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Chiefs' new leadership could lead to brighter season

Friday, February 6, 2009 | 6:09 p.m. CST; updated 9:59 p.m. CST, Friday, February 6, 2009

KANSAS CITY — Whenever conversation at the Haley family dinner table turned to football, it was more than just talk.

It was education. While Dick Haley was personnel director at Pittsburgh and helping craft the great Steelers dynasty of the 1970s, Todd Haley was absorbing skills and insights to which few youngsters could hope to be exposed.

He rose to prominence this year as offensive coordinator for the NFC champion Arizona Cardinals and on Friday, just weeks shy of his 42nd birthday, was introduced as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.

"I would not be where I'm at right now without my father, or without having the father that I did," Haley said.

He replaces Herm Edwards, who was fired at the end of a 2-14 season, and fills the NFL's last remaining head coaching vacancy.

Dick Haley was personnel director at Pittsburgh from 1971 to 1990 before going on to other front office jobs in the NFL.

"He knew what good was," Todd Haley said. "And I've just always believed that was a big asset of mine, the fact I grew up in personnel, went to bowl games with him, went to practice with him, watched tape on the wall with him."

One of the people who worked under the elder Haley in New York was Scott Pioli, who was named Chiefs general manager last month. Pioli became friends with his new head coach when the two were with the New York Jets.

"I worked for Todd's father, Dick, who's probably one of the finest personnel men in the history of the National Football League," Pioli said.

"Todd has a very unique background, and something I told (Chiefs owner) Clark (Hunt) was important was finding a head coach who not only understands personnel, but understands scouting, understands football players. I think Todd brings a very unique background in the sense that he grew up in a football family. His father was a personnel director and one of the best ever."

Haley inherits a team that lost all but two of its last 25 games and is joining a franchise that hasn't won a postseason game since an aging Joe Montana was quarterback in the 1993 season.

"Todd is very bright," said Pioli. "He's extremely dedicated and very strong-willed. Those are the qualifications I was looking to partner with, Clark was looking to partner with, and we really feel Todd is the right guy and is going to do a heck of a job here."

Edwards was considered a players' coach by the Chiefs, but Haley can be combative and sometimes clashes with players. During the NFC championship game against the Eagles, he had a first-half argument with quarterback Kurt Warner, then a short blowup in full view of television cameras with wide receiver Anquan Boldin. He also had a spat with Terrell Owens when he was receivers coach in Dallas.

"It's part of how I coach," Haley said. "It's part of how I motivate, and I like to think I've had some success doing it. But obviously, you've got to keep things in check. It's something I'll turn to if I need to. But I'll do my best to keep from losing control."

Haley helped shape an offense that carried the Cardinals to an improbable NFC West title and came within seconds of beating Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl. Behind Warner, Haley's offense set a franchise record with 427 points, finished third in scoring in the NFL and was second in yards passing.

"It's going to be a big loss for us," Warner said while practicing for the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. "He did a lot of great things for us. Shaping this offense, understanding all the pieces in place here and how to use them. We're going to need a lot of guys to step up to replace him."

Leading to the Super Bowl, Haley repeatedly was questioned about Kansas City and when he was expected to join Pioli at Arrowhead Stadium. Haley said Friday that he first heard he was a candidate for the job in Kansas City the day after the Super Bowl.

The hiring completes Hunt's overhaul of the top management rungs of the team he inherited from his father in December 2006. He accepted Carl Peterson's resignation in December after 20 years as president, chief executive officer and general manager.

Like his father, Lamar Hunt, Clark does not intend to be a hands-on owner.

"I'll work closely with Scott and Todd as they go about building the team, but it will be more about them keeping me in the loop than me helping them make decisions," Hunt said.

"I feel we've hired two of the finest football minds in the National Football League and collectively they know 20 or 30 or 40 times more than I know about football. The organization is best served if I fulfill my role on the business side and let them do what they do best."

Despite the past two years, things could be in place for a rapid turnaround for Kansas City. Several very promising players got a valuable year of experience last season, and the Chiefs own the overall No. 3 draft pick. They should have plenty of money to work draft picks and free agents because they're about $32 million under the salary cap.

Added to that is what amounts to a new stadium. With $250 million in taxpayer money and $125 million from the Hunt family, Arrowhead is being almost completely renovated, with swank new offices and weight and training rooms.

Among Haley's most urgent problems will be tight end Tony Gonzalez and running back Larry Johnson, who both said this week they might want out of Kansas City.

"What we're doing right now is we're going to start evaluating the overall roster, not just with Larry or Tony," Pioli said. "There'll be an appropriate time for us to sit down and talk with the players."

 


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