WPI Roundtable - Week 14

This week we discuss Todd Haley, special teams, coaching and the salary cap.

Do you think the Haley hire was simply made because he was the best of the remaining candidates, and Pioli knew in the back of his mind he might need a stop-gap?

Nick Athan: Pioli actually discussed Haley recently on the radio, basically stating that he is in his head coach's corner. But with Mike Shanahan likely headed to Washington and rumors suggesting that Bill Cowher told the Carolina Panthers no thanks, what else can Pioli say about his embattled and inexperienced head coach?

The Kansas Jayhawks just hired Turner Gill, who had four years to develop his craft, learn how to run, coach and recruit within a program at Buffalo. He was up for the Auburn job a year ago but now comes to Kansas with a solid understanding of the process. So Pioli has to decide early on in January if Kansas City is going to be that type of situation for Haley. Or, should he move on with a veteran coach?

Haley is going to need all three years and then some to fix the Chiefs. He reminds me a lot of John Mackovic, who was run out of Kansas City after five years. Pioli may not be able to afford keeping Haley around if he has even an inkling that he can't get the job done.

Michael Ash: Why would Pioli think of Haley as a stop-gap? If Pioli couldn't get the coach he wanted and was willing to have a temporary coach he wasn't sold on, he could have retained Herm Edwards and saved everyone the trouble.

Does anyone actually believe that Pioli hired Haley, gave him full authority over the players, gave him control over the offensive and defensive schemes, but all the while planned to hit the reset button and make the team start over from scratch all over again once he could hire his "real" coach? Not only would that scenario be detrimental to the team in numerous ways, it would make Pioli look like a complete and utter fool.

These types of theories, along with the talk of Haley being fired, come off like fantasies concocted by the small minority of Chiefs fans that had their hearts set on a name like Bill Cowher or Mike Shanahan and still haven't recovered. Let's stop the madness: Haley isn't going anywhere.

C.E. Wendler: The most absurd part of this "stop-gap" theory is the money. The Chiefs gave Haley a four-year contract worth $12 million. Does that really sound like the sort of deal you hand someone who may only be around for one year? If so, we're talking about a colossal waste of resources.

If Pioli didn't plan to keep Haley around past 2009, surely he would have let Clark Hunt in on his plan. With all the money the Hunts have poured into the Chiefs over the last year, do you really think Hunt would risk throwing away another $12 million because his new general manager was considering dumping a coach after just one season? Absurd.

The Chiefs coverage units on special teams have been good this year. On the flipside, the return units haven't amounted to much of anything. Is this because of the lack of having a dynamic return man, or something else?

Nick Athan: Why can't the Chiefs settle on a returner? Right now they have Jamaal Charles, who they didn't use in the Buffalo game, and a cast of characters. The Chiefs have tried out about five different players at kick and punt returner and only Charles has given them anything, but he can't be overused at this point.

Why not give Quinten Lawrence a chance to return punts? The Chiefs have nothing to lose by seeing what he can do over the next three weeks. The coverage teams are improved because Todd Haley is utilizing better better athletes than the previous regime. Linebacker Jovan Belcher has stepped up, amongst others.

Jamaal Charles has been a bright spot.
Jamie Squire - Getty

Michael Ash: A great returner is a nice asset, but it always comes down to blocking in the end. Unfortunately, without access to coaching films, it's hard to say whether KC's blocking is being executed well enough to allow for big gains. Based on the Chiefs' solid kick coverage, it stands to reason they're doing well with the blocking end of things, but that's a leap in logic.

Even with good blocking, the best return men have to make defenders miss. The only returner the Chiefs have with the vision and awareness to identify the running lanes and the speed and elusiveness to take advantage of them seems to be Jamaal Charles. He could probably be an elite return man if he devoted himself to it, but he's becoming too valuable on offense, and the Chiefs have to limit the abuse he takes.

C.E. Wendler: Saying the Chiefs' return game hasn't amounted to anything is misleading. Jamaal Charles not only has taken a kick back for a score this season, he's tied with Minnesota's Percy Harvin for the league lead in kick returns over 40 yards. There are only a handful of players with a better average than Charles' 25.7 yards per return.

If there's one thing Todd Haley did this season, it was find a kick returner. Next season, when the Chiefs find another running back to carry some of Charles' load on offense, hopefully he can return to being KC's full-time kick returner.

While Bobby Wade has been a disappointing punt returner, mostly because of his lack of athleticism, that's to be expected on a rebuilding team. Right now Wade is the only option because it's clear Haley won't tolerate mistakes from his punt returner. If you remember, Maurice Leggett, who is a more dangerous player with the ball in his hands than Wade, had issues with fielding punts. Next season, hopefully the Chiefs can find a more athletic player who is also technically sound on punt returns.

