Clark Hunt strode to the microphone Monday and wasted no time addressing the elephant in the room.
OK, so maybe he didn’t exactly address it. More like he generally talked about it.
But really, that was good enough. Because after a month of silence from the Chiefs regarding their stunning decision to relieve general manager John Dorsey of his duties last month, Monday’s 30-minute news conference headlined by the team’s chairman and CEO might as well have been an oasis in the desert for Chiefs fans.
While Hunt didn’t explain in detail his rationale for firing Dorsey, he did speak in enough generalities about the decision to paint a picture of a front office in need of change.
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“Over the course of the spring, there were enough issues that popped up that caused me to want to do a full evaluation of the football department before I extended either Andy or John,” Hunt explained, speaking about the contract status of head coach Andy Reid and Dorsey. Reid was offered a contract extension last month; Dorsey was not.
“In the course of that evaluation,” Hunt continued, “I just became concerned about our ability to continue the success that we’ve had the last four years, or better yet, to build on that success and have a championship team.”
Out of respect for Dorsey and his contributions to the franchise the previous four years, Hunt refused to state publicly what those things were. But in late June, The Star reported that communication and management issues contributed to Hunt’s decision. And on Monday, Hunt seemed to confirm, albeit cryptically, that his front office must operate more smoothly in the future.
“Again, I do not want to come back to one specific thing, as I want to stay away from the issues that were part of the decision,” Hunt said. “But I will say that to have a championship team, your personnel department needs to be functioning at a very high level.
“The other 31 teams generally have very strong personnel departments, and if we are going to build a championship team, you have to have a department that is functioning at a very high level.”
Such vagaries ruled the day, but Hunt also knocked down three other theories about Dorsey’s firing, including speculation that monetary issues drove a wedge between the two sides as Dorsey entered the final year of his contract.
“There weren’t any contract negotiations,” Hunt said, “so we had no financial issues.”
Asked about another theory — that some within the organization believed Dorsey treated his own draft picks (Eric Fisher and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, for example) better than others (such as Eric Berry and Justin Houston) — Hunt shook his head. The former received early contract extensions from the Chiefs, while the latter pair had to wait.
“That is a rumor I have never heard,” Hunt said.
Hunt also pushed back against the notion that Reid, who reports to Hunt directly along with team president Mark Donovan and the general manager, played a role in the decision.
“The decision was mine,” Hunt said. “Any evaluation of the football department included Andy ... (but) I’m not going to go into the conversations that Andy and I had about John. It was more fact-based about the things that I was seeing.”
Reid, who held his own news conference later on Monday as the Chiefs welcomed their rookies and quarterbacks to training camp in St. Joseph, scoffed at the notion he had a role in the selection of co-director of player personnel Brett Veach as Dorsey’s replacement.
“No, that is not how Clark operates,” Reid said when asked if he campaigned for Veach, Reid’s former intern with the Philadelphia Eagles. “That is not how he rolls, which is probably the best way to put it.”
Hunt said no single issue precipitated Dorsey’s firing. That was his answer when he was asked if the Chiefs’ salary-cap issues played a role, and when queried as to whether the team’s recent and surprising release of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was a factor.
Hunt went on to address linebacker Tamba Hali’s recent Twitter barrage about his playing time and teammates who skipped voluntary offseason workouts, but most of the half-hour session focused on Dorsey, whose unassailable eye for scouting helped the Chiefs go 43-21 the last four years.
“John and I have not spoken since we parted ways,” Hunt said. “What I let John know is that we were not going to be extending his contract, and really for his benefit, and for ours once he knew that, he needed to move on.
“I expect that John will have other opportunities in the National Football League, and this will give him a little bit of a runway to work on making sure he is in the best position when the hiring cycle comes back around in January. Also, for us, we needed to move on at that point. There was no point in having a lame-duck general manager going into the season.”
Reid said he understood that Dorsey’s dismissal was a business decision.
“Obviously, we have been friends for 20-some-odd years, but I do understand the personal side and I do understand that there is a professional side to this thing,” Reid said. “It is not going to stop me from being a friend of John’s on that side.”
Now, attention turns to the Chiefs’ next man up and the 39-year-old Veach’s ability to guide this team into the future. Hunt was clear that Veach has control of the 53-man roster.
“He understands the decisions he makes today will make a big impact in 2018, 2019 and beyond,” Hunt said. “He is very much his own man and has his own independent thoughts about how you build a championship team.
“Andy has certainly had an influence on him, and (Veach) will likely work very well with Andy, but I expect him to build the Chiefs in the way he sees fit.”