The NFL had its second head-coach firing of the 2011 season, as the Chiefssent Todd Haley packing Monday. Haley leaves after less than three seasons in Kansas City, where his relationship with GM Scott Pioli never seemed to be on strong footing. What is your reaction to the firing and do you see the Chiefs turning to a head coach with ties to Pioli, like Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz or Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels?
It was a long time coming and no shocker. The relationship between Haley and Pioli was not going to continue long term and there are ample appealing candidates out there for the Chiefs to choose.
Pioli has hired almost exclusively from his Patriots family tree, and McDaniels has a very strong shot to get this job. McDaniels, now the Rams offensive coordinator, worked with Chiefs QB Matt Cassel when both were in New England. McDaniels knows the division, having coached the Broncos, and he's worked with defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel in the past and would be comfortable keeping him.
The staff transition could be more seamless with McDaniels coming in. Ferentz also has long ties to Pioli -- they worked together with the Browns in the mid-90s -- but luring him away from Iowa will be tricky. Not sure that's going to be feasible.
I'm not surprised that Scott Pioli dismissed Todd Haley after a moderately successful tenure in Kansas City. Their relationship has been considered rocky for the past year or so, and the team's disappointing play in 2011 gave Pioli the justification to make the move.
In looking at how the Chiefs will go forward, it is very likely Pioli will turn to one of his closest connections to lead the team. Kirk Ferentz and Josh McDaniels are certainly options, but Romeo Crennel, who has been appointed interim coach, could wind up being their long-term solution. Crennel has done an exceptional job with the Chiefs' defense and had marginal success as a head coach in Cleveland. If Pioli feels like Crennel's shortcomings with the Browns were due to the lack of proper personnel, he might elect to make the highly respected coordinator the permanent solution in Kansas City.
Can't say that the news of Todd Haley's dismissal is surprising. In a lot of ways, it was a matter of when, not if. Now speculation turns to who's next. The name that intrigues me the most is Kirk Ferentz, head coach at Iowa. In the past he has resisted the siren song of the NFL, but to me, if he's ever going to make the move, this would be the time and place for it.
This move clearly isn't about initiating a spark or any of the other clichés that give the fan base hope for a strong finish. This was a move that dealt with the team's on-field demise from last season's AFC West championship team, which can't all be put on Haley because of key injuries and suspect personnel at some spots, courtesy of Pioli.
The firing was more of a personality contrast between Pioli and Haley. It's never been warm and fuzzy between the two, but things clearly got to the point where it was insufferable and having a negative impact on the team. Haley is a smart, creative coach but also one who's had a history of personality brush fires with players, including Terrell Owens (in Dallas) and Anquan Boldin (in Arizona). He's believed to have rubbed some players wrong in Kansas City, too. I don't care about that, though. Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick and Bill Cowher weren't friends with their players. Haley losing his cool and drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in Sunday's blowout loss to the Jets couldn't have reflected well to ownership either -- in fact, it could have expedited the firing.
The key is where to go from here. Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel will take over on the interim and from what I know about the workings of that team, he'll get a shot to be the full-time coach (most likely as a fallback) but more likely will return as defensive coordinator. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz will be pursued, but he has continually rebuffed the NFL. The favorite likely will be St. Louis offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who won't be popular with K.C. fans because of his failures with division-rival Denver and the inability to get things going on offense with the cross-state Rams. McDaniels is familiar with Matt Cassel, who flourished under McDaniels' tutelage in New England. However, neither has been able to recapture that magic since they went their separate ways.
I worked with Scott Pioli and Todd Haley, and I always thought they would make a good team. Three years is about average for a head coach to show what he can do before management makes a change. It is unfortunate it came to an end. A year ago, the Texans were rumored to be at the end of the line with Gary Kubiak and look what happened.
Pioli knows a lot of good coaches, both in the NFL and college, and the popular opinion is he will go after Ferentz or McDaniels. Maybe he will, but I do think someone with more NFL head coaching experience will surface.
Worth noting: I can say with a certain degree of confidence it will not be Bill Cowher, even though he was in Kansas City as the defensive coordinator from 1989-91.