Column: Yes It Can Get Worse And Did

From Arrowhead Stadium

Walking out of the stadium a week ago, I ran into Roger, a big Chiefs fan I know who had watched the debacle against Denver. He had drowned his sorrows in a suite after the game and was stumbling his way out of the building.

“Hey Gretz,” he yelled over his shoulder, as his long suffering wife Anne was dragging him to the parking lot. “There’s nothing as bad as losing to the Donkeys. It can’t get any worse than this.”

Oh yes it can Roger. It did. It’s one thing losing to a Denver team that’s in the hunt for a wildcard spot in the playoffs. It’s another to go down to the Buffalo Bills, a 4-8 team with an interim head coach and a starting quarterback who might have a degree from Harvard but should not be starting for an NFL team.

Make that the 5-8 Bills, and now the 3-10 Chiefs. Yes, this was a stop on the schedule for the Chiefs to win a game and yet they never really held the opportunity in their hands for more than a few moments.

It disappeared when head coach Todd Haley made another one of those decisions that will be second guessed for many, many days, weeks, even months. Fourth-and-goal at the Bills one-yard line, there’s n o score and there are four minutes to play in the first quarter. The coaching handbook says you put the first points on the board with a field goal. 

A coach should especially take the field goal against this opponent; Buffalo was no threat to come in and light up the Arrowhead scoreboard. Only twice this season have the Bills topped 30 points in a game. That’s OK, because the Chiefs have not topped 27 points.

Points were going to be at a premium in this contest, as the final score indicates. Take the easy three points.

In a season where the head coach is trying to convince his team to play the Haley Way, taking the easy points just isn’t going to happen. Haley decided to go for the touchdown and called a bootleg run by QB Matt Cassel that was snuffed for a seven-yard loss by Bills DE Aaron Schobel.

Buffalo took over at their eight-yard line and marched to a touchdown, as Ivy League QB Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for nine yards to WR Terrell Owens.

That was a 10-point swing, and that was the ballgame. Oh, there was plenty that happened afterwards, with Cassel throwing four interceptions, Buffalo running for 200 yards as a team, Jamaal Charles running for 143 yards including a 76-yard TD run and the Chiefs defense forcing three turnovers. All of that was important.

However, it was Haley’s decision to go for the end zone instead of taking three points that set the tone for the afternoon.

“It was a great opportunity for us to make a statement,” said Haley. “We didn’t get it done.”

The question is: who was Haley trying to make a statement too? Was he trying to grab the attention of the Bills? Or was he trying to speak to his own team?

In the end it doesn’t matter who Haley was speaking to or trying to communicate with. Games are won with points, not statements. That three points he walked away from … make that 10 points with the Bills touchdown on the other side … were invaluable for a team that has trouble putting scores on the books.

I understand Haley’s thinking. Going into the game 3-9, he really doesn’t have much to lose by rolling the dice on this play. The Chiefs have been such slow starters in the first quarter that this was an attempt to jump start his team. He wanted to show confidence in his offensive line, which had played better in recent weeks. There was the rest of the game to make up for the three points if there was failure.

The problem is that three points became 10 points and that’s a swing that the ’09 Chiefs cannot overcome. They do not have enough talent, they do not have enough confidence and they do not have enough coaching to make up a double-digit deficit. It’s just not going to happen, even against a team as mediocre as the Buffalo Bills.

Nobody should know that more than Todd Haley. In recent weeks the head coach has been driving home the point with his players that every play in the game was important, because nobody knew what play would decide the game. If Haley had taken the field goal, it probably would not have been the play that decided the game, not in the first quarter.

But walking away from that situation without three points and giving up seven on the other end just killed the Chiefs chances. I was the moment of decision and it was all downhill for the Chiefs after that.

Todd Haley is a good man and a good coach. He’s built his principles of football on solid foundations that he’s learned from some of the best in the business. Right now, he’s going through the process of how to be a game-day NFL head coach. It’s on the job training and it’s not going very well.

If Haley can survive these bad decisions, he can be a pretty good NFL head coach some day. If he can survive long enough.

