KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Former Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli is recalled for many things in Kansas City, none of them good. He presided over four mostly miserable seasons, the exception being a division championship in 2010 in an otherwise horrible year for the AFC West. He hired two of the worst head coaches in franchise history in Todd Haley and Romeo Crennel. He once drafted Jonathan Baldwin in the first round. He always seemed more preoccupied with errant candy wrappers than winning games.
Turns out, though, these were all just sideshow antics. Pioli’s lasting legacy, the one gift he left for the Chiefs that keeps on giving, is that he selected linebacker Justin Houston in the third round of the 2011 draft.
If Pioli hadn’t moved for Houston, with the 70th overall pick, some other general manager would have shortly afterward. Houston was too good in college at Georgia to drop much more.
But the fact is that Houston at the time was something of a controversial figure. He had tested positive for marijuana at the NFL scouting combine and was viewed as something of a risky pick.
Pioli and the Chiefs took the risk, whatever risk there really was. Now many teams wished they’d done so.
Houston led the NFL in sacks last year with 22. He finished a half-sack from the league’s season record set by Michael Strahan of the New York Giants. Counting the one playoff game he’s played in, Houston has 49.5 sacks in 54 career starts.
He’s only 26, so he should be producing for the Chiefs for years.
“Coming out of college he had some question marks about him,’’ said Mark Dominik, now an ESPN analyst but in 2011 the general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “But there were obvious traits, an obvious skill level you could see when he rushed the passer in college.
“I remember actually putting all of his sacks on a reel and thinking they weren’t just luck sacks. This guy was working, he could bend, he could get around the edge and he could accelerate. Now, I didn’t draft him. We took [Adrian] Clayborn and [Da’Quan] Bowers. Sure, I’d much rather have Houston. He’s a very talented, very consistent player.’’
Pioli, now the assistant general manager for the Atlanta Falcons, deserves the special brand of scorn that Chiefs fans have heaped on him over the years. He made a lot of bad decisions when he was running the Chiefs.
His best decision of all, though, will outlast the rest.