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Pioli says speed key to Chiefs' turnaround

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Recent posts by Michael Blunda

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Posted Feb. 26, 2011 @ 3:33 p.m. ET
By Michael Blunda

INDIANAPOLIS — When Scott Pioli arrived in Kansas City in 2009, there were plenty of things wrong with the Chiefs. But there was something in particular that both he and head coach Todd Haley singled out as they attempted to turn the franchise around.

"We needed to upgrade our team speed, because I know when we first got there, it was certainly the slowest football team that I had been a part of — not just on offense, not just on defense, but with special teams as well, because there's always that trickle-down effect," the team's general manager said on Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine.

"If you're constantly moving slower than the other team, it's gonna be a problem. So adding speed was important."

So what did Pioli do in 2010, his second draft in K.C.? Infuse his roster with speed, and plenty of it.

In the second round, the Chiefs selected Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas, two SEC standouts who weren't necessarily projected to be great pros on offense and defense, respectively. However, both can fly, and that was more important to Pioli than their shortcomings in other areas.

With the rookie pair giving the Chiefs a significant special-teams boost as the primary return men, the club completed a monumental turnaround, going from 4-12 to 10-6 and AFC West champions.

As Pioli likely looks to add even more speed come this April, especially at wideout, he also must deal with the team's transition to a new offensive coordinator, former O-line coach Bill Muir. The departure of former coordinator Charlie Weis after one season to take the same position at Florida was not something the GM saw coming.

"I don't think you enter any relationship thinking it's going to be a short-term relationship," Pioli said of the Weis situation. "You adjust to it as you have to adjust.

"… I watched Bill (Belichick) do an amazing job in New England when he knew with success there were going to be changes and people leaving that organization. If you have a good developmental program throughout your organization, whether it's coaching or scouting, when people leave you just have to be prepared for the next person."

Despite Muir being promoted, speculation has been rampant that Haley will be the one calling plays in 2011, as he did in '09. While the head coach wouldn't confirm that during his podium time at the Combine, Pioli seemed to have no reservations about Haley possibly being the play-caller.

"Teams have done it with head coaches," he said. "I've been a part of it where coaches have been play-callers on offense or defense. What matters is whether you get it right."

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