The look from Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli told you everything you needed to know.
Last February at the annual NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Pioli was strolling along a second-floor walkway above a large room at Lucas Oil Stadium where the media had been designated to work. Pioli looked down, as he is want to do, and observed then-Chiefs coach Todd Haley talking to a group of four reporters.
You could almost feel the contempt drip down and splatter Haley and the scribes.
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On Monday, Pioli took the first opportunity he could seize and fired Haley, ending a marriage that was only slightly less intimate than Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Pioli and Haley quickly grew to dislike each other, warring over everything from draft picks to assistant coaches. Both men deserve blame for the dissolution. They were as poorly suited for one another as Kim Kardashian and, well, anybody. For each, their blood runs very hot. The only reason you don't see it with Pioli is that he doesn't come out in public much. Just like Haley, Pioli has no poker face.
As for Haley, he didn't deserve to get fired for his team's performance. But he probably deserved to go just for his inability to get along. On the field, the Chiefs were OK. They won the AFC West last season before getting dusted by the Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs and are 5-8 this season. Not great, but when you go through the laundry list of players who were knocked out early in the season (Eric Berry, Jamaal Charles and Tony Moeaki) and later in the season (Matt Cassel), the Chiefs were lucky to be even that competitive.
The overarching point with Haley is, it's one thing to have constructive disagreement, it's another to have disharmony. If, at the end of a conversation, two people can't settle their differences and work together, the whole thing is going to fall apart. The fact that neither man could figure that out is damning to both.
But only one survives now and that's Pioli, who has done a reasonable job of reconstructing the roster over his first three years. He has failed so far with Tyson Jackson, a first-round draft pick in 2009. But he did well with Berry and Moeaki, and the jury remains out on the likes of Cassel and rookie wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin.
Pioli needs a coach he can get along with and that responsibility is just as much on him as the guy he hires. Speculation will focus on Josh McDaniels, the former Denver Broncos coach and current St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator who worked with both Pioli and Cassel when they were all in New England. McDaniels is going to be a hard sell with Chiefs fans after his two-year flop in Denver, which started with his inability to get along with quarterback Jay Cutler. However, McDaniels is the guy who drafted Tim Tebow, so he's got that going for him, for now.
There will also be talk about Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, whom Pioli has known since they worked together under Bill Belichick in Cleveland. But Ferentz has had enough chances to go to the NFL that you have to wonder if he's sold on the concept. The last guy to resist the NFL this hard was Nick Saban and everybody knows how quickly Saban high-tailed it back to the college ranks after his stint in Miami.
For now, Pioli has former New England defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel around to run the show on an interim. Don't be surprised if Crennel, who is African-American, gets an interview in order to fulfill the league-mandated Rooney Rule but not real consideration for the job. Sadly, Pioli has already lost out on Charlie Weis, who was the Chiefs' offensive coordinator last season and just took the top job at Kansas University. Then again, Weis is at a point where he really isn't much of a head coach candidate in the NFL because he's not moving very well these days.
Pioli's head coach considerations aren't just about the next candidate, they're about him. He needs to carefully select someone he can work with, not someone he's going to look down upon at some point.
If not, the next time it's going to be the Chiefs fans (and likely team owner Clark Hunt) looking down on Pioli that way.
Just before they send him out the door.
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- Scott Pioli
- Todd Haley