So there it is. The Chiefs have now had 5 different head coaches in the last 13 seasons. That's changing coaches on average, every 2.6 years. Haley was par for the course (pun intended). So how does it make you feel Chiefs fans? Feeling GOOD about our chances now? Looking into the future with a clear view of where this team is headed and how we'll get there?
For those of you that said no, I have to agree. In fact, I have a lot less of a sense that this organization knows what it is doing right now than I have since Vermeil left. While I don't necessarily agree with the firing of Todd Haley, I can agree that the performance of the team this season was well below it's potential. The question is WHY. Since the two people who know why Todd was fired (Hunt and Pioli) aren't talking, I think it's safe to say that we will truly never know exactly why it happened in the way it happened. Truth be told, it doesn't really matter.
It's unfortunate for Haley, the team and the fans that were looking forward to bringing back a winning tradition to Kansas City. What Clark Hunt has now done is at best, set that goal back at least another season. I mean, come on--the odds of a new head coach making it to and winning the playoffs, with all the changes that would indicate, probably isn't too high. At worst, we could be looking at another 2-3 year window of 'inconsistent' play on the field followed by the firing of another Head Coach and presumably it's General Manager. If that happens my friends, Clark Hunt may create the reputation of an owner who is simply too impatient for coaches in this league to work for. If we reach that low point folks, well it just might be that we won't see a winner in KC for a long, long time.
For better or worse, Todd Haley was brought to KC to be the agent of change. The team had gone downhill steadily from the time that Dick Vermeil left town. Vermeil came in and put together an offense that could score points and brought in vets to shore up the team to be able to get them on the win now page. It worked. The team was competitive during the regular season, actually winning 13 games in it's best one. Problem is, that team simply wasn't quite good enough to get over the hump and win playoff games when it counted. Marty had much the same problem. Something was missing in the recipe. The product was really good, it just wasn't unique.
Todd Haley was the guy that provided resurrection of the dream. The dream that we could rebuild what had been left in KC and turn it into something special again. At no time in my memory of the Chiefs did this team have greater potential than when Todd Haley became the HC. This was true for me because of everything that happened after that. Bringing in Weis and then Crennel. WOW, what a combination! Haley had just had his own trip to the Super Bowl with a struggling team and now we bring in guys with enough rings to choke an elephant and a GM whose reputation preceeded him! Fabulous! Let's get it done.
What stopped it from happening? I would say that many things played a part, but from the get go this group of change agents set themselves up as the KGB. They refused the kind of access that the local press had become used to under previous regimes, and it's not hard to believe that they resented it. Why do you suppose that so much of what was printed in the local media was so negative about the team? Even during last season when the team won 10 games, the top stories were usually about Haley being a monster who couldn't get along with anybody. I believe that it was the bias caused from limiting the press access. They didn't like it and they looked for every possible angle to pry the lid off with negative stories. The thinking here is that if you tell a one sided story long enough, eventually the silent side MUST speak out to balance the books right?
It didn't, and hasn't, yet happened. All of the the things that have been printed or aired about Hunt, Haley and Pioli since the beginning are still there, creating this very negative view point about who these guys were and what they were doing. Since they decided not to discuss their plans (rightfully so, I would say) then the only thing left to do is look at performance. This is as it should be. The performance wasn't there and the press (and a lot of the Chiefs fans) were right there waiting for their pound of flesh. Time to pay the piper. The chickens have come home to roost. Time to fish or cut bait.
Well, last Monday, that press and the fan base finally got a reaction from Clark Hunt. He fired the head coach. In mid-season, while the team was still mathematically alive in the playoff race. That is not something that is regularly done, and in this case, it smacks to me of panic. Panic on the part of a new owner who bought in to his new GMs plan, hook, line and sinker. I think that Clark Hunt, being a businessman, had a lot to do with this decision. I think he is upset with where the team is, and I think he is also upset with Scott Pioli.
