Debating Haley's Future - Part I

Todd Haley is wrapping up his first year as head coach in Kansas City, and plenty of distractions are piling up. He's become the most polarizing Chiefs head coach in recent memory, and now not even a full year after he was hired, Haley faces the inevitable barrage of criticism.

Is Haley blameless for a season where the Chiefs fell victim to one of the NFL's toughest schedules, a dilapidated roster, and an absent fanbase? Or should he be fired for his playcalling, temper tantrums, and personnel decisions? While it's rare for an NFL head coach to be fired after just one full season, there is a case to be made against Haley.

For months, Haley's foul mouth and temper have become a focus in the local sports media. Before he was hired, the football world was exposed to Haley's clashes with players by way of arguments with Terrell Owens, Kurt Warner, and Anquan Boldin, so it's well established that he's a sharp contrast to the mild-mannered Dick Vermeil and Herm Edwards.

Haley was praised early into his coaching term for making personnel moves that appeared to clean out the Chiefs' coaching staff and roster, but some decisions—such as the departures of Chan Gailey and Bernard Pollard— have stuck out as negatives. Larry Johnson's departure may have highlighted a possible rift between Haley and his players. As Johnson pointed out, Haley never played football. Why would a team full of real football players want to rally around someone who never played but constantly belittles them as if they can't get the job done?

All of those are negatives. But here are the three most vivid reasons why Haley should be fired.

1. Preseason hype was in error.


Todd Haley is not an offensive genius. His decision to fire Chan Gailey just two weeks before the beginning of the regular season should top the list of reasons he should be fired. Let's face it, most coaches could look like playcalling prodigies with Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald. Haley assumed he could multitask as head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in Kansas City, but was severely mistaken. While that approach has worked for coaches such as Sean Payton in New Orleans, Haley should have realized he is not invincible. He should have distributed responsibility to avoid the enormous meltdowns we've seen this season.

Haley's obsession with "going for it" on fourth down is reminiscent of gamers trying to run up the score in Madden video games. But the NFL is not Madden. You cannot expect to convert fourth down every time you have the chance. The Chiefs lead the NFL in fourth down attempts (28) this season and have converted 14 times. Against Buffalo two weeks ago, Haley attempted a whopping four fourth-down conversions. Only against Jacksonville did the Chiefs not try to convert on fourth down.

Like a casual NFL fan playing Madden and looking to run up the score or desperately gain the lead, Haley apparently lives in a fantasy world where he thinks he has to score at every possibly opportunity to save himself from criticism. But sometimes the safest way to victory, although it may be the most boring and utterly frustrating, is to take a chip-shot field goal and get three points rather than come away empty-handed.

2. Haley's wins have been filled with luck.


While the Chiefs have surpassed their win total from 2008, all of Haley's victories have come through fortunate bounces of the football. He barely escaped Washington with a 14-6 victory which was highlighted by a muffed punt that the Chiefs were extremely lucky to recover. Had the Redskins fallen on it, it might have been a different game,

Against the Raiders, the Chiefs hung on 16-10, but mostly thanks to a dropped pass inside the 10-yard line by Oakland receiver Darius Heyward-Bey. Had the Raiders pulled quarterback JaMarcus Russell earlier, Haley easily could have been swept by Oakland this season.

Against Pittsburgh, the Chiefs won in thrilling fashion, 27-24, in overtime. But had Ben Roethlisberger not suffered a concussion, in all likelihood, the Steelers would have scored in overtime to win. The Chiefs were dominated on paper by the Steelers and won only because of huge, unexpected plays in the kicking game and on defense.

In reality, had the ball bounced the other way, the Chiefs could have been winless at this point in the season. There has been no convincing victory for this team, a victory where Chiefs fans could truly rub it into opposing fan's faces. The Redskins and Raiders have been in disarray, and the Steelers have taken a tumble since losing to the Chiefs, further reducing the significance of Kansas City's win over them.

While it's true that "a win is a win," under Todd Haley the Chiefs really haven't established anything concrete through three victories this season.

3. Haley's buddy system has been bad for the Chiefs.


In all professional settings, hiring your buddy over the most qualified candidate is never a good idea. The NFL is no different. For 20 years, Carl Peterson sought to find the quickest route to victory, and hired too many friends. Nepotism was rampant at One Arrowhead Drive. Peterson hired his buddies Dick Vermeil and Herm Edwards, while missing out on more qualified candidates.

Scott Pioli hired Todd Haley, whom he had a longstanding personal relationship with. He did not want to branch out and hire a coach like Mike Shanahan or Bill Cowher. Haley followed suit and hired a coaching staff filled with people from his past coaching jobs in New York and Arizona. It was a huge mistake.

A conflict of interest on the coaching staff can produce results such as Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan, who constructed arguably the greatest team of all time in the 1985 Chicago Bears. After 20 years, the Chiefs need to abandon the buddy system. The best way to create a new team is not by hiring everyone under the sun with a connection to Bill Parcells or Bill Belichick, that follows "The Patriot Way." "The Chiefs Way" should be created, and a new page should be turned in Kansas City.

So there's an argument to be made for Todd Haley's dismissal. It's not always prudent to buy into a patient mentality with a new coach. If he loses, he loses. There are no excuses, just ask Cam Cameron.

Next Week: Why Haley should be retained.

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