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Thursday, February 3, 2011
Chiefs' offensive success starts with Haley

By Bill Williamson

His decision to stay in-house and promote offensive line coach Bill Muir to offensive coordinator might end up being a legacy decision by head coach Todd Haley in Kansas City.

Todd Haley
Chiefs head coach Todd Haley hopes to maintain the firepower his offense displayed last season.
I don’t think Haley -- who finished third in the NFL coach of the year voting this week after leading the young Chiefs to a 10-6 record and the AFC West title in his second season -- is anywhere near a crossroads in his Kansas City career. I think he is in solid standing. However, if Muir’s stint as offensive coordinator in Kansas City is a short one, Haley will be saddled with a reputation as a coach who can’t work with offensive coordinators.

Muir will be the offensive-minded Haley’s third offensive coordinator in as many seasons in Kansas City. Haley fired Chan Gailey – a holdover from the previous regime -- in the preseason in 2009 and Haley took over as offensive the rest of the season. Charlie Weis departed after a successful 2010 season to become the offensive coordinator at the University of Florida.

The promotion of Muir, he'll still coach the offensive line, to offensive coordinator took 24 days for Haley to make. His search was very quiet and few candidates emerged before Muir was promoted. The general consensus was if Haley was going to promote a current assistant it would be Maurice Carthon.

However, this is not to say that Muir is a bad choice. He has a terrific coaching resume.

Muir was Jon Gruden’s offensive coordinator/offensive line coach from 2002-08 in Tampa Bay. Muir ran the meetings and oversaw the offense, and Gruden called the plays on game days. Thursday, Haley wouldn’t say who would call the plays, and earlier in the day ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that Haley hasn’t decided who will call the plays. Last month, Haley said he wouldn’t be the offensive coordinator. But he also said he wouldn’t rule out calling the plays.

I bet Haley ends up calling the plays. But I also bet he gets input from Muir and his entire staff.

"I think that really good play calling is the result of a staff that works very well, not only offseason, but specifically in the season," Haley said Thursday.

Weis called the plays in 2010 and the Chiefs were successful. However, in Week 3 prior to a 31-10 win against San Francisco, the rest of the staff worked together on the game plan while Weis was ill. The Chiefs ended up having one of their better offensive days of the season, so there is confidence that this group effort could work.

I know it is key for Haley to have good chemistry with his staff and he feels Muir and he can work well together.

The on-field key is for Kansas City, which had the No.1 ranked run offense in the NFL in 2010, is to continue its ground success and for quarterback Matt Cassel to continue his development. Weis and Cassel had a good relationship. Haley said Muir has a good relationship with Cassel. Assistant Nick Sirianni and Cassel work well together, and Sirianni will remain. Sirianni could be a candidate to be quarterback coach – to replace Weis – if a veteran coach such as Chris Palmer isn’t added.

So, there are reasons to believe the Chiefs’ offensive strides made in 2010 can continue.

Haley clearly thinks this setup can work, and he is comfortable with the arrangement. If that changes and Muir doesn’t last long as offensive coordinator, it will end up being a damning indictment on Haley.

It all starts with him.