Sunday's Biggest Winner Was Todd Haley

Always nice to see our Chiefs win.  I’m not of the opinion that this really changes anything as far as our season goes.  But as I said after we beat Minnesota, it’s important for fans to be able to believe they might see a win.  Knowing your team is going to lose is a confusing, frustrating place to be.  It fosters dark thoughts.  I think we all remember Herm’s magical 2-23 stretch.

I don’t believe the Chiefs will make the playoffs, and most of you probably don’t believe that either.  So in that regard, yesterday’s win would seem to be devoid of actual, practical significance.  But for one man, that is most definitely not the case.

Todd Haley is fighting for his job.  I’m not saying he and Pioli hate each other, and I’m not saying I think he should be fired.*  But if you don’t think he’s at least been on the hot seat this season, you’re wearing some massive blinders.**

*Obviously these things are possibilities and worthy of discussion; they just aren’t my focal point in this post. 

**People have been getting very angry when the media “speculates” as to the relationship between Haley and Pioli.  But then these same people will turn around and insist the relationship is fine, which is just as speculative.  Speculation, as ever, is only allowed when you’re making things up to excuse organizational folly.

Even if Haley’s job is 100% safe, you know he has to have been wondering.  Lose a bunch of games badly and any coach will start wondering.  Job security in the NFL is nonexistent.  And when you’ve got a family to feed, you’re bound to be a little paranoid when any turn for the worst could cost you your job.  I think this is part of the reason coaches and GMs are so willing to lie, make excuses, and resort to pathetic spin.  They have these amazing jobs, but they could be taken away at any time.  That has to be a nerve-wracking situation.

Haley, to his credit, has not shamed himself.  He hasn’t made excuses.  And he’s obviously much more likable than either of his bosses.  Granted, being more likable than Scott Pioli and Clark Hunt is like being more pleasant than a kick in the testes.  Still, there is something to be said for being at least semi-cool when the two guys above you are anything but.  That kind of thing matters to me.

More hang-time with your boy Big Matt after le jump:

Haley has conducted himself reasonably well for a man who may be fired at year’s end.  Sure, he lies too easily.  But even that is never to spin his failures or save himself.  In fact, when Haley lies it’s usually just to pretend he doesn’t know about something that he obviously does.  Frustrating, sure, but basically in line with the mandated secrecy coming down from on high.  Evasive, dishonest coach-speak is clearly what Pioli wants from his coaches.  Haley might be a totally different guy under a more relaxed, confident regime.

I’ll be honest: I don’t think Todd Haley is a great coach.  I’m not even sure he’s a good one.  The guy has glaring flaws, and his supposed strengths are dubious, to say the least.  But I have to admit, I’m pulling for him.  I don’t particularly want a new head coach, and I don’t think it would be best for the team.  Two more years of built-in excuses for Pioli and Hunt wouldn’t be good for anyone.

Pioli went outside his comfort zone a bit with the Haley hire, and he ended up with a wild card.  That isn’t something a guy like him wants.  He’s obsessed with control.  A filthy, swearing, risk-taking head coach is not easily controllable.  You can bet this next hire would be ultra-conservative.  Someone to hug that company line and agree with Pioli in all things.  That type of man isn’t who I want coaching my Chiefs.  Give me someone flawed and interesting over a Patriot Way bootlicker any day.

If Haley had lost out, he would’ve been fired, there can be little doubt of that.  Yesterday’s win changes things.  I think a 7-9 record saves Haley’s job, and that is now within reach.  It won’t be easy, but he can get there.

Pioli and the Chiefs spin doctors have two options after this season: they can either spin it as some kind of heroic “we didn’t quit” effort, or they can scapegoat Haley.  Pioli will never, ever admit any failures on his part, obviously.  If the Chiefs finish weak, the best way to save his own rep is to tarnish Haley’s.  If we finish strong, that becomes a less viable option.

It might seem silly to suggest that Haley’s job could come down to four essentially meaningless games, but I honestly think that’s where we’re at.  You can’t fire a guy who goes 7-9 with a bargain-basement, scrap-heap roster and a tough schedule.  5-11, losing the last four?  Totally different story.

Maybe Pioli and Haley get along perfectly.  But even if that were the case, heads have to roll after an unsuccessful season, particularly when the GM has done so little to hang his hat on.  What we have to ask ourselves is, will Bill Muir’s head be enough?  For a 7-9 season, I think so.  If things end ugly, I doubt it.

So if you’re a Haley fan, these last few games are still vitally important.  I know they are to him.  And ironically, that will probably make them more boring to watch.

Haley obviously thinks the way to overcome Tyler Palko is by not letting him throw.  Personally, I think dumbing down your passing game is almost never a good idea.  It’s like accepting a disadvantage.  Palko is bad, but every QB is bad if you don’t let them do anything.  So putting the training wheels on just ensures he’ll be bad.  Brodie Croyle all over again.

If Haley wants to miraculously win two more games, he’s going  to have to let Palko throw the ball downfield.  Is that likely to end well?  Probably not.  But the offense we saw yesterday will lose all four remaining games guaranteed.  I don’t want to see Haley go out like that, throwing WR screens and giving Thom Jones 16 carries.  If he’s gonna go down, I’d much rather see him go down swinging.  That would be more in character, more fun to watch, and more likely to steal him a couple wins.

These last four games are a time for Haley to make his case.  If you like him, you better be pulling hard for wins.  He needs them.  And with this resurgent, exciting defense, he has a chance to get them.

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