Todd Haley's Chiefs Weren't Built To Win In Today's NFL

I actually originally wrote this post before Todd Haley was fired. The content is still valid as we move forward I just had to tweak some of my thoughts from “can Todd Haley be the guy to fix this?” to “who should the Chiefs look to in order to fix this?”

When I say the Chiefs aren’t built to win in today’s NFL I’m not just making a random observation. I spent the last week looking over the numbers from the last three seasons to see what areas of success on the field translate best into Ws in the win column. The results that I found did not exactly give me a lot of confidence in the Chiefs going forward. Unfortunately I’m not just talking about the final three games of this season either. If the KC Chiefs want to be a legit Super Bowl contender the stats say that they need to make some real changes.

Here’s what I did.

I looked over the stats from the first 12 games of this season (so this last weekend’s games aren’t factored in). I also looked at the numbers from the 2010 and 2009 seasons. I looked at 7 statistical areas.

Points Per Game
Points Per Game Allowed
Turn Over Margin
Passing Yards Per Game
Rushing Yards Per Game
Passing Yards Allowed Per Game
Rushing Yards Allowed Per Game

Then I looked at the top 10 teams as well as the bottom 10 teams in each of those areas for each year and looked up the records for each of those teams. What I was looking for was to see if certain areas of success translated to more wins then others. I only did the last three seasons because I feel like with how the NFL is constantly evolving this would give the best snapshot of how teams are winning right now.

My results after the jump.

Here are the winning percentages and average wins per season for each of the seven areas in order from the biggest win differential to the least.

Points Per Game
Top 10 Teams: 65.7% (10.5 wins/season)
Bottom 10 Teams: 30.2% (4.8 wins/season)
Win Differential: 5.7 wins/season

Turn Over Margin
Top 10 Teams: 66.8% (10.7 wins/season)
Bottom 10 Teams: 35.7% (5.7 wins/season)
Win Differential: 5.0 wins/season

Points Per Game Allowed
Top 10 Teams: 64.5% (10.3 wins/season)
Bottom 10 Teams: 33.6% (5.4 wins/season)
Win Differential: 4.9 wins/season

Rushing Yards Allowed Per Game
Top 10 Teams: 62.3% (10.0 wins/season)
Bottom 10 Teams: 35.7% (5.7 wins/season)
Win Differential: 4.3 wins/season

Passing Yards Per Game
Top 10 Teams: 60.7% (9.7 wins/season)
Bottom 10 Teams: 37.7% (6.0 wins/season)
Win Differential: 3.7 wins/season

Rushing Yards Per Game
Top 10 Teams: 55.0% (8.8 wins/season)
Bottom 10 Teams: 45.0% (7.2 wins/season)
Win Differential: 1.6 wins/season

Passing Yards Allowed Per Game
Top 10 Teams: 49.5% (7.9 wins/season)
Bottom 10 Teams: 45.5% (7.3 wins/season)
Win Differential: 0.6 wins/season

So what can we take from this? Well some of it is common sense. It should come as no surprise that the top ten scoring teams would average a good number more wins then the lowest scoring teams. The same goes for the teams that allow the fewest points compared to those who allow the most. It is also a long known truth that winning the turn over battle often leads to wins. So the fact that these are the top three areas in win differential between the top and bottom teams isn’t really big news. However, I think we can still gain some more insight when we combine them with some of the other areas.

The fact that Rushing Yards Allowed is next also makes sense. Not only is stopping the run a key element to winning on its own, but teams that are losing often have to pass more to try and make up ground which leads to winning teams allowing fewer rushing yards. So this also isn’t a new concept.

If you follow the same logic that losing teams have to pass more while the winning team runs the ball to run out the clock it shouldn’t be too big of a shock that the records of the top ten Passing Yards Allowed and the bottom ten are almost the same. In other words, winning teams give up more passing yards because teams are always passing to try and come back on them while losing teams allow more passing yards because they’re bad at stopping the pass (which most winning teams do, but more on that in a minute).

So is there anything new or different in today’s NFL that we can take from all of this? Was this whole post a waste of time?

Okay, here’s the goods ladies and gentlemen (or in the Chiefs case the bad).

Logic says that if we follow the “old school” philosophy that the teams that lead the league in rushing should have good records because if they are winning or in close games they will be running the ball more often then losing teams because they’ll want to keep the clock running. On the flip side of that, the teams that are always losing will have to pass a lot so the bottom 10 rushing teams should have bad records. However, that’s not really what’s happening.

