Arrowhead anxiety: Turnover off the field causes concern
Secrecy, intimidation, fear and a watchful eye have become hallmarks of working for the Chiefs, say some current and former employees.
interviews with more than two dozen current and former employees suggest that intimidation and secrecy are among the Chiefs’ principal management styles — and that Haley wasn’t the only one with paranoid thoughts.
“When you’re mentally abused, you eventually lose it, too,” one former longtime Chiefs executive said.
Since Scott Pioli was hired as general manager in January 2009, life for many inside the Chiefs’ front office has been marked by massive staff turnover, fear and insecurity about how closely they are watched.
During his first year, Pioli noticed a candy wrapper in a back stairwell and waited to see how long it took to be picked up. About a week passed, and it remained in the stairwell. He placed the wrapper in an envelope, and during a meeting of department heads, Donovan, then the team’s chief operating officer, brandished the wrapper as evidence of the attention to detail that Chiefs employees had grown to ignore.
“A great coaching moment,” Donovan said.
Some thought the example was overblown. Pioli frequently came down hard on minutiae. Some emphases made sense, some staffers said; others, though, seemed over the top. One executive, who’s no longer with the team, was sent to human resources for casually referring to Pioli by his last name; the executive said, however, that first names were acceptable. Pioli also sent a memo with detailed instructions, including which stairway to use and which doorway to enter, when using the facility’s gym.
[...]A common notion is that employees are constantly being watched. When they arrive and leave, where they’re going within the building and who they’re talking to. Indeed, the technology exists at the Chiefs’ offices, as it does in many corporate settings, to monitor phone calls and emails. But here, some staffers even hesitated before using their cell phones or speaking inside the building, because, like Haley, they suspected that conversations were monitored.
“The capability was definitely there for Big Brother to be watching,” said Schneider, whose job was to oversee maintenance at team facilities.
Added Pete Penland, who worked in operations before retiring: “I just know that some of our bosses had always told us: Be careful what we did, what we said and where we were at in certain parts of the building.”
But in the last three years, another former staffer said, printouts of emails, some of them months old, were occasionally requested. The former employee said the belief was that the Chiefs were trying to discover who could be trusted and who couldn’t, who was loyal to the cause and who was a liability. Pioli pored over former president Denny Thum’s call log, a former high-ranking employee said, before Thum was asked to resign in September 2010 after 36 years with the team.
Pioli has become such a laughingstock in Kansas City that the biggest story in town is whether Chiefs owner Clark Hunt actually has extended his general manager's contract. There have been reports of such a deal. There have been denials by the franchise. The bottom line is that it's an issue because the Chiefs no longer can sell Pioli to their fan base. The very possibility that he might still run the organization after this year might empty a lot of seats at Arrowhead Stadium.
[...]If not for Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff -- the Patriots' former director of college scouting and a man who has astutely assembled the league's best team so far this season -- there wouldn't be any major success stories coming out of those New England glory years. This is also why Pioli's troubles have become so glaring. He was supposed to be the prize of that organization. If a team couldn't have a head coach like Belichick or a quarterback like future Hall-of-Famer Tom Brady, it could at least have Pioli.
Now we all can see how silly that notion was....
About the only thing Pioli did bring from New England was the same controlling nature that people familiar with the Patriots know very well. Multiple team sources say he's turned off longtime employees with a bullying management style. Published reports accuse him of lecturing staffers for not picking up candy bar wrappers in the hallways and chafing at the way assistant coaches park in the team's lot. During his first season with the team, Pioli sent emails warning employees to keep their window blinds drawn when the team was practicing, according to another team source. Those who didn't comply could expect somebody -- presumably a security guard -- to help them follow the rules.
It's hard to believe all those measures haven't helped the Chiefs become a competitive football team. Sure, they got that title back in 2010, but this much we all know: A last-place schedule can do wonders for a dysfunctional franchise. It says more that the Chiefs followed that success with the soap opera that was the Haley-Pioli feud and that this team is 8-14 since that supposed breakout year. Pioli's supporters can cling to that title all they like. It doesn't diminish everything else that has happened during his time in Kansas City.
Scott Pioli fired: 3 reasons why things didn't work in Kansas City
1. Unwillingness to admit faults with action
It is one thing to admit a mistake. It is another to actually take action in correcting that mistake.,,,
The first sign of trouble was when a coaching staff wasn't in place by the 2009 Senior Bowl...When a scouting department doesn't know what their organization wants, they guess and guessing leads to bust.
The second sign of trouble was when both coordinators were ousted within less than a year. One coordinator had spent all offseason working with the head coach and quarterback to come up with a philosophy and was gone before the regular season even started. That was a decision that needed to be made immediately so no time was wasted. You essentially put yourself five months behind the rest of the NFL.
3. A disconnect from the fans and media
Chiefs players used to be very involved in the community. They connected with fans through TV shows, public appearances and showing off their personality through their foundations.
The previous regime understood that Kansas City is like a college town. The fans want to feel apart of something bigger. They felt like the Chiefs were apart of their family. That is what made the Arrowhead magic so successful. 70,000-plus all unified towards a common goal.
[...]When you take that away from them, you create disconnect. The only way that tactic works is if you win, which the Chiefs did not do.
Several thoughts on the Kansas City Star finally catching up to the fact that employment with the Kansas City Chiefs these days is working in a toxic environment. The newspaper did so in a front page story in Sunday’s edition, headlined Arrowhead Anxiety. In case you missed it, here’s the link where you can read what they had to say.
First, it’s a good story that shined light on a dark corner of the operations that those that control the Chiefs would rather have been kept quiet. Second, although it’s a lengthy story it only scratched the surface of how dysfunctional the organization is these days. Third, the person most responsible for the atmosphere of fear and anxiety around the organization took the fewest number of verbal arrows – team chairman Clark Hunt.
This story has been under construction for several weeks; maybe a month and the Chiefs were well aware of the details. But in the typical fashion of the way the organization is run these days, they attempted to strong arm the Star, demanding the names of the anonymous sources in the story and threatening a law suit. Not once, but twice the Chiefs took this tact with the local fish wrap in the last few weeks.
But I could be wrong...maybe a skillful talent evaluator with a troubled past is exactly the type of guy the Redskins need to hire after the whole McCloughan drama.