But based on Sunday's 16-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills, we may have found a new excuse for our sad-sack Chiefs:
Todd Haley has gone insane.
Understand this has nothing to do with Haley's fourth-down decisions against the Bills, even though most of them failed. You can second-guess a fourth-down decision all you want, but there are too many factors involved to lay all the blame at the feet of the head coach (at least when you don't go for it from your own 28-yard line).
No, the evidence of Haley's insanity shows up elsewhere, at least if you put any stock in the words of Albert Einstein, who once quipped that "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Einstein most likely knew almost nothing about football, but his definition of insanity certainly showed up at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday.
If you've watched the Chiefs at all this season, you know they like to run slip screens to their wide receivers. It's a basic play – the receiver takes a couple of steps up the field, faking a route, and then pulls up to catch a quick pass. If executed correctly, blockers flowing from the middle of the field will clear a lane for the receiver to run. If the receiver has any speed, open-field running skills or can make a defender miss, there's the potential for a big play.
The play has worked at times, particularly when Dwayne Bowe is the featured receiver. Bowe is quick, strong and great in the open field. The same basic play, or variations of it, worked great when Matt Cassel was throwing to Wes Welker and Randy Moss in New England last season. It even produced huge gains, some for touchdowns.
But Bowe is obviously suspended. In his absence, the Chiefs started throwing these quick passes to their other, less talented wide receivers - Lance Long and Bobby Wade. It really doesn't make much sense from the start. But it made Haley look completely insane as the game progressed.
The Chiefs threw a screen to Long on the second play of the game. He lost a yard. On their next possession, they threw one to Wade. He lost a yard. At that point, you would think Haley would have thought to himself, "Huh! This isn't working too well today. It might be a good idea to shelve the old slip screen."
But just a few plays later, here it came again – the slip screen. In a shocking development, Long was dropped for another two-yard loss. He had an opportunity to make a play, but, he's just not that talented. Before this season, he was lounging on the practice squad of the Arizona Cardinals, the NFL equivalent of manning the fry machine at a McDonalds.
So that was three quick screens to the Chiefs' relatively untalented wide receivers. They had lost five yards and it was fairly evident, it just wasn't working. No matter how bad Haley might have wanted Long or Wade to be Bowe, Welker or Moss, he can't turn lead into gold. The Bills were probably keying on wide receiver screens at that point, if they weren't already.
But, Haley wasn't done. He evidently entered Sunday's game determined to prove that the Kansas City Chiefs could revolutionize the NFL with an offense centered around wide receiver screens, because wouldn't you know it, he dialed up another one. This time, it actually gained yards, and was executed almost perfectly by a more talented receiver, Chris Chambers. Even so, it came up about an inch short of the first down.
Haley challenged the measurement, apparently flabbergasted that his magical wide receiver screen could actually come up short. But reality set in, and the Chiefs kicked a field goal.
That was it, right? Surely, after doing the same thing over and over again, expecting it to succeed and discovering only failure, Haley was ready to throw up his arms and turn to another page in his playbook. It appeared that way for several possessions, but with the game on the line here it came again – a screen, to the ex-fry cook known otherwise as Lance Long. It lost four yards and the Chiefs were placed in a terrible long-yardage position as they drove for a potential game-winning touchdown.
That, honestly, might be enough – if you put any stock in Einstein's definition – to fit Haley for a straight jacket. But when we consider how Matt Cassel played Sunday, and how he has been playing for over a month now, there's even more evidence of Haley's insanity.
The Chiefs spent an entire half bumbling their way around the field on offense against Buffalo. Sure, they moved the ball, because the Bills are not exactly the 1985 Bears, or even the 2009 Broncos, who throttled Kansas City a week ago. But there was plenty of failure, and Cassel was linked to most of it.
From the beginning of the game, Cassel was playing a rerun of all the inept things he's done this season. He fumbled on KC's first possession. He missed a wide open Jamaal Charles and threw to Leonard Pope, who was bracketed by two defenders, on a key third down. He had Mark Bradley open for two deep touchdowns and didn't come close to hitting him either time. It was almost as if Tyler Thigpen was back under center, showcasing his terrible downfield accuracy.
Twenty-five seconds before halftime, with no timeouts, Cassel foolishly dumped a pass to Charles in the middle of the field. Charles was tackled in bounds and any chance for a field goal was effectively destroyed. It was practically a rerun of another pass Cassel threw, in Week 2 against the Oakland Raiders. On that play, Dantrell Savage was dumped in bounds and the clock expired, killing any chance the Chiefs might have had at a score.
At that point the Chiefs had scored three points despite manufacturing 172 yards. Clearly, they had missed chances to score touchdowns because of inept play from the quarterback position. Despite that, they trailed by just a touchdown. The game was there for the taking.
But, again proving he may just be insane, Haley refused to sit Cassel in favor of Brodie Croyle. Evidently, despite the fact Cassel has been tossing interceptions and errant passes for weeks upon weeks now, achieving statistical lows no other Chiefs quarterback has sniffed in over a decade, Haley was expecting different results. So he continued to do the same thing he's done for weeks upon weeks now – trot Cassel back out onto the field.
And what did Cassel do to reward Haley's insane vote of confidence? To start the second half, he threw a terrible, awful interception, the kind you only usually see from quarterbacks who are desperate to make a play at the end of a game. Again, it was almost as if Thigpen was back under center. It was not a decision, or a throw, $63 million quarterbacks are supposed to make.
Shockingly, Haley's defense denied the Bills what would have been a game-clinching touchdown (because good luck getting this Chiefs team to come back from a 14-point deficit). Given a chance to insert a different quarterback into a close game, perhaps in hope of actually scoring a touchdown and perhaps even eventually winning, Haley passed.
It was the true definition of insanity. Despite all the evidence Cassel provided in over two quarters of play, Haley somehow convinced himself that doing the same thing over and over again would produce different results.
The Chiefs did eventually score a touchdown, thanks to a sensational play by Charles. And Cassel actually woke up with about seven minutes left and gave Kansas City a chance to win the game late, which was ruined by Chambers. But, you have to wonder – could Croyle have led the Chiefs to more than three points in three and a half quarters? Could he have hit Bradley on a long touchdown?
We'll never know, because it appears the Chiefs are 100 percent committed to Cassel, however insane that dedication might be. With about a minute left and a small chance to win the game, he was ushered out once more. A few plays later he checked the ball down to a receiver who had no hope of getting out of bounds, and 20 seconds ran off the clock. After that, there was only a desperate bomb to throw and another interception to be logged on Cassel's statistics.
And quite fittingly, as the game clock hit triple zero, CBS cameras caught Haley screaming like a madman for a pass-interference call. You could say he was insane with anger.
Has Haley Gone Insane?
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