Over the past three seasons the teams that have finished in the top 10 in rushing only have a 55% winning percentage and the bottom 10 are at 45%. That only equates to 1.6 more wins per season. That seems to defy the traditional NFL logic.

Meanwhile, the same “old school” logic also fails when looking at the passing numbers. Those losing teams that should always be throwing the ball while coming from behind should bring the winning percentage of the higher rated passing teams down, but that’s not really happening. The winning percentage of the top 10 passing teams over the last three years is 60.7% compared to only 37.7% for the teams in the bottom 10.

So the numbers say that throwing the ball wins you more games then running the ball and the inability to throw the ball loses you more games then the inability to run the ball. This is why KC is not built to win in today’s NFL. Today’s NFL is really all about being able to throw the ball down the field and score lots of points.

Here are the Chiefs current season rankings in those same seven areas I listed earlier:

Points Per Game – 31st
Turn Over Margin – 19th
Points Per Game Allowed – 23rd
Rushing Yards Allowed Per Game – 26th
Passing Yards Per Game – 30th
Rushing Yards Per Game – 15th
Passing Yards Allowed Per Game – 10th

So the only two areas where the Chiefs are in the top half of the league are the two categories that translate to the fewest wins. Currently the Chiefs rank 30th in Passing Yards/Game and 31st in Points Per Game. The Chiefs greatest areas of weakness are literally THE most important areas needed to win and it all starts with the quarterback. Now before anyone comes back with some kind of “well it wouldn’t be as bad if Cassel was still healthy” argument let me stop you right now. Yes, Cassel is better then Tyler Palko, clearly. However, even last year when the Chiefs went 10-6, went to the playoffs, and Cassel made the Pro Bowl the Chiefs were still rated 30th in the NFL in passing YPG. That’s right, KC’s passing YPG are ranked in the exact same place they were last year. Even with Palko’s pitiful play the past four weeks we are only averaging about 8 less passing yards per game at 177.4 then we were last year at 185.5.

You want to know who is averaging 244 passing yards/game in his first two NFL starts? That would be rookie TJ Yates of the Houston Texans. You want to know when TJ Yates was drafted? That would be exactly 17 picks AFTER Ricky Stanzi was drafted. You want to know what draft grade gave Yates out of 10 going into the draft last year? The answer is 2.8, compared to the 5.8 they gave Ricky Stanzi. You want to know what draft grade ESPN gave Yates before the draft out of 100? That would be a 46, compared to the 75 they gave Ricky Stanzi.

The Houston Texans have the #2 rushing attack in all of the NFL. They have 2 running backs with over 800 yards rushing and yet they still are willing to let their 5th round draft pick QB throw the football.

You know why?

Because they understand the fact that you HAVE TO THROW THE FOOTBALL TO WIN GAMES!!!!! Do you think they wanted to go to Yates? No. Do you think they thought he was ready? Of course not. Do you think he had a full grasp of their offense yet? Nope. Do you think they knew he would make some mistakes out there? Sure, but in the end they decided it was their only choice if they wanted to win. They’re in contention for a first round bye and they still aren’t playing it safe. The Chiefs meanwhile are finished. They’re only playing for next year at this point and they still won’t risk putting their, by all accounts better, rookie QB out there even when they’re down 20 in the fourth quarter.

It’s almost like Haley was out to prove that he’s smart enough to win without passing the ball. Either that or he was told by Pioli that Stanzi wasn’t allowed to play. I don’t get it. If Tyler Palko is literally incapable of making NFL caliber throws then you have NOTHING to lose by giving Stanzi and his better arm a shot. Haley was the OC for a great passing offense in Arizona. The knock there was actually that they didn’t run the ball. So it seems that when he had a good QB (or maybe just a QB that he trusts?) to work with he’s willing to throw the ball. What does that say about Matt Cassel? He didn’t trust Cassel enough to open things up even after his run game was crushed by the loss of Jamaal Charles. Was this just to spite Scott Pioli because he didn’t feel he gave him a good QB to work with, does Haley not understand what it takes to win in the NFL, or does Matt Cassel just not have the goods?

