By Kevin Kietzman
Kansas City was a better place to live this weekend and it wasn't the great weather or the bright spring foliage. No, our town had a nice shot of adrenaline from our local sports teams, not something you can normally say when the grass is green.
The stands at Sporting Park were buzzing Sunday afternoon as Claudio Bieler put Sporting up 1-0 at almost the exact same time Alex Gordon got his walkoff hit at Kauffman Stadium. Fans were all on their phones or huddled around some of the TV monitors that were actually showing baseball at a soccer game. It was a magical time as everyone just felt like winners and got caught up in the raucous thrill of a soccer goal while knowing the Royals just pulled a rabbit out of a hat. People that says sports don't matter don't understand people. There's nothing wrong with exciting, winning sporting events making you feel better about yourself, your friends or even your city. Goodness knows we could use a few more moments like that in this sports town. Royals in first place. Sporting with a dominant win almost certainly will be at least a playoff team. These are the good times, enjoy the ride.
So many of you have emailed, tweeted or called about how excited you are that the NFL Draft is so important and you're so thrilled the Chiefs picked up a steal in a late round or found that diamond in the rough in free agency. But ponder this draftnicks, the Chiefs are a rare team indeed. This football team, if healthy, can literally start 22 players (11 offense, 11 defense) that were all taken in the top 99 picks of the draft. Esentially, the Chiefs starting lineup would be all first three-round selections. I've said many times, with all the high draft picks on the offensive line, this team should set some sort of offensive records this year if you believe the line is the key to winning games. It shouldn't be close. The Chiefs have nine guys that line up on the offensive line of scrimmage that were taken in the third round or higher. NINE! That has to be some kind of record, doesn't it?
Another way to look at this is the amazing amount of first-round talent the Chiefs will put on the field now that even their quarterback was a first-round pick. Almost half the Chiefs starters this year will be first-round picks and it could have been more if they hadn't let Glenn Dorsey go to San Francisco. Even without Dorsey, The Chiefs will have nine first-round picks to start each game. Time to raise the bar, right?
I have yet to meet one person surprised that Ben McLemore's family and friends were receiving improper benefits from an agent. We talked about this on the air all winter about how this young man looked like a torn and distracted player thinking about his payday and not as focused on the here and now. Well, it's playing out like a primetime soap or something. Former AAU coach gets worked by a new guy who wants to be Ben's agent. Gives coach money. Flies Ben's cousin around the country and puts him up at lavish hotels. Cousin denies it but then there is the pesky little detail of an actual photo taken at said hotel. Ben gets a $500 birthday party at a bowling alley (by the way, when did bowling get that expensive?) and the agent pays for it.
It doesn't look like KU did much wrong here other than take a ridiculously risky player that couldnt qualify for a year and then allow that player to leave tickets for an agent wannabe. KU has always had trouble handling its complimentary ticket list and this is extremely embarrassing after the FBI found their real ticket scandal a few years ago and we started finding out tickets were being left for porn stars. I'm sorry, I hear people say this goes on everywhere and its just how it is. Why does it have to be? You can't even sift out prospective agents from a ticket list? That's bush league and after what this athletic department went through reorganizing everything in the ticket procedure, it should have been caught. The NCAA is traditionally very soft on KU and I'm guessing not much comes of it. But other programs have had to vacate wins and that could cost KU some position on the wins list and maybe even end their Big 12 titles streak. There is little doubt Ben McLemore was an ineligible player under NCAA guidelines.
By Kevin Kietzman
I know I live on some sort of a football island that resembles Alcatraz, but I will never, ever understand the NFL's fascination with selecting tackles so high in the draft.
This is the safe, reasonable and prudent thing to do, right? Tackles are never busts, they're almost always quality people and teammates and every team must have a great offensive line to win a Super Bowl. Or so they say. Now, let's take a look at our hometown Chiefs who have lived by this philosophy for decades, ignoring any thoughts of drafting a quarterback in the first round since 1983. In the same period of time, the Chiefs have drafted SEVEN tackles in the first round! This safe, conservative, by the book approach has been nothing short an organizational disaster for Kansas City.
John Alt was a great pick in 1984. Reagan was up for re-election and the recession of the late 1970's was finally over. I was in college becoming a fan of two things catching my eye in the NFL. The high flying Air Coryell attack in San Diego and the wicked arm of Dan Marino in Miami. I didn't care who had the best O-Line and apparantly neither did most of today's coaches. They've all shifted their philosophy away from grinding it out with the hogs up front to finding a guy with an arm that can win a game for you. For years and years.
