OTC: KC Star’s Babb & Mellinger Call For Removal Of Chiefs’ Weakness; GM Scott Pioli

“The Chiefs’ problems are with their coaches and players, but the bigger issue is about the man who brought in those coaches and players. Yes, this game and this season are on Pioli, and there’s no denying that anymore. And there’s no more denying another truth, whether you’re ready to read it or not: The Chiefs will never win big while Pioli is this team’s boss. His priorities are too misguided, his insecurities and denial too immense to allow Kansas City’s favorite team to win the Super Bowl that he was brought here to claim.”
Kent Babb, Kansas City Star
GH: The Kansas City Star has searched for a tone from their sports columnists since the departures of two of the best the newspaper has ever known, Jason Whitlock and Joe Posnanski. Sam Mellinger and just recently, Kent Babb, have been solid but far from needle movers. That changed with the postings of their Chiefs’ postgame columns from the Buffalo beating. Both wrote columns that had my Twitter account whirring with comments and links from Chiefs’ fans who were eager to share their pointed words. Read on.

“The last drops of reasonable belief that the Chiefs aren’t wasting their fans’ time and money are now dead, kaput, ashes from a fire of fail burning so white-hot it needed just two games to turn a hopeful season into a lost one. This is a level of ineptitude beyond even what Kansas City has sadly become accustomed to, and because owner Clark Hunt is not his father, a shameful 35-17 loss to a bad Bills team here on Sunday should be remembered as the tipping point of general manager Scott Pioli’s job security.”
Sam Mellinger, Kansas City Star
GH: This might be the best lede Mellinger has ever written for The Star. As a writer, he uses visuals to an excellent extent. “The last drops of reasonable belief” bring to mind a thirst-quenched drifter draining his canteen in the middle of the Sahara. Writing should be an enjoyable read. Too often writers forget that premise. Mellinger takes Pioli to task, just as Babb does in his column. This is an unusual play for a newspaper with dualing columnists covering the same game. Either the senior writer gets first choice or the writers work with their editor to determine each columnist’s topic. The Star must have felt strongly enough about the topic and the writers’ work to allow them to tread the same ground. It was an excellent decision.

“Days like Sunday should be behind the Chiefs. This roster is so much better than the one Pioli inherited in January 2009. He’s responsible for that, too. But how much better could it be if Pioli weren’t so consumed by off-the-field nonsense? He arrived here and promised to curb a culture of losing. Instead, Pioli now oversees an organization shadowed in a culture of misplaced priorities and anxiety — and, yes, more losing. Now in his fourth season as GM, Pioli has spent too much time trying to justify his decisions, rather than trying to improve them.”
Kent Babb, Kansas City Star
GH: When did Pioli morph into King Carl? Or has he always been this paranoid overachiever who to me looks like he truly doesn’t believe he is worthy of the title he has attained?

“Four years is enough time to fairly judge an NFL GM, and so far Pioli looks like a substitute teacher. He is failing — badly — and to save his football reputation, and shelve serious questions about his job, he needs the kind of turnaround over the next 14 games that is quite unfathomable at the moment.”
Sam Mellinger, Kansas City Star
GH: Some may say that Mellinger waited too long to call out the Chiefs’ GM. I would disagree with them. Pioli has made a multitude of errors but things looked like they were all coming together as the Chiefs prepared for their 2012 season. National pundits liked the Chiefs’ talent enough to name them the favorites in the AFC West. No, now is the time to take on Pioli and drag his weaknesses from the dark corners of Arrowhead’s candy-wrapper-free stairways into the light of the Internet.

“In Scott We Trust? Not anymore. Pioli cares more than you can imagine about what others think; about how his gilded reputation still shines nearly four years after it landed him this job.”
Kent Babb, Kansas City Star
GH: How utterly, utterly sad that a man who has achieved so much is apparently so afraid of criticism. Pioli’s broad chest appears to be nothing more than his defense mechanism against his hollowness.

“He calls opinion-makers in Kansas City to plead with them to share his side of the story in exchange for a nibble of access, and he spends his own time compiling ultimately meaningless statistics in an attempt to spin unpopular draft choices and questionable spending habits into a more favorable light. He hints to anyone who’ll listen — in exchange for agreeing that you didn’t hear it from him — that the Chiefs’ playoff run in 2010 and a brief winning streak last season weren’t a result of Haley’s coaching.”
Kent Babb, Kansas City Star
GH: It is insight like this that readers crave from a columnist. Tell us what we don’t know, not what we have already seen and heard. Babb is a little light on details here [details of which I am sure he could provide] but the storyline is compelling. I hope this column is simply chapter one of three or four that reveals what he knows and thinks about Pioli and his organization. Some of my favorite Whitlock columns were on-going columns of a consistent storyline. They read like old radio serials from my parents’ childhoods.

