Gonzalez was traded in 2009 for a second round pick in the 2010 draft that ended up being the 50th overall pick. Former general manager Scott Pioli selected Javier Arenas with the pick, choosing him over players like Carlos Dunlap (20 sacks), Terrence Cody (true nose tackle), Golden Tate (second receiver), and Brandon Spikes (second middle linebacker) who went later in the second round. Jimmy Graham, Aaron Hernandez, and Geno Atkins were other notable players that were still on the board but went later in the draft.
It doesn’t mean that Arenas was or is a bad player, but he was not the kind of difference maker one would hope to receive from a top 50 pick. Arenas has started 12 games in three years and did not make very many plays with the ball. For example, he returned zero of his 156 punt and kick returns for touchdowns, recorded three of his four career sacks in his rookie season, and went two full seasons without making an interception. Arenas is an average player who needed to perform at an above average level in order to justify his second round selection.
Imagine how different the Chiefs offense would have been had they selected Graham or Hernandez. Either could have been the dynamic threat the in the passing game Kansas City has been lacking. Instead, they drafted a cornerback who could not start a full season on a team that was ranked 31st in pass defense efficiency by Football Outsiders in 2012.
Perspective changes even more when one factors in how the Chiefs ended up with the pick: trading the NFL’s best tight end of all-time. All-time, Gonzalez is second in career receptions (behind Jerry Rice), seventh in career yards receiving, and sixth in career touchdown receptions. That’s amongst both receivers and tight ends, the man was really good at football. To take the pick you receive from him and turn it into an average third or fourth cornerback is not what you’re looking for when you trade someone the caliber of Tony Gonzalez.
Disappointment falls on Pioli for not being able to fill the roster with dynamic talent on the offensive side of the ball than it does on John Dorsey for unloading Arenas. Under Pioli’s leadership – which includes coaching decisions – the Chiefs added zero offensive playmakers while getting rid of Gonzalez. Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe were each here before he was hired and Pioli seemed ready to let Bowe walk before he was fired.
Many will remember the Pioli era for the candy wrappers, first round busts, the Matt Cassel experience, and the general dismantling of the Kansas City football club. What won’t remembered as much are the moves like the one to select Arenas with the Gonzalez pick and how damaging that ended up being to the offense. There are many of these kinds of decisions made by Pioli that led to his failure in Kansas City and why the Chiefs were picking number one overall in this year’s draft.