The 2011 season has been a disaster so far for Todd Haley and his Chiefs. (CSM/Landov)
When Chiefs coach Todd Haley angrily waved his finger in Josh McDaniels' face after Denver's 49-29 whitewash of Kansas City last November, the initial belief was that Haley was upset at McDaniels for running up the score. Later, Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt said publicly that Haley thought McDaniels was cheating.
Kansas City beat Denver later in the 2010 season, then the Broncos fired McDaniels. But he may wind up getting the last laugh. A report Monday speculated that the bumbling Chiefs could fire Haley at some point in the near future and replace him with ... McDaniels, of course.
Despite guiding the Chiefs to a stunning AFC West title last season, Haley finds himself on the hot seat early in 2011 after starting 0-2 and being outscored 89-10. Kansas City lost at Detroit Sunday, 48-3, the largest margin of victory in Lions franchise history.
The possibility of a quick turnaround doesn't look great, either, with Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry and Pro Bowl running back Jaamal Charles both out for the season.
Haley's taken full responsibility for his team's two-week nosedive to start the year, and Chiefs fans might be inclined to agree -- before the season even started, Kansas City lost rookie WR Jonathan Baldwin to a wrist injury sustained in a locker room fight, then tight end Tony Moeaki suffered a season-ending injury when Haley extended his starters' playing time well into the final meaningless preseason game.
There's not much wiggle room when it comes to head coaches and success in the NFL -- either you produce or you hit the road.
That's doubly true when you've seemingly already orchestrated a huge franchise turnaround, as Haley did with his division title last season, which came on the heels of a 4-12 2009. The unexpected run of success raised expectations, which can be dangerous.
The Chiefs are quickly finding out why. They're not sneaking up on anybody this year and their first-place schedule means that they don't have any easy spots to get healthy again.
Put it all together and Haley's suddenly looking over his shoulder.
Say what you will about the possibility of Haley losing his job -- for the record, firing him might be a huge mistake, no matter how this season turns out -- but replacing him with McDaniels would be a complete slap in the face.
The spat between Haley and McDaniels makes that potential insult obvious enough, but also consider that Haley won one less game in 2010 than McDaniels did in nearly two seasons with Denver. Prior to last year's run, the Chiefs had won 10 games combined over the previous three seasons. Does Kansas City really want to pull a quick trigger on Haley given that success? The Chiefs might not have a choice if Haley's bunch keeps losing by 40 every week. But replacing him with McDaniels would definitely drive the knife even deeper into Haley's back.