Todd Haley was fired today by the Chiefs, but according to Kent Babb of the Kansas City Star, Haley nearly resigned last week so that he could “leave on his own terms and retain his ability to tell his side of story,” regarding the dysfunction between himself and GM Scott Pioli. This relationship was doomed from the start of this season, as the GM was already looking to scapegoat the coach before the losses were even mounting. Michael Lombardi said early on that the tension was over Pioli wanting to bring in Josh McDaniels in as the offensive coordinator, a move that Haley opposed.
Well, yeah. That’s poor people management by Pioli. I’m sorry, but you don’t ask your spouse if the old flame, that you may have possibly preferred a few years earlier, can join the circle of friends when they move back into town. Especially if the ex got into a hair pulling incident at the mall with the current fling that made it’s way to YouTube. That’s not how relationships work, and strikes me as a passive-aggressive statement that Haley, being the confrontational type, probably interpreted the way it was intended. Pioli could hire and fire as he wishes, but that he thought that was the way to handle things speaks of a) lack of creativity and b) lack of judgment. There are plenty of coordinators at least as accomplished as McDaniels; he had to be on the short “no contact” list.
Now come the rumors. First up, according to Pete Roussel of coachingsearch.com, Pioli has told people that Kirk Ferentz of Iowa is the leading candidate. This is consistent with what we ran back in September, based on a Kent Babb comment. Ferentz and Pioli have a history together with Belichick, and recently the Chiefs have drafted Ferentz’ quarterback, Ricky Stanzi, along with a team captain the previous year in tight end Tony Moeaki. Ferentz is one of Pioli’s guys, much like Michael Lombardi. I have no doubt that Ferentz is the leading candidate, and it will simply come down to whether Ferentz wants to leave the college game, even though he has not distinguished himself as much in recent years.
Then there is Josh McDaniels. Of course, he is the next name mentioned. I don’t even know what I will do if that happens. The Chiefs have the 31st scoring offense in the league, with injuries to Jamaal Charles, Tony Moeaki, and Matt Cassel playing a role. The one team that is worse? The St. Louis Rams, with an offense coordinated by Josh McDaniels. If Pioli went to McDaniels, it would be a dangerous combination, and not one I would want to see.
I am concerned about Pioli’s “nepotism” of children from the Patriots tree. I think organizations need to challenge themselves with new ideas. The Steelers hiring of Mike Tomlin was a great example of getting someone who fit the organization, but was not tied to it before and not beholden to any stale ideas. So far, Pioli’s tenure strikes me as one that wants to recreate the “Patriot way” but attributes that success to surface similarities, rather than thinking creatively. He came in and acquired Matt Cassel. Not an unreasonable move in a vacuum, but the Chiefs were sitting with the 3rd pick in the draft. They paid Cassel handsomely because he was under the franchise tag. The commitment to Cassel, though, is more troublesome. He is a placeholder, perhaps the 25th to 30th best QB in the league. He is not a guy to go out and overpay, and Pioli, of all people, should have understood his value.
Instead, they used that early pick on a SEC defensive end, Tyson Jackson. You might recall that the Patriots drafted another one named Richard Seymour early in the tenure in New England. The Jackson pick was a forced one. The value of defensive ends in the 3-4 had changed, and Seymour was a value. The Jackson pick was a reach, that bore only surface resemblance.
The depth on the roster is lacking–this season has shown that. Tony Gonzalez, who wanted to get out, is still going strong in a different uniform. Brian Waters couldn’t cut it under the faux-Patriots way, and is now going strong with the real one. Early draft picks last year that should be used on core positions for a team that needs upgrade at starting positions went to niche roles (Arenas and McCluster as return men, slot receiver, and nickel back) and when you go “niche” early, they better be home runs.
What the Chiefs need is a strong coach, not a weak one, or one that is so beholden to Pioli that he plays yes man. Bill Cowher got his start in Kansas City, but there is no chance he comes here now. Pioli won’t go that route. Jon Gruden is angling for a job somewhere else, and would only be interested in a place like Kansas City of someone like Peyton Manning was part of a package deal. If Pioli had issues with Haley, he’s not going after a Gruden, who has more success to lean on. An assistant on another team that hasn’t had the past experience likely has no chance.
Pioli gets this firing. The boss of the boss always gets one, before his boss steps in. Pioli has some crucial decisions to make, primarily at the quarterback and coaching positions. He may have the opportunity to make a splash with one or both. My fear is the ultimate decision will lack creativity and instead fall to the familiar, a two dimensional model of the Patriot Way that lacks the depth of the original.
Previously: Todd Haley is In Trouble Because Scott Pioli’s Mouthpiece, Michael Lombardi, Is Attacking Him
Previously: Kansas City Chiefs Coach Todd Haley Fired
Previously: Todd Haley Replacement Chatter in Kansas City: Kirk Ferentz
[photo via Getty]
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