Players take professional approach to Haley's dismissal

Posted Dec 13, 2011

Chiefs players discuss moving forward with Romeo Crennel serving as head coach

While the news of Todd Haley’s dismissal as head coach caught many Chiefs players off guard Monday morning, the unwavering sentiment is that the locker room must move forward in a manner both effective and professional.

The NFL’s best team – one that hasn’t lost in almost a full calendar year - is coming into town on Sunday.

Linebacker Derrick Johnson said that Chiefs players would have no problem responding to defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel as its new head coach, but it would ultimately be up to the locker room’s veteran leadership to help move forward in preparation for the Green Bay Packers.

“At the end of the day, it's the players out there playing, and we have to make the plays,” Johnson said.

Crennel will be the fourth head coach Johnson has played for since joining the Chiefs as a first-round draft pick in 2005. That number may grow to five in the next month, though general manager Scott Pioli said reiterated Monday night on the Chiefs Kingdom Radio Show that Crennel will be one of the head coaching candidates that he and Chairman Clark Hunt will consider moving forward.

Johnson is among Kansas City’s most tenured players, but an in-season coaching change isn’t something he’s experienced before.

“We've had our ups and downs, of course, but my hat's off to him for sticking with me and being passionate about what he believes in,” Johnson said about Haley. “We've shared some good times. He's a fun guy to be around. He'll definitely be missed.”

The Chiefs haven’t made an in-season coaching change since Paul Wiggin was relieved of his head coaching duties on Halloween in 1977. Defensive backs coach Tom Bettis served as interim head coach for the remainder of the ’77 season.

Ironically, Bettis’ first game as interim head coach was at Arrowhead Stadium against the Green Bay Packers – a game the Chiefs won 20-10.

Wiggin departed Kansas City with an overall record of 11-23 while Haley exits with a regular season mark of 19-26.  Each coach was released early for different reasons, but losing the locker room was not one of the factors in Haley’s dismissal.

“I didn’t get that sense; I saw a team that competed pretty hard week in and week out, last week they competed hard,” Pioli said. “I don’t think he had lost the football team.”

“We definitely believed in him,” Johnson added. “We believed in his system and believed in what he was telling us.”

Most players said they’d spend time reflecting on Haley’s tenure as head coach before returning to work Wednesday morning focused on preparations for the undefeated Packers.

Tuesday is the players’ scheduled day off.

“I think the biggest thing about Todd is his passion,” RB Jackie Battle said. “He’s on another level when it comes to his passion for football. He has a fire to him and I’ll always remember that he gave me a chance. That’s something that I was waiting for the entire time I’ve been here.”

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