“Only one man has the power to make the necessary changes now, and Hunt isn’t doing his job if he’s not brainstorming who his next general manager should be.”
Sam Mellinger, Kansas City Star
GH: This is not what we have come to expect from Sam – but I hope it is where he and his column are headed. I am not talking about him calling for the head of every manager or coach, but rather a voice that is clear, definitive and at time cutting. The Star readers are ravenous for that voice.

“Let’s hope the list [to replace Pioli] includes men willing to be bold, comfortable in their own skin and able to properly position the Chiefs in what is firmly an elite quarterback’s league.”
Sam Mellinger, Kansas City Star
GH: Sounds like Mellinger wants the same from the Chiefs’ next GM as I want from my sports columnists.

“Because this isn’t working, and Hunt doesn’t have his father’s patience and blind faith. The Chiefs are broken, from top to bottom, and the solution has to stand up to the grand scale of these problems. Last year, it took an embarrassing loss and childish sideline display against the Jets for Haley to lose his job. This year, the focus turns to Pioli, and it’s on Hunt to make it clear this isn’t good enough.”
Sam Mellinger, Kansas City Star
GH: The decision by The Star to allow this two-column attack on the Chiefs’ most powerful and apparently most thin-skinned employee is a shot between the eyes to the Chiefs. The Star needs to be brave when it comes to covering local mega-businesses like the Chiefs, Royals, Sprint, Cerner, etc. It is not always easy to tell the truth when that same truth could damage your company’s bottom line. On Monday morning at least, The Kansas City Star stood tall, handsome and as brave as a Jayhawk who in Downtown Columbia.

[email protected] and Twitter / greghall24

About Greg Hall

Software guy who has been writing my Off The Couch column in KC newspapers, publications and websites since 1994. Has been bounced from some of the finest media establishments this side of State Line Road. Dad first and everything else second...and there are a lot of everything elses.
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30 Responses to OTC: KC Star’s Babb & Mellinger Call For Removal Of Chiefs’ Weakness; GM Scott Pioli

  1. Hammy says:

    Pioli will be here another 4 years. Chiefs don’t make bold moves like cutting bait from a GM or drafting a QB high. They would rather shoot for 9-7 consistently than try and win (and sometimes fail)

    • harley says:

      Babb and sam…
      tell us what pioli and crennel have done that you totally disagree with
      and tell us what you would have done differently. Provide data and
      stats to back up whatever you suggest…if not..you’re full of b.s.
      We can all complain about this team but make a valid list of things
      the team has failed to do to become a winner in the nfl.
      As a fan, I too have been critical of this owner and gm but I’m anxious to
      see what sam and babb would have done differently and if that would
      have made a difference in the chiefs.

      • Bob Sacamano says:

        Harley, Thanks for lobbing the old softball up there. It is pretty easy that everyone disagrees with Cassel being QB, the drafting of Tyson Jackson, Dontari Poe, Dexter McCluster and Javiar Arenas. That’s just a start. We all knew letting Brandon Carr leave was a mistake and only about money, didn’t want to eat into any of Clark’s profits.

  2. Chuck D says:

    I was with you until the last sentence of your column. There is no such thing as a brave Jayhawk in Columbia. Have we already forgotten that they are too afraid to play Missouri?

  3. Smartman says:

    In a new sponsorship deal with the Kansas City Chiefs The Missouri Lottery Commission announced that the ticket scanners will no longer say “not a winner” when a non winning ticket is scanned. The new code line will read “You’re a Chief”. There will also be a second chance drawing for all losing tickets where, like Matt Cassel, the winner will get 64 MILLION dollars for doing absolutely nothing.

  4. Gavin says:

    Like you, I was surprised to see the Star running the same column two times, but I agree that it was absolutely appropriate in this case. I’m glad these guys brought the heavy lumber for Pioli. He has no excuses remaining and this is a team he built.

    Hopefully their next column(s) will be to call out the Clarks and put the pressure on him. Because it’s clear that Pioli is hiding in a bunker and none of us have the power to dislodge him.

