KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Whenever somebody points to Tom Brady as proof of Scott Pioli's genius for evaluating football talent, he points to someone else he took in that same New England draft of 2000.
While future Super Bowl MVP Brady had to wait until the sixth round for Pioli to call his name, Dave Stachelski waited only until round five.
A tight end out of Boise State, Stachelski stayed two years with the Patriots and caught exactly one pass for 5 yards. Brady, who could so easily have been picked off by another team, is hailed as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
So, Pioli asks rhetorically, how smart was he really?
Smart enough, as he prepares for his third draft as general manager of the Chiefs, to stick with the formula that worked so well in a nine-year stint in New England while the Patriots grew into the NFL's most dominant franchise and Pioli became one of the league's most respected executives.
First, he will work to absorb every tidbit of information about every player the Chiefs might consider. He'll be sure everyone else on his staff does the same. Then he'll make sure the pre-draft meetings with scouts and coaches are filled with lively disagreement, that nobody is afraid to speak up.
The 45-year-old Pioli does not simply tolerate dissension in meetings. He insists on it.
"Some guys like to argue about anything up there just because it's part of the mood," Pioli said. "Arguing is probably too negative a word. I think what happens is, different people see things different ways, see players different ways. When different people sit down with the individual players, they can be involved in answering the same questions or hearing the same questions answered. They just have a different perception of where the player may be coming from or what they're saying. The discussions range from the player's ability, their athleticism, their production."
Scouts and evaluators learn their opinions will always be valued.
"We want them to have their own opinions, and they understand and know it's a healthy thing to disagree and it's the same thing with the coaches," Pioli said. "There's never a feeling of intimidation or putting people down. I've seen and heard of places where when there are disagreements, they'll either throw someone's opinion out the window or they'll talk a person down, be disrespectful. There's no components of disrespect within our meetings."
In 2009, the Chiefs used their No. 3 overall pick on LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson, who didn't have much impact. In fact, the only '09 draftee who did much was Mr. Irrelevant, the last player selected: Kicker Ryan Succop was 25 for 29 for an 86.2 percent accuracy that was fifth best in team history.
Last year was much, much more satisfying to Chiefs fans. Six of the first seven players Pioli wound up selecting in his second draft as GM happened to be college team captains and many turned out to be good NFL players right away, including safety Eric Berry, tight end Tony Moeaki and the speedy Dexter McCluster.
Pioli has structured his scouting staff to include a mix of veteran and young.
"We want people to have opinions," he said. "Last year was a perfect example. A couple of times there were some people in the leadership group who didn't necessarily see players or a player a certain way. We asked them to play lawyer, so to speak, and have evidence why you disagree" — and sometimes "we get convinced to go back and do more work."
After the Chiefs won just two games under Herm Edwards the season before Pioli arrived, he drafted third overall in 2009. After winning four games in his first season here, Pioli's Chiefs owned the No. 5 overall pick in 2010.
But after winning 10 games last season and capturing the AFC West, the Chiefs, barring a trade, will have to wait a while before they make their first selection at No. 21.
"We see a team that's started to make some progress and we're encouraged by some of the things we did last year," Pioli said Friday. "But we also have an acute understanding that we are still very far off from what we want to be and what kind of football team we want to have."