Haley, McDaniels Traveling Similar Roads

In college, how rival coaches compare can become a big deal. If you're the head man at Ohio State, and you can't beat the Wolverines, it could cost you your job. Ask Texas head coach Mack Brown if he felt any heat during five consecutive losses to the Sooners from 2000-2004.

We'll never know for sure, but if Kansas fires Mark Mangino, we'll be left wondering if he'd have reached the same fate after a victory over Missouri last Saturday.

In the NFL, that's not exactly how it works. Todd Haley is by no means coaching for his job when he lines up opposite Josh McDaniels and the Denver Broncos Sunday. However, the parallels between McDaniels and Haley are certainly noteworthy.

Both are relatively young rookie head coaches, cut their teeth as offensive coordinators, enjoyed success at their previous posts and are calling their own plays. Both Haley and McDaniels are working with quarterbacks they'd not previously worked with while manning teams making the transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4.

Both have also endured a great deal of off-the-field issues. McDaniels had the entire Jay Cutler saga, which had him pinned beneath the heat lamp before a single game was played. Haley had the reported run-in with Brian Waters, which placed him and his ego squarely under the microscope. McDaniels had to deal with the bloated ego of a diva wide receiver in Brandon Marshall, and Haley spent much of training camp putting Dwayne Bowe in check.

Haley and McDaniels are in remarkably similar situations at remarkably similar junctures of their respective careers. There are differences, however. McDaniels took over an 8-8 team that barely missed the playoffs a year ago, while Haley took over a 2-14 team that had no postseason aspirations. Though both coaches are calling their own plays, McDaniels never wavered about being the play caller. Haley pulled the rug from under offensive coordinator Chan Gailey weeks before the start of the season.

Those two differences, coupled with McDaniels being hired nearly a full month before Haley (and getting a jump on filling out his coaching staff), could likely explain why the two head coaches are having starkly different rookie campaigns.

"I'm impressed by any new staff that comes in and wins games," said Haley. "That being said, we're two different teams. That's a team that got off to a really good start last year, kind of struggled down the stretch, but an 8-8 team any way you cut it, so I think it's two different sets of encyclopedias were talking about. But I'm not taking anything away from that staff and Josh coming in and getting the team out to a fast start. Anytime you win six in a row in this league, that's something you have to take your hat off to, but I think we're talking about two different circumstances."

Of course, the shape the Chiefs were in before he arrived is not on Haley, but what he's done with those circumstances is. Haley and McDaniels' new quarterbacks became such in completely different fashions, and the moves to bring them to their current teams were equally, if not more contrary.

The Chiefs were lauded for sending a second-round pick to New England in exchange for Mike Vrabel and Matt Cassel. Not many argued against the trade. On the other hand, the Broncos' trade for the much-maligned Kyle Orton, two first-round picks and a third-rounder drew mixed reactions. Some felt parting with Jay Cutler was a mistake, while while others liked the compensation Denver received.

The book is not closed on Haley or McDaniels, nor is it closed on Cassel, Cutler or Orton, but it is being written, and the immediate returns, on all accounts, favor McDaniels. With a win over Denver Sunday, Haley can send a message to his fans and critics, loud and clear, that Scott Pioli hired the right man, and the future of the Chiefs is in better hands than that of the hated Broncos.

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