Kansas City Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli was a guest on WFAN in New York earlier today. Pioli talked to host — and good friend to Bill Parcells — Mike Francesa about everything from why the Giants have been so good this year to making trades with his father-in-law.
You can stream the interview here or check out my notes after the jump.
Highlight of the interview for me was how he would treat his favorite team growing up — the Giants — on Sunday:
“I’d like to feed them with some BBQ and then take care of business.”
All of Francesa’s questions and Pioli’s comments are paraphrased.
On Kansas City:
It’s a wonderful City. We choose to live downtown in the city and we love where we’re at. It’s a super football town. When I came in for the initial press conference, I was with the owner and it was several hours after the press conference. He put on one of the two sports talk radio stations and all they were talking about was the Chiefs. I said ‘where are the Celtics, Knicks?’ It’s the middle of January and all they could talk about is the Chiefs. He reminded me the only thing they have out here is the Chiefs, Royals and KU basketball.
After all of your success with the Patriots, how hard is it for you to suffer these defeats while you rebuild?
It’s part of the process. People tend to forget our first year up in New England we were 5-11. We took over a team that was in transition. There were some good core players, we had Tedy Bruschi, Ty Law, Lawyer Milloy and Drew Bledsoe. Even with that group we were 5-11. The next year we had things go the right way and we got some bounces go our way and we were fortunate to win a lot that year. But the next year it was more of reality when we were only 9-7. If you go back to the years when I was with the Jets with coach Parcells and that crew, that first year we were a .500 team and then in the second year we won 12 games. The losing part is difficult, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s a process. It’s a matter of finding the right players for the coach and the system your trying to run. There are some shots you are going to take along the way.
To take Matt Cassel with you to Kansas City, you must have seen some things you really like.
Matt’s a really talented quarterback. He’s a good athlete with a good arm and throws an accurate ball. One of the things I really liked about Matt and still like about Matt: Here’s a guy that went to USC and he sits the bench for four years behind two Heisman trophy winners, Carson Palmer and then Matt Leinart. The truth is, when he was behind Matt Leinart it was neck and neck until he hurt his shoulder in spring ball. Leinart got the nod, they started winning, never stopped winning and there was no reason for Matt to ever get a shot.
Then he comes in the NFL, we draft him in the 7th round up in New England and he sits on the bench behind Tommy Brady, another pretty good player. The thing you tell role players and backup players when you try to have a really good team is “Hey, this is your role now. You do your job and when your opportunity comes you better be ready.” And here’s a guy that had the mental and emotional endurance over seven years of sitting the bench that when he opportunity came he seized it. Yes he had some very good players around him, a solid offensive line, a good defense, but the bottom line is he could have screwed the thing up and he didn’t. He still went on to win 11 games. I think there’s something about his emotional makeup and mental ability that I really like as well.
The way you looked for players in New England is that exactly what you’re going to look to do in Kansas City?
I don’t think there’s an exact formula because every team is going to be different. The chemistry is going to be different, the players are going to be different. And even though you try to strive to build a certain type of team, the methods are going to be different from time to time.
Obviously there are things I learned in New England that I’m going to try and apply here. There’s things I learned during my three years working underneath coach Parcells with the New York Jets I’m going to try and apply. There’s things I learned in my years in Cleveland — right and wrong — that I’m going to try to apply. It’s your lifetime in football, your lifetime’s experiences. Part of what we did in New England, part of the ideas and part of the philosophy that we had and that we use in terms of team building goes back to what I learned when I was 16, 17 years old in Washingtonville, NY where we had an undefeated team — as corny as that may sound. There’s elements of team building and development of players that goes back to your lifetime experiences in football.
What did you see in Todd Haley that made him your choice to be the head coach?
It starts with the passion. His passion for football and his passion to succeed is unmatched. It’s as good as anyone I’ve ever seen. He really cares about the game of football, he respects the game of football. The other this is, the best head coaches I’ve seen in the NFL — and I’ve been fortunate to be around some pretty good ones — the ones that are most successful consistently are the ones who have some degree of personnel background or are good evaluators of players and talent. Todd spent his childhood around one of the best personnel men in the business. If they ever decide to put personnel people in the hall of fame, Dick Haley should be at the top of the list.
So Todd grew up in and around some of the greatest teams in the history of the NFL. He knows personnel, he knows players, he understands team building. I wanted to partner with someone that I knew understood the personnel side of the business, because this isn’t my team, it isn’t Todd’s team, it isn’t one person’s team. Team building has to do with partnerships and when you find someone you feel you can be on the same page with and partner with and have a shared vision you have a chance to be successful.
You just sent your father-in-law a quarterback. He must have called and said you aren’t coming for Thanksgiving if you don’t send me a quarterback.
I had to even up, he sent me a couple of offensive linemen earlier in the year so he and I had to get straight. We had to talk some family business.
On the Giants:
They are unbelievable right now. Not only talented, but they are coached really well. They’ve only had 13 penalties in three games. They haven’t allowed a sack in the last two games. They haven’t had a turnover in the last two games. Tom is doing an unbelievable job, he always does. That franchise has got it going on, they are doing a tremendous job and it couldn’t happen to a better group of people.
The league turns over so quickly, you see teams get a quick fix in the first year but they haven’t fixed the real problems. Are you going the painstakingly way of trying to really put together something that you can hold together with a good core for a long amount of time?
The intent was not to go through pain this year. We are three games in and we’re 0-3. You have to find good players and those good players have to be the type of guy that can respond to the coaching of the leader and Todd is our leader here. Unfortunately when there is a dramatic shift in the culture, like is happening here, it’s going to be a little more painful than some places. It’s not a fun part, but it’s the NFL and even though we are going through a change here, we still expect to win every single Sunday. There are no excuses in this game. These guys are professionals, I’m a professional, the coaches are professionals, the players are professionals. We need to find a way to compete. Are we where we need to be in terms of having the right fit for the head coach? No, we’re not. We all expect to win games along the way. I just don’t believe in writing things off and saying we don’t have the right guys, that’s a loser’s attitude and we’re just not going to have that.
Is it a weeding out process?
One of the things I’ve learned along the way is that just because a player can’t fit here or can’t fit the program you’re in doesn’t mean they are a bad player or a bad person. It doesn’t mean any of that. It just sometimes means it’s not the right fit. There are going to be players that leave here and have left other programs where there has been significant change, they go to another situation and they are successful. I’m a firm believer in fit.
Everyone talks about Parcells guys. Who were the Parcells guys? The Parcells guys were the ones that fit who he was and could fit into his style of coaching. Same thing with Belichick. Part of Bill’s brilliance is having guys that can be motivated by the way that he led. To me it’s an important part of the team building and winning. Anyone can go out and find good players. You have to go out and find good players that can respond to the leadership. I might be the general manager here, but as soon as I hired the head coach my job is to serve the head coach and bring him the players he can be successful with. That’s the job, finding the right guys with the right fit.
You grew up a Giants fan, so take it easy on them so they can go 4-0. Be a nice host.
I’d like to feed them with some BBQ and then take care of business.