If I know John Dorsey, he is up in the middle of nowhere in Wisconsin, on a river, in a giant inner tube, splashing around with his kids. He's trying to find a spot to ship him some authentic, Maryland-style steamed crabs (preferably from the Chesapeake Bay) for an old-school crab feast and trying not to let football consume his thoughts.
But it probably is. And for good reason.
I learned long ago that anything is possible in the NFL and to expect the unexpected. But now, even with close to a week to process it, the Chiefs firing Dorsey about 10 days before the Fourth of July -- and months after the draft; when even a change at general manager then would have raised a few eyebrows -- still qualifies as something of a shock. Most, including Dorsey, figured the GM was in line for a new contract, with owner Clark Hunt finalizing a five-year extension for coach Andy Reid, and those men shepherding this franchise from a spiraling, two-win team with a toxic culture at the end of Scott Pioli's reign into a perennial playoff force.
Alas, that was never going to be the case. Hunt, I've heard repeatedly, was the driving force behind this unusual decision -- parting with a successful GM with a year left on his deal at the end of the offseason program in late June -- and that Reid was more or less a passenger in the process. It was not the coach's impetus and he and Dorsey maintained a solid -- though perhaps not spectacular -- working relationship. Instead, I'm told, ownership had some concerns about how Dorsey -- more comfortable in a sweatshirt than a suit and tie -- presented himself. They worried if he was the right guy to get this franchise over the hump to a Super Bowl. Did he negotiate strong enough player contracts? Was he organized and corporate enough? Would he put the right people around him? Was he the right kind of communicator? Is he a super-scout, or the long-term solution at GM?
In fact, Dorsey, who did not respond to inquiries seeking comment for this column, was eminently more qualified for the job last Friday, when he was let go, than he was when he was hired four years ago. His relationships with agents and experience negotiating contracts are far greater. His managerial skills are far superior. He'll never be a football approximation of a CEO, and he maintains the occasionally gruff and colloquial vocal stylings of a scout, sure, (which is part of why I've enjoyed talking to him over the years), but that doesn't mean there isn't the brain of a corporate leader tucked under that Chiefs ballcap. Dorsey always struck me as a wolf in sheep's clothing -- and I mean that in the best way possible -- perfectly content to be labelled however you like, not caught up in airs or pretension of being the kind of politician often required to climb the NFL's managerial ladder, but cunning enough and certainly more than able to do the job.
Much is made of the deal he gave Justin Houston, but let's recall that Houston was healthy and arguably the best defender on the planet on the time. Others point to the contract for Eric Fisher, though he has continued to emerge as a starting tackle and I would posit you this: Was Dorsey right to take Fisher, from a small school, over the more hyped Luke Joeckel, when in need of a tackle at the top of the 2013 draft, his first at the helm? (Hint: He was and everyone knows it).
In hindsight, the contract the Chiefs negotiated with starting quarterback Alex Smith -- as well as the trade to land him from San Francisco -- was more than worth it, as was the inherent admission that the experiment had run its course after this season, solidified by trading up to select quarterback Pat Mahomes in the first round this spring. That Travis Kelce extension is going to serve the Chiefs for years after Dorsey has departed. Should they have got the Eric Berry deal done a year sooner? Let's not forget the sensitivity of the medical situation the star safety was dealing with at the time as well. That was an anomaly for team and player alike.
I've talked to numerous agents who did deals with the Chiefs over the past four years, both as contracts were getting done and after the Chiefs announced their parting with Dorsey, and never once got the sense he was some overwhelmed lightweight. Anything but that.
"He's wily," one highly successful NFL agent said. "He's guile. He plays like he doesn't know, but he knows. He's creative in his approach to negotiations and he can be strong willed when he has to be. He's a very smart negotiator. He's going to get another job, I'm sure, and he'll show why he is one of the best GMs in the league. He already has to be one of the top evaluators in the game."
I got texts expressing shock and surprise from several rival executives and top agents through the weekend. The Chiefs had certainly become a legit franchise again, with a deep talent base. People wanted to work there again after the despot-like Pioli era. But the more some thought about it, and considered that since Hunt took over his family's historic franchise he has been accustomed to type-A, suited up, highly stylized GM's like Carl Peterson and Pioli, the less surprised they became. That's more like the model they expect the owner to seek this time around (it's also worth noting that this will be Hunt's fourth general manager in just over a decade at the helm of the Chiefs).
As for talent evaluation, knowing when to make difficult decisions to part with franchise stars like Jamaal Charles seemed to come naturally to Dorsey. Several teams were scared away from Marcus Peters due to his off-field concerns. Dorsey took him in the first round and he has been an impact, shutdown corner -- without incident -- and leads the NFL in takeaways the past two seasons. I believe what Tyreek Hill did in college was reprehensible, but he was going to get an opportunity somewhere despite his domestic violence arrest, and he was a difference maker for Kansas City in 2016 after being selected in the fifth round (to the point they could let their highest-paid receiver, Jeremy Maclin, go).
The Chiefs are coming off an AFC West title, finally shook their long postseason winning jinx, believe they can win it all and amassed a 43-21 record the past four seasons (again, after inheriting a two-win team). Reid deserves immense credit and is building a Hall of Fame résumé and the Chiefs are well positioned for the future and in good hands with him there. He has earned every bit of that five-year extension.
But we would be remiss to dismiss Dorsey's involvement. The Chiefs have 23 wins the past two seasons -- matching their all-time two-season high (and you have to go back to the dynasty teams of 1968-69, when they won their only Super Bowl, to do that). It's also the first time in 20 years the Chiefs have produced four straight years with a winning record.
So, yeah, the timing was beyond odd, and also speaks to the fact that if Hunt et al believed former executive Chris Ballard was the perfect man for the job, this change is likely made before the combine and before Ballard had the chance to interview for other GM jobs, like the one he took in Indianapolis.
Frankly it's all still a little bizarre, though it doesn't mean Hunt won't be proven right and the Lombardi won't come back, finally, to Kansas City. And Dorsey, like all GMs, is far from perfect. In this league, general managers tend to have a short shelf-life in their career trajectory and many don't get a second opportunity to sit in that seat. Dorsey will. It's only a matter of time.
I would be shocked if he rushed into a lesser job elsewhere this close to the start of training camp, and his best move would be to savor some family time, enjoy a rare holiday season with the wife and kids and get ready for his phone to start ringing in January. Other owners will be quite aware of that quick turnaround in Kansas City. He won't miss many paychecks, and only time will tell if he misses out on a parade for the team he helped construct.