I watched this and wow. I have never been so amped.
SCOTT PIOLI: “It is a really exciting time right now with the off-season program starting and draft prep. Todd and I have talked about this an awful lot; this is a great time for our team to get better, not only this season but next season and the season after. A lot of work has gone into this; a lot of time has gone into this. We still have another week. We have a mini-camp coming up and I know Todd will speak a little about that and of course the draft in eight or nine days.”
Q: Do you have a focus for the draft or an area you want to improve?
PIOLI: “I wouldn’t say there is a specific focus on one part of the team. I think when you are in a situation like we are in right now, there are a lot of places that we need to improve in roster spots one through 53 and a lot of different positions. One of the things we are going to try and consistently do here is upgrade the team and upgrade positions across the board. In our situation, there are a lot of different ways we can improve this football team.”
Q: Do you still stand by your statement that the right 53 players don’t necessarily mean the most athletic 53 players?
PIOLI: “This is something Todd and I spent a lot of time on. It is something we both believe, based on our histories, that it is the right 53 players. The best 53 players don’t necessarily mean the most skilled, the most athletic or the most talented. I think it is something we are trying to address this off-season in terms of veteran players that we brought in who are proven winners, guys that we know have a certain work ethic and a certain makeup. When we make decisions on players, whether it is in the draft, free-agency or trades, however we acquire players, we want to get the right players that fit Todd’s leadership style and our collective belief in work ethic and the overall makeup of the players.”
Q: Do you draft players based on ability or team need?
PIOLI: “I have always felt that it is a combination of those two things. Some teams do things based purely on need, other teams do it based on what they think is the best player available. I think it is a combination of those two things. You have to take into account who’s the best player available and also what your needs are. I’ll go back to a situation years ago: on our roster we had a certain position that we had a large number of players and we kept passing a player up that we felt was the best player available. We also felt we had a strong number of players at that particular position but there comes a point in time where you have to mesh those two things together and do a combination of best player and needs. I really believe it is a combination of those two things.”
Q: Have you been able to evaluate what you have right now on your team as far as holdover guys?
TODD HALEY: “We’ve got them lined up right now, but every discussion we have as a coaching staff is let’s see what this weekend looks like. This weekend is more about teaching really, and it’s not necessarily a weekend where we’re going to come out of it and say we’re going to have any idea on evaluations. We’re in the middle of the off-season program. This camp is almost a distraction to the point from the off-season program, so to speak. We want to make sure this camp is about teaching, a chance for players to get to know a little bit about the terminology and system and a little bit about us as a coaching staff.”
Q: Do you select on need or best available player if you pick early or late?
PIOLI: “It’s weighted differently at whatever point in time you’re making a pick. You have to take into account what your needs are on the team but you can’t ignore a guy or a certain player who’s a tremendous value or has tremendous ability. So, whether it’s the third pick or the 23rd pick or the 33rd pick you need to take both things into account.”
Q: Do you think you know this draft class as well as you knew your past ones given your new responsibilities and how much your life has changed over these last months away from evaluation?
PIOLI: “I think we know it as well as we’ve known other drafts. I think some of the other things have caused us later hours at night.”
HALEY: “We know what the film room looks like.”
PIOLI: “Knowing the draft and knowing the players in the draft isn’t an issue. The biggest part of the transition has not been Todd and I coming together because we have so many common beliefs, it’s the other people that have been here on the staff before that were headed in one direction with the draft and the evaluation process. The teaching and learning have come from both ends; we’ve had to learn certain things instead of changing the thought process of 20 people doing scouting. We’ve adjusted our thought process, how we analyze certain things. I think we know the draft as well as we’ve know any draft.”
Q: How have you crafted or meshed what both of you want in the draft?
PIOLI: “I think that started with the process of who the head coach is because when you get into a marriage like this you have to understand who the leader of the football is. The leader is the head coach, the one who’s motivating the players, coaching the players and teaching the players. Understanding what Todd is and who he is, that’s part of the initial process and knowing what type of players he needs and wants means having a lot of common values not only in performance but in makeup because the most important part is the intelligence and work ethic and work habits. We share the same thoughts and beliefs.
“There have been differences of opinions, just like there’s been everywhere Todd and I have been. So, when you have a different view of a player we sit down and talk about it. That forces us to do more work on the players and then collectively we sit and watch the players together. This way by the time it comes to select players we’re on the same page because this isn’t my baby, or Todd’s baby, this is the Chefs baby.”
HALEY: “You’ve got to understand it’s been a long time since we’ve been together. Now, here we are back together again.”
