Haley Still Adjusting Offense

With the Chiefs avoiding the subject of Larry Johnson, the discussion at Thursday's press conference turned to another mistake - Todd Haley's offensive coordinator role. Haley himself has brought it up a few times, and Thursday he said the bye week has been important for Kansas City's offense.

"I think we've had great work as a staff and I think we have a much clearer picture of where we're at as a team and what our strengths are, what our weaknesses are and what areas that have to be protected a little more," said Haley. "I think that's why the bye week is good. It gave us a little more time as a staff and specifically, offensively. We made major changes in late August that we really haven't had a chance to get our feet under and get to know the offense as it's supposed to be learned."

This begs for more criticism, as the decision to fire Chan Gailey less than two weeks before the season and install a new offense is probably the biggest mistake of Haley's tenure thus far. Allowing it to happen may be Pioli's biggest mistake. Retaining Larry Johnson over the offseason is creeping into the same category, but for now it's still the offensive coordinator mess.

By trashing the system the Chiefs had been learning all summer, with just two weeks of practice and one preseason game to learn the new one, Haley set his entire team up for failure in the first half of the season. It's possible this offense isn't this bad. Maybe even the offensive line isn't as impotent as it seems, rather they're all still learning on the fly. We don't entirely know.

If the Chiefs gradually improve offensively over the second half of the season, the change, or "schism" as we'll refer to it from now on, will have benefited the team. However, that doesn't give Haley a free pass. Could he not evaluate Gailey as a play caller in the seven months prior? Could he not have drawn a conclusion by looking at Gailey's history? If Haley had made the switch earlier, would the Chiefs be better than 1-6?

This first half of the season has been Haley's baptism by fire into calling plays with this personnel group, and there have been, understandably, growing pains.

"Without a doubt, because I think that protecting your liabilities is important," he said. "As a play caller, there may be ways you want to call the game or ways you're used to calling the game that you can't, and I felt like I've made adjustments. But after sitting for a week and studying us, it's clear to me there's more adjustments that need to be made."

Wouldn't Haley's learning curve have been less steep with somebody around who already went through the process? Maybe someone who came into a similar situation as a first-year coordinator with that team, learned on the fly with a wretched offense the first half of the season, and made adjustments right around the bye week that improved the situation? Where could Haley have found someone like that? Maybe on his coaching staff all summer?

It's one thing if Haley rights the ship for the second half of the season, but what about the other scenario? What if the Chiefs continue to struggle in every facet of offense, or regress? They are on pace to not score a single rushing touchdown all season. Think about that. If Larry Johnson returns to the field, he will probably eclipse Priest Holmes as KC's all-time leading rusher, but he has not reached pay dirt once this season.

In that light, the schism was still a mistake. Even the man Haley "relieved of his duties" was able to get 4.5 yards per carry and five touchdowns out of Johnson last year, and that's with an arguably worse offensive line.

It's a lose-lose situation for Haley. You dance with the one who brung ‘ya. It's a lesson Chiefs fans learned rather painfully in 1997, when Marty Schottenheimer made that fateful decision to start Elvis Grbac in the playoffs over Rich Gannon. If Haley was going to make it all the way through training camp with Gailey, he should have been able to get through the regular season. Where would this offense be if Gailey were still steering it?

"That's completely hypothetical," said Haley. "I don't know where we'd be. It's a hypothetical question. I made the decision why I made it. I think I made that pretty clear at the time, that I thought it was best for us now and in the future."

If this year proves to be just a building block for the future, a year to take the lumps that accompany learning to win, and Kansas City's offense thrives from here on out, then this will all be forgotten. But if only Haley had made the change right away, he could have saved Chiefs fans a lot of time and heart ache. If he fails in his quest to get the offense back on track, the schism may be a mistake that ultimately costs him his job.

Click here to discuss this story on our forums!

WarpaintIllustrated.com Top Stories