- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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• Tampa Bay's first-year tandem of G.M. Mark Dominik and coach Raheem Morris preferred Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman to Stafford and traded up two spots from No. 19 to grab him.
Last year Kansas City had a 12-player draft haul, including four picks—Dorsey, left tackle Branden Albert and cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr—who started as rookies. But with Haley changing the defense to a 3--4 and going with a more vertical offense than 2008's, some incumbents no longer are great fits because of either the new schemes or their attitude. "This team sort of got comfortable with losing," one player said last Saturday. As good as Gonzalez is at playing his position—he's the alltime NFL leader among tight ends in receptions, yards and touchdowns—K.C. was five games under .500 and never won a playoff game during his 12 seasons with the club.
Pioli and Haley, on the other hand, bring winning pedigrees to a franchise that has gone 39 seasons without a trip to the Super Bowl. Pioli served under Bill Parcells with the Jets (even married his daughter Dallas) and teamed with Belichick for 15 with the Browns, Jets and Patriots. Haley's father, Dick, was director of player personnel for the great Steelers teams of the '70s, and Todd worked for Parcells as an assistant with the Giants and the Cowboys before turning around the Cardinals offense as coordinator.
So last Thursday night, during a predraft feast at Jack Stack Barbecue, it figured that there would be talk of Super Bowls past. And it's the losses in XLII (Pats to the Giants) and XLIII (Cardinals to the Steelers) that motivate Pioli and Haley, respectively, the most. In a strange coincidence both of their teams were beaten in those Super Bowls on touchdown passes with 35 seconds left.
"Not a day goes by that I don't think about it," said Haley, whose offense played conservatively for most of three quarters because he wanted to keep Pittsburgh's pass rush from abusing Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner. "It still bothers me. Did I wait too long to open up the offense?"
"You did what you had to do at the time," said Pioli, "what gave your team the best chance to win."
Then the G.M. wadded up a napkin and flicked it onto the dinner table. "I still think about our game, and I can't believe it," Pioli said, recalling with disgust David Tyree's miraculous grab for the Giants. "We lose when a guy catches the ball with his helmet."
Super Bowls are a long way off for the Chiefs. Pioli and Haley are trying to build a winner one brick at a time, and they're counting on veteran newcomers like Vrabel to provide the mortar. Another is 35-year-old linebacker Zach Thomas. "We signed Zach, and he flew in on Easter, and he was one of the first guys at the facility [the following] Monday morning," said Pioli. "When we ran the running test we'll have in training camp just to show the players what it is [three 315-yard runs, each meant to be finished in under 58 seconds], Zach won the first two sprints in his group. Here he comes, off the street, and he's in top shape. That's called being a pro. That's what we want."
On Saturday, Thomas was still trying to find his way around Kansas City, looking for a place to live. He was told the Chiefs had drafted Jackson at No. 3. "What do you think?" he was asked.
"I don't know him," Thomas said, "but I know Scott and Todd. So I know he'll work hard. And I know he'll love football."