Debating Haley's Future - Part II

This past week, Todd Haley was asked point blank by local Kansas City sports radio host Nick Wright if he would fire himself for Bill Cowher. Days later, it was reported that Haley both helped a driver stuck in snow and handed a stack of $20 bills to a man at a bus stop. These events came shortly after Haley allegedly directed an obscene gesture towards a fan at Arrowhead Stadium.

There's no doubt Haley has made his mark on Kansas City not even a full year his hire. His recent generosity towards Kansas Citians only goes to show that he believes he will return in 2010. Despite all the mounting criticism, Haley appears to have full confidence in the football program he is establishing. Why should he be retained?

1. Haley is on the sidelines, not between them.

Obviously, Haley is not the one dropping passes on the field, muffing punts, losing fumbles, missing field goals, or throwing interceptions. According to STATS LLC, the record for dropped passes by one team in the past 17 years is held by the 1992 Miami Dolphins (54). Through 15 games, Chiefs receivers have dropped 46 passes, putting them within striking distance of the record heading into their game against Denver this Sunday. Dwayne Bowe and former Chiefs receiver Mark Bradley have dropped 10 and nine passes, respectively, placing them just behind Vernon Davis (11 drops) for the NFL lead. This is shocking considering Bowe has missed five games this season.

Haley has searched the waiver wire to find "the right players" to fit his system. But currently, he's stuck with former practice-squad players, veterans on the tail end of their careers, or Herm Edwards' leftovers. You might be able to go so far as to say Haley has been stuck with players from what has turned out to be a mediocre-to-awful draft that, so far, has only produced a solid kicker in Ryan Succop.

Meanwhile, back on the field, Matt Cassel has thrown 15 interceptions and the Chiefs have lost seven of 10 fumbles. Although Haley is the one holding the playcall sheets, he is not the one carrying or throwing the ball. The Chiefs' takeaway differential sits at zero, showing that neither side of the ball seems to have much control over the football. Lastly, Haley is not one of the players on the field who has been called for 101 penalties, the sixth-highest mark in the NFL this season.

2. The long haul.

There must be consistency for the Chiefs to become a winning team, and the only way to create success is to set an agenda for the long-term and carry it out. That's why Jimmy Johnson stuck around after finishing a miserable 1-15 in Dallas his first year before going on to hoist two Lombardi trophies within the following five years. The need for consistency was why Bill Cowher and Mike Shanahan held their jobs in Pittsburgh and Denver for so long, and why Jeff Fisher still holds his in Tennessee after 14 seasons.

For an NFL team to find consistency, a plan must be stuck to for a period of time. Pioli and Haley seem to be on the same page, and it would be shocking to hear otherwise. So why not let their plan fully develop?

So far, Haley and Pioli's first draft is so-so, but who knows? A few years from now, Tyson Jackson may be considered the new Richard Seymour. Pair that with another draft consisting of Haley's "right players" and maybe you have a player like Ndamakong Suh or Russell Okung helping Haley leave an imprint on the roster.

Heading into 2008, Herm Edwards was given an extra season by Clark Hunt to improve on a 4-12 record, but with half as many wins coming in his third year, Edwards was shown the door. Next season, if Haley doesn't improve on 2009, he will secure his spot in the hot seat. But maybe we shouldn't expect him to be fired even by then, unless he suffers multiple blowouts.

3. The image of the men upstairs.

Firing Haley would send the wrong message around the NFL, indicating to opposing teams, fans, and doubters that Scott Pioli and Clark Hunt made a mistake. People would say, "they should have hired Cowher a year ago" or "they shouldn't have waited so long to hire somebody." Pioli, who was cheered on by the whole of Kansas City when he rode into town, is surely not someone who would want to be ridiculed by the media for a mistake in just his first year.

Hunt, on the other hand, is still trying to cope with taking over a franchise in the wake of his father's death. He's trying to make a name for himself not only among Chiefs fans, but also around the league as he competes with legendary owners like Robert Kraft and Pat Bowlen. Surely Hunt doesn't want to be like Dan Snyder, who fires coaches at the drop of a hat and has become the butt of all jokes when it comes to inconsistency. Two years with Haley at the helm would allow for plenty of time and evidence for Pioli and Hunt to ponder their next move.

So there's plenty of indication that Haley will still be leading the Chiefs in 2010 despite all the heat he's taken. If you subscribe to that theory, at this point, he can do no wrong. If he were to opt for onside kicks the entire game against Denver this Sunday, he probably still wouldn't be fired. If he were to ask for a raise even after just three wins— perhaps to cover the stack of cash he handed to a bystander—he'd probably still be retained.

Irresponsibility and failure haven't quite overcome the entire organization yet, and next season could be an enormous turnaround. As Dick Vermeil demonstrated in St. Louis, a team can go from bottom-feeders to champions within a year. And it was after a 6-8 losing season in 1961 that a man named Hank Stram rallied the Dallas Texans to their first league championship in 1962.

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