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The news delivered Monday morning came as little surprise.
Yes, the timing was a bit strange with three weeks remaining in the regular season, but to hear the Chiefs relieved Todd Haley of his head-coaching duties didn't really catch anybody off guard. Haley was doomed when his two best players (SS Eric Berry and RB Jamaal Charles) were lost for the season in the team's two opening games, and despite a nice midseason winning streak, the coach couldn't do enough to save his own job.
Apparently the last straw was a 37-10 loss to the Jets in Week 14, a game in which the Chiefs appeared unprepared on both sides of the ball. Offensively the team has been in serious trouble since Tyler Palko replaced the injured Matt Cassel in Week 10. Defensively, the team had been playing well in recent weeks, but that was nowhere to be found in New York, as spotty tackling and lazy play resulted in the team's fifth loss of 25 by more points this season.
"They were more prepared," Haley said about the Jets following the defeat, in a statement that was short in length but loomed large in terms of his coaching future.
The PFW spin
Several factors have contributed to the Chiefs' disappointing season. Injuries to top talent cannot be ignored, nor can a schedule that had the team facing five consecutive 2010 playoff teams in November and December. The development of young players also has been an issue, with a pair of top-five draft choices (DEs Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey) not living up to expectations on the defensive line. And then there is the reported $28 million in available salary-cap space the Chiefs have remaining, among the highest in the league, an indication the club's front office did not give Haley as many resources as possible to be successful this season.
The head coach himself deserves a share of the blame, too. Haley, a former offensive coordinator, never developed Cassel into an elite quarterback in three seasons. When the team lost Charles early in the season, the running game lost its punch, thanks in large part to serious issues on the offensive line. And as Haley mentioned following the loss to the Jets, the Chiefs were often unprepared this season under Haley's watch. The team was lifeless throughout the preseason and the first 10 quarters of the regular season before they finally showed up to play, and extended periods of uninspired football were common throughout the campaign.
Moving forward, it will be up to CEO Clark Hunt and GM Scott Pioli to determine who is the best person to lead the Chiefs. Former Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels has been rumored, as he has a long history with both Pioli and Cassel dating back to when all three were in New England. Despite a dismal season as offensive coordinator with the Rams, McDaniels' history with the front office and quarterback, along with increased credibility thanks to Tim Tebow's magnificent season with the Broncos, likely makes him the front-runner for the job.
University of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz also is a possibility, as his relationship with Pioli extends from when both worked for the Browns in the mid-1990s. Jeff Fisher, who left the Titans last season, is also expected to be considered if he decides he is ready to coach again.
Pioli was the one who hired Haley back in 2009. The two didn't get along very well, according to reports, and in the end, they realized Arrowhead Stadium wasn't big enough to fit both of their egos. The limited depth and excessive salary-cap space also falls under the GM's responsibility. Now the pressure is on Pioli again, as GMs rarely are in charge long enough to hire three head coaches. If Haley's replacement fails as quickly as Haley did, it is likely Pioli will be looking for a job.
With the 2011 season all but over and the future uncertain, Chiefs fans can only hope that the GM is better-prepared to find a replacement than Haley was to coach a football team.