By Herbie Teope
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — If based solely on performance in a league where winning is the goal, Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt could apply Formal Logic 101 on GM Scott Pioli.
A simple valid argument goes something like this: All fish can swim. Nemo is a fish; therefore Nemo can swim.
Now relate that scenario to Pioli: All bad general managers compile overall losing records. The Chiefs are 23-41 in the regular season under Pioli; therefore Pioli is a bad general manager.
The Chiefs on Monday used that logic when firing Romeo Crennel, who led the Chiefs to a 2-14 record in 2012, and that course arguably pertains to what Hunt should do with Pioli.
Or does it?
Crennel’s ouster is only part of changes out of One Arrowhead Drive where everything is currently being evaluated, including Pioli’s future.
“The entire football operation will remain under review, and there may be additional changes to come,” Hunt said in a team statement announcing Crennel’s firing. “No final determination has been made at this point on the future of GM Scott Pioli.”
Another change includes Hunt’s direct involvement in the search for a new head coach and the shift of hierarchy in reporting procedures.
"I'm going to lead the search and I'll hire the next coach of the Kansas City Chiefs,” Hunt said during an interview with the Chiefs’ official website. “And he will report directly to me."
Previous head coaches Todd Haley and Crennel reported directly to Pioli. And the new chain of command could be perceived as putting the head coach and general manager on virtual equal footing.
"It is a significant change," Hunt said. "I just feel it's so important that we get the right head coach for the Kansas City Chiefs and I think we'll have the best chance of doing that with a direct report to me."
Removing the middle man, in this case Pioli, could very well make the Chiefs’ vacant head coach position more attractive. And this is especially true if the Chiefs draw interest from a high-profile coach accustomed to autonomy when making player and roster decisions.
Still, there’s potentially more than just a win-loss record surrounding Pioli’s fate, as former Chiefs WR Danan Hughes pointed out in a Monday interview on 610 Sports Radio’s “The Danny Parkins Show” Kansas City, Mo.
Hughes, now an NFL analyst for Time Warner Cable Metro Sports, indicates the business side will factor in a decision to either outright fire Pioli or buy out his remaining contract.
“I can see how if you’re Clark and you’re looking at the numbers — outside of the fan reaction and the backlash — if you’re looking at the numbers on paper, you can say, ‘I’m going to pay this guy to leave, pay another guy to come in for similar amount of money knowing that the coach that I’m going to get is going to have the ultimate authority,’” Hughes said. “What sense does that make? Somebody at that table, whether it’s his brothers and siblings sitting at that table, will ask that question.
“And I think that’s a viable question. If you’re going to give your head coach ultimate authority, why do you need to shoo away your general manager for another person that you’re going to have to pay the same amount of money to and be on the hook for both?”
Fair inquiry to pose in a multibillion-dollar NFL industry and Hunt’s business acumen almost ensures a decision on Pioli will be given deep thought surrounding financial implications.
“The way you become a billionaire, you don’t go wasting millions of dollars,” Hughes said. “And I can see the perception of this being a waste of millions of dollars if you know that the guy you’re going to get or the guy you know you’re going to go strongly after is going to have the ultimate authority.”
Eventually, what appears logical to others doesn’t always apply when it comes to the NFL. But sometimes going against the grain comes back to haunt, and Hunt can look to an AFC West rival for a recent example.
It was just a year ago the Chargers chose to retain GM A.J. Smith and head coach Norv Turner despite the team’s continued midseason collapses and fan backlash.
Following yet another disappointing season, the Chargers finally cut ties with Smith and Turner on Monday.
In the meantime, Hunt is expected to make a decision on Pioli in early February, Adam Teicher of The Kansas City Star reports.
The Chiefs’ chosen direction — either with or without Pioli — is important when considering the events leading to April’s NFL draft, where the Chiefs own the No. 1 pick overall.
Logic suggests the Chiefs would prefer to have a GM and new head coach in place to evaluate the player talent at the NFL Scouting Combine in late February and pro days leading to the draft.
But not all fish are named Nemo.
Herbie Teope is the Chiefs correspondent for Pro Football Weekly.