Todd Haley: A Statistical Argument For Keeping KC’s Head Coach


Arrowhead Addict writers seem to have had a fickle relationship with our two-year head coach, and I think expectations play a big role in that. But first I want to adopt a rule to all discussions about potential coaching changes: it is not enough to simply say that someone should be fired. You have to say whom you will replace Haley with.

In that case, let’s look at the potential candidates:

Bill Cowher, Super Bowl-winning, ex-Steelers coach – Would be great, but he’s spent years surveying the field of teams he would potentially be interested in taking over, and he could have nearly every job in the NFL if he wanted to. First of all, he would almost certainly never choose the Chiefs — all reports indicate he wants to go to a strong team with audacious, non-meddlesome management, preferably in a warm climate. Also, if he wanted to be coaching at all, he probably would be.

Jon Gruden, Super Bowl-winning, ex-Bucs coach – Ditto. He re-signed with ESPN in 2011 for five more years of sports casting. He’s also one of the most coveted coaches and, again, I doubt he would settle for a small-market team with a stingy owner.

More after the jump:

Don Capers, current Packers D coordinator – He’s a hot name and a great coordinator, but like Dick LeBeau in Pittsburgh, I sense that he’s comfortable with his job running the D in a very successful franchise. Plus, in his eight years as a head coach (Carolina 1995-1998 and Houston 2002-2005), he only had one winning season, with a combined record of 48-80 (.375). By contrast, Todd Haley is thus far 19-25 (.432).

Wade Phillips, ex-Cowboys coach – Really? And also I think he is happy reviving his reputation as a brilliant D-coordinator in Houston.

Mike Martz, SuperBowl-winning, ex-Rams coach, current Bears O coordinator – Reports say that he wants to coach college and he would be an awful fit for the Chiefs offense. His scheme requires very complicated timing and positioning, while Chiefs receivers have great physical skills, but aren’t the best route runners. His scheme tends to use smaller, smarter targets and a QB who can process information fast and make quick decisions – both are weak points for Cassel. He also hates running the ball, therefore he would hate Kansas City’s roster.

Greg Williams, current Saints D coordinator – He might be able to take this defense into overdrive, but that’s not what this team needs. I’m not convinced he is a much better defensive mind than Romeo Crennel (who we’ll get to soon) and Williams was fired from Buffalo after going 17-31 (.354) with pitifully conservative offensive play-calling. He would also require the KC defense to switch to a 4-3, and I don’t see the point in messing with the good thing we have going here.

Josh McDaniels, current Rams O coordinator – No. Just, no. He was a disaster as a head coach for the Broncos and he was hired in St. Louis thinking he would be able to pump up their offense. They have been horrendous. They are last in scoring and 31st in total offense.

Romeo Crennel, current Chiefs D coordinator – The argument against Crennel is essentially the same as the one against Williams. I don’t think giving him more duties will improve the offensive play one bit, and in fact it might actually make the defense worse, as he will have less time to focus on defensive game-planning and play-calling. He also had a lack-luster stint at head coach with Cleveland going 24-40 (.375)

Mike Zimmer, current Bengals D coordinator – His name comes up a lot and after watching Hard Knocks, I found that I like him personally, but, like Greg Williams, I’m not convinced he is any better than Romeo Crennel, and it doesn’t appear that he wants to leave Cincinnati (for some reason).

Jeff Fisher, ex-Titans head coach – He’s the only realistic candidate on this list with a winning record – 142-120 (.542) but he has struggled in the past in dealing with big personalities. Both Dwayne Bowe and Derrick Johnson appear to have needed to be whipped into shape by Haley, and now they’re playing out of their minds. Meanwhile, Fisher’s broken relationship with Vince Young is what ultimately sank the Titans and his career. Still, he’s probably the only one on this list I would seriously consider.

I think it is also necessary to look at the alternatives that were available when Haley was hired and how they faired. 2009 was a crazy year for coaching changes, and here is how the Haley hire compared to the other fits:

San Francisco – Mike Singletary (replaced Mike Nolan). It is now clear with the success the Jim Harbaugh has had in San Fran that Singletary was simply a bad coach. It was a team loaded with talent that went 18-22 (.450) under Singletary and now with no training camp and a new coach it is 10-2.

