Bold is beautiful; Chiefs ugly


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Jan 22, 2006
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Bold is beautiful; Chiefs ugly

The Kansas City Star

The worst thing that can happen to an NFL general manager is a loss of nerve, which creates the inability to pull the trigger on personnel decisions.

Seventeen years of chasing your tail in one place can certainly lead to personnel impotence. I’m starting to believe Carl Peterson is suffering from P.I., and if you stick with me through this column, I’ll explain how P.I. might ruin the 2006 season.

I contend Peterson’s case of P.I. began shortly after he engineered the acquisition of Joe Montana and Marcus Allen before the 1993 season. Not coincidentally, that’s the last time the Chiefs had any playoff success.

Since then, Peterson’s bold personnel moves mostly have been driven by other parties.

Keep in mind, Marty Schottenheimer, after a prolonged contract battle, took control of personnel decisions for the 1997 and 1998 seasons. So Marty, to the guilty delight of Peterson, put together the Bone, Thugs and Marty squad, featuring Andre Rison, Chester McGlockton, Wayne Simmons, Bam Morris, Leslie O’Neal and O.J. Simpson.

(OK, O.J. wasn’t on the team. But you know Marty probably wanted to sign him.)

Marty also was in control in 1997 when the Chiefs traded up to get Tony Gonzalez.

In 1994, ’95 and ’96, Peterson grabbed two affordable free agents who produced at a high level — James Hasty and Mark Collins — and he snagged Will Shields in the third round of the draft. There were no moves that could be classified as bold. Well, there was the ridiculous decision of drafting Trezelle Jenkins in the first round. Ridiculous doesn’t equal bold.

Once Marty quit out of sheer embarrassment following the 1998 season, Peterson reasserted control over personnel. Gunther Cunningham, Marty’s replacement, asked for one player — defensive end Dan Williams, who sat out the ’98 season in a contract dispute. Williams got a fat contract, and the first drip of pink splashed across the slip Peterson would soon give Cunningham.

In order to land Dick Vermeil in 2001, Peterson had to trade a first-round pick to St. Louis for Vermeil’s adopted son Trent Green. That was a bold move. Vermeil drove that decision. To his credit, Peterson signed Priest Holmes to a bargain-basement contract. And in 2002, Peterson swindled the Saints out of Willie Roaf for a third-round pick.

Also, in 2002, the Chiefs traded up to get Ryan Sims with the sixth pick in the draft. Definitely a bold move. But it was driven by Vermeil’s chummy relationship with North Carolina head coach John Bunting, another one of Vermeil’s adopted children.

In 2003, Priest Holmes forced Peterson to draft Larry Johnson by threatening to hold out and slowly recovering from a hip injury. This was still a very bold move by Peterson. The decision to draft Johnson irritated Vermeil, the entire coaching staff and much of the fan base.

Peterson made a decisive, defiant, bold move that paid huge dividends for the Chiefs.

In 2005, in an attempt to make one last Super Bowl run for Vermeil, Peterson signed Patrick Surtain, Kendrell Bell and Sammy Knight. You’d have to consider these moves bold. But you’d also have to say that Vermeil drove the decisions.

What’s driving the Chiefs this offseason?

Fear and indecisiveness.

The Chiefs are $9 million under the salary cap and need to make some critical decisions. But they’re held hostage by fear and indecision.

It’s my belief that Priest Holmes doesn’t want to play football anymore. There are no more fat paydays out there for Holmes, so he can’t think of a reason to risk getting hurt on the football field again. Holmes won’t retire because that would jeopardize a portion of the signing bonus he swindled out of the Chiefs before the 2003 season.

Part of me thinks the Chiefs keep playing the “doctors haven’t cleared Priest to play” game because they think it gives them leverage with Larry Johnson, who is privately looking to get a new contract.

Johnson knows the deal. He has the Chiefs by their footballs. Kansas City didn’t upgrade its receiving corps. Offensive line coach Mike Solari was promoted to offensive coordinator. Herm Edwards was made the head coach. And the Chiefs don’t have a backup running back.

Larry Johnson is KC’s only hope. The only way he’d have any more leverage would be if Tom Osborne bought the team.

Larry would be crazy to play under his current contract. Jerome Bettis-type backs are rare. Big, punishing backs don’t stay on top for long. Larry would be justified in believing had he not wasted two years on the bench, he’d be in position right now to demand LaDainian Tomlinson money.

Peterson needed to be aggressive and bold this offseason. In making Johnson the starter, Edwards made a bold move that the organization should’ve backed by operating as though Holmes wouldn’t return.

Peterson should’ve drafted a running back. No way should he have allowed Tony Richardson to walk to Minnesota for little or no money. Peterson should be proactive with Johnson’s contract. Johnson is a wild card. He’s capable of sitting out.

Since Montana and Allen, when it comes to personnel, Peterson pretty much runs around and fixes leaks.

Our defense stinks, so I’ll sign three free agents. Priest is hurt and wants a new contract, so I’ll draft Larry Johnson. Vermeil won’t come out of retirement unless we sign Green, so I’ll trade a first-round pick.

Good general managers react well. Great GMs react well and make bold moves that put their teams in position to contend for a Super Bowl.
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