As the Chiefs’ coaching search began to extend longer than most believed it would, it became more and more likely that Haley would end up as the new head coach. But you have to wonder, based on the fact Pioli took so long to fill the void left behind by the firing of Herm Edwards, what other candidates were interested in the job.
Even with names like Mike Shanahan, Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher available to some degree or another, Haley seemed like the only viable option for the team. That means Pioli’s first hire as General Manager will be scrutinized and questioned for the next two years.
We can project what type of head coach Haley turns out to be but nobody knows for certain. The only indisputable aspect of the coaching search is that Pioli has three Super Bowl rings on his fingers. I doubt he would have hired Haley if he didn’t think he was capable of adding even more.
Weeks ago, after the Cardinals made their improbable run to the NFC Championship game, many began speculating that Haley was indeed on the short list of potential replacements for Edwards. Others flat out predicted it would happen.
Looking at Pioli, who has been around Bill Belichick for the past nine years in New York and New England, many assumed a young, dynamic and inexperienced head coach was not viable. But clearly that wasn’t accurate.
Haley walks into his new job as the man who created a flashy offense that nearly won Super Bowl XLIII. In Kansas City, Haley has some offensive weapons at his disposal to replicate that success. He has a future Hall of Fame tight end in Tony Gonzalez, who will likely appreciate his new head coach’s offensive philosophy.
The left side of Haley’s offensive line is fine, but the right side needs work. However, his running back situation is even more challenging. Haley will have to determine quickly if he wants Larry Johnson on his roster. If not, he’ll make use of two capable backs in Kolby Smith and Jamaal Charles that, given the right opportunity, might be capable of exceeding what any running back in Arizona did.
Where Haley excelled was in the passing game, of course, as he had the privilege of working with Kurt Warner, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. Right now the Chiefs feature Dwayne Bowe, who developed a case of the drops in his sophomore season, but that’s something that can be corrected. Haley also has Mark Bradley and Will Franklin as second and third choices, but adding Boldin, who wants out of Arizona, might be a quick and easy deal to make for Haley.
The biggest question revolves around the quarterback position. Tyler Thigpen proved that he’s capable of making plays but still only won a single game as a starter for the Chiefs in 2008. He’s the new breed of NFL quarterback that is both mobile and excels in the spread offense.
However, that does not mean he’ll be the starter in 2009. With Warner set for free agency at the end of the month and the fact that the New England Patriots placed the franchise tag on quarterback Matt Cassel with designs to trade him, all sorts of possibilities are raised concerning the future of KC’s quarterback position. Especially since the Chiefs hold the third pick in the draft.
The task ahead for Haley is determining who his future quarterback might be, and that may prove to be the tallest hurdle as he’s inheriting an offensive team with viable talent at almost every other position.
It will also be interesting to see if Haley retains offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, who had some success last year but failed to adjust in the second half of many games. That is something that may change with Haley’s input.
His strength is making adjustments from series to series and from first half to second half. We saw it in the Super Bowl and that is probably something that Pioli saw in him leading up to their first interview this week.
Cardinals players loved playing for Haley and his in-your-face style was something that generally worked well for him. The fact his players were comfortable confronting him on the sidelines and he was equally willing to charge back at them, gives the impression that he knows how to handle his players.
That will undoubtedly serve him well as he attempts to rebuild KC’s defense, also. In fact, Haley may be ultimately judged by how quickly he can fix that unit. If he can do all of that, he’ll be just what the Chiefs need.