  5. tigerdan4 says:

    One little comment turns this into another MU vs kU bickering war. Lovely.

  6. Paige Arenas says:

    thank goodness Sam’s column was a departure from “this is either the best-worst defining moment” angle he’s worn out more than Charlie Weis’ cooler seat.

  7. Joe Blow says:

    GH: It is insight like this that readers crave from a columnist. Tell us what we don’t know, not what we have already seen and heard. Babb is a little light on details here [details of which I am sure he could provide] but the storyline is compelling.

    That’s one of the things I hate the most about sports writers — they’re constantly writing accusations and insinuations without providing any sort of detail. Babb wrote an entire article completely blasting Pioli, while basically telling the reader, “Trust me, it’s true!”

    Both Babb and Mellinger have basically been writing this same story for months, I’m not sure why it’s taken so long for that to register..

  8. S says:

    Yeah, definitely Sam’s best effort. His oeuvre typically starts off like this:

    “The next sentence you read in this column will make you mad, it will make you cry, it will make you cancel your subscription, but you might actually agree with it.”

    And then he gently tiptoes around controversy for the next 30 paragraphs. Don’t tell us what this column isn’t likely to make anyone do. Just say what you have to say and don’t apologize for writing it.

    Or he comes out with some wildly broad-brushed statement like, “All [enter KU, MU, KSU or Nebraska here] fans are arrogant and should stop thinking their team is so awesome because compared to [Alabama, Michigan, USC or Kentucky] their favorite team sucks.”

    Most of the time, he deftly avoids really saying anything, until today’s column. Well done, Sam. This is what makes you relevant.

  9. ron says:

    Keitzman has completely made up a story that Lamar Hunt and Clark have an organizational policy to never draft a QB in the first round of the draft. It’s a ridiculous idea for which he has absolutely no sources or facts to back it up…but he keeps repeating it. I guess it’s too hard for radio talking heads and sports columnists to actually go out and find/identify sources. It’s easier to just say things and ask people to believe them.

  10. Fivecoat says:

    Please God— no more Mitch Holthus. No more CHIEFS KINGDOM. No more HelmetHeads, no more BELLYBOY, no more fucking ads telling me about our team’s awesome tradition. Win a playoff game– that’s all. Just win a playoff game.

    • rkcal says:

      but, but……we’re family….and all kinds of awesome! Eric Berry told me so in the commercial he made in between perfecting the standing head tackle.

  11. rkcal says:

    I enjoyed the double-barrelled approach as well. However, I believe the bigger cajones goes to Mellinger as Babb is out the door. Would love for Babb to spill what he knows, burn the bridges in detail as he high-tails it to DC. Sam needs to take the long view.

    • Joe Blow says:

      It would be cool, but something’s telling me Babb really doesn’t know anything. So, he can try the scorched earth thing, but it’ll probably end up being more burnt prairie grass..

  12. Harry Balczak says:

    Amen to no more CHIEFS KINGDOM..that wording is just creepy.

  13. Smartman says:

    Bring back THE CENTAUR!

  14. Steve says:

    There are so many positions that are the same or worse at a talent level from the 2008 roster that went 2-14. How can Babb say that the roster is better this year then back then?

    Hudson, Winston, Houston, Berry are the gains and the rest are equal at best so far. Tyson Jackson is an embarrassment, Baldwin has done nothing so far and the jury is out on Poe. Peyton Hillis could decide to join the circus at any moment.

  15. SP says:

    Doesn’t Pioli spend his time worrying about whether there is a discarded candy wrapper in the stairwell?
    It sure would be nice if KC, someday, had a GM that focused on football rather than minutiae and a constant battle with the media over who said what about who and when.

  16. JP says:

    When Arrowhead is half empty in December is when change will come. The Clarks do look at the bottom line, just like their relatives across the parking lot, the Daves do. Having said that, this team will need to really bottom out this year for Pioli to be shown the door. The one thing that gives me hope is that Clark is worried about his reputation in KC, unlike Dave and Dan, and he will try to fix the mess.

    Great columns by both writers. If 2 people notice the same set of facts, can they be false. Pioli has been a major disappointment, and I question whether he has what it takes to build a winner with the Chiefs. His drafts have been horrid, that is not a disputable point right now.

  17. Rick says:

    WHAT U MISSED!!! Was the USA Today report of the positve impact Todd Haley has made at Pittsburgh with Big Ben. Talk about getting the KC Crew pissed and insecure!!!

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