If Todd Haley wasn’t such a cranky old man, there’s a chance he’d still be employed in Kansas City right now. Not a very good one, mind you, because general managers and owners often disregard injuries and other situations out of a coach’s control when deciding the fate of their sideline leader.
But if he could have found it in him to be a little nicer to Scott Pioli, Haley may have been given another chance in 2012 with a Chiefs team decimated by bruises, breaks, and other such maladies. He couldn’t, and now an old hand has been given a head coaching home that’s more than just temporary.
Earlier this morning the Chiefs made a widely-expected announcement, and removed the interim tag that came after Romeo Crennel’s name. Crennel was the KC’s defensive coordinator under the former Haley regime, and he then moved up to be the interim head coach when Haley was canned in early December. Crennel’s reportedly been signed to a three-year deal to be the 12th head coach in franchise history.
He’s immediately in a position for success, as the best head coaching vacancy was also Crennel’s most recent place of employment. The list of Chiefs recovering from season-ending injuries is long, and it stretches back to training camp, when tight end Tony Moeaki went down with a torn ACL, and rookie wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin decided that kickboxing in the locker room with Thomas Jones was a good idea.
Then there was Eric Berry, Matt Cassel, and Jamaal Charles, all massive pieces of the offense and defense. Although the Chiefs somehow managed to stay alive in a weak AFC West by winning three of their last five games, a four-game losing streak that started in early November was too much to overcome.
As a defensive-minded coach, the structure of the current Chiefs roster is already molded to Crennel’s style. This is very much a grinding team, with Charles controlling the clock, and Cassel stretching the field and looking deep only when it’s absolutely necessary. During his nine starts before his season ended in Week 10, Cassel averaged only 190.3 passing yards per game.
Berry’s return will add to a defense that was nearly in the top 10 in total yards allowed per game even in his absence, finishing 11th with 333.3. In his second shot at being employed as an NFL head coach, Crennel needs to ensure that the Wade Phillips stigma doesn’t settle, and that he’s not viewed as a coach who’s an excellent coordinator, and a mediocre leader.
During his four years in Cleveland as the boss, Crennel had a record of 24-40, with the Browns finishing 4-12 twice (2006 and 2008). In three of those years, Cleveland was also disastrous defensively, finishing 26th or worse. Yet prior to that when he was in New England, Crennel was the defensive mind behind three Super Bowl championships from 2001 to 2004, and two of those Patriot defenses were comfortably ranked in the top 10.
We know that Crennel can strategize and plan for a game schematically. Now it’s time to see if he can manage a game.