KANSAS CITY -- Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli spoke quietly and carefully. He had just fired coach Todd Haley after a miserable 5-8 start, leaving the Chiefs' GM to explain the organization's failures.
Pioli pointed his finger right at himself.
"We have a locker room that has talent," Pioli said. "We also have a good makeup of character in that locker room, but it's abundantly clear that we're not in a spot we need to be with our record where it is and our team in a position it is. I need to do a better job."
Kansas City has lost five of its last six games to fall from a tie for first place in the AFC West. The team is now on the brink of another losing season. After winning the division title last year, devastating injuries and discouraging losses have quickly turned the environment surrounding the team toxic.
The Chiefs' 37-10 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday culminated in the decision to fire Haley, once a rising star in the NFL, and the appointment of defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel as interim coach for the final three games of the regular season. The Chiefs host the unbeaten Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
"I do believe in the players we have here," Pioli said. "We need to continue to improve this roster and improve the depth of this football team."
Depth may be the biggest reason the Chiefs have struggled.
Journeyman quarterback Tyler Palko, filling in for injured starter Matt Cassel, has led the offense to just two touchdowns in four games. Jackie Battle and Thomas Jones have been unable to fill in for Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles, who was lost for the season with a torn ACL. The tight end position has been virtually non-existent since Tony Moeaki sustained the same injury, and Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry's torn ACL has left an enormous void in the secondary.
After the NFL lockout wiped away much of the offseason and forced teams to scramble to sign free agents, it was thought that Pioli would be able to shine, based on the reputation he cultivated during his time in the front office of the New England Patriots. He's considered among the best in the game at finding players who may have slipped under the radar.
Instead, Pioli brought in just a handful of players and hardly took a bite out of the salary cap, leaving the Chiefs with more money available than nearly every other franchise in the league.
"I do have a lot of confidence in Scott and I do believe he's going to help us be successful over the long run," said Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt, who likewise has received plenty of fan criticism for the appearance that he'd rather make money than field a winning team.
Pioli's inability to land talent on the open market hasn't been his only shortfall. There have been 24 draft picks in his three seasons running the team, only a handful of which have given Kansas City meaningful downs this season. The Chiefs' best players -- Tamba Hali, Dwayne Bowe, Jamaal Charles, Brandon Flowers, Brandon Carr and Derrick Johnson -- were holdovers from the previous regime.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press