It's All Haley's Fault

Based on Sunday's debacle in Philadelphia and a Week 1 disappointment in Baltimore, the 2009 Kansas City Chiefs might have the worst offense in the NFL.

The word "might" is inserted only because Kansas City has actually gained more yardage and scored more points than the Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns. But it's fair to point out that the Chiefs have possessed the ball for a longer amount of time than either team (meaning they've had greater opportunity to move it) and are also the NFL's worst team on third down, easily, which has to count for something.

Anyway, it's no secret the Chiefs are rotten on offense, again. Undeniably, they are worse than they were at the conclusion of 2008, even with Tyler Thigpen scattering balls around the field as if he were firing a blunderbuss. Who gets the blame?

You could easily blame KC's swiss-cheese offensive line, slow wide receivers or unproductive running backs. Not me. I'm going to blame Todd Haley. It's all his fault. Completely.

The 2009 Kansas City Chiefs have a rotten offense. Haley is the main culprit.

He asked for this kind of disaster when he scrapped Chan Gailey's offense weeks ago during preseason. You can't start installing an entirely new offense a week before the regular season begins and expect it to function at any sort of level approaching competency when the bullets start flying for real. It's a completely unrealistic expectation.

Teams in the NFL install their offenses starting in mini-camp and flesh them out during training camp and preseason. It takes weeks and weeks of studying and practice for players to understand what their roles are and to establish timing and chemistry with their teammates. It's foolhardy to anticipate an offense executing at a winning level when only a fraction of time is spent developing it in comparison to other teams.

Haley's #2 receiver, Bobby Wade, has been with the team a matter of weeks. The Chiefs' new starting right tackle, Ryan O'Callaghan, has been with the team a matter of weeks. One week, Dantrell Savage is the third-down back. The next week, it's Jamaal Charles. There is no continuity. Nothing is established or defined. The Chiefs don't have an identity.

That's why Haley's offense, at the moment, is garbage. We shouldn't be surprised offensive linemen are jumping offsides and missing assignments. It's no shock some players don't know where to line up. A flurry of penalties is expected. Matt Cassel has wasted timeouts, Brodie Croyle has faked handoffs to ghosts, and the Chiefs have been a complete mess.

Haley asked for all of that when he decided to start fresh on offense so close to the regular season. The Chiefs have some offensive talent – Cassel, Larry Johnson, Dwayne Bowe, Bobby Wade, Mark Bradley, Jamaal Charles, Branden Albert, Brian Waters - we saw them perform last year. Most likely, they aren't nearly as bad as they have looked through three weeks.

So, even though his players have embarrassed him at times, Haley gets the lion's share of the blame for setting the stage for it all. Like any good coach, he has stood up following the Chiefs' defeats and taken that blame.

After his offense failed to execute in the red zone against the Raiders, Haley shouldered the responsibility.

"I'm the leader of this football team," he said. "When you have the ball in an area where you can score points, and you don't get points, it's going to fall on me.

After the Chiefs were dismantled by Philadelphia's defense, Haley took more heat.

"We have to do a better job as coaches," he said. "When you have that many penalties…that falls on me. That's not the type of team we're going to be or want to be, and that comes back to me."

Apparently, Haley wants the heat. He'll take it. Yes, it's a little like what Alan Ruck's character (Cameron Frye) in Ferris Bueller's Day Off went through.

Just before he relieved Gailey of his offensive coordinator duties, I envision Haley and Gailey sharing a conversation like Cameron and Ferris.

Gailey: The offense is my fault. I'll take the heat for it. When Pioli comes home, we'll tell him that I'm responsible. He hates me anyway.

Haley: No, I'll change it. I'll take it.

Gailey: No, you don't want this much heat.

Haley: If I didn't want it, I wouldn't have let you run the offense.

Gailey: I had to run the offense.

Haley: I could have stopped you. I want it. I'm going to take it, that's it. When Pioli comes home, he and I will just have a little chat.

Gailey's old offense is just like the car – a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California – Cameron kicks through a window and destroys near the end of the movie. The car was red, fun to drive, a total blast for a little while. Last year, Gailey's offense was red, fun to watch, a total blast for a little while.

But Cameron wasn't taking that car anywhere. It was a short-lived joyride. It wasn't his car anyway. In the end, he was angry enough at the car's real owner – his father – that he destroyed it.

Haley is just like Cameron. Gailey's old offense, although it was fun to watch, wasn't taking the Chiefs anywhere. That much was obvious last year, and that much was obvious in preseason this year. It had been a short-lived joyride. It wasn't Haley's offense, anyway. So, he destroyed it, angry at the results it had brought so far.

After the third preseason game, Haley kicked that red car right out the window. The results haven't been pretty. After the Eagles finished with the Chiefs Sunday, the offense was sitting in a smoking, crumpled heap, just like the Ferrari. Ugly. And now Haley is taking the heat for it.

Did Haley do the right thing? Right now, it looks bad, but we have no way of knowing. If the Chiefs are this bad on offense at the end of the season, certainly Haley might look foolish for scrapping Gailey's attack, which had some success last year. But sometimes you have to take two steps backwards to take a step forward. Maybe that's what this is all about, why Haley is so willing to take the heat.

It wasn't so long ago (2001) that Dick Vermeil came to town and did the same thing. The year before Vermeil arrived the Chiefs had a top 10 offense, Elvis Grbac went to the Pro Bowl, and the team was two or three wins away from making the playoffs. There didn't appear to be any reason to scrap the offense.

But that's exactly what Vermeil did. He dumped Grbac, traded for his own quarterback, installed a completely new offense and then the growing pains started. The quarterback, Trent Green, was terrible, the offense averaged only 17 points during the first six games, and in five of the first eight games the Chiefs had less than 300 yards of offense.

There were plenty of turnovers, missed assignments and players not knowing where they were supposed to line up. It was not that different than it is today. The Chiefs started 1-6, fans were booing, plenty of people probably thought Vermeil was a complete buffoon.

But by the end of the season, the situation improved drastically. Over the last five games, Vermeil's offense averaged 24 points and well over 300 yards a game. The Chiefs won four of their last seven games, three of their final four, and looked like a team on the upswing. You know the rest of the story – a record-setting offense came to fruition the following year and beyond.

It would be overly optimistic to say Haley will do the same thing in Kansas City. But, like Vermeil, he does have an accomplished offensive background. Like Vermeil, he traded for his own quarterback, has installed his own offense, and the Chiefs are 0-3 and stand a good chance of starting 1-6, or even worse. Next Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, KC's offense might get eviscerated by the New York Giants, fans will boo, and plenty of people will think Haley is a complete buffoon.

We'll know by the end of the year if Haley was wrong to scrap Gailey's offense. Either the Chiefs will still be one of the worst offensive teams in the NFL, or the situation will improve, and a few wins will follow. If we're lucky, an offensive system will take root and Kansas City will enter 2010 with a clear identity and an idea of the sort of players they need to add to compete.

Maybe then, some more records will be broken. And it will be all Haley's fault. Top Stories