The Kansas City Chiefs played musical chairs on Friday with Andy Reid, who reportedly agreed to become their new head coach and beat Scott Pioli to the throne as the team's top football man.
But if you peel back the intrigue of how Reid got so much power in the face of his disappointing final two seasons in Philadelphia and look at how Pioli failed in his four years in Kansas City, there is a simple thread:
Neither man had a good handle on the quarterback position at a time when the position couldn't be more important.
The difference is that Reid's history shows he has been willing to pull out every stop to find one. Pioli, by contrast, made a one-stop shop in his effort to find a passer.
The only significant move Pioli made in his four-year tenure with the Chiefs was to trade a second-round pick in 2009 to New England (Pioli's former team) for Matt Cassel. Pioli then stood pat year after year. He passed on guys like Josh Freeman in 2009 (the Chiefs instead took Tyson Jackson in the first round), and both Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick in 2011 (wide receiver Jon Baldwin was drafted nine picks before Dalton and Kaepernick went back-to-back in the second round).
In the 2012 draft, even as six of the top seven picks in the draft were traded and most people thought Cassel had proved his inability, Pioli again stood pat at No. 11. He took defensive lineman Dontari Poe rather than trade up for Ryan Tannehill, a guy Pioli liked and who looks like he has tremendous upside after the Dolphins took him at No. 8.
That's the main reason why Pioli is now out of work and why Miami general manager Jeff Ireland, a friend of Pioli's, is hanging on despite a similarly rough time.
If you want a recipe for how people survive in the NFL, just look at the quarterback ingredient. Reid made it 14 years in Philadelphia because he primarily had either Donovan McNabb or Michael Vick. Pioli lasted only four because he had Cassel.
The really odd part is that Pioli knew all of this going in. He had studied the Chiefs' history and knew that the team hadn't drafted a quarterback in the first round since 1983. He also came in knowing that a quarterback can change everything. Pioli's mentor, Bill Belichick, went from coaching pariah to paragon in 2001 by going with Tom Brady after Drew Bledsoe got hurt.
Now, after all those missed chances, here's the deeper problem for the Chiefs: How do they fix the most daunting position in football, if not all of sports? Despite having the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft, this is considered an incredibly weak class for quarterbacks following 2012's banner crop.
Geno Smith of West Virginia scares people as a potential top pick. Matt Barkley of USC has gone from being compared to Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III a year ago to reminding people of former USC quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Matt Leinart.
The crop of potential veteran quarterbacks on the market isn't much better. There's Alex Smith in San Francisco, a guy who seemingly defines the term "game manager." Then there's Vick, who Reid just got done with in Philadelphia, so that seems to be problematic. Or maybe there's former Eagle Kevin Kolb, traded from Philly to Arizona in 2011.
Perhaps Reid, who replaces deposed defensive-oriented coach Romeo Crennel, can swing a trade for a promising rookie, such as Nick Foles from his former team or Kirk Cousins from Washington. Those would likely be expensive transactions.
There are no simple solutions this year. There's no Luck or Griffin, no-brainer draft prospects who can be plugged in immediately. However, there are a lot of options.
Reid's history suggests that he's willing to look anywhere in search of a solution. He drafted Donovan McNabb in the first round in 1999, took Kolb in the second, was willing to sign Vick out of prison and helped develop sixth-round pick Matt Hasselbeck when he was an assistant coach in Green Bay. Former players such as A.J. Feeley and even Vick after this difficult season swear by Reid's disciplined approach to the position.
Still, Reid is also the guy who vacillated on Vick this season, eventually keeping Foles in the job after early season problems. That disaster was created largely by a series of questionable coaching moves and failure to develop a consistent offensive line or running game.
If Reid can fix the recent issues (and Kansas City's solid offensive line and running game should be a perfect foundation for a solution), then solving the quarterback position may not be so hard.
For all of the questions about Reid (many people close to him have advised he take a year off to deal with family issues, such as the death of his son, and his health), the Chiefs may have found a guy who can solve the issue that hurts them the most.
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