Thoughts From The Armchair: Crennel, Orton, and Life Without Haley

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Earlier this last week when I was talking to my wife about who the Chiefs played on Sunday I concluded my observation with “so we’ll probably lose by 30 points, but then again it would be just like the Chiefs to play horrible for weeks and then be the ones to knock off the undefeated world champions.” When I said it it, I was joking and didn’t really think we had a shot. Little did I know I would end up being right. The Chiefs really made a statement to the entire NFL yesterday. They have not given up even after debilitating injuries, a disappointing season, and a head coaching change. More importantly, they sent a message that when they add Eric Berry and Jamaal Charles back to this roster teams should be afraid.

On a day like today it is important to enjoy this great win. The Chiefs are still in all likelihood out of the playoffs, but after a season like this it was a great moral boost. Chiefs fans deserve to be happy and enjoy this win for a while. That having been said, we should also resist the urge to go overboard on what this win means. Some fans are already talking like Crennel and Orton are now destined to lead us to the Super Bowl next season. They both had fantastic debuts on Sunday. They both deserve a ton of praise for their performances (as do the offensive play callers). So just how much weight should we put into what we saw on Sunday?

After the jump I’ll give my thoughts on Crennel as the long-term HC, Orton as the long-term QB, and life without Todd Haley.

Okay, let’s start with Romeo Crennel. Following yesterday’s win it’s easy to sell Crennel as the HC next season. Look, Crennel did a great job of having the Chiefs ready to play after a tumultuous week. That having been said, if Crennel coached the Chiefs against the Packers 10 times, Green Bay probably wins 8-9 of them. It just happened that the one that counted was one that the Chiefs pulled out. Don’t get me wrong, the Chiefs earned that win and Crennel had a lot to do with that. I just don’t think we should crown Crennel the full-time head coaching gig because of this one (albeit great) win.

That having been said, I do 100% believe that the Chiefs MUST make Crennel their next head coach. In fact, that was originally going to be my sole topic this week. I thought it might take a little selling coming off something like a 41-17 drumming. Now that we’re coming off a win, the challenge becomes selling this as a logical choice, not one based strictly off the “high” of knocking off the undefeated Super Bowl champs.

I do however, feel very strongly that Crennel belongs at the head of the list of candidates for the job next season. Others will try to sell the likes of Bill Cowher, Jeff Fisher and maybe even Kirk Ferentz. I’m here to tell you that Crennel should get the job over all of them.

What’s the one thing we can feel positive about this season? What is the one area of this football team that has, at times, looked like they are developing into one of the better units in the NFL? The answer is the defense. Yes, they have given up some points this year. However, when your offense can’t pick up a single first down at times its hard to keep NFL-caliber offenses at bay for an entire game. We have at times however, seen glimpses of a defense that looks like it may be the best since the days of Marty and Derrick Thomas. I think Crennel deserves the bulk of the credit for this.

Originally that is why I didn’t want Crennel considered for the HC job. I wanted him to keep his focus 100% on the defense. However, now that Crennel has both been named the interim head coach and clearly stated that he wants to a head coach again, I don’t think the Chiefs can turn back. Bill Cowher isn’t coming to KC. He would want an amount of control that Pioli just won’t give him. Any other candidate on that list, even Jeff Fisher, and I think there is a good chance that Crennel would walk away from KC. Frankly, with how this defense has improved and with the GB win hyping his reputation, if the Chiefs don’t hire him, another team may and keeping him as DC may not even be an option.

Now, do I think Crennel is a better head coach then Jeff Fisher? No, I don’t think Crennel has earned that. Fisher has a proven track record and Crennel doesn’t. However, if Fisher is the next coach, and Crennel leaves town what happens to our defense? Fisher is a 4-3 defense coach. Would Fisher want to change it? Would Pioli allow that? If Pioli forced a 3-4 defense on Fisher without a DC like Romeo there to run it, could it work? If Fisher switched us to a 4-3, could we make that work? I know a lot of people have suggested that because of Glenn Dorsey, but who’s more important to this team Dorsey or Tamba Hali and DJ? Yes, Hali and DJ have experience in a 4-3 but neither of them were the dominant All Pro type of players that they have become in Romeo’s 3-4 defense. Even the emerging rookie Justin Houston would be in question because he played in a 3-4 in college as well. Going with any other HC other than Crennel puts the one bright spot of this team right now in turmoil and creates much more of a “starting over” situation then if we keep RAC around.

