I can't ever recall a time that the demeanor of a Kansas City Chiefs head coach was under so much scrutiny by fans and the media. It's gotten so bad that conspiracy theories are starting to surface. People are going over game tapes to see if Todd Haley is being targeted by evil network TV directors intent on ruining his career for the sake of a few ratings points.
Perhaps it is time for a dose of reality.
Let's start with this: nobody - and this includes you, me and Jason Whitlock - has any real handle on what it takes to motivate professional athletes. That is, of course, unless you have been the head coach of a professional sports team.
Oh, sure… we all think we have a pretty good idea. Most of us have jobs. Some of us have kids. There are those among us who have been in the military, taught school, or run businesses. A few of us have even played or coached sports at the high school or college level.
And all of us are using our experience in these areas to support our opinions on Todd Haley's demeanor. They fall into two general categories: a) that Todd Haley is an out of control maniac whose emotional outbursts will eventually cause him to lose control of his team, or b) that Todd Haley is a great head coach whose outbursts are giving the team the discipline it needs, and forcing players to be accountable for their play.
People on both sides of issue can make compelling arguments based on their own experiences in various hierarchial models. But none of these models are really quite like a professional sports team. They all have the same flaw: none of them include employees (or students, soldiers, or athletes) who are all proud, talented young men - some of them very immature, with little or no real life experience - and who, after years of work, have reached the mountaintop. They've signed contracts worth at least half a million dollars a year - often for much more - and are besieged by fans who want their autograph at every turn. None of us know what that's like, or what it takes to motivate young men like these to give 110%.
You may, for example, have a pretty good idea of what it takes to motivate the people who work in your restaurant. But your patrons don't come in to the place wearing jerseys bearing the numbers worn by your cooks and waitresses, do they? You might know exactly what it takes to get your students to perform at a high level in class. But would those techniques work if your students were making ten times your salary just to show up? You may have been a lieutenant who found a way to turn a group of raw recruits into a sharp platoon. But what you did might not have worked if those recruits returned to their barracks each night and found a line of autograph seekers and groupies waiting for them.
I will accept that those who have played or coached sports at the high school or college level might have a better idea of what it takes than most of us. But even at the major college level - with its full ride scholarships, under-the-table deals for cars, posh living arrangements and pocket money for stars - athletes are still self-motivated to reach the final destination: the pros. Once they reach that pinnacle, all bets are off.
So we are left with the examples provided by successful professional coaches. Some point Bill Parcells and Bill Cowher to show that Todd Haley is on the right track. But for every Parcells there is a Tom Landry, and for every Cowher there is a Dick Vermeil. The fact is that among pro sports coaches, there is no single personality type that consistently provides success.
In the specific case of the Chiefs, the issue has been clouded by the huge contrast in style between Haley and his predecessor Herm Edwards. For many, Edwards' passive style on the sidelines was seen as a symptom of everything that was wrong with the Chiefs, and they enthusiastically welcomed Haley's fiery antics. In truth, how Edwards behaved on sideline had little to do with his W/L record. Likewise, what Haley does on the sideline will very likely make little real difference in the fortunes of the team under his stewardship.
I will admit that the first outburst I noticed this season - when Haley could be clearly seen telling Brodie Croyle to "snap the f---ing ball" after Croyle had called a timeout - disquieted me. And I found myself nodding approval when Haley later said he had realized he needed to dial it down a notch or two.
But over time, I have come to realize that Todd Haley has enough on his plate without having to rein in his personality. It's hard enough to coach an NFL team - especially if you're wearing multiple hats. Let's not make it harder than it has to be.
Todd Haley will have best chance for success if he is simply allowed to be who he is - whatever that may be. He will succeed or fail on the basis of his ability to coach this team - not on his personality type. On this issue at least, let's leave the man alone - and stop arguing over stuff none of us really know anything about.