The Counterpunch

Chan Gailey, the original offensive coordinator of the Pioli/Haley era, was served his pink slip by Todd Haley less than two weeks before the start of the 2009 season. Apparently Gailey never forgot that firing and who can blame him considering it occurred at a time when his prospects of finding another respectable coaching job anytime before the next season were probably slim to none? In a Radio 610 interview during the week leading up to his week 1 match-up, Gailey made it pretty clear that his firing from the Chiefs did not sit well him. Following the humiliating defeat his team served up in Arrowhead, his exact words after the game were “It feels good . . . You’re lying if you say it doesn’t. It does. It feels good.”

Gailey didn’t just beat Haley. He outcoached him in every aspect of the game. Gailey also had a few other things to say about his coaching philosophy that I find somewhat pertinent to the situation, if not in total contrast (I suspect even specifically targeted) to Haley’s own approach of breaking the season up into four segments and his monotone mantra-chant of “just trying to get a little bit better” each week.

Here’s what I’m talking about, in Gailey’s own words: “If you say, ‘Well I hope we’re a little bit better than last year,’ you ought to get out. That’s wrong. I expect to win every one of them. I expect to be undefeated. That’s the way I’ve always been, and that’s the way I’ll always be. I want to be 1-0 after this one and whoever we play second, I want to be 2-0.”

Did you catch that?

I’ll go a step further. I believe last Sunday’s game may very well determine more than simply who won the game, if not its subtle battle of wits. I’ll explain what I mean after the break.

Let’s begin all this by, once and for all, dispelling some popular myths.

Myth #1: Todd Haley’s tough conditioning regimen prevents injuries.

Truth: Todd Haley’s conditioning regimen obsesses on getting players slimmed down to what Todd Haley feels is the proper weight for their position. The problem with this is that such an approach can be highly suspect when it comes to linemen. The fact that both sides of our line were regularly getting manhandled by bigger, more physical lines for most of last season serves as Exhibit A as to why Haley’s weight loss obsession may not be all that sound. Needless to say, the loss of Berry, Moeaki, and Siler for the entire season should serve as proof enough that Haley’s conditioning program is no better than any other at preventing injuries.

Not convinced about that? Go ask Matt Cassel how his ribs are feeling.

Myth #2: Todd Haley is a brilliant offensive mind.

Truth: Todd Haley has done nothing since his arrival in KC to prove he is anything special when it comes to putting together an offense. What’s more, Todd Haley has gone so far as to bench his best quarterback, demote his best receiver, and hold back his best running back (for two seasons straight – even in a playoff game no less!).

If that were not enough, Haley’s my-way-or-the-highway attitude undoubtedly contributed to the departure of both a future Hall of Fame tight end and perennial Pro Bowl left guard. Can anyone actually still believe that this team is better off this season as a result of Waters’ departure after having just borne witness to the performances of Lilja and Asamoah? This is brilliance?

Last point about this myth – a brilliant mind is neither closed, nor dogmatically confrontational. It is collegial. It is becoming increasing obvious that both our quarterback and offense exceled under the skilled and experienced guidance of Charlie Weis. Alas, the improvements that we witnessed began to dissipate as Weis progressively saw his authority over the offense be steadily stripped away from him. We know this happened because Matt Cassel himself has said that Coach Haley began to assert more control over the play calling later in the season.

You can believe that Weis’ decision to leave was motivated purely by personal, family reasons if you want. The only evidence I need is how the tail end of last season went and how it’s starting off this year. Bottom line, had Weis been happy with the situation, he would still be here.

Myth #3: The right 53

Truth: The right 53, assuming that’s supposed to mean a successful football franchise, is not happening in KC. Pioli and Haley love to use little phrases like ”starting to get it” and “on board” to describe players that fit the definition of “right 53.” What this actually belies is an arrogant, condescending approach to the manner in which they identify, evaluate, communicate and work with, and ultimate develop roster talent. What I mean by that is that they think that players like Tony Gonzalez, Brian Waters, Bernard Pollard, and Jarrad Page can’t help the team because, quite simply, they are players who are not afraid to offer input, bring their own style of leadership, or both.

I’ve often said that if Derrick Thomas were playing today, the current regime would not want him to be a part of this organization. I believe that with all my heart.

The core problem with this myth is that good leaders, and by that I am including football coaches and general managers, know how to deal with and adapt to different personalities to get the most out of them. We simply have yet to see that in either Haley or Pioli.

Myth #4: Todd Haley knows all about coaching receivers up to an elite level.

Truth: Since Todd Haley’s arrival, Dwayne Bowe is the only receiver to put up respectable numbers. People seem quick to point out that Bowe is an amazing receiver, thanks to Todd Haley’s influence. What people seem just as quick to forget is that Bowe put up some pretty respectable numbers before Haley even got here and in spite of that, Bowe, just like Jamaal Charles, spent a good deal of time warming the bench during Haley’s first season as head coach. Even if we are to give Haley a pass on Bowe, which I’m reluctant to do, specifically what other Chiefs’ player has he developed into a productive receiver?

Myth #5: Scott Pioli is a personnel genius.

Truth: Based on his three drafts, along with his activity/acquisitions in free agency, and “scouring the waiver wire,” Scott Pioli certainly does not appear to be any kind of wizard when it comes to identifying and acquiring players that are capable of providing the kind of help the Chiefs have needed. Out of all his drafts to date, aside from Eric Berry and perhaps Tony Moeaki, there really are not any players one can point to as big-time playmakers. Even the selection of Moeaki can be questioned to some degree because Pioli knew going in that Moeaki had a history of being regularly sidelined by injuries.

Frankly, I’m even ready to question the wisdom of this most recent draft considering he could have had the likes of Phil Taylor (already starting for the Browns) and Randall Cobb (scoring 14 of the Packers’ 42 points in their 8-point win over the Saints)? Granted, Baldwin remains an unknown but the fact also remains that unlike either of the two players just mentioned, neither Baldwin nor Hudson have yet to make any kind of significant impact for the Chiefs, nor does it appear either one of them will anytime soon.

The one question that I think really begs asking here though is whether Pioli and/or Haley have created an environment, whether in fact or by reputation, that most quality free agents simply will not tolerate? If so, that could explain a lot about why we never seem able to bring in top-tier players from elsewhere.

Enough myth busting for now. I really want to get back to my point about the underlying significance of last week’s loss to the Bills. That point is pretty simple and pretty blunt: Todd Haley has never been in greater danger of losing his job more than right now and how he manages this week will determine his future in KC. I am not talking about a sudden firing, but rather saying that the wheels that will ultimately determine his fate here are now set in motion.

It is upon Todd Haley to unify this team right now so that last week’s debacle does not lead to a further dismantling in Detroit. If he is incapable of doing that, this thing is going to snowball fast; he’ll lose a lot of games, he’ll lose his locker room, and at the end of the day, he’ll lose his job. In other words, Chan Gailey’s blow last Sunday will exact a perfect revenge, i.e., a first-round knockout punch that does unto Todd Haley what Todd Haley did unto Chan Gailey.

That’s my take.

What are your takes, Addicts?

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Tags: Bernard Pollard Brian Waters Chan Gailey Jarad Page Jon Baldwin Kansas City Chiefs Phil Taylor Randall Cobb Rodney Hudson Scott Pioli Todd Haley Tony Gonzalez

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