But not the Chiefs. Alt was a great pick and played 13 Ring of Honor years in KC. The six that followed, assuming the Chiefs trade Brandon Albert, never even made it to a sixth season. Awesome safe picks, huh?
Brian Jozwiak - 3 years
Mark Adickes - 4 years
Trezelle Jenkins - 3 years
Victor Riley- 4 years
John Tait- 5 years
Branden Albert - 5 years
The 2013 off season has been particularly exciting for fans of tackles in Kansas City. The Chiefs cut right tackle Eric Winston, the player CBS' Kevin Harlan said had the best year of any Chiefs offensive lineman in 2012. Then they put the franchise tag on left tackle Branden Albert, a safe first-round selection right in the prime of his career that only surrendered one sack in 2012. These are facts, hate if you want.
Now the Chiefs are on the verge of trading Albert to the Dolphins, who just a few short years ago used the #1 overall pick to take tackle Jake Long but now Miami has let him go. The Rams jumped on Long. Great pick, fins. You won absolutely nothing with your overall #1 pick at left tackle. Ditto for Cleveland and Oakland. Wait a second, what in the name of Vince Lombardi is going on here? Tackles are the smart play and they can play for a decade or more. What a load of hooey!
If tackles were so important and such secure picks, would all these guys be moving around? Tackles are dumped like middle relievers in baseball. General managers take tackles because its good for their job security and it keeps the owner out of their business. The Chiefs actually have a history of having fine offensive lines that they put together outside the draft. It's really not that hard because nobody wants to pay to keep any of the lineman they draft.
Look at it this way. If Branden Albert (let's assume he's the 15th best left tackle in the game) played quarterback would there be any talk about tagging and trading him? How about Winston? If he played quarterback, he could have shot off his mouth until our ears were ringing and he'd still be here.
The bottom line is this. When the Chiefs select a left tackle next week with the first pick in the draft, odds are he won't be here when he commands big money. They'll take one year to teach him how to play in the league then they'll have him for another 3 or 4 years. That's if he's as good as the tackle they already have and know can play in this league.
Count me as confused with using the #1 overall pick in the draft to help rebuild a line that isn't as good as last year's line. Keeping Winston and Albert and drafting something else would have made a lot more sense to me. Maybe it's different this time and the new guy sticks. Hey, it worked 30 years and seven first round tackles ago, so at least there's a chance.
By Kevin Kietzman
My ears perked up Wednesday when I heard John Dorsey on NFL Network proclaim the Chiefs are spending Friday and Saturday pouring over all their options for improving their quarterback situation.
As everyone knows, the Chiefs have the first pick in the draft and the first pick in the draft is almost always a quarterback. But this is 2013 and we are talking about the Chiefs. Now, I could go on and on guaranteeing that Geno Smith is a better and more worthy selection at No. 1 overall than somebody like JaMarcus Russell. But who couldn't possibly see or understand that? Still, experts like Mel Kiper as saying there is no way the Chiefs will or should take a quarterback at the top of the draft. Doesnt make sense. Hey, if they were picking 8th, it makes sense. But not No. 1.
Ok, the reality is it doesn't matter if the best quarterback in the draft is the eighth-best player. That's like saying if the Chiefs had scored a touchdown against the Ravens this year and not lost in overtime to Pittsburgh they'd be sitting at the 8th pick in the draft and it would be ok to draft a quarterback. Huh? Think about that for a couple minutes. The Chiefs lost 9-6 and 13-10. One bounce of the ball their way and KC has the 8th pick in the draft and it's ok to take Geno Smith. That has to sound as ridiculous to you as it does to me. What in the world are we talking about here?
John Dorsey has told us all that these guys are gathering for two days and laying it all on the table. I know they're open to the idea of drafting a quarterback at No. 1, they're just going to have to see somebody is worth it. Or just the opposite, everyone will have to prove they are not worthy.