Next up, Kyle Orton.

I don’t know if Orton should be the QB next season. I don’t know if Orton could lead the Chiefs to a Super Bowl win. His career numbers aren’t that “whoopee.” His 58.3 completion percentage and 6.6 YPA are very Cassel-esque (Cassel’s career stats are 59% and 6.6 YPA). Here’s what I do know: Orton, in his first start with KC, looked a million times more calm in the pocket. Cassel ALWAYS, even when he’s playing well, looks “jumpy” in the pocket. He squirms, bounces, dances and just looks anxious. Orton just stood back there as calm as can be. Now, his O-line deserves a lot of credit for that but I’ve seen Cassel have happy feet when there was no pressure on him whatsoever.

The “calmness” factor is not even what got me most excited. A lot of people have already mentioned the fact that Orton completed passes to 10 different receivers. What hasn’t been mentioned as much is why that is. There are two reasons. First, because Orton didn’t lock on to one specific WR. Cassel would often never look past Dwayne Bowe and would at times force a ball into double coverage while another WR ran open. I can’t think of a single time Orton stayed locked on and stared down a WR. Which brings me to reason number two, Orton went through his progressions all day long. Orton would stand there, calm as can be, and survey the entire field until he spotted an open man. Orton looked as good today as Cassel ever has.

Does this mean that Orton will play like this every week? No. He could go out next week against Oakland and throw four picks. However, if over the next two weeks Orton continues to look more comfortable running this offense than Cassel did, then that should spell the end of Matt Cassel in KC. Period.

Now, if Orton does continue to look good, does that mean that KC should pass on a first-round QB in the draft? To me that is the harder question. Right now, I would still be in favor of a first-round QB, but I’ll at least give Orton these final two games to change my mind. After all, a Kyle Orton like the one we saw today with a first-round RT to replace Richardson and a healthy Jamaal Charles would make for a pretty good offense to go with our emerging defense. To me, this is a greater debate to have than the Crennel for HC argument.

Finally, I’d like to address this team without Todd Haley. I think there were some very interesting things we can take away from this game. First, the team didn’t quit without Haley. A lot of Haley’s mistakes had been excused because the team “was still playing hard for him.” My number one fear when Haley was fired was that it would be the last straw that would cause these players to give up after a disappointing season. That didn’t happen. So either the “no quit” attitude always came from the players or Crennel, despite his more laid back attitude, is just as gifted at getting the most out of his players. Either one is a good sign for the Chiefs going forward.

Second, the offensive play calling was as good as it’s been all season. My take on this is that Todd Haley was getting in his own way. The Chiefs didn’t reinvent the wheel out there on offense yesterday. They just ran the same basic NFL offensive plays that all the other teams do. They just did a good job of mixing them up and executing them. It appears that in Haley’s attempt to out-think his opponent, he was really just out-thinking himself. Of course, having an actual NFL caliber QB that can read a defense, work through progressions, and has the arm to deliver the ball helps, too.

Finally, and this goes back to Crennel being the right man for the HC job, the defense didn’t suffer with Crennel taking on extra duties. There will never be another week where Romeo Crennel has more to deal with than he did this week as a head coach. The fact that he was able to deal with all of that and still run a defense that can stop one of the biggest offensive juggernauts the NFL has ever seen shows me all I need to know about whether or not this team can function without Haley for the rest of this season and moving forward.

It was a great day to be a Chiefs fan yesterday. It also gave us a lot to think about going forward. I’d love to hear what everyone else thinks.

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

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Tags: Kansas City Chiefs Kyle Orton Romeo Crennel Todd Haley

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