To date, Kansas City Chiefs fans have been used to the safe and sound measures of Scott Pioli -- a guy who chooses character and leadership right alongside playing ability and so far the process has worked. The emphasis on such attributes has also carried over into veteran acquisitions like Thomas Jones and Mike Vrabel over the last two seasons, and the results in KC have been exactly what all parties involved could hope for -- a professional atmosphere where players toe the company line while allowing the results on the field to do the talking for them. Then just like that -- things changed.
The draft left several sportswriters and fans scratching their heads -- at least at first -- as Scott Pioli went for two well-known players with what draft analysts considered questionable backgrounds: Justin Housto and Jonathan Baldwin. After the initial shock wore off, the realization is that Pioli has already established the right atmosphere in Kansas City, so there's no need to remain as protective as it was in 2009. Yet perhaps Pioli's moves weren't so off base after all; it's possible the reputations of both players were unnecessarily muddied in the first place.
That's the word coming out on Baldwin at least. Dan Pompei had some good words for Chiefs fans in his weekly column this week over at the National Football Post when discussing the Chiefs first round draft choice:
Jonathan Baldwin probably isn’t the anti-Christ he has been made out to be. There is no question the Chiefs’ first round pick may be a little difficult to handle at times, but that makes him similar to about 90 percent of the wide receivers in the league he is joining. The people at Pitt will tell you they never had any major problems with Baldwin. And most of them agree with his complaints that he didn’t get the ball enough and he was misused. They say he’s a tremendously hard worker and has exceptional talent. In fact, Baldwin usually was the first one in the weight room and the last to leave.
Every skill position player wants the football in the NFL. Most running backs complain about their lack of carries. Most receivers wish they got more looks. Every back-up quarterback awaits their chance to take the field and call the plays. There's only so many yards and opportunities to go around, so it's natural for a player like Baldwin to get upset when they believe the team could perform better. In a controlled environment anchored by strong leaders and team captains, a player like Baldwin will keep such feelings to himself and learn what it means to think team-first.
The reality is that if Baldwin makes good on that reputation that Pompeii writes about -- if he's showing up early and leaving late and staying with the strength and conditioning program -- the rest will take care of itself. He'll get the ball. The Chiefs will move the chains. The wins will come. And that's ultimately what Pioli had in mind this entire time.