PIOLI: “The interesting part of that is we’ve spent a lot of time talking about players who have played in this league 10 or 12 years ago in our shared time with the Jets. This player reminds me of this guy, or that guy. The reservoir of information and the history together puts us on the same page when we were part of turning around the Jets. There is this history and we know what players were like makeup-wise, but also know what they were like performance-wise.”
Q: You talk about your relationship with Bill Belichick and how you worked and disagreed.
PIOLI: “It’s very much the same way and that’s a good thing about having a personal history with someone, having a personal history, having a professional history and having respect. Part of the reason Todd and I thought this was going to be a good marriage was because of the personal respect and professional respect we had for one another. Disagreement is good, it’s healthy. It’s how you handle that disagreement and how respectful you are in the relationship.
“I want us to have a difference of opinion on players. That forces discussion, healthy discussion, and forces us to watch more tape. This isn’t about Todd being right, about me being right. This is about us being right. It’s very similar to the situation I was in with Bill. If there is respect in the relationship there’s going to be positive energy.”
Q: How do you find a tangible way to evaluate those intangibles in a player?
PIOLI: “That’s why we don’t allow the scouts to call them intangibles because things like leadership, things like toughness, things that are referred to as intangibles are very, very tangible elements of who the player is and who the person is. These guys are not robots and not just height, weight, speed.”
Q: When you’re operating with a group who has spent a whole fall evaluating a different way, does it put you in a bad spot?
PIOLI: “Prior to coming here I was going through the process with another team. I was going through all the meetings, I was out on the road and probably visited close to 25 to 30 schools myself last year. So, I’ve seen a lot of players. I went through meetings with the scouts we had in New England. It’s been a very interesting part of the process in going through it with scouts from two different organizations. Some of the disagreements have fostered growth in a different way and forced us to spend more time on certain players.
“Now, the scouts here are learning a different way and learning a different method. That’s just part of the process of change.”
Q: So you know the tangible intangibles?
PIOLI: “I feel we have a pretty solid grasp on that.”
Q: Would you accept someone’s offer for that third pick?
PIOLI: “Tell me who’s on the board? I don’t know who’s or who’s not. I don’t know who wants someone to make an offer. Here’s what I know: when it’s our turn to pick, whenever that is, we’re going to know who we’re picking and we’re going to be ready. If there is an opportunity to make a trade we’ll listen. That’s an important thing. You have to take your time, be patient, not be reactive and think things through. It’s not the best decision at that second but long term.”
Q: With the Patriots you were never averse to making a trade? Last year half the tradeable picks were traded? Why do you think that is happening now?
PIOLI: “I think teams look at the players differently and there are 32 teams and everybody values different things. When there are certain players on the board there may be a team that is concerned that they’re close enough to get that player but they’re’ going to have to jump ahead of team ‘X’ to get him. They think that giving up another pick or a future pick is worth that.
“Teams don’t necessarily just trade picks. They trade picks to get to players. That’s what I think is missed sometimes. Trades are made so teams can get to specific players.”
Q: With the Patriots you traded up and traded down. Would you trade down if your guy is not there?
PIOLI: “The other part of that is just because you want to make a trade or you think you want to you have to have a partner. No matter when your turn comes you’d better be ready to pick. Again, be ready to make the pick and see if there is another opportunity.”
Q: What are some of the downsides of having a top five pick?
PIOLI: “You’re hoping that a top five pick is a good football player, a young football player who is going to make your team good now and in the future.”
Q: How is having a top five pick changed in the last 10 years?
PIOLI: “The most obvious change has been the cost and the guaranteed money you have to pay that pick. Some teams are more conservative and want to go with a safer pick, or whatever their definition is. What do they value skill set-wise, what do they value makeup-wise emotionally? Again, the most obvious in a general sense is the cost of the top picks and the amount of guaranteed money you’re putting into those contracts.”
Q: Do you therefore find teams willing to trade down?
PIOLI: “I think that the pattern has shown that is the case.”
Q: Looking at the drafts in New England you never drafted a highly-rated pass rusher, or one that was his specialty.
PIOLI: “We drafted Jarvis Green in the fourth round and he’s a really solid pass rusher. He’s not a high profile guy but he’s certainly a darn good pass rusher. Maybe not big splash names, but pretty good pass rushers. Mike Vrable”
Q: You don’t have to necessarily draft them in the early rounds, but can do it later or through free agency, right?
