Todd Haley and the Chiefs: Learning Bad Habits

Russell FikeCorrespondent ISeptember 30, 2009

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 20:  Head coach Todd Haley of the Kansas City Chiefs watches during warm-ups prior to the start of the game against the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium on September 20, 2009 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

What makes for better front office management in the NFL? Does success stream to those who are impulsive, gutsy, and spontaneous, or formulaic, cautionary, and evaluative?

The answer resembles a successful NFL offense in that a balanced approach is typically best. Continuing from the offseason and into 2009, the Kansas City Chiefs have seen an overhaul of the team conducted with reactionary fervor and tempered patience. 

Quarterback Tyler Thigpen’s trade to Miami is a testament to the knowledge of Chief’s general manager Scott Pioli.  With the reel Thigpen made for himself in 11 starts for Kansas City last year in which he put up numbers comparable to current Chief’s starter Matt Cassel (albeit out of the spread offense), Thigpen became a marketable commodity. 

With no takers by preseason’s end Pioli boldly kept four active quarterbacks on the 53 man roster knowing there was interest in Thigpen and that injuries could open trade opportunities. 

Every NFL general manager has a seat at the 32 player poker table. Their teams and draft picks are the cards in their hands. Pioli refused to fold with four quarterbacks in his hand and was able to lobby for an additional 2010 draft pick.

Add this pick to the second rounder acquired from the Atlanta Falcons for tight end Tony Gonzalez and Pioli continues to deal himself a full hand to negotiate the table with come the end of the 2009 season.

However, this methodical playing of Kansas City’s hand is in contrast to the offseason overhaul of the coaching staff.

The transformation of the Chiefs into the Kansas City Cardinals appears to be an impulsive reaction to one successful season for a team that despite appearing in the Super Bowl only went 9-7 in the regular season. 

Downtrodden, Arizona has not achieved any semblance of respectability in recent history. This is not a “winning” program, but a team that made one shocking run through the playoffs. While it is early to label the Cardinals a one-year wonder they do currently stand at 1-2.

Yet it is the Cardinal franchise from which the Chiefs obtained their new head coach, Todd Haley and defensive coordinator, Clancy Pendergast. It is true that these men did not inherit the most talented team in the NFL, but right now the team can hardly run an offensive play without getting flagged for a penalty and that hardly has to do with talent. 

It is true that a team can play their hearts out and still at some mental level play to lose the game.  Look for what’s going to go wrong. Miss making a key play, that without, a player undermines an otherwise strong showing. The Detroit Lions recently broke their curse and believe they can win football games. 

Given the continued dilapidated efforts of Kansas City it appears the Chiefs have fallen under a spell of their own.

A change of regime is as much about changing team mentality as it is a change in scheme. Great teams learn how to win and when a team learns the opposite it’s a hard trend to break.

There is still hope for the franchise under the current staff, but it begins with one win in any game, examining what was done right, and building on success instead of correcting continued failures.