That is why I think Haley couldn’t stay on as the KC coach. If he wouldn’t even try to coach up our rookie QB at this point in the season is there any reason to believe that he would have trusted a rookie QB next year if we take one early in the draft? If it was that Haley and Pioli had a huge fundamental disagreement about the quarterback position then they probably couldn’t have ever coexisted. I don’t think Cassel is the answer, and there is certainly reason to speculate that Haley felt the same way. I don’t think Orton is the answer either. Peyton Manning (let’s say he is available) probably doesn’t want to come in to an unknown situation with a new coach, unless that coach is a real proven name that Manning would trust and that doesn’t seem like Pioli’s style. So if you have to throw the ball to win in today’s NFL how does Pioli make it work next year?

Do I think Haley made enough mistakes to justify being fired? Yes. Do I think that if he had a legit NFL QB he’d still be the coach and the Chiefs would be competing for the division title again? Yes. In today’s NFL it’s more about the QB then the coach. How did Belichick look in Cleveland without Tom Brady? Jim Caldwell went 14-2 with Peyton Manning and now is set to go 0-16 without him. Did Caldwell forget how to coach? Jimmy Johnson was seen as possibly the best coach in the NFL while he was in Dallas and had Troy Aikmen. How’d he look in Miami when he couldn’t find a QB? If Todd Haley had been hired in Green Bay and had Aaron Rodgers as his QB and Mike McCarthy had been hired in KC and had Matt Cassel (and eventually Tyler Palko) as his starting QBs, would our opinion of them as coaches be different? I think so.

The Chiefs have GOT to find a QB who can throw the football. Not only would a good QB improve our passing game and help us score more points, but it should also improve other areas. If our offense isn’t always going three and out then the defense will be fresh and should make more stops. If we have the lead more often teams will have to pass more and our run defense should improve. Also, if we have the lead on a regular basis then the other teams will have to take more chances and our turn over margin should improve. It really is all about the quarterback and putting points on the scoreboard.

I don’t know what the answer is. My guess is that both Luck and RG3 will be off the board when the Chiefs pick and the Peyton Manning dream is probably just that, a dream. Any other QB is going to need a coach that is willing to really put some work in and get behind him and trust him to go out and throw the ball down the field to our trio of good WRs. If I was Scott Pioli I would at least want to know if Ricky Stanzi deserves to be in that conversation. Pioli can talk all he wants about how he wants to win this year and finish strong, but let’s say Kyle Orton plays, does okay and leads the Chiefs to 2 more wins and they finish 7-9. They still don’t make the playoffs. They still know nothing about Stanzi and it then sets us up for a Kyle Orton vs Matt Cassel QB battle this offseason. Is that what is in the best interest of the Chiefs long term? Does anybody think that Kyle Orton or Matt Cassel with a new coach can take the Chiefs from the 30th rated passing attack that they’ve had for the past 2 years and jump up to the top tier passing game that you need to win in today’s NFL?

Even if Luck and RG3 are off the table, it still might be worth trying out a new rookie (or Stanzi). Over Haley’s three years as head coach the Chiefs averaged the following:

Chiefs: 18.5 PPG, 182.1 Passing YPG, 57.2%, and 5.8 YPA.

Now compare that with rookie starting QBs this season.

Newton: 24.1 PPG, 274.8 Passing YPG, 59.7%, and 7.9 YPA.

Dalton: 21.9 PPG, 217.9 Passing YPG, 59.0%, and 6.8 YPA.

Ponder: 21.1 PPG, 204.6 Passing YPG, 55.7%, and 6.9 YPA.

Gabbert: 14.8 PPG, 148.6 Passing YPG, 50.3%, and 5.4 YPA.

So of the four rookies who have been regular starters only one (Gabbert) has done a worse job in their first ever season in the NFL then the KC QB’s that the Chiefs and Todd Haley have had for three years have done.

Maybe the title of this post shouldn’t read “Todd Haley’s Chiefs Weren’t Built To Win In Today’s NFL” but “Scott Pioli Hasn’t Found A QB Yet That Can Win In Today’s NFL”. I guess only time will tell which man was more to blame.

Regardless, until the KC Chiefs can get their passing game going and start scoring some points they will never be able to run with the big dogs of the NFL. I don’t care how good their run game and defense are or who their new head coach is.

As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Tags: KC Chiefs Ricky Stanzi Scott Pioli Todd Haley Tyler Palko

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