KANSAS CITY, Mo. —The developments with his team's AFC West rival in Denver haven't escaped Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt. He's seen the Broncos — who embarked on their own rebuilding project last winter after ousting longtime coach Mike Shanahan and replacing him with Josh McDaniels — shock the NFL by jumping to a 6-0 start.
But Hunt insisted in an interview Wednesday that no part of him looks at Denver's success and wonders: Why not the Chiefs?
While disappointed in Kansas City's 1-5 record, Hunt said he's not discouraged about where the Chiefs are headed or their ability to catch and even surpass the Broncos someday.
"The difference is, if you look at their team a year ago, they were 8-8 and could have been a lot better,'' Hunt said. "We were 2-14. They came into the year with more talent, significantly more talent, than the Chiefs. Would I like to be in their shoes? Yes. Does it make sense they're 6-0? Probably on some level it does. That's what we're aspiring to be, and I'm confident we have the leadership and the coaching staff to get us to that level.
"As we looked at our schedule, we recognized that the first couple of months of the season had the potential to be difficult for us, especially coming in with a new head coach, a new defensive coordinator, effectively a new offensive coordinator and a new quarterback. It's met our expectations in terms of being difficult. Anytime we don't win, we're disappointed, but in the last couple of weeks I've been pleased with the progress we've seen.
"I did not expect this to be easy.... But I'm not at all discouraged. I feel very comfortable with both Scott Pioli and Todd Haley. I think in the two of them, we have the right leaders to get us through this transition and to a period where we'll be very successful.''
That doesn't make the interim more pleasant for Chiefs fans, who watched their team break a nine-game losing streak with Sunday's 14-6 win over Washington.
Even with the victory, the Chiefs are five games behind the Broncos with less than half a season played. Denver's achievements are perhaps a sign that the Chiefs could have done more to salvage this season while not jeopardizing their chances for long-term success.
Building a program that annually competes for division and league championships was Hunt's goal when he overhauled the organization by replacing general manager Carl Peterson with Pioli and coach Herm Edwards with Haley.
"When you're struggling, you think about those types of things: Was there something more we would have done?'' Hunt said. "Just thinking back to the decisions that were made from a player personnel standpoint, Scott and I discussed them extensively and I thought his reasoning for making moves or not making moves were well-founded, so I really don't want to second-guess that. I think we made the right decisions. They are decisions that are designed for the long term.''
The Chiefs would surely be closer to the Broncos if not for the trades sending Jared Allen to Minnesota and Tony Gonzalez to Atlanta. Allen is third in the NFL in sacks for the 6-0 Vikings; Gonzalez has 23 catches and three touchdowns for the 4-1 Falcons.
For Allen, the Chiefs received draft picks they turned into Branden Albert, Jamaal Charles and DaJuan Morgan. All are still trying to establish themselves.
The Chiefs received a 2010 second-round pick for Gonzalez.
"When we traded those players, we knew they were excellent players and, particularly in Jared's case, in the prime of their careers,'' Hunt said. "We expected Jared to go to Minnesota and Tony to go to Atlanta and have a tremendous amount of success. The circumstances were different but the judgment was the same that at the time, those were the best decisions for our organization.
"In the short run, we knew both trades would look like they didn't make sense. We traded them for draft picks, and it takes three to four years for those players to get into their primes. So I don't think you can second-guess. At some point down the road, everybody will be able to look back and say they were good trades or not good trades.''
The Chiefs and Broncos each hired a young, offensive-minded career assistant to be the head coach. McDaniels in Denver and Haley in Kansas City had to make significant changes to their respective cultures, McDaniels from the Shanahan era and Haley from 20 years of the Peterson administration.
Haley also became the Chiefs' offensive coordinator during the preseason after firing Chan Gailey.
"Todd is an incredibly focused, incredibly driven head coach, someone who is very established in terms of his convictions about the right way to build a football team,'' Hunt said. "He's juggling a lot of responsibilities, but I've been impressed with his play-calling. His willingness to take on that role told me quite a bit about him, that he feels so strongly about getting it right that he was willing to take a significant amount of personal risk by running the offense as well as serving as the head coach.''
Hunt said he's not concerned that Haley is overloaded as a rookie head coach and offensive coordinator.
"I've not seen any signs of that, other than maybe some bags under his eyes,'' Hunt said. "I think there was a chance he could have been overloaded. I think he's done an excellent job of juggling those responsibilities. His game management for the most part has been very good.
"I haven't seen mistakes in terms of managing timeouts and end-of-game and end-of-half scenarios. There were risks we would have that with the responsibilities he's carrying, but he's done very well with that.''