KANSAS CITY, Mo. — John Dorsey had a vision for what the Kansas City Chiefs should look like when the longtime Packers personnel man was hired as their general manager in January.
After nearly 50 roster moves and a month of offseason workouts under new head coach Andy Reid, all designed to change the culture of a 2-14 franchise, that vision is slowly becoming a reality.
With a new quarterback in Alex Smith, long-term contracts for several key players, improved depth across the board and an upbeat attitude at the team’s practice facility for the first time in years, the Chiefs headed into summer break on Thursday brimming with optimism.
“What I’m proud of is we got here January 13, we created a plan with regards to the immediate team — free agency, the draft, how to create competitive depth on the roster — and I think we’ve done a pretty good job with that,” Dorsey said in an interview with The Associated Press.
“Are there still holes to fill? Yeah,” Dorsey said. “Have we made a lot of moves? Yeah. But when you’re 2-14, sometimes you have to do that.”
None of the moves created as much stir as the decision to trade with the San Francisco 49ers for Smith, who had fallen out of favor during their Super Bowl run. He’s quickly embraced a leadership role with the Chiefs, one that’s been lacking from his position for years.
But the overhaul of the Chiefs extends far beyond one player.
The Chiefs brought in veteran defensive backs Dunta Robinson and Sean Smith while trading away Javier Arenas. They signed tight end Anthony Fasano and drafted Travis Kelce to upgrade that position. They solidified their offensive line with right tackle Eric Fisher, the No. 1 overall choice in the draft, and have brought in countless players on a tryout basis.
Some of them, such as former UW-Milwaukee basketball player Demetrius Harris and Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray, have a legitimate chance of making the team during training camp.
“The guys we brought in here, now that we’re around them, you get a good sense that they’re starting to understand that being a professional means something,” Dorsey said. “Taking ownership, doing the little things — my locker-mate is doing it — you’re creating a goal with guys moving forward that have the same mindset and objectives. That’s what a team is all about.”
It’s a mindset that has been lacking on Arrowhead Drive for years.
The Chiefs have had just one winning season in their last six, and their disastrous 2012 season led to the ouster of coach Romeo Crennel and GM Scott Pioli. But the disappointment extends much further, all the way back to 1993, the last time the franchise won a playoff game.
So in stepped Dorsey, who helped build winning teams in Green Bay, and Reid, who seems to be rejuvenated after a 14-year career in Philadelphia that included a trip to the Super Bowl.
Together, they’ve ushered the new-look Chiefs through the first few weeks of a fresh start, and both have come away pleased at the progress made as players scattered for the summer.
Part of the culture shift has to do with just about everyone’s plans for the summer.
No longer are the next six weeks a chance to take it easy, but another opportunity to get ahead of the game. The linebackers set up a group text system to keep tabs on each other — Nico Johnson is planning to lose some weight, for example — and Sean Smith plans to hook up with safety Eric Berry and cornerback Brandon Flowers for workouts near his home in Florida.
“You’ve put in all this work,” Alex Smith said, “so to take six weeks off and not continue that, it would be a shame with all the gains that you’ve made.”
Dorsey and Reid are both quick to point out that their odyssey is only beginning.
Things will change when the Chiefs get to their training camp home in St. Joseph, Mo., and put on pads for the first time. They’ll be able to make better evaluations of talent and get a better sense of just how far they’ve come in such a short time.
But at least for now, the vision Dorsey had six months ago is starting to round into shape.
“Who can prognosticate anything?” he said. “That’s why you set plans out. That’s why you have an open line of communication. You try to give an honest day’s work. You roll your sleeves up each day, because this is the National Football League. This is tough business.
“We all take self-pride in it,” Dorsey added. “Taking pride in traditional organizations like the Kansas City Chiefs, you want to achieve a degree of success. My job is to create a plan of, here’s how we’re going to get those players that can allow us to forge ahead to where we want to go, and what I’m happy with is we’ve met 90 percent of that plan so far.”