I was never on the bandwagon for firing Todd Haley last year.
Of course, this all sounds like “I told ya so” talk now, but I enjoyed going back and reading my articles defending Haley and expressing skepticism about Crennel for an entirely different reason: It was a simpler time.
Looking at the old AA pieces I wrote, I realized it was like re-reading diary entries from childhood in the days of innocence before some traumatic event. Back then, we had excuses for our poor play and it seemed like good football was on the horizon. Our coach and quarterback had been disappointing but were still winning some games. The team had an architect that we could still give the benefit of the doubt.
Now that innocence is gone and we recognize our parents are not paragons of virtue and strength but flawed mortals. The world is full of people who lie and mean people don’t always get punished. This team is off the rails. The last four years have been basically wasted. We have no coach, no QB, no GM and an owner who seems to be conducting a social experiment to determine how long before fans burn Arrowhead to the ground in rage at his inaction.
Back then, we could still say that we had a QB on the roster good enough to get us through games, that we were full of young talent and we were growing a dynasty. Just add water. Today, nothing looks good and people in Chiefs country are dying of anguish and frustration.
It really cannot be overstated. At 1-9, the Chiefs have matched their worst opening to a season in the history of the franchise. I will be honestly stunned if we win another game this year. By every major metric other than rushing production the Chiefs are a disgrace. At this point, both Haley and even Herm Edwards look attractive.
But, it’s really not just because of how bad we are right now. I’ve always thought Haley got a raw deal.
In 2009, Haley was one of 11 head coaches hired. Like Todd, most were successful coordinators somewhere else. Of those 11, only two still have their jobs — Jim Schwartz in Detroit and Rex Ryan in New York, and they’re both 4-6 right now, by the way. By the time Haley was fired only four of those other coaches from the class of 2009 had a better win-loss record – Ryan, Jim Caldwell, Mike Singletary and Jim Mora Jr..
So, while that was an admittedly uninspiring crop, Haley was among the most successful coaches hired that year. Also, statistically speaking, it was nearly certain that the Chiefs would have a bad season.
Thirty NFL teams between 2002 and 2009 increased their season-to-season records by five or more games like the Chiefs did between 2009 and 2010. Of them, 24 (80 percent) had worse seasons following their surge – with 13 (43 percent) of them losing at least four more games after their surprising season. There are lots of reasons for this of course, the main one: changes in the strength of schedule. Also, the NFL is just a hard place to maintain success. Let down years are inevitable.
But even Haley somehow won five of 13 games without the ACL crew. He even got a win with Tyler Palko at quarterback while the team this year has only even had a lead in two games so far.
It’s also not as if Haley had a whole lot to work with. In addition to the fact that Pioli was diametrically opposed to putting a quarterback on the field not named Matt Cassel, KC’s defenses were nearly always inconsistent, showing up big in some games and melting away in others. He also had to deal with a sociopathic boss who collects candy wrappers, wiretaps his employees and in the end essentially fired him because he didn’t shave or wear a new hat. (Seriously, I’m quite certain that when Pioli gets off work he goes to sit and stare quizzically at an array of severed heads in jars).
But mostly, I just realized that I honestly liked our team that year. I’m finding it very hard to say the same in 2012. In 2011, we were a team ravaged by injuries playing above our level of talent and clawing for every win. Now, we’re just a bundle of undisciplined players making dumb mistakes and barely giving opponents any resistance as they march up and down the field.
Haley was known for being overly brash on the sidelines, which is something I would love to see these days. Someone needs to yell at these guys. When I heard the criticism about him being verbally aggressive, I always thought it was way overblown. These players are grown men and this is an emotional game – or at least it is unless your name is Romeo. If so, then game day is a time when the bad people make you stand outside for three hours and all you have to read is a laminated sheet of paper while you stare blankly at the field while repeating soup recipes in your head. Or at least that’s what I think he’s doing. Your guess is as good as mine. All I can tell you is that it is not inspiring.
So here we are. Refreshing football news websites over and over hoping to see that someone has been fired. This is what it has come to. We have come of age and discovered that the adults running things are even more screwed up than us little people down below and there’s nothing to do about it.
But, family is family. So, next Sunday and the Sunday after that, I will tune in to watch the Chiefs play. I will cringe and guffaw, and write another piece, although I’m running out of things to say.
Maybe next week this column will be about soup.