A look at the new Chief in town
Todd Haley learned football at the foot of his father, Dick Haley
Haley has a reputation of going nose-to-nose with players
Haley and Scott Pioli need to find the Chiefs' QB of the future
With Kansas City hiring former Arizona offensive coordinator Todd Haley as its new head coach -- effectively ending the NFL's version of musical chairs at that level -- let's take a look at what kind of football man the Chiefs are getting.
That's an important way to term it -- football man. To build a partnership with new Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli, Haley will have to call on the coaching skills he developed on the staffs of the Jets, Bears, Cowboys and Cardinals as receivers coach and offensive coordinator the past 11 years. He'll also need to use the acumen he learned growing up in the household of the underrated piece of the Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty of the '70s. His dad, Dick, was director of player personnel for the Steelers and a key guy in the best draft of all time that set Pittsburgh up for greatness. In 1974, the Steelers chose Hall of Famers Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster in the first five rounds. Dick Haley took his job home with him, and Todd loved when he could sit in on his father's film-watching sessions in their Pittsburgh home.
Friends say Haley really wanted the Chiefs gig because he believes in Pioli's ability to build a team; they worked together briefly with the Jets from 1997 to '99, when Pioli was the Jets' director of pro personnel and Haley the team's fledgling receivers coach. For a short span before that, Haley worked under his father in the Jets' scouting department. He'd never coached before, and one day told his father he thought he'd like to try coaching -- if Jets coach Bill Parcells would have him. The rest, now, is history.
A decade ago, there was a feeling in the Jets' organization that maybe Haley had it too easy climbing the ladder, getting his foot in the pro football door because of his father. That's true. But as one former Jets player told me during Super Bowl week: "Todd knew he had to work harder at it because everyone was looking at him, thinking he was there because of his dad. When you work for Parcells, you're not going to be able to slack off anyway. But Todd had to show people he deserved to be where he was.''
Haley had a hothead reputation in New York, arguing with Keyshawn Johnson at times. That's a double-edged sword. It's good to stand up to players, of course, but not good to get into multiple shouting matches with them. Haley likely had to convince Pioli and Chiefs owner Clark Hunt in his interview this week that he wouldn't be going nose-to-nose with players every week.
But 11 years of dues-paying proved Haley was a worker bee who could make good players better. His gameplans, in particular, were praised by the Steelers as they prepared for the Super Bowl, and for good reason. The Cardinals put up a season-high 407 total yards on Pittsburgh's top-rated defense in the Super Bowl, and Arizona was only the second team to throw three touchdown passes on the Steelers. The Cards did all that with just 27 minutes of possession time.
For Pioli, it's likely he would have wanted to hire Josh McDaniels before the Broncos scooped up the New England offensive coordinator, or Steve Spagnuolo before St. Louis hired the Giants' defensive boss. But maybe Pioli got lucky. In Haley he's getting a very smart game-planner, a guy who can command a room, and a former personnel man with scouting in his genes.
The Chiefs have a lot of questions to answer. Will Chan Gailey stay as offensive coordinator and form a bond with a young coach he doesn't know? Will Haley be stuck with a couple of dissatisfied veterans, tight end Tony Gonzalez and running back Larry Johnson? Who's the quarterback of the future -- Brodie Croyle, Tyler Thigpen, Matt Cassel or Matt Stafford? Who runs the defense? And they're behind the other 31 teams in the league in getting answers to those questions.
I know this: If I'm the rest of the AFC West, and I see Scott Pioli and the son of Dick Haley with $45 million in salary cap room, and with the third and 34th picks in the April draft, I'm getting a little nervous.