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The Wright Stuff: Chiefs season ends with future up in the air

By Joel Wright
On January 17, 2011

Well, that was disappointing. If there are any Kansas City Chiefs fans on campus, just know that I feel your pain.

For a fan to say this team is not heading in the right direction would be a fault, but there are some serious problems that need to be resolved if they want to get on a level comparable with the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers of the world.

One of the biggest problems starts near the top of the organization, and that's never a good thing to hear.

My dad was able to get season tickets this year, and I got to see firsthand what the team looked like in some of their games.

It's halftime in head coach Todd Haley's tenure if you look at it like Haley looks at quarters of seasons.

Is he doing enough to be a franchise coach? Is he good enough to be General Manager Scott Pioli's Bill Bellichick counterpart?

Looking over Haley's body of work over these last two seasons, it would be fair to say there are mixed results.

His first season blew up in smoke when he fired his offensive coordinator (Chan Gailey) right before the season, it took him half a season to realize who his best player was (Jamaal Charles) and repeatedly was caught shouting expletives to anyone that was on his side.

The result was a 4-12 season, a top-5 draft pick and a football-hungry city left starving for anything to hope for.

Haley's first off-season was full of good moves, from the draft, to the coaching hires of Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel and Emmit Thomas. When the pre-season concluded, fans were optimistic about a 6-10 or, even better, an 8-8 season.

We were all wrong, and nobody expected the Monday Night win over the Chargers or the improbable 3-0 start that left them as the only undefeated team in football.

There were still problems. Matt Cassel was terrible, the defense was shouldering the entire load and the only teams they beat were the Chargers (in the rain, and they start slow anyway, right?) the 49ers (NFC West), and the Cleveland Browns (haven't been good since they went to Baltimore).

The heavy weight of blame had been shifted off Haley's and onto Cassel's, because he hadn't been producing like his $60 million contract said he was supposed to.

Something crazy happened though, and even though the team lost its next two games against the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans, I noticed something different about Cassel.

He was doing what was needed to do to win games, and the Chiefs looked like a legitimate contender.

Fast-forward to the last stretch of the season, and the Chiefs are a team that could make the playoffs, as long as they win out.

With a dominating win over the Tennessee Titans and a San Diego loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Chiefs had won the AFC West for the first time in 7 years, and earned a playoff spot. The only problem was, ironically, the relief of winning the division in week 16.

I don't doubt the Chiefs understood the importance of beating the Raiders in the season's final week, to gain the third playoff seed, but the young team was probably happy with making the tournament, and didn't see a huge problem with losing.

The subsequent blowout loss to the Ravens in the wildcard round didn't really leave fans feeling as optimistic for next season as they did weeks before.

For the team to go undefeated at home for seven weeks, and then get blown out two weeks in a row at home, something is wrong.

What nobody really did was pay attention to some of the moves that the head coach was making, because that's what was underlying the whole season.

We allowed ourselves to believe that because the team was winning, some of the questionable moves Haley made were OK.

The constant decisions to go for touchdowns over field goals early in games could have easily cost the team more than it did, and even more stressed should be the debacle of the second half against Baltimore.

There are rumors that Haley stripped Charlie Weis of his play-calling duties in the second half, when the score was still 10-7.

Baltimore closed the deal on the Chiefs when they failed a fourth-and-one conversion on a call where Cassel faked a handoff to the fullback and PITCHED it to Charles.

He was tackled in the backfield and the team lost hope.

At the end of the day, it was a great season, but losing Weis will be a blow and the end of the season reminds us that they still need a lot of work, especially with a tough schedule next season.

Haley has a lot to prove, and at halftime, the game is tied, and there will need to be some adjustments to win the prize.

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