If someone had mentioned a year ago what was about to ensue for the Kansas City Chiefs within the next 12 months, he or she would have been laughed at. After all, Scott Pioli and Clark Hunt have been hell bent on creating New England West, which mean utmost secrecy and absolute professionalism. Funny how much things change in the course of several months.
Todd Haley has been fired after nasty rumors surfaced. An age discrimination lawsuit has been filed. Mainstream articles have been written about the "toxic" environment at Arrowhead that includes allegations of spying and phone tampering. Tens of millions of dollars were never spent in a season where the AFC West was up for grabs like a brass ring with hand grips and yet the Chiefs lost it anyway. Tyler Palko even started four games. Tyler Palko.
It was that kind of a season for the Chiefs. Which makes you wonder just how well the rest of the league looks at them. Apparently it's not good. And apparently no one who works at Arrowhead is willing to take the blame.
Bob Gretz believes that Haley is the easy target now that he's away from Arrowhead -- an unfair straw man that makes it easy for everyone at Arrowhead Drive to avoid the blame:
As has happened frequently with the powers in charge with the Chiefs, anything that happens even after a person leaves the building is blamed on the absent. The Kansas City Star story on the toxic environment around the team has been blamed on Haley around the bigwigs at team headquarters. Now, there’s talk that the team is not going to pay him the last year of his contract, because they fired him "with cause." Cause was never a word that Hunt or Pioli used when they announced Haley’s firing on December 12.
Eventually, the Chiefs will pay Haley the money they owe him, even if he has to go to league arbitration and the court house to get the check. It will just be a continuation of the hapless behavior of a franchise that has become an NFL laughingstock. At the Senior Bowl last week there were 800 NFL team employees in Mobile. I didn’t talk to 800 or 400 or even 200. But over five days, I bet I spoke to 100 head coaches, assistant coaches, GMs, front office employees and scouts. Almost to a man, they wanted to know about the Star story. It seems that everyone in the league has read the toxic tale and not a single one of them made a comment to indicate they thought Haley was out of his mind for thinking his office was bugged and his phone tapped. Most of them were not surprised.
At this point you have to wonder what that reputation will cost the Chiefs. After all, what coaches want to be involved with such an operation? What players want to sign when 30 others are out there as well? Only those with no other place to go will accept an invitation to Kansas City, right?
It's likely the answer is somewhere in between. It's likely that there are some players and coaches within the NFL who will avoid Kansas City for this drama and find a nicer place to call home. It's also likely that it's overblown and that the legacy that earned Scott Pioli three Exec of the Year awards has been blown over too quickly. Somewhere in between is the truth, but no one is likely to own anything other than their own side of the story.