Look, the Chiefs appear to be front runner for Alex Smith and that may be what comes out of these meetings. They may all get together and decide Alex Smith is the guy for at least five years and the Chiefs can win a Super Bowl with him. If they gather and decide Alex Smith is a good player that makes the Chiefs better but he's not really that special guy that's going to lead to great things, this becomes a no brainer. Find somebody else. Take a chance, for once, on a 22-year-old kid who's 6-foot-4, has a rocket arm and is described by everyone as a football nerd. Coach him up, goodness knows Dana Holgersen didn't. Teach him how to stay positive and lead by example and believe that everyone around him has the same intentions as he does. If Andy Reid is the coach everyone says he is, imagine how much better Geno Smith would be than playing for Dana Holgersen.
The Chiefs always play it safe. Alex Smith is safe. Taking the fourth best quarterback in this class later in the draft is also safe. Nobody gets fired. But nobody gets fired up, either. We've lived safe for 30 years. Coaches and GM's have cashed checks from the Hunt family with more zeros than you can count. It's time for somebody to do something great.
If the Chiefs don't take a quarterback, THE quarterback, at No. 1, they will draft a position they already have filled with a talented player. It makes no sense. Then other teams will gobble up the best quarterbacks and the Chiefs will be spooning through cold leftovers. Then they'll line up and win a few more games and not make the playoffs and draft 13th next year and when two quarterbacks are gone when the Chiefs are on the clock they will say there was no value at 13 in taking the third-best quarterback. Just remember and always remember, the Chiefs can take the best quarterback in the draft this year if they want.
By Kevin Kietzman
We've learned a lot in a short amount of time with this new regime at Arrowhead.
As I was driving home from the stadium after talking to the owner, the head coach and the new general manager, it dawned on me that this truly is a new era. Will this lead to a Super Bowl appearance? Probably not. Odds are just against that sort of thing, just look what happened to the Broncos and Peyton Manning with the number one seed in the AFC. But the Chiefs are surely on a new course, a course that is a complete change of business for the Hunt Family.
Clark Hunt, the Chairman, all but told me the Chiefs won't be taking a quarterback with the first pick overall. I know, that sounds like business as usual. But Hunt also told me previous GM Scott Pioli's downfall was that he didn't draft enough quarterbacks and after acquiring Matt Cassel the team didn't attack the position of quarterback the way winning teams have. Hunt says the Chiefs will start drafting quarterbacks, they will trade for quarterbacks, they will sign them as free agents. As you're reading this, you should call and schedule and appointment to try out. I get the impression the Chiefs will look at anyone right now.
And Hunt hired Andy Reid, a guy known to be an excellent tutor for quarterbacks. Clearly, this football operation is in Reid's control now and he even got to hand pick his own GM, John Dorsey. Not meant as a slight in any way, but don't think of Dorsey like you've thought of other Chiefs GM's. He's not the boss. He's the guy heading up scouting and talent acquisition and that's pretty much it. It's a huge departure for a family that's always handed the keys to the car to one guy like Jack Steadman or Carl Peterson or Scott Pioli. Those days, thankfully, are over. This is a good plan even if the Chiefs don't take a quarterback with the first pick. It's mostly a good plan because the old plan was proven not to work. This may not either. But at least the Chiefs recognize the error in their ways and they're progressive enough to change.
February 22, 2008 was a day that changed the Chiefs forever.
Former coach Herm Edwards tells me the day the Chiefs lost the coin toss for draft position with the Falcons and Raiders was the day the Chiefs lost out on a franchise quarterback. Herm says if that coin had bounced right, Matt Ryan would be in Kansas City and not playing in this week's NFC title game against the Niners. The Chiefs wound up with Glen Dorsey instead, hey, it's the Chiefs. Oh, one other thing. Herm says if that coin bounced right, he'd still be coaching in Kansas City and would have several playoff appearances on the resume.
There has been a lot of fallout about the name Livestrong coming off the stadium name at Sporting Park. Some think the team looked bad in all of this but I don't agree. The only time they looked bad to me was when they decided to partner up with one of the dirtiest, lying cheats in all of sports history. Sporting made a bad decision and upper management has told me they knew there was risk. It was a bad idea even though their heart was in the right place. As far as I'm concerned, stripping that name is a winner long term for this club and Sporting Kansas City will be just fine. Budweiser Sporting Park anyone? I'm outta here, ready for a cold one.
By Kevin Kietzman
Kansas State wins the Big 12 with a win over Baylor Saturday night. We all know what's possible after that, which makes it a great time to take a look at how K-State got here.