St. Louis – Steve Spagnuolo (replaced Scott Linehan) has gone 10-33 (.232) with the Rams since taking over. This year they are in the bottom five of nearly every statistical category. Many analysts have them at the bottom of their power rankings – below winless Indianapolis.

New York Jets – Rex Ryan (replaced Eric Mangini). Ryan has by far been the most successful of this coaching class at 27-17 (.614) and 4-2 in the playoffs. However, he also came in with arguably the strongest squad. Mangini went 9-7 before being fired, and New York was the ideal landing spot for Ryan – big market, lots of glory and a good defense to play with. In other words, KC didn’t stand a chance at getting him.

Oakland – Tom Cable (replaced Lane Kiffin). Cable was actually reasonably successful for the Raiders at 17-27 (.386) but was still canned in favor of Hue Jackson, for whom he apparently was keeping the coach’s chair warm all along in Al Davis’ mad scheme. Still, Jackson, I think has proven to be a much better coach in his first year on the job, taking Oakland to the top of the division for the first time in a looong time.

Tampa Bay – Raheem Morris (replaced Jon Gruden). Morris’ tenure as head coach has been almost an exact mirror of Todd Haley’s. While Haley went 4-12 in 2009, Morris went 3-13. Haley was 10-6 in 2010, so was Morris. In 2011, the Chiefs are currently 5-7, while the Bucs are 4-8 – and they haven’t been ravaged by injuries the way that KC has. Basically the phenomenon of the Bucs and Chiefs are the same as well. I wrote about his in the offseason. Both teams went into the 2010 season with a lot of young talent and extremely soft schedules because they had been so bad the year before. But, after attaining a fair amount of success their schedule automatically toughened up based on NFL parity rules, and both teams were predicted to hit a slump. They did.

Detroit – Jim Schwartz (replaced Rod Marinelli). Schwartz is clearly the second best coach to come out of the 2009 coaching crop. He’s gone 15-29 (.341) but is now knocking on the door of the playoffs for the first time in a very long time for the Lions. It appears he has crafted a squad to be a contender for a while.

Cleveland – Eric Mangini (replaced Romeo Crennel). Mangini washed out in Cleveland as he didn’t do enough to improve the nearly talentless team, and reportedly wasn’t well liked by anyone in the organization from management down to the janitors. He finished 10-22 (.312) for the Browns.

Denver – Josh McDaniels (replaced Mike Shanahan). We’ve already talked about this guy. Overrated disaster, but in case you’re curious he went 11-17 (.393).

Indianapolis – Jim Caldwell (replaced Tony Dungy). The 2011 season has shown that Caldwell simply cannot motivate his team to play like professionals, and essentially Peyton Manning was the coach of the Colts since Dungy left. They have yet to win a game this year while Manning-less and have been an embarrassment. Oh, and he’s 24-19 (.558) overall, 0-12 without Manning.

Seattle – Jim Mora (replaced Mike Holmgen). The very forgettable Jim Mora period in Seattle ended with after one season at 5-11 (.454)

In summary, of the 11 head coaches hired in 2009, only six still have their jobs now – and Caldwell and Spagnuolo probably won’t be back next year. Furthermore, only four of those coaches ended with a better W-L record than Haley, and that includes Singletary, Mora and Caldwell – all either fired or on the chopping block.

Therefore, based purely by comparison to these other teams, Haley has performed at an above average level. Does that mean he should keep his job? Not necessarily, but in my opinion the only reason you fire a coach who has been relatively successful is if you know you have someone better to replace him with, which, as my first list demonstrates, I don’t think we do.

Is it exciting to hold on to hobo Haley after this year? Of course not, but think of it this way. If we had a winning season this year (which is still possible, I might add), the Chiefs would be a statistical rarity.

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.

So were Haley and the Chiefs that bad this year? No. Statistically they only had a 20 percent chance of NOT having a let down season this year. Because, as I noted above when talking about Raheem, when your schedule radically changes in difficulty, it is very difficult to keep your head above water. Add key injuries to the mix and the probability of you repeating the division championship are quasi-null.

So, while it doesn’t feel like it right now, I think Haley is a pretty good coach who has dealt well with the situation he is in. Even if we decide at some point that he was a bad hire, he has already demonstrated that he was a better choice than the majority of the head coaches that found jobs in the NFL in 2009, so we shouldn’t get too down on ourselves.

Nikolozi, out.