The Chiefs franchise, mired in below-average play for the majority of the last decade, made a decision Monday morning that will probably keep them there for the foreseeable future: firing coach Todd Haley.
This morning's news of Haley's firing came as no real surprise to Chiefs fans. The writing has been on the wall for the whole year, with reports trickling out almost weekly about the internal friction between Haley and Pioli. The biggest visible source of the friction had been Haley's constant bickering with quarterback Matt Cassel. In nearly every game, the hot-headed Haley and short-tempered Cassel got into heated debates over Cassel's play.
Pioli is a known Cassel-defender, so this issue probably produced the most strife between the two, leading to Haley's firing.
When you look at that statement, it's hard to defend Pioli's decision to fire Haley. During today's press conference, Pioli mentioned lack of consistency as a main reason for the firing, but looking deeper into that claim, it's hard to back up.
Looking at Haley's 19-26 record, it would be easy (and lazy) to say that Haley was a below average coach because of the performance of the team. Think again. Haley was given a team that finished 2-14 the year before he got there and turned them into a playoff team in only his second year in Kansas City. Even with a tougher schedule looming in 2011, things were looking up for the Chiefs because of a number of exciting young players and a strengthened defense.
Then came the injuries. Chiefs fans have heard all about them. Tony Moeaki. Eric Berry. Jamaal Charles. Matt Cassel. When looking at all that Kansas City has had to deal with this year, it's a minor miracle that they have found five wins through 13 games thus far. Yes, the team has gotten blown out by 27 or more points five times this season, but the team has stayed unified throughout the tough times.
The players love playing together and many of the core members of the team, including Brandon Flowers, Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson and Jamaal Charles, have signed long-term extensions to stay in Kansas City throughout the prime years of their careers. Most of the credit for that has to go to the leader, Haley.
If Pioli is really blaming Haley for the Chiefs "inconsistency" this season, he is insane. With star players dropping like flies this season, the Chiefs had to turn to backups and hope for the best. The effort has been there, but the talent that has been on the field has been laughable at best during most points of the season.
That's where Scott Pioli comes in. Roster construction is Pioli's job and quite frankly, he did not do a good job when looking past the starters.
It's not as if Pioli didn't have the resources to get better backups into Kansas City. The Chiefs currently sit about $25 million below the cap and did nothing (except get Kyle Orton when the season was already lost) to improve the team when the opportunity presented itself. Aaron Curry, a top-5 pick in the 2009 draft, was available to every team and the Chiefs passed on signing him. The same thing happened with Aaron Maybin, who was picked 11th in the same 2009 draft.
I mean, a team with Tyler Palko as their backup quarterback is just asking to be demolished when an injury to their starter comes up like it did with Matt Cassel. Also, who goes into the season with an over-the-hill Thomas Jones as their backup to a frail-looking running back?
Pioli's job is to give his coach talented players to work with, including those that aren't the 22 starters on both sides of the ball.
Look at a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers and you'll see that they build a team the right way. Yes, they have star players like LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison at linebacker and Mike Wallace at wide receiver, but they also don't ignore those positions in the draft and free agency because of their talented starters.
It seems as if Pioli was looking for any kind of excuse to get rid of Haley this season. I guess a blowout loss on the road against the Jets with Tyler Palko starting at quarterback handing the ball to Jackie Battle was the final straw for the Chiefs GM. Good luck finding a coach that can make a situation like that one into a positive one.