PIOLI: “We’re trying not to marry ourselves to one specific way. If you commit yourself mentally to not knowing all the vehicles and all the potential opportunities you may be missing something. You never know what the opportunities might be, what free agency might be from year to year. You never know who’s going to be cut and put out on the street. You might have an opportunity there. There’s opportunity everywhere.”
Q: Chiefs fans are more excited about this draft than any in recent memory. What about you personally? Will you get an adrenaline rush or have trouble sleeping?
PIOLI: “I get an adrenaline rush. This is what we do. I don’t know if I’ll have trouble sleeping based on the hours I’m putting in now. I’ll probably wake up early like I do every year and wander around the house aimlessly. Once you wake up it’s like Christmas morning because you know something is waiting for you and you can’t fall back to sleep. This is what we do; this is a large opportunity to build our football team. The way things evolved in New England was the opportunity happened on that day but sometimes it didn’t manifest itself for a year or two years. There are going to be different kinds of opportunity. We had an opportunity a few months ago to trade a pick to pick up two players who we think are pretty good for this football team. We’ve already cashed in our second round pick. We’ve already started our draft.”
Q: Talking about the excitement Todd, you’ve been around the process with your dad in Pittsburgh all those years. How does it feel to sit in one of those chairs to make the decision now yourself?
HALEY: “I had a father who wandered aimlessly around the house the night before the draft. Like I said, it’s an exciting time for me and I grew up in this. So much of what Scott is talking about I have memories of and I think that’s helped so much for our marriage, so to speak. I’ve been around his side of it for most of my life and know how it all works.”
Q: What type of player are you looking for?
HALEY: “We want guys who want to be here, want to be Kansas City Chiefs, and want to be part of something we hope is special. They’re usually pretty tough, and they’re usually pretty dedicated to football and they’re usually pretty reliable. So, it’s not real hard. If they have some of those characteristics and they can play then they’ll usually be all right.”
PIOLI: “Guys better be smart and they had better be dependable. Smart isn’t just knowing where to line up on the field, smart is guys who come into off-season training in shape like Zach (Thomas) did. Just because he didn’t play in the playoffs he showed up here as one of the best conditioned athletes we’ve seen in the off-season program so far. Having veterans it’s important for them not just to teach the young guys football, but to teach them how to be professionals and how to be prepared. There is a guy who is flying under the radar a bit but he’s an important part of this off-season: Bobby Engram. Bobby Engram is a professional; he is a pro and he is helping a good group of young wide receivers. He’s been to the ‘game’ before. It’s not a mistake. You don’t wake up and roll out of bed, like Zach Thomas, and go to seven Pro Bowls. There is a group of veteran players who are coming in here and teaching these young players how to be professionals. Obviously we think they can play football, too It’s not just to be mentors.
Q: You’ve brought in a lot of guys to visit from the colleges who probably aren’t going to be there when you pick. Why?
PIOLI: “That’s the important part of the draft. Preparation is a key. We don’t know where we’re picking. As we sit here today we’re picking at number three. We have no idea if that’s where we’re going to pick but it wouldn’t be prudent for us to have locked in our heads that the only opportunity we have is at three. Someone might come to us with what is a tremendous opportunity. Last year we were in a situation to pick seventh (in New England). But if we sat there and thought the only place we were going to be was seventh and didn’t have a contingency plan or what the other opportunity would be if we moved back three picks or 15 picks or 20 picks or even moved to the following year…you have to be prepared for that. Regardless of where you think the player is going to be drafted, our job is to know the entire draft board or as many players as we can possibly know. We don’t know what players are going to slide and it may or may not be the case that we aren’t picking again until the second day. Don’t grab your pizza and go home for the night. That’s the beauty of the draft. There is so many opportunity to do different things.”
“This whole process for the last year has been about the evaluation. There are two very distinct parts of the draft: the evaluation process and strategy. Now is the time strategy begins and it’s as much fun as the evaluation process.”
Q: Are you just looking for young guys from this point on or do you want to get some veterans yet?
PIOLI: “There is still time to get veterans who are under contract with other teams but after the draft won’t be with teams. What we won’t have this year is we won’t have the June 1 releases because it doesn’t matter with an uncapped year next year. This is an exciting time but the process of player acquisition is a year-round, 24/7 opportunity.”
Q: What’s the secret of finding players?
PIOLI: “As much as anything it’s about guys making themselves players. Tom Brady made himself a great player. We weren’t that smart. How smart could we have been? There was a guy we drafted in the fifth round before Brady that didn’t even make it through training camp. Tom Brady was one of the hardest workers as I’ve seen and Matt Cassel too. That wasn’t any stroke of genius by us. It’s not any set formula.”