I just hope my buddy Roger can survive this season. I didn’t see him after the game this week, but I would have told him this: it can still get worse.

See you next Sunday, when the Browns come to town.

13 Responses to “Column: Yes It Can Get Worse And Did”

  • December 13, 2009  - Danny W says:

    Yeah Todd is not perfect and he needs assistance. What was with the swing passes that did not work once. I counted six of them all of them lost yards that I counted. Insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting the same a different outcome. Give him a good offensive coordinator and let Clancy Pendegrast go. With nothing to lose you have to blitz more. Put it on the line and go get that quarter back. I still think Todd needs another year to see what unfolds, but if he is still trying to call all the plays I think he is commiting suicide as a head football coach in Kansas City. One other thing when Chris Chambers drops balls that easy to catch he should be find 10,000 by the team, not just him but everybody else. Glad to see Brad Cottam get in the game. Jammal is good but needs a complement. Thanks again bob for giving me somewhere to vent your columns are the best in the business.

  • December 13, 2009  - Robert says:

    I offered this on another website but here it is again:
    Off. Coord – Charlie Weis
    QB Coach – Terry Shae or Steve DeBerg
    Off. Line – Alex Gibbs
    Wide Receivers – Al Saunders

    Def. Coord – Romeo Crennel or Al Groh


  • December 13, 2009  - Randy says:

    Steve DeBerg for GM!!!!

  • December 13, 2009  - ThunderChief says:

    Judging from the way the Browns D played against the Steel recently, next Sunday’s game is no gimme. Then the final two are probably losses on the road.

    SO, it looks very possible the Chiefs will again be picking in the top 5 for the 3rd year in a row and that’s about the only good news to anticipate which is a sad enough commentary.

  • December 13, 2009  - Merwin in NY says:

    I liked going for it on forth down in the first quarter, as the Chiefs have nothing to lose at this point. However the three points there and three points after Chambers drop in the forth quarter would have tied the game. Seems like the way the whole season has gone, just a season of muffed plays and near misses. Seems the receivers were making better catches today, Jammal had a very good game and didn’t lose the near fumble he did have. At least the defense played well today and the whole team didn’t have a melt down after the Bills scored. Still would have been nice to win this one.

  • December 14, 2009  - jimbo says:

    You just can’t win ball games with poor execution, a head coach wearing too many hats & a QB that can’t make a big plays when he needs to.
    I’ll always be a Chiefs fan, even with another disappointing year of hiccups, miscues & hope.
    Looking ahead to next year is still looking pretty grim. Maybe with Pioli in his first full year he can bring some of that talent to KC that meade him legendary in New England & I think after this frustrating season that coach Haley will delegate his coaching load to others.
    Go Chiefs.

  • December 14, 2009  - Jody says:

    The play was stupid on the goal. Haley’s game-decisions are raggedy.

  • December 14, 2009  - Mark says:

    I like Todd haley but with the talent around him–ownership, front office, coaches and players it is going to take 4 to 5 years to turn this thing around. If you want it done earlier you will have to hire a veteran coach like Marty, Cowher, or Shanahan with rebuilding experience to turn it around in half that time.

  • December 15, 2009  - mark says:

    I like the decision to go for it, AND I liked the call. without LJ, we have no inside runner to even attempt to get tough yardage, so put it in the hands of your relatively mobile(he’s no Thigpen, but he’s OK for a QB)QB and let him go wide with a run/pass option. It didn’t work, but it was a good call and decision.

  • December 15, 2009  - Bakjon says:

    Robert like your choices. Haley needs to delegate and focus on managing on Sundays. It was nothing wrong with going for it early in the game since Buffalo has a poor run defense but it was the play call. It seems too many times this year instead of letting the RB do his thing on fourth and short Cassell ends up as the primary weapon and the play fails. If you want to prove a point about the line let them man up on these situations.

  • December 16, 2009  - arrowhead1978 says:

    Cassel definitely is no Thigpen!! We score in that situation last year!!

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