It's important to understand the entire University culture in Manhattan thrives on one basic theory, there is a huge difference between difficult and impossible. A lot of what K-State has accomplished has been difficult. The oldest public university in Kansas was founded in the middle of the civil war despite efforts from lawmakers in Lawrence, that's right, Lawrence, to stop it. It immediately allowed women equal enrollment, the second school in America to do so. This school was built by Kansas families that believed in hard work as a way to a better life and shortcuts were seen as taboo.
Nearly 150 years later, Kansas State and Manhattan are in position for their close up. THE close up, college football's national championship game. How did this football program get here? Well, there were not shortcuts, that's for sure.
Head coach Bill Snyder arrived in Manhattan in 1989 and immediately went to work building something the hard way, brick by brick. Under Snyder, this football team has done everything it can possibly do except make it to the BCS title game. With no playoff, it's been difficult for K-State to get much of a shot at the title short of going undefeated. Oklahoma, LSU, Alabama, sure, lose a game and go play for it. K-State, not so much. So it's difficult, but not impossible. Two more wins and K-State is in. Two more wins and people will say Snyder and the Cats have done the impossible. I don't really believe in miracles like that and I've been around this school and community my whole life. I think what's going on in Manhattan should be a model for a lot of places.
During the past 5 years of terrible economic downturn in America, Manhattan is boomtown. There is virtually no unemployment, multi million dollar construction projects just keep popping up and over 130,000 people now call the Manhattan area home. Manhattan has become the easiest destination in the Big 12 with major airline jet service to a convenient airport 10 minutes from the stadium. Thanks to new speed limits, the drive from my home in Lenexa to the stadium is 93 minutes. Yes, exactly 93 minutes. And it's not a bunch of pothole filled, narrow road miles filled with strip club and triple X video store signs. If you take the time to look around, you will see the Flint Hills may be the most beautiful part of Kansas. Ok, so I sound like some Chamber of Commerce geek trying to sell you something. That's really not the case. Most K-Staters have a little chip on their shoulder (one fan recently pointed out ESPN's College Gameday has been to games featuring 22 teams this year but not the number one team, K-State), but only about football. K-Staters know and love the school and the campus and the community and they don't really care if anyone else does. There is a feeling among many that the multi-billion dollar Bio Science Research Facility and all the growth it's bringing can't be stopped but it's not necessarily a good thing. There's a new convention center, a new basketball facility, a new airport terminal and a huge stadium renovation underway. More dorms are being built as enrollment continues to grow. They can't build hotels fast enough. For some, this is not seen as progress as much as change. And you know what some people think of change.
But this new and improved version of K-State football is a perfect reflection of the community in which it was built. When you watch K-State, you can see how much pride they have and how hard they work at their craft. They are not flashy or urban or glitzy. They are the rock that is Manhattan. They are a reflection of the people of their state, the very people that built this school and sent their kids there. Winning football, low unemployment, low crime and economic growth have never been impossible. Just difficult. If I know one thing about K-Staters, they scoff at difficult.
By Kevin Kietzman
The Royals and Twins are two midwestern teams battling for last place in the same division this year. They have also simultaneously received County sales tax revenue for their ballparks in the past 5 years and have "Sports Authorities" as watchdogs for the taxpayers. While the Royals are using Jackson County taxpayer money to pay their own taxes, utilities, game day operations and payroll, the Twins get no such deal.
"We (Hennepin County) like our deal very much but we're not going to comment on anybody else's deal," said Minnesota Ballpark Authority Director Dan Kenney. Kenney noted the Twins have received zero money from the Authority since Target Field opened and when the Twins wanted to build an additional scoreboard after the stadium opened, they were told to pay for it themselves. The Twins ownership paid for the new board.
In the chart below, you can see the difference in what taxpayers are funding in Jackson County, Missouri versus Hennepin County, Minnesota.
|Target Field||Kauffman Stadium|
|$260 million||County contribution||$225 million|
|$175 million||Owner contribution||$25 million|
|County||Who owns the stadium||County|
|1/7 cent||Sales tax||1/8 cent|
|Team ($10m annually)||Ballpark expenses||County|
|$1 million||County pays annually to Cap X||$8.5 million|
|$1 million||Team pays annually to Cap X||$0|
|$0||Team requests from Cap X||$17 million|
|$0||Team collected form Cap X||$13 million|
|Yes||Is County current on obligations?||No|