For years Kansas City Chiefs head coach Todd Haley had been known for his temper that had been getting him into trouble since his days as the offensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals. Haley wore his heart on his sleeve, which often helped motivate his players on Sunday but strained his relationship with Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli. That emotion spilled onto the field during a 37-10 loss to the New York Jets this past Sunday and just one day later Haley was fired but was it more than underachieving that is to blame for his departure?
The Chiefs offered Haley the job after an impressive stint as the offensive coordinator of the Cardinlas, one in which he helped lead the team to its first ever Super Bowl appearance in 2009. Turning around the franchise proved to be an uphill battle as the team was left massacred after Herm Edwards’ tenure. Kansas City is the smallest franchise in the league and that can make it difficult for the team to land any big name free agents, forcing the team to focus on the draft and to make careful coaching decisions. Haley’s first season was pretty much an expected flop, finishing last in the division with a record of 4-12, but the turnaround came quick for the Chiefs as last season he led the team to a surprising 10-6 record and an AFC West title.
The offensive-minded Haley was in the process of building one of the better defenses in the AFC, though his offense was still a work in progress. After last year’s sniff of the playoffs, one that ended in a loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the first round, the team hoped to build off of the experience. But one bad thing happened after another and it slowly began to appear as though the Chiefs wouldn’t repeat as division champions.
The Chiefs have been one of the most inconsistent teams in the league. One week they look good against an elite team and the very next week the team will go out and play terribly against a horrible opponent. The blame fell solely on Haley but it was tough considering what he had to work with. It didn’t take long for the Chiefs to get bit by the injury bug and it just continued to snowball all season.
The first big blow came in week one when up-and-coming strong safety Eric Berry was lost for the season thanks to a torn ACL. Shortly after, running back Jaamal Charles suffered the same fate, tearing his ACL. Thefinal blow came weeks later when quarterback Matt Cassel suffered a hand injury, abruptly ending his season.
There is no team in the league that could suffer injuries to its starting quarterback and starting running back in the first few weeks and expect to be in the playoff hunt at the end of the season, so the Chiefs had to expect to be in this position – a 5-9 record with no chance of the playoffs. Kansas City didn’t want to let Haley ride out this season and start with a clean slate next season.
Last Sunday might have helped explain why.
The Chiefs were on the verge of losing five of their last six games and during Sunday’s loss , Kansas City had 11 penalties, the biggest of which was a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Haley for remarks he made to a member of the officiating crew. Haley might have taken that emotion into the locker room after the game which could have left the front office very unhappy. Chiefs owner Clark Hunt said after the firing that the move came due to a lack of inconsistency and for no other reason.
The poor play under Haley could have just been a scapegoat for a team that had a coach who Hunt and the front office was unable to control emotionally and now the Chiefs are left to start over. Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel will take over as interim head coach until the Chiefs can find their second coach in less than three years.
Photo courtesy of The Associated Press.