Just days ago, I wrote an article claiming that the talk of the Kansas City Chiefs firing Todd Haley and drafting Andrew Luck was absurd. I thought it was premature to completely give up on a coach and a QB that led the team to a 10-6 season just a year ago. I was trying to be optimistic about a terrible situation. I am a fan, after all, so I am just as prone to deluding myself about the Chiefs as the next guy.
I can’t do that any longer. I was wrong. The Chiefs are in big trouble and it is going to take bold changes to right the ship, but that does not mean it is time to tear the whole team apart. In fact, if GM Scott Pioli makes the right decisions over the next few months, the Chiefs could have another turnaround season in 2012.
The 2011 Chiefs are not going to the playoffs. The problems they have on both sides of the ball, combined with the loss of key starters to injury, is not something that is going to be fixed over the course of a couple of weeks. If Pioli is smart, he will turn his attention to getting the team ready to be competitive again in 2012.
Here is how he can do it.
The first thing Pioli has to do is admit he made a mistake and fire Todd Haley. Over the course of the next three games, Haley is going to demonstrate just how bad of a job he has done coaching this team. If you thought the Chiefs looked bad playing the Bills and the Lions, that is nothing compared to what awaits them in San Diego next week. It is going to get much uglier and the calls for Haley’s head are going to get louder.
I think the Chiefs will also lose to the Vikings in Week Four. After that, a loss to the woeful Colts in Indianapolis would seal Haley’s fate. Even if the Chiefs manage to win that game, it likely won’t be pretty.
The bye week is the perfect time for Pioli to cut ties with Haley. There will be enough evidence that Haley massively failed to prepare his team and allowed them to get off to a historically bad start. Nobody will be able to fault Pioli for cutting ties. Leaving Haley on board will only delay the inevitable and further damage the team’s psyche. Haley has to go and he has to go before the end of the season.
Pioli should immediately name Romeo Crennel the interim head coach. The change won’t necessarily make things much better in the win column but it will hit the reset button for the players. Romeo is notoriously popular with players and he’ll be able to get the Chiefs to keep fighting down the stretch. It will be a win-win situation for both Pioli and Crennel. Romeo can mentor KC’s young talent, minus the Todd Haley head games. At the same time, Crennel can audition for another head coaching job. The rest of the season can be used to evaluate guys like Jon Asamoah, Rodney Hudson, Jerrelle Powe, Jalili Brown and Allen Bailey.
Depending on how the rest of the season plays out and how the team responds under Crennel, Pioli will have a big decision to make and he’ll have to get it right. If the team plays really well under Crennel, Pioli may be tempted to leave Crennel on as coach. I think that would be a mistake.
No, the minute after Pioli fires Todd Haley, he should be on the phone with Bill Cowher. I can think of no better choice to succeed Haley. Cowher is a proven winner with ties to the Chiefs. His teams in Pittsburgh were build to run the ball and play a tough, 3-4 defense. The Chiefs run a 3-4 so there would be no major scheme changes. Cowher is the kind of hire that would excite and inspire the players. The move would re-energize a fan base that is sure to be extremely angry by the conclusion of the 2011 season.
Since the Chiefs won’t be in the playoffs, the team could bring Cowher in quickly and get to the business of evaluating the roster for 2012. The first order of business will be devising a plan for obtaining a true franchise QB. By the end of the 2011 season, even the staunchest of Cassel supporters will be forced to relent. The Chiefs will need to do whatever it takes to get themselves the best possible QB for 2012.
The Kansas City Chiefs are a talented team. One thing Scott Pioli has done right was re-signing guys like Derrick Johnson, Brandon Flowers and Jamaal Charles. The talent base is there. It is not crazy to think that Bill Cowher, paired with a capable QB, could not get the Chiefs back on track quickly.
Pioli is fond of saying that he values substance over sizzle. Bill Cowher is both substance and sizzle.
Is Scott Pioli bold enough to make these moves? I’m not so sure. It would mean admitting he was wrong about Haley and Cassel, and he might not be willing to do that.
Things didn’t get this bad by accident, and they won’t be fixed by doing nothing. If Pioli takes bold action to correct his mistakes, he could save this team. If he doesn’t, he may find himself out of a job as well.