Allow me to start off by saying I get it. I understand why Todd Haley was fired. I don't know about secret hatreds and longstanding bitterness and one guy being mad at the other guy because he saw him at a party that one time and pretended he didn't know him and blah, blah, blah. I have no inside info, and Nick Wright is not citing me when he says he know things.
But I understand the FOOTBALL side of firing Todd Haley. I can look at what happened with our team this year (within the context of the previous two years) and say, "yeah, ok, I can see why he'd get there." That doesn't mean I'm totally on board, or that I think Haley was done. I'm just saying I get it.The playcalling
This has been a source of constant irritation for our entire fanbase over the course of this season. Some say that it's on Muir, some say Zorn, but at the end of the day the playcalling goes through the head coach. All you have to do is watch a "mic'd up" and hear BB tell his coordinator "we need to stop running. Passes only" to realize that the HC is the man at the top. Throw in Haley's OC background, and what you have is a coach that's largely to blame when the playcalling is crap.
And make no mistake, it's been crap much of the year. Yes, I understand we've been limited with a, well, LIMITED quarterback the entire season.
(Really long sidebar here. I'm still not a fan of Matt Cassel. The guy is average, has happy feet, doesn't go through his progressions, stares down receivers, has a relatively weak arm, and makes at least a half dozen TERRIBLE throws a game. That said, to all those who told me I was crazy when I said I didn't think Palko would be that much worse: you were right and I was wrong. It CAN get worse. So yeah, Cassel's not the worst QB in the world. Tyler Palko is. My bad on that. When you're wrong, you're wrong. And I was wrong in thinking that Palko wouldn't be much worse than Cassel. Moving on...)
But all the same, some of our playcalling has ranged between "somewhat odd" and "stupifying to the point of being beyond belief." The use of Dexter McCluster has been atrocious at times. The lack of involvement of our most talented group (our WR's) seems to make no sense. And most of all, it seems as though the playcalling did not change much to adapt to different game situations.
When your offense is a total disaster, and your coach is an offensive-minded coach, he's the one who will take the blame. See, I get that.
This goes hand in hand with the playcalling issues, but let's talk about using certain players to do certain things. When you look over the course of Haley's tenure as HC, you see a slightly disturbing trend of sticking with guys he likes over guys who can produce. I'm talking about 2.7 over JC, TJ over McClain (for carries, there's no logical reason McClain cannot run those single back carries that TJ makes look impossible), B-Rich over Gaither, Weigmann over Hudson (yeah, I said it. The rook looks pretty decent at G, at least. And "decent" has not been applicable to Weigs all year), Mike Goff over Wade Smith, Urban and Copper over... well, anyone at all, and last but certainly not least, Tyler Palko over Ricky Stanzi and Kyle Orton.
Now if you take every one of those cases as an individual case, there are various justifications that can be offered. JC had a fumble issue. Gaither wasn't putting in effort. Stanzi is even worse than Palko. Orton's not ready yet. And so it goes... The problem is when you see something happening multiple times, it becomes less explainable. Especially when some of the justifications given for Haley's decisions (Gaither wasn't trying, Stanzi's terrible in practice, etc.) amount to little more than speculation attempting to make excuses. If you see something happen enough times, sooner or later it looks like a pattern. And when you combine Haley's insistence on calling certain types of plays over and over and over with marching out guys who are clearly inferior, one can't help but see that one simple explanation would be stubbornness.
Don't believe me? Well, Clay Wendler was kind enough to point something out over at Red Tribe Cinema (that'll be twenty bucks, Clay): on multiple 3rd down packages on Sunday (two of which he showed were when the game was well within reach), Haley sent out the following packages of players...
3rd and 3, down 11 in the 2nd. Sent out Urban, Copper, Becht, Jones, and Steve Maneri. On a play we ended up passing the ball. So to review, we were passing the ball, but none of our top 4 pass catchers were on the field.
2nd and 12, down 28-3, two minute drill at the end of the half. We're in hurry up offense. We send out Copper, Urban, Pope, McClain, and Dex. Again, no sign of our 3 talented WRs.
Here's the thing... You could look at his choice of playcalling, his choice of players to start, and his choice of players to put in the game on crucial downs as separate issues. In that case, you'll spend a ton of time finding multiple reasons and explanations. But the simplest explanation is often the right one: Todd Haley is stubborn. He believes he can get production out of inferior players who do it the "right" way (or in other words, his way). Now, to an extent, this is a GOOD thing. Coaches need to have this attitude to an extent. taken to far, though, most good ideas eventually become bad ideas.
So yeah, I get it. The guy was stubborn. OK, fair enough. But here's the deal, Pioli... now it's on you.
Now there's only one guy to blame
I like many of the thing's Pioli has done. I like many of the players he's brought in through the draft and FA. However, we've seen enough "Scott Pioli sucks, and here's why" posts to know that he has made more than a couple mistakes along the way. But overall, I think the talent level on this team is considerably higher than it was when Pioli arrived. That said...
Now he's canned the coach. Which is basically a GM's way of saying, "the reason we're not more successful right now is the head coach. Given the players he has, the team should be better." Yes, he took some responsibility in the press conference, but c'mon, what else is he going to say? Make no mistake, this was a blame game firing.
Now Haley's out, and Pioli gets his second crack at getting a head coach. If he strikes out here, there is absolutely no one on earth to blame but Scott Pioli, and no real excuses either. Also, if he doesn't do the obvious things to fill the obvious needs on this team (keyword: obvious), then there's no one left to blame but Scott Pioli. That's what happens when you fire the head coach. There's only one guy left to blame after that move: the man at the top.
So while I'm not sure I entirely agree with the Haley firing, I get it to an extent. Know this though Scott Pioli: we're watching YOU now. Get a franchise QB and shore up the lines on both sides of the ball. More specifically, get a new RT and a NT if Crennel is not absolutely CERTAIN Powe is the long term solution (I like Gregg, but the dude's no spring chicken and no guarantee to sign with us again). Also, we're gonna need a new DE (sorry, Glenn), and replacing Lilja would be a decent idea as well. Say it with me Scott.. "QB, Beef... QB, Beef... QB, Beef..."
Also, re-sign Carr and Bowe. Keep the nucleus intact. McClain and Gregg as well (I LOVE watching McClain hit people out there. It's a travesty we never got to see a full season of him blocking for JC, and that he's not used more to run the ball out there).
Address those needs, keep those players, make a good coaching hire, and fine, we'll look back at the Haley firing with, "ahhh, so HE was the issue" eyes. But as of this moment, right this second, the heat is squarely on you if the team doesn't move forward from here.
Oh, and by the way, tell Crennel to get Palko out of there. I don't care if Orton's ready or not. Play Stanzi if he's not. at least Stanzi can throw the ball harder than a 12 year old.
Because I'll tell you one thing: this "fresh start" or whatever after firing Haley is going to be over very, VERY quickly if Tyler Palko is marched out there again. Because more of the same would just be... well... more of the same
And now, we turn the page on an era, as I've decided NOT to insert a ninja pic... instead, in honor of last Sunday's offense, I'll borrow a phrase that I wanted to scream at Haley as he sent Palko out there time and time again