Todd Haley had to go.
Over the next week or so there will be plenty of conversation and debate about Scott Pioli vs. Todd Haley. Blame will be placed on both men. We’ll try to make as much sense of the situation as we can piecing together quotes and tweets and reports of secret conversations that happened four months ago between a reporter and the head coach or GM. Reporters will start releasing tidbits of information they’ve been sitting on for months before because they were sworn to secrecy.
Heck, it’s already begun.
But what shouldn’t be lost among the attention-grabbing “I knew this was going to happen all along” headlines that we will see in the next few days, is that regardless of what went down over the course of Todd Haley’s tenure with the Chiefs, the axe needed to fall, and it needed to fall now.
We are so often reminded that Haley was a first time head coach that I think we tend to forget that Scott Pioli is also a first time GM. Despite all his experience in New England, despite his “Executive of the Year Award” trophy case, Pioli had never run an NFL team on his own before coming to Kansas City. He’d never hired a head coach. He’d never been the guy with total control. In New England, that role belonged to Bill Belichick.
Pioli made some mistakes early on, chief of which was hiring a head coach in Todd Haley that he didn’t fully understand. That may be because Pioli still wasn’t sure what kind of GM he wanted to be.
Haley, it turns out, was the anti-Pioli. Stubborn, hard-headed, gruff, sloppy and wired with a short fuse, Haley wasn’t the type of guy to conform to “The Patriot Way.” No. Todd Haley did things “The Haley Way.”
Who knows why Pioli hired Todd Haley. Perhaps, at the time, Pioli wanted a head coach that would challenge him. It is unlikely that two men such as Bill Belichick and Pioli, egos as big as they are, always got along and agreed on every issue. Perhaps Pioli was trying to recreate that kind of push and pull that he thought made him so successful in New England.
Or maybe Pioli just didn’t realize what he was getting in Todd Haley.
What Pioli thought back then, however, is irrelevant now. Hiring Haley was a mistake and as the years wore on, it became evident that it was a mistake that needed to be put right.
Even though it is Pioli’s fault Todd Haley was in Kansas City in the first place, it was always going to be Haley who took the fall if there was trouble. It’s sad but that’s just the way these things work. How many GM/coach tandems ride off into the sunset together after a string of Super Bowl victories? In the end, this move is the best thing that could have happened to Todd Haley, to Scott Pioli and to the Chiefs.
After three years, Pioli should now know what kind of guy he wants in charge of his football team. It is likely going to be the anti-Haley. We can probably expect a professional, buttoned-up coach who toes the company line, re-spews the whatever propaganda-laced catchphrases Pioli cooks up for the 2012 season (see: Right 53, Substance Over Sizzle) and doesn’t rock the boat. Don’t expect any rally beards or sweat-covered ball caps on the new guy.
The heck of it is, that might not be all that bad of a move on Pioli’s part. For better or worse, Scott Pioli is the captain of this ship and mutiny on the part of his head coach isn’t likely to be what steers the team to a Super Bowl. Bad blood between the head coach and the GM is likely to lead to bad play on the football field. In fact, it already has.
When all is said and done, the Chiefs are only going to be as successful as their GM. That means if Pioli can be successful in adding the missing pieces to a young and talented football team, so long as his new head coach isn’t a numbskull, the Chiefs should find some playoffs success.
If you look around the league, there are only a handful of rock star head coaches that you can say make a huge difference for their team. Look at Jim Caldwell in Indianapolis. Brilliant coach or just a lucky guy who inherited Peyton Manning? After Manning was taken out of the equation, it’s looking like the latter.
How about Mike Tomlin? Great coach or the right guy in the right system in an organization with some of the most consistent personnel evaluation in the history of the NFL?
Is Mike McCarthy a Hall of Fame coach or just another lucky recipient of the Franchise QB lottery?
I’m not trying to downplay the importance of a great head coach. Everyone wants a Bill Belichick of their own, but if you look around the league, it would appear to me that personnel trumps coaching almost every time.
If you had to put these guys in order of who you would take, given the chance, how would you rank them?
Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rogers, Ben Roethlisberger, Jim Caldwell, Bill Belichick, Mick McCarthy or Mike Tomlin?
It’s easy, I’ll do it for you: (not taking age into account)
Brady, Manning, Rogers, Belichick, Roethlisberger, Caldwell-McCarthy-Tomlin (tie).
You might rearrange those top three QB’s based on personal preference but you get the point.
If Pioli makes the right personnel moves, which includes landing a franchise QB (not currently on the roster) over this next era of Chiefs football, then it won’t matter who the head coach is because only a total nitwit would be able to screw it up. Pioli just needs someone sharp and adequate who can maximize his team’s talent and not make Herm Edwards style clock management decisions.
If Pioli doesn’t make right personnel moves over the next three years or so then it won’t matter if the Chiefs’ head coach is Romeo Crennel, John Gruden or Stanta Clause, there will be a new GM in Kansas City.
I’m not telling you to like Pioli or his style. I’m not asking you to not feel bad for Todd Haley.
But Scott Pioli is here to stay and the best thing that can happen now is that he finds a coach that he can work with and more importantly, win with.
Letting Haley go now makes sense. It enables Pioli to begin talking to potential candidates. He will also be able to get a bit of a jump on his competition, as there are certain to be plenty of high profile coaching hires this offseason. If Pioli can get a head start on the hiring process, he will be able to hit the ground running once the season ends.
It’s a shame for everyone involved that the Todd Haley/Scott Pioli/Kansas City Chiefs marriage didn’t work out.
But it was the right move at the right time.
Let’s just hope Pioli gets it right this time.