I know that this wasn't addressed in the press conference, but I have been in situations similar to what happened to Coach Haley in my life and I recognized some of my (and other actors in those interactions) actions and reactions in their words and posture in that presser. They were loath to give a reason that made sense for the Haley firing. Hell, the initial press release didn't even use the word 'fired', it said Haley had been relieved of duties as HC. What? Were they thinking of keeping him as OC? I seriously doubt that was the case.
The unsupported and purely hypothetical truth in my mind is that they both very much liked Todd Haley and did not like the step they took. If you will recall, Scott Pioli said that Todd Haley was not a 'mistake', when asked that question by some of those in the media. He went on to say that Todd Haley was a very good football coach. You don't say those things if you don't really believe them. You say them so as not to detract from that person's contributions to the organization even though those contributions did not achieve the desired results. I believe that they took this step because Clark Hunt needs to find out what he has in Scott Pioli.
When you get to the level that Pioli has in an organization, you become the face of that organization to a degree. The ownership literally trusts you with their business. You become the person who makes most calls on a day to day basis. You have a large degree of autonomy in doing that. The word trust, doesn't even begin to describe the necessity of this type of relationship. Why do you think Lamar Hunt held onto Carl Peterson so long? He trusted the man. Even with all his warts. That is the ideal relationship that an owner is looking for and often times they will overlook some transgressions on the part of that person if they feel like they can trust that person.
I think Clark is trying to find out if that relationship exists between him and Pioli. From an owner's perspective, this relationship must exist before they can give full authority to that manager. Given all that has transpired here with Haley and Pioli and all the rumor and inuendo surrounding the leaks in the Chiefs organization, Clark Hunt is now searching for who it is that he can trust.
That is all well and good, but the downside is that the team will suffer for it until the situation is resolved. Todd Haley was a victim of a sick organization. The inability to win games this year and be consistent was the reason given for his departure. Whether or not you like Todd Haley, the poll that Joel took about whether or not Todd should have been fired was very interesting. Nearly half that took the poll thought Todd should have stayed. I think the reason for that is that the extenuating circumstances that helped cause this season's roller coaster type highs and lows were REAL. Yes, every team has to try and overcome injuries, but on a team with so little depth, to lose THOSE particular players was truly a season changing event. The eventual loss of Matt Cassel should have been the get out of jail card for Haley, not the final nail in the coffin. I believe that in a situation where the front office had more stability and a longer track record, Todd Haley would still be the HC until sometime next season to see what he could do in a more 'normal' year.
Anyway, I've gone on long enough. Many here routinely talk about posts being too long so I am trying to keep mine shorter. I have less confidence in the short to medium term success of this team BECAUSE of firing yet another HC. The last five have averaged 2.5 seasons. That just isn't enough to get a real fix on how good (or bad) that coach is going to be. Particularly when it's that coach's first time in the big chair. Hunt should have known that going in. If he wasn't convicted of giving a new Head Coach his due in the beginning, he shouldn't have given him the job to begin with. That's called setting someone up to fail. It's not good business. Don't think it's been lost on the young NFL minds laboring away right now for those HC jobs either. It might be just a little harder to draw the best coaching talent when they realize that they have about two and a half years to prove it or get canned. From the outside looking in, it also doesn't help attract coaches when there is a perception that the organization is not professional and well run. Right now, given the fact that they fired the HC under questionable circumstances and are getting sued for age discrimination in their front office, it could be argued that the Chiefs organization is sick.
Romeo Crennel. I love me some Romeo--as DC. Romeo may well have learned something during his last try at HC. Maybe he's the answer. Just remember, that Romeo had four years in his first attempt at HC to prove himself and he, like Todd Haley, only had one winning season. He, like Todd Haley, won 10 games in that season. Unlike Todd Haley, Romeo's win percentage for those four years was a dismal .375. Todd's was .422. Based on performance, we just traded down. Tell me, if the Chiefs were to beat the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, would that be Romeo's team or Haley's team? I'm just curious because we spend a lot of time talking about how the current team is really Herm's team and how Herm's team was really Vermeil's.
I really wish Romeo luck and I think he's a good coach. We could easily do worse. The problem is, Nero is fiddling while Romeo is burning...I wonder how long before the fire is out.