Like any leader, Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt understands that he has to set a bar for his employees, and give them clear objectives.
But when it comes to the football side, one thing he does not do, however, is set a mandatory win total. Instead, he gives coach Andy Reid and general manager a larger, all-encompassing objective.
“The expectation is that we have a team that can compete for a championship every year, and to have that, you have to be building every year,” Hunt said at the NFL’s annual meetings this week. “I don’t want to see us get in a position where we’re mortgaging the future trying to win it all this year. We always want to be in a building mode.”
In other words, like Hunt has clearly outlined in recent months, the Chiefs believe in being “a smart player” in free agency, and Hunt believes the moves the Chiefs have made this offseason — including the five-year deal given to receiver Jeremy Maclin and the trade of a fifth-round pick for guard Ben Grubbs — fit under that mantra.
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“The decisions that are made, I want them to be good decisions this year, next year and the year after that,” Hunt said. “That’s really the blueprint I give them, therefore I don’t have to say ‘OK (guys), this year, we’re going to dial it up.’”
But make no mistake about it, Hunt is confident the Chiefs, who also have 10 draft picks at their disposal this year, are in position to meet his defined objective.
“We’ve got a coach and a quarterback who can take us to the Super Bowl,” Hunt said. “And if we keep building the team the right way — and I will go back and mention again, I feel a big part of that is drafting right, (because) you have to do that every year — we’ve got a real shot of getting to the game we all want to get in.”
Smith’s stats were solid enough in his second season at the helm. He completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 3,265 yards, 18 touchdowns and six interceptions, and it’s worth noting his completion percentage increased nearly 5 percent over last year, too.
But Smith’s habit for playing super-conservative football continued (he occasionally missed guys downfield in favor of making the safe play) and for this (like most quarterbacks), he was the target of criticism from some fans on social media who think he didn’t push the ball downfield enough.
“I think he’s a great quarterback for Andy’s system,” Hunt said. “I think he’s incredibly bright and has the ability to make the adjustments on the field, which is key in coach Reid’s offense. He’s a tremendous leader, the offensive players love playing for him and he regularly makes the right decision on his reads, which gets back to his hard work and mental ability. And of course, he’s a great athlete. When he has to, get can beat you with his feet.”
While getting to the Super Bowl is clearly on Hunt’s mind, so is the prospect of landing one.
Hunt said in November that a primary reason for the Chiefs’ decision to play in London is their desire to play host to a future Super Bowl, but he noted that the club will patiently bide its time until commissioner Roger Goodell makes it clear the league is ready to entertain another cold-weather Super Bowl.
“I don’t think he’s going to tease the markets that might be interested in the short term — I think it’s really a function of waiting until the time is right,” Hunt said. “We do have a Super Bowl going to a cold-weather market three years out in Minnesota. That’s a domed facility so it’s a different equation, but it is a cold-weather Super Bowl.
“So I think it will be a few years down the road before the league seriously considers going back outdoors in a cold weather market.”
Hunt said the NFL’s spring meeting, which will be held in San Francisco from May 18-20, will provide a better forum to engage his fellow owners on the topic than the annual meeting.
“There’s a time and place for those discussions,” Hunt said. “The May meeting is actually where the Super Bowl gets the most focus. That’s the meeting where we typically vote on the next Super Bowl, so it’s not really something that is discussed here.”
The Chiefs, of course, were originally awarded Super Bowl XLIX, which was held in February. But the bid was contingent on funding for a new roof for Arrowhead Stadium, which voters did not pass.
Hunt, however, says the Chiefs’ future bid is not contingent on a new roof.
“No, I don’t think it has to happen,” Hunt said. “I think the bigger issue for Kansas City, long-term, in terms of the Super Bowl is hotel rooms. We just don’t have the number of hotel rooms of high quality that the league likes to see. That’s the big issue for us.”
Hunt, of course, has limited ability to improve that. So to a certain extent, Hunt’s desire to play host to a Super Bowl is at the mercy of the city’s ongoing development.
“That’s not something that is easily solved,” Hunt said. “That’s something that has to happen organically over time … any hotel project in or around downtown is a good hotel project (to us).”