Chiefs: Is General Manager Scott Pioli's math off?
Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli's approval rating in Kansas City is about as low as Royals owner David Glass. After Kansas City Star columnists Sam Mellinger and Kent Babb on Monday blamed the disastrous start on Pioli, Mellinger wrote that they heard from only three fans who stood up for the team.
Pioli's damage-control PR crusade began Tuesday when he went on the record with the Kansas City Star's Adam Teicher to share his thoughts on the Chiefs' 0-2 start.
Pioli said he didn't see this coming and also defended the way the team was put together. In particular, the Chiefs have been criticized for under-spending and appearing year in and year out as one of the teams furthest under the salary cap, but Pioli claims he is spending owner Clark Hunt's money.
"I think there are things we did do that helped this football team," Pioli told Teicher. "I also know for a fact that this year alone we're spending over $141 million in cash this year. That's more than $20 million over the cap. It's been proven time and time again that there's not a direct correlation between spending cap dollars and winning. There's not."
Pioli may have a point there (and we'll get to that later), but it's difficult to believe the $141 million figure he threw out. According to cap numbers provided by the NFL on Sept. 7, via Pro Football Talk, the Chiefs were $14.5 million under the cap, meaning they spent about $106.1 million.
The Chiefs entered last season with the most cap space available, according to NFL.com. Hunt said in January that the team planned to take advantage of the new CBA by carrying over last season's cap space, which he said was $20 million, to the 2012 number. This was something that 30 teams did in the offseason, and ESPN.com's John Clayton reported in February that the Chiefs had a league-high $62.995 million left to spend.
"The reason that we chose to carry it over is we anticipate needing it in 2012 and 2013, both to continue signing our free agents as well as being able to go out and sign some free agents from outside," Hunt told Steven St. John of Sports Radio 810 WHB in January.
The Chiefs' big free-agent acquisitions were RT Eric Winston, signed to a four-year, $22-million contract, and RB Peyton Hillis, signed to a one-year deal worth $2.8 million. They did not re-sign CB Brandon Carr, who signed a five-year, $51-million deal with the Cowboys. Instead, they signed CB Stanford Routt for three years and $18 million.
After this season, Kansas City has five starters who will be free agents (LT Branden Albert, RG Ryan Lilja, WR Dwayne Bowe, DE Glenn Dorsey and LB Jovan Belcher). Are they planning to carry over unspent money again to sign them? Possibly. But that's a hard sale for this year.
As for Pioli's stance that spending doesn't result in winning, the small sample size of 2012 shows otherwise. Of the six undefeated teams left, four appeared in the top nine teams with the least amount of cap space left on Sept. 7; four of the six winless teams (Kansas City, Tennessee, Jacksonville and Cleveland) are in the bottom six spenders. Last season, seven playoff teams were in the top-half with the least amount of cap space left and five fell in the bottom half.
No matter how it's framed, the money the Chiefs spend -- or don't spend -- is a touchy subject in K.C. It's not surprising Pioli would argue that spending doesn't matter and in the next breath say the Chiefs spent $141 million this year.
Pioli's main task in the next few weeks is to convince Kansas City's fans that there is still hope for this team, which he maintains was built the right way.
Patience is what he's preaching. Winning is the only healer.