The people have spoken. My mandate is clear: Offer three NFL midseason awards and three predictions for the season's second half. First, the prizes.
Let's start with the "Hey, Didn't You Used to be Karl Rove?" Erstwhile Genius Award. Presented annually to the former mastermind who has seen his reputation take the biggest fall, our choice this year, with apologies to everyone in Jacksonville, is the aforementioned Chiefs' general manager Scott Pioli.
During the Bush/Cheney era, Rove was as a ruthless kingmaker and brilliant media manipulator. A scant four years later, Rove is media tool, last seen on FOX News, whimpering about Ohio.
Pioli was also the secret power behind the throne while winning Super Bowls galore with Bill Belichick. Or was he? In the four years since he took office at Arrowhead, Pioli has hired two disastrous head coaches and presided over an unrelenting string of player-personnel flops.
Of course, in Boston Pioli had the Kraft family as owners. In KC, he has Clark Hunt. By all accounts a gracious man, the son of team founder Lamar nevertheless seems bent on milking every possible cent from the cash-cow franchise he inherited from dad. Forget the pathetic, under-the-salary cap team Hunt puts on the field. Even the damn field itself looks awful—patchy and thin. The great George Toma must rolling in his exquisitely manicured grave.
The second award this midseason, the Herman Cain "I'm not just in it for the chicks" Prize, goes to Vikings' QB Christian Ponder. He hasn't played well lately under center for the Vikings, and he's also dating ESPN sideline reporter Samantha Steele.
Wags in Minnesota, flapping tongues, claim Steele is sapping Ponder's strength, playing Delilah to his Sampson.
Owner Paul Allen scoffed. Last week he got on KFAN radio in Minneapolis and said Ponder should "tell everybody why having a hot girlfriend" isn't hurting his performance. Which is true. If dating a hot blonde was enough to keep a guy from being successful as a quarterback in the NFL, there would not be any such ting as a successful NFL quarterback.
As for my fearless prognostications about the rest of the year? We'll stay in KC and predict that, being as stubborn as his daddy sometimes was, Clark Hunt will not fire Scott Pioli. Romeo Crennel, however, will get the ax.
Letting Crennel keep his job as defensive coordinator despite being hired as head coach was absurd—like letting a new president act as his own secretary of state. Each coaching job is full-time gig more than most men can handle, let alone a man in his 60s who has never proven himself as a successful NFL head coach.
Sean Payton has done that. Last week, Payton essentially became a free agent when the league voided the remainder of his contract with the Saints. Super Bowl-winning coaches, scandal-tinged or not, aren't available in midseason all that often, and KC desperately needs someone who can restore fans' faith in the organization.
But wait. I owe you one more award. My bad, dudes. I totally spaced out. Let's give that one to Buccaneers safety Ahmad Black.
There's no good time for an NFL player get busted for misdemeanor possession of marijuana. But Black sure picked the least-bad time—immediately in the wake of Colorado and Washington passing landmark legislation legalizing the recreational use of pot. Which is why he wins, you see it coming, Most Likely to be Traded to the Broncos or Seahawks.
How about you, Jake? Give us your awards at the season's halfway point, and throw in a guess or two about the shape of things to come.