want to be closer to the team and this is going to help us I think because there are just certain days – this is a game of energy and a game of emotion – and there are going to be days when there are a lot of people struggling to get out of bed, struggling to get on the field.  Again, it’s not just the players, it’s everybody.  I think having the fans there and the energy that comes from the fans is really going to help us as a football team and again, I think everyone wins in this situation.  The fans wanted us closer and we’re going to be closer.”

How important will it be for this team to have an entire off-season with the new coaching staff?

“I have mentioned this a couple different times about this entire coaching staff, it is not only critical to Charlie (Weis) and this offense, it is also critical for the entire operation including the offense, defense, special teams and player personnel.  These coaches in the systems they have are philosophically, both on offense and defense, something I am very used to and a number of members on the coaching staff are very used to.  There are very specific types of players we are looking for in terms of their physical makeup, their mental makeup, their physical skill-set.  I think having this off-season to work together and train the rest of our people that are helping us find players [will be beneficial].  We have a core group of people that know how to do it but as we train the rest of the organization in terms of what we are looking for with offense, defense and special teams, the off-season will be critical.”

How do you like living in Kansas City?  What has your family enjoyed the most about the Midwest?  Do you have any favorite restaurants, and do you still like clam chowder or have you acquired a taste for KC barbeque?

“We love Kansas City.  My wife is originally from Wichita, so we have family here.  Her mother was born and raised in Wichita so her mother’s whole side of the family is here.  Her father attended Wichita State, so she’s got several cousins that live in Wichita, Lawrence, and actually here in Kansas City.  So the transition was very easy.  Oddly enough, one of my closest and dearest friends from growing up back in New York has been here for 13 years.  So this transition, when we made it, I knew was going to be relatively, I don’t want to say easy, but it was going to be easier knowing we had some things and some people in place that were going to help us learn a little bit about the city.

“I think our six-year-old has really taken to the city because there is a lot to do.  We live close enough to the city where there is a lot to do.  Culturally, there are a lot of things to do.  We’re involved with the K.C. Rep (theater), we’re involved with the Nelson-Atkins Museum, the Charlotte Street Foundation here in town and also the symphony.  Also, we’re in walking distance of one of the public libraries, so there are a lot of things we love to do in this city.  You ask about the restaurants or the food here, you know, to me, it’s depending on the mood, and depending on the time of day.

“The best breakfast that we’ve found so far is Winstead’s.  In terms of ethnic food, there are a couple of places; Garozzo’s is a favorite of ours, El Pueblito over on Southwest Boulevard.  There are a lot of good restaurants around town.  Westport has a couple really good restaurants.  I’m a big fan of Indian food so Korma Sutra is really good.  In terms of the barbeque, for sitting down, we love Jack Stack.  But I’ll tell you a funny story, last year, as Todd and I were homeless, we were living in a hotel downtown, and we’re spending every waking hour here.  One of the things you do when you’re watching tape late at night, as you know, as you used to be a 300-plus pounder, you like to eat.  So one night, one of the guys went to Gates Barbeque and brought back this thing called a burnt ends sandwich.  I’ll tell you what, it was a special one.  The first one was special, the second one pretty special.  I actually caught Todd one night; he had literally gone through two and a half burnt ends sandwiches himself.  He tried lying to me, saying that one of the other guys had eaten it.  When it comes to barbeque, the burnt ends sandwich is pretty big.  Clam chowder, I’ll get my fix in the summer when I go back east to visit my family and some friends back there.  I wish I could find some low-cal barbeque, that’s the big task, have to see if that exists.”

How do you feel about the NFL Draft taking place over three days?

“I think it’s going to change the Draft in a number of different ways.  It’s not going to change the evaluation process.  As I’ve talked about the Draft a number of times, there are two different facets of the Draft: one is the evaluation process and the other is the strategy.  I think that it’s going to be interesting to watch because on day one, we’ve currently got the fifth pick overall.  We could move up, we could move back, we could stay exactly where we are, we don’t know how that’s going to happen.  Even though we pick, let’s just say we remain where we are and we pick number five, we’ve got two picks in the second round which is really the next day, which is Friday night.  There are a number of things that could happen.  We have to pay attention to the board and pay attention to the opportunities that may arise.  I think, once again, if you stay prepared and you pay attention as you go along, there may be opportunities that pop up to increase value and that’s going to be the strategy component.  Again, right now, we’re sitting at number five overall, number 36, and I believe number 64.  So there are going to be a couple different opportunities in those first two days to get better and we have another pick the next day in the third round.

“The second night, one of the things that I’ve talked around the league, one of the concerns, it’s funny talking to some of the teams in the Eastern time zone, the hours that this is going to be set up, they’re a little bit concerned because they’re not going to be able to sleep the night before, they’re going to have to be up all morning and this is going to stretch into the wee hours of the morning.  Even though it appears you’re just sitting there, there is a lot of mental energy being burned as you’re sitting there.  It’s certainly going to be a challenge because it’s going to be the first time under this set of circumstances and you still have to find a way to make good decisions.”

How does the possibility of an uncapped year affect a small market team like the Kansas City Chiefs?

“I don’t think the small-market team, so to speak, is anything that’s really relevant.  By NFL standards, we’re a big-market team.  We have a big brand, we’re a big team and I’m not sure how that really impacts what we do in free agency, what we’re going to do or not going to do.  Here’s the bottom line in free agency, we need to get better and we need to find a way to get better.  Now this year, because of the way things are set up, there’s a different pool of players because it appears as though we’re going to head into an uncapped season as of now.  It changes the rules of free agency.

“Again, without getting into a lot of the details of what is actually happening, the bottom line is that there are a couple hundred players that under prior circumstances would be free agents, would be unrestricted free agents and have the availability to go to any team that they wanted.  With this being the last capped year, there’s a number of rules that kick in.  One of the rules is that players, previously, with four years of experience, as contracts expired, they became unrestricted free agents.  Well now that threshold has changed to six years so there’s a large pool of players that are now eliminated from free agency, so that changes the complexion of things pretty significantly.  The bottom line is, there’s probably going to be another pool of players in free agency that we don’t even know who they are because every year there is this natural attrition from club to club because there are coaching changes, there are front office changes, there are players that are going to be released that are expected to be under contract that will now be out there as free agents.  Any way that we feel that we can improve the football team, again, I’ve never been someone who’s big on flashy names or going after the sizzle or making the appearance that you’re going to go out and get a big-hype player.  Just because a player has a big name doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re a good player.  What we want to do is go out and find good players that fit our system and can help us become a better football team.”

On Jamaal Charles:

“I think the key to this football team is to not only having a player like Jamaal, but to complement right with other players that have big-play ability.  I know this is close to your heart, but you’ve got to have a good offensive line and certainly there’s got to be some complementary players because if you’re a one-trick pony as a football team, teams are going to find a way to game plan and shut things like that down.  Jamaal, with his ability and the people he’s surrounded with, everyone becomes better.  If you have a good running back, the quarterback and the receivers get better.  If you have a good quarterback and a good receiver and a tight end, that makes the other players better. Those things all feed off one another.”

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