Haley The Wise? Or Just Haley The Hairy?


“This, then, is the mark of the man, the beard. By this, he is seen to be a man. It is older than Eve. It is the token of the superior nature… It is therefore unholy to desecrate the symbol of manhood, hairiness.”

— St. Clement of Alexandria, circa 180

After the Kansas City Chiefs came back from 17 down to notch their first-ever win in Indianapolis two weeks ago, Head Coach Todd Haley declared to the world (or, at least, to a glaringly lit room full of sports reporters) that he would ne’er desecrate his symbol of manhood so long as his team continued to reap victories on the football field. “As long as we’re winnin’, I’m not shavin’,” he said of his decision, supposedly made during the game in San Diego.

I’ll be honest—I didn’t really believe Haley at the time; it seemed like this could be another one of his, you know, jokes.* But when he emerged before Sunday’s game against the Raiders, it was clear: the man ain’t shavin’. Nor, it would appear, is he bathing, at least not effectively, or changing or washing his nasty off-red cap and hooded velvet man-blouse, which over the last few weeks has turned from a dark gray to a splotchy black.

*Like the one time two times he put Jamaal Charles behind Thomas Jones on the depth chart. That was hilarious!

But the accoutrements of genius will always look like signs of madness to the unqualified eye, just as credit and blame are often a function of who’s doing the assigning. In the last several days, some of Haley’s decisions over the past couple of years—such as who to bench, and when—have inspired a few rounds of the passionate, highly confrontational, and only vaguely mean-spirited debate that the devotees of this site can take pride in. But aside from the effect of Haley’s direct interventions in the playing time of LJ, DJ, and JC, for example, let’s look at the coach’s repertoire of general-purpose motivational devices:

  • Dividing the season into “manageable” quarters
  • Liberal use of obscenities
  • Yelling at players
  • Starting sideline fights with quarterback, receivers, and/or others as needed
  • Turning routine post-game handshakes into newsworthy morsels for the media
  • Introducing bean-bag games—the kind normally played by senior citizens or drunken tailgaters*—into the locker room

And now…

  • Not shaving, bathing, or doing laundry

*Or drunken senior citizens, who may or may not be tailgating

Looking only at the results of the last three games, it seems to be working. Sure, it is convenient that this streak started against two winless teams and continued against a Raiders team clearly missing their starting quarterback.* But is there any doubt this team is looking light years ahead of Weeks One and Two? In San Diego, the defense managed the first half and the offense almost came back in the second. Against the Vikings, the team got just enough of a lead and then held it. In Indy, a confidence-building comeback. And now, in Oakland, a complete effort in which a not-so-hot offense was buoyed by an incredible defensive performance: six picks with two pick-sixes (try to say that six times fast).

*It’s not every day you lose a player like Jason Campbell, the second-best quarterback with the nickname “Cam” to come out of Auburn in the last seven years. Also, having Darren McFadden, the league’s then-leading rusher, sidelined for all but a few plays probably didn’t help.

And whatever tensions might have been boiling up between Haley and General Manager Scott Pioli, there’s no denying that (at least some of) the players seem to like the coach and his shenanigans. This, from yesterday’s Kansas City Star:

"“It’s like you’re out there with another player,” fullback Le’Ron McClain said.“We love him, man,” cornerback Brandon Flowers said. “That’s like our brother.”“Todd is one of the guys,” receiver Dwayne Bowe said.Bowe, who might be just as unusual as his head coach, said he saw symbolism in what Haley has been doing; he hears the message.“There’s a method to his madness,” Bowe said. “If you see him rough and nasty like that, that’s how the game is going to be.”"

The same story got picked up by NFL.com, which concluded, “At least Haley’s not going the route of, ‘I refuse to change my underwear’ or something similarly rancid.” First of all, there’s no evidence that Haley has changed his underwear (and from the look of him, why would you assume he has?). And even if there were…just give him time. After all, what happens if the Chiefs do lose a game? (I hate to be a naysayer, but it could happen.) Once he shaves, he’s going to need a new gimmick.

So it seems like Haley’s motivational tactics work when they work. It’s risky—his ukempt, out-of-control a-hole bit from his first season in K.C. seems to be replaying itself with different results. But one embarrassment on Monday night, and the fiery wizard will lose his beard, and the benefit of the doubt.

Madman or mad genius? We’ll find out more on Halloween.