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This week, the Kansas City Chiefs will head into Gillette Stadium for a Monday Night Football matchup against the New England Patriots.
While former Patriot, Matt Cassel will not play due to a hand injury, the game will still be a homecoming for former Patriot executive and current Kansas City GM Scott Pioli.
Pioli was in the Patriots organization from 2000 to 2008, originally as Assistant Director of Player Personnel, but was promoted after one season to Director of Player Personnel.
Pioli had a lot of work to do to right the struggling Chiefs franchise, owners of a 2-14 record during the 2008 campaign. His first move was to fire head coach Herm Edwards and replace him with Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
The next order of business was to acquire a starting quarterback. Pioli achieved this by trading for Matt Cassel, a player he drafted as Vice President of Player Personnel in New England. During training camp that year, Pioli signed Cassel to a six-year extension worth $62.7 million.
With his team in good hands under both the center and the headset, Pioli hoped to instantly compete in the AFC West.
However, after starting the season 0-5, the Chiefs couldn’t recover and stumbled to a 4-12 record, good for last in the AFC West. This was largely due to Cassel’s ineptitude, as he threw only 16 touchdowns to go along with a 69.9 passer rating.
More heads had to roll. Soon after the season, Pioli brought in Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis as offensive coordinator, and former Cleveland Browns head coach Romeo Crennel to replace Clancy Pendergast as defensive coordinator.
Both Weis and Crennel served under Pioli in the same roles in New England. These additions helped the Chiefs improve to 10-6 in 2010 and win the AFC West for the first time since 2003.
The first round exit from the playoffs wasn’t good enough for Pioli, as he replaced Weis with former Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Bill Muir, hoping to improve an offense that was ranked 14th last season.
Cassel and Co. responded by dropping to 27th in offense through the first nine games of the season. Because they play in the AFC West, however, their 4-5 record puts them only one game behind the 5-4 Oakland Raiders for the division lead.
Now that Cassel will likely miss the rest of the season, it remains to be seen how Pioli’s coaches can work with the new starter, Tyler Palko, to make the final push the playoffs over the last weeks of the season.
It appears that Pioli’s decisions in his first two and a half seasons in Kansas City have been hit-or-miss.
He made the obvious moves early in his tenure, but firing Weis clearly didn’t pan out. His draft picks have been extremely inconsistent.
Tyson Jackson was drafted 3rd overall in 2009 but has started only two games and registered one sack. Eric Berry, 5th overall in 2010, did a great job in his rookie season while starting all 16 games at SS. Jonathan Baldwin, this year’s first round pick, has started only one game and has eight catches and a TD.
Overall, I’d say that Pioli has done a pretty good job turning around a struggling franchise, even if he hasn’t been 100 percent accurate with his decisions.