KCCD Editor: Jinx Allessio
When you refer to someone as a gambler it is because take on risks the average man would not engage in but also do not calculate the overall value of making such a move. Scott Pioli is often referred to as a gambler. I would be one of the first to dispute that. The calculated decisions Scott makes on draft picks, free agent signings and long term contracts are not that of a gambler. The types of choice Scott makes are missing a key component of the previously mentioned gambler definition. Scott does not discount value at the time of a decision, and actually uses value as one of the heaviest weighted determinants while making that choice.
The value of signing a player long term compared to letting that player go and how that affects a team short term and long term plans can be very different. The value of drafting a player must be carefully weighted because he may not be deemed the best player available at a position of need, and how can you discount what kind of off the field issues that player may have? So many moving parts to the evaluation process. What goes in to Scott’s decision making process and why is he not a gambler? He does not make the decisions in a vacuum and the common onlooker may not fully grasp the reasoning for such decisions.
When it came to the 2011 draft class the Chiefs needed to find a pass rusher opposite Tamba Hali. In 2010 the Chiefs were near the bottom of the NFL in sacks. Sacks are only part of the story as the team rarely pressured the quarterback or forced him to change his launching point. The 2011 draft class featured several names that could contribute immediately in the NFL from the edges.
The characteristics of who could be a premier pass rusher stick out on film and are usually backed by numbers put up while shorts. Not many players evaluated from the 2011 pass rush class had the combination of film and measurables comparable to those of DE/OLB from UGA, Justin Houston. I am one of the pickiest evaluators of pass rushers and he received some of my highest grades due to what I saw on film, I can only imagine what Scott was thinking when Houston fell in to his lap in the 3rd Round. (Probably pretty similar to me, with me being awesome and all.)
What truly led to the fall of Justin Houston is where people could label Scott as a gambler. Justin Houston never had an on the field issue but when he failed a drug test at the Combine red flags went up all over. Justin Houston was then, mistakenly charged with killing kittens and baby seals. Several highly touted prospects have failed the drug test, I attest it to a male around 21 years old being stupid, it happens. It is not a defamation of character unless their were previous reports throughout college leading to pattern of troubled behavior. The risk was not on the Chiefs organization so the value was too hard to pass up.
The value of Justin Houston (who I still rated a mid 1st rounder after the Combine) was far too great that any failed Combine drug test could not prevent him from losing a 1st round grade. Scott must have felt a bit leery in selection Houston since he waited until the 70th overall pick to selecting him, but value trumped those clouded doubts.
The first half of Justin Houston’s rookie year was not that great, Justin really didn’t show up on film during the little time he saw on the field. Houston did not really jump off the screen until week 10 against the Denver Broncos where he had several quarterback pressures and set the edge in an adequate fashion in the run game. In the final 8 games he registered 5 sacks, 11 quarterback hurries, 3 pass deflections and 29 solo tackles. He showed the signs of being one of the premier pass rushers that I graded him out to be.
One of the biggest knocks against Houston coming out was his ability to cover the pass. He looked lost many times out there but showed enough improvement that it was deemed a weakness. Already in the 2012 Preseason he has shown great improvement in that area. He is slowly becoming one of the most complete 3-4 outside linebackers in the NFL. A slight blemish at the Combine did not deter the Chiefs from selecting Justin Houston and moving forward he will be one of the most important players on the Chiefs defense.