The Kansas City Chiefs announced the firing of head coach Todd Haley via the team's official website on Monday morning. The move, thought to be long in coming due to a disappointing season and perceived tension between Haley and general manager Scott Pioli, was apparently finalized after the Chiefs' 37-10 loss to the New York Jets. According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, Haley and Pioli worked out the exit strategy and settlement through the night.
Hired by the Chiefs before the 2009 season after running the Arizona Cardinals' offense with Kurt Warner as his quarterback, Haley had a contact that went through the 2012 season. The Chiefs were 19-27 during Haley's tenure and 5-8 this season. Haley was the second NFL coach to be fired in the 2011 season, following Jacksonville Jaguars' former coach Jack Del Rio, who was fired Nov. 30.
A press conference will be held Monday to further explain the decision. Initial reports indicate that defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel will be the interim coach.
"Todd helped this team in many valuable ways over the past three seasons, and I am thankful for his contributions," Pioli said in a statement. "Unfortunately, we have not been able to establish the kind of consistency we need to continue to build a strong foundation for the future and we believe a change is important at this time."
The Chiefs were an unlikely AFC West champion in 2010, but things became more difficult in 2011 when the team lost its best offensive player (running back Jamaal Charles) and its best defensive player (safety Eric Berry) for the season with early injuries. Other players stepped up to a degree, but with both side of the ball operating at a deficit and quarterback Matt Cassel regressing, the Chiefs were never able to take command of their own circumstances. And when Cassel was lost for the season, and projected backup Kyle Orton was injured after just one play in a Chiefs uniform, Haley was running his offense with Tyler Palko under center.
In the final first half of Haley's tenure, the Chiefs put up just 4 yards in 21 plays against the Jets' defense. "It's frustrating to put in so much work during the week and then start the game like we started," Palko said after the game. "We came out in the second half and we didn't quit. We kept fighting on offense and found a way to move the ball and got the ball in the end zone. It was just too little, too late. It's frustrating."
"Too little, too late" would be an appropriate summary of Haley's career with the Chiefs.
"This was a difficult decision but one that we feel is best for the future of the Chiefs," chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said of the firing. "Although there have been bright spots at different points this season, we have not made meaningful progress and we felt that it was necessary to make a change. We appreciate Todd's contributions during his time with the club, and we wish him well in the future."
There's no question who most people think Pioli will target as Haley's long-term replacement: Josh McDaniels, the former Denver Broncos head coach and current St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator who used to work with Pioli in New England.
Haley got his start in the New York Jets' scouting department in the mid-1990s before climbing the ranks under Bill Parcells in New York and Dallas. Known as an offensive innovator, he will likely not struggle to find a job as an offensive coordinator in 2012 if he chooses that route.