|Clark Hunt: young owner with a learning curve|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 29 July 2008 10:08|
When Brodie Croyle misfires on a short pass, Hunt takes note. When rookie cornerback Brandon Flowers makes a good play, Hunt watches.
At 43, Hunt is the NFL's youngest owner. He graduated No. 1 in his college class and now he's learning all he can about the football team his father bequeathed him.
``It's a very busy time and I'm enjoying being involved with it,'' he said.
Lamar Hunt, the Chiefs owner and revered NFL pioneer, died in December 2006. Clark was called home, in effect, to Arrowhead Stadium. He'd begun his business career as an analyst with Goldman Sachs and mostly had been involved with other aspects of the family's far-flung interests.
While he and his three siblings shared in their father's vast estate, only Clark chose to take an active role in football. So he's supervising Arrowhead's $315 million renovation while sitting in on coaches' meetings and player personnel sessions.
``Professional sports, and I think pro football is maybe the best example of this, is a people business,'' he said. ``I know there'll come a time when I'll need to make decisions and evaluations of people in our organization.''
While he has Lamar's friendly approach to people and even looks much like his Hall of Fame father, Clark may not have his patience. From 1972 through 1988, Lamar stood by while the Chiefs made only one playoff appearance. Many in the NFL thought the team had one of the league's most inept front offices. Finally, after a 4-11-1 season in 1988, Lamar Hunt cleaned house and brought in Carl Peterson as head of all operations.
Now, Clark is in charge at a time when the Chiefs are struggling at another low ebb. Last year, Herm Edwards' second as coach, the Chiefs lost their last nine games and finished 4-12, their worst season since their new boss was in junior high school.
With Hunt's blessing, Edwards and Peterson began to completely rebuild. While turnarounds can happen quickly, the next couple of years in Kansas City figure to be anything but smooth.
``I counted the other day 49 players in camp who weren't with us last year,'' Hunt said. ``That's a lot of new faces.''
He does not expect the playoffs immediately, but he will be unhappy if the Chiefs do not compete right away.
``It's a young football team and we're going to have to take the growing pains that you have with a young football team,'' he told The Associated Press. ``The more important corollary there is that the team improves through the course of the year, so that we're playing our best football in December. Last year we played our best football in September. We've got to be alive, we can't be out of it come the middle of the season.''
In meetings, he tries to be almost strictly an observer.
``I've tried to spend more time in the football side of the operation. Now, does that mean I'm in the meetings giving my suggestions? No,'' he said. ``But I'm trying to understand how the football side of the organization is building the team, which assistant coaches were brought in, and why, and how that manifests itself in the schemes that we'll be running this year. Ultimately, I have to evaluate that side of the business.''
He didn't have to start from scratch. He played football in high school in Texas and was a star soccer player at SMU. He also spent plenty of time with his father at games and practices.
``It's not something I'm unaccustomed to being around,'' he said.
The more he learns, the more he realizes he doesn't know.
``The amount of information you can learn is almost open-ended,'' he said. ``And I'm not planning on learning the offensive or defensive playbook. That doesn't really serve any purpose. It's more evaluating the people who are putting those plans together.''