We know how Haley is doing as a first-year head coach. How is the rest of the coaching staff doing? Do we need replacements anywhere? How much better could this team be with better coaching?

Nick Athan: Nobody has really stood out. There was hope that Clancy Pendergast would have done more with some of KC's defensive talent, especially in the secondary, but it hasn't materialized. He may have been in on the decision to cut starting safety Bernard Pollard, who is playing well in Houston, and Pendergast hasn't done much with his first-round pick, Tyson Jackson.

Pendergast had some success in the playoffs last season in Arizona, but hasn't been able to duplicate it in Kansas City. Of course, with no pass rush besides Tamba Hali, what can he do? He may not be around next year and the fact that Todd Haley wasn't hired until after the Super Bowl meant he was limited in building his staff. I expect several changes.

Michael Ash: Special teams coach Steve Hoffman is doing a good job, especially when you factor in that the Chiefs drafted Ryan Succop on his recommendation. But in terms of position coaches, the one that stands out the most is linebacker coach Gary Gibbs.

As the former defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints, it was initially speculated that Gibbs might take over those duties in Kansas City. But his background suggested he should be a position coach. People have raved about what a great teacher Gibbs is, and even as the Saints' coordinator, his linebackers praised him for the impact he had.

In Gibbs' first season with the Chiefs, he's taken two defensive ends -- Tamba Hali and Andy Studebaker – and produced tremendous results. Hali has adjusted to his new position far better than anyone expected, and we all remember Studebaker's performance against the Steelers.

The Chiefs still need a new defensive line coach. Have we seen anything up front to suggest that Tim Krumrie is getting the job done? If for no other reason, I'd like to see Krumrie replaced with someone who has more of a history coaching the 3-4. And what are we to make of Krumrie in respect to Hali's resurgence? Hali was running in neutral in 2007 and reverse in 2008, but a new position and a new coach and he's suddenly taking huge strides forward? That's quite a coincidence.

C.E. Wendler: What really stands out about the Chiefs' coaching staff is the lack of young, up-and-coming talent that might be tabbed as future head coaches. This has been a problem in Kansas City for years. There were no young coaching stars - save perhaps Frank Gansz, Jr. – on Dick Vermeil's staff and the same was true of Herm Edwards' staff.

The Chiefs need to find some young, hungry coaches. They need the same brand that we've seen in the past – Sean Payton, Steve Spagnuolo, Jim Schwartz, and so on. They need the head coaches of the future, not retreads like Maurice Carthon and Clancy Pendergast.

Do you think the Chiefs want any part of a non-salary cap year?

Nick Athan: If they want to dump contracts, yes. If they want to spend freely during free agency, then no. The perception is that the Chiefs are not going to spend money in the free agent market if they can help it. The NFL Player's Association and the owners may still strike a deal based on the fact they've had secret meetings to try and resolve their conflicts, but that would just mean the Chiefs would be in the same position they were a year ago during free agency.

They had over $30 million in cap room and didn't use any of it. If they want to sell season tickets, fill the stands and create a buzz about the Chiefs during baseball season, they need more big names. But clearly an uncapped year is not in their best interests unless they plan to dump more high-priced players they don't want.

How will Scott Pioli deal with an uncapped year?
Jamie Squire - Getty

Michael Ash: If you side with the critics who think Clark Hunt is cheap and doesn't like spending money, then Hunt is probably celebrating the idea of a year without a salary cap. With no ceiling to the amount teams can spend, there's also no salary floor that forces them to spend a certain amount.

But it's unlikely uncapped would affect the Chiefs all that much. The much bigger issue is the league taking away supplemental revenue sharing, which provides money to the lower-income team. According to the last Forbes rankings, the Chiefs were 18th in the league in terms of total revenue (and 17th in terms of overall value). If they do receive extra money, it will obviously hurt if it stops coming in.

On the other hand, if they help provide extra money to other teams, they'll be able to keep it instead of giving it away. Either way, it'll have an impact on the team.

C.E. Wendler: Not this year, they don't. An uncapped year taking place in 2010 is bad timing for the Chiefs, because they needed to hit on a few marquee free agents in the upcoming offseason. Now, it's unlikely any big names are going to hit the market, so Scott Pioli is going to have to hit a few home runs in the draft if we hope to see real improvement.

What about making a big trade? Well, even when a big-name player is traded, usually he wants a new contract. The Chiefs obviously aren't throwing around as much money as other NFL teams, so they're at a disadvantage there, too. Between an uncapped year and revenue sharing going the way of the Dodo, it's just bad news all around for Kansas City.

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