If anything, Todd Haley has always been known as a receivers coach. He primed the tandem of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin in Arizona. Upon his arrival in Kansas City, great things were predicted for Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe. And now, he's finally got his prized pupil with the Chiefs first round draft choice of Pittsburgh wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin.
It took a while to get to this point. After all, there were more important matters than getting Haley the receiver he'd love to work with. Bowe, a former No. 1 draft choice himself, was already in-house and had proven his potential with an incredible first two seasons in the NFL. The Chiefs were moving to a 3-4 defense and roster holes were everywhere on a team that had won two games the previous season. Suffice to say, draft picks and assets were used to acquire players at positions considered more important: a quarterback in Matt Cassel, impact players (i.e. Eric Berry) in the secondary and free agent leaders like Thomas Jones.
The recent turnaround of the Chiefs reveals a roster that's in much better shape -- one with fewer holes to worry about. Recent interviews with general manager Scott Pioli have the Chiefs dreaming of taking a developmental quarterback every year -- the kind of luxury that comes when your team is becoming settled in their make-up and identity. Thus, one of the few holes left was also the very position that fans wondered what Todd Haley could do something with all along. Enter Jonathan Baldwin.
At first, Haley seemed to undermine his own reputation, as Dwayne Bowe's historic first two seasons in the league took a nosedive to an injury plagued season known also for dropped passes and dashed expectations. Whether it was the loss of teammate Tony Gonzalez, the arrival of a new system, the hard-nosed coaching of Haley or all of the above, Chiefs fans wondered if Bowe would become the next elite receiver in the NFL or whether Haley's renown was misplaced.
Last season told a different story. While doubts about Bowe's elite status remain (despite leading the NFL in touchdown receptions), the offense has made a turnaround and established itself with the rise of Pro Bowler Jamaal Charles. Yet even with the 10 win season, a divisional championship and a powerful offense, Haley still hasn't had his receiver to work with -- one that he could select and curate entirely on his own.
Haley now has that in Jonathan Baldwin, and the scenario couldn't be any more perfect. Haley is a disciplinarian who expects the best out of his players all in a day's work. Baldwin is known for his lack of discipline -- or at least those are the character slams he's endured throughout this off-season under the microscope as a possible NFL Draftee. Baldwin doesn't have to put up monster numbers in an offense that already has the names and faces to take that responsibility. Yet the offense is needy enough to put Baldwin in high leverage situations to make an impact.
Simply put, the selection of Baldwin is a perfect alignment for both Todd Haley and Jonathan Baldwin. It remains to be seen whether Haley will make good on his reputation, or whether Baldwin is ready for the focus and discipline required in his position. If both can come together and complement the other, the sky is the limit on what the Chiefs offense could become.