|11-21-2012, 05:07 PM||Topic Starter|
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Mellinger | Ex-GM Peterson ‘saddened’ by Chiefs’ situation
Sam Mellinger | Ex-GM Peterson ‘saddened’ by Chiefs’ situation
By SAM MELLINGER
The Kansas City Star
Carl Peterson knows exactly why I called. He knows why some Chiefs fans want to hear from him. In some real ways, this conversation is a beach ball of schadenfreude placed on a tee for the man who effectively ran all things Chiefs for nearly 20 years, then was fired four years ago with his reputation in Kansas City at least frayed.
Peterson knows all of this. He won’t take his biggest swing.
But he will make solid contact.
“I guess like every Chiefs fan, I’m disappointed and I’m saddened by what’s transpired there,” he says. “I think I know and made a real point to learn who the Chiefs fans were and what they wanted. I feel for them, because I’ve always felt the Kansas City Chiefs were, should be, and could be a great franchise.”
“I was very, very fortunate to work for Lamar Hunt for 18 of my 20 years there. He’s the guy who made the difference for me. They’ve fallen on hard times. That’s for sure.”
The point here is not just for Peterson to dance on the Chiefs’ rubble. There is some perspective in remembering what he and Lamar Hunt made together. They built the Chiefs’ brand in the 1990s. Through much of the 1980s, the team was a local afterthought. If they won, cool. If they lost, whatever. Nobody much noticed.
That began to change when Hunt hired Peterson, and Peterson hired coach Marty Schottenheimer and the whole thing just took off, with seven playoff appearances in the first eight years of the 1990s.
The Chiefs’ parking lot became the biggest party in Kansas City. Arrowhead Stadium became one of the toughest places to play in the NFL. Peterson, who lives in New York now, is one of the strongest connections we have to that time.
“We had fun at it,” he says. “We made it a fun thing. We made it a family thing. Lamar believed very much in that, and I did, too. He was a wonderful owner. He’d say, ‘How can I help?’ I’d say, ‘Lamar, I need you to do a contest in the parking lot to judge buses and vans that fans have painted,’ and he loved that.”
Now, of course, that is all different. Lamar’s son Clark fired Peterson two years after taking over, and Peterson says the two never communicate.
The Chiefs made massive personnel changes after Peterson was fired, often dropping thinly veiled shots along the way. Peterson hasn’t been back to Arrowhead since, and remains touchy about not being invited to Schottenheimer’s induction to the team’s Ring of Honor.
It is a vastly different franchise now, and when Scott Pioli took over for Peterson after a 2-14 disaster in 2008, that was part of the point. The Chiefs were broken and needed fixing. A youth movement that started under Peterson — Brandon Flowers, Tamba Hali, Jamaal Charles, Derrick Johnson and other key players who predate Pioli — needed structure, and until this season, there was reason for optimism.
Now, the big story out of the parking lot before Sunday’s loss to the Bengals was the team stopping the mass distribution of flyers listing some unflattering facts about the Chiefs on one side and “FIRE PIOLI” on the other.
The Chiefs have never had a disconnect with their fans like this. That was always a priority with Peterson, sometimes to the point of being criticism. The common knock on the Chiefs was that they cared more about filling the stadium than advancing in the playoffs.
Now, team and town would settle for a fun atmosphere and competitive team. The last man to oversee a run like that watches from a distance.
“I do come back to Kansas City,” he says. “I still have a home there. People on the street, they’re very disappointed. Some of them are angry at what’s transpired. I’m sorry to see that. It’s no longer my watch, so I can have my personal feelings about it, but it’s not my responsibility anymore.”