The Kansas City Chiefs have already undergone some intense changes this off-season (or near it) with the firing of Todd Haley and the ascension of Romeo Crennel to his place. Any season in which a team has a new head coach is already an interesting one to watch for that subplot alone. But much more has gone on at Arrowhead this time of year, much to the dismay of Scott Pioli.
The drama surrounding Haley's exit was bad enough -- with questions of timing before Christmas and the many rumors that Pioli and Haley did not get along -- but that only scratches the surface. The age discrimination suit filed by Brenda Sniezek, the team's former community relations director, against the Chiefs powers-that-be in early December (including Clark Hunt) only further clouds the toxic air around Arrowhead.
That suit has yet to be resolved, so it will linger for some time. But it served as a precursor to a bomb of a local article in the Kansas City Star by Kent Babb entitled "Arrowhead Anxiety." The article casts the Chiefs' work environment in a suspicious light, with odd bouts of paranoia and accusations of spying in the workplace.
Even if there are logical arguments to be made against any questions the media might have about the Chiefs' leadership and the work setting there at Arrowhead, there's plenty more smoke than what Scott Pioli would like to see. For that matter, Clark Hunt brought in Pioli in the first place to avoid these types of situations. New England was and remains a well-oiled machine that minimizes locker room tension, player drama and simply aims to win efficiently. The Chiefs, on the other hand, have become a source of NFL drama even as the locker room remained relatively quiet.
It's also interesting that no new faces have become a part of the scene at Arrowhead. Ted Crews was just brought in to help communications, and that's a good move to do so. But the Chiefs could definitely use some fresh blood in the scouting department with the loss of Phil Emery (and the staff he will inevitably take with him) as well as a coach. If the team keeps one of its own as the offensive coordinator, the situation becomes too incestuous. However, it's curious to wonder what staff and players will even want to be a part of the environment here with so many flash fires that need to be put out.
From the moment that Hunt and Pioli refused to spend the tens of millions of dollars available to them under the salary cap, the questions began to surface wondering just what the team was thinking. The odd preseason routine from Todd Haley brought the questions to the level of the coaching staff and the hovering cloud over all things related to the team hasn't left since.
The Chiefs are going to need a strong off-season to bolster fan confidence in the on-field product. They say winning cures everything, but some cracks in the foundation can keep even that from happening. Pioli certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt with his background and resume, and perhaps that hasn't been focused on enough this season (and off-season) to off-set the damages. But it's hard to ignore all of the smoke in the room.