Behind the Numbers: What is Reasonable to Expect from Pioli and Haley
By William T. Cloake IV
October 30, 2009
From 1978, when the NFL adopted a 16 game schedule, through 20008, only 26 teams have posted a record of 2-14 or less. The Chiefs (along with the Rams) became the 17th (and 18th) teams to join this infamous club in 2008 by posting their first record of 2-14 or less. It is important to note that a record that includes two victories or less is very rare in the NFL. In fact, in the 29 years since the NFL went to the 16-game schedule, there have been six seasons when no team has posted a record this poor.
In fact, never has more than two teams held a record this poor in the same season. Two teams have accomplished the feat three times; the Tampa Buccaneers and the San Francisco 49ers. In a way, a 2-14 or less record is a benchmark for a complete meltdown of a team, a complete lack of talent, ground zero, so to speak.
So what can a team at this level expect to achieve in the season following? The results, frankly are quite grim. First, only four teams have ever posted a winning record following such a season; the Lions (1979), the Colts (1991) and the Jets (1996). None of these teams made the playoffs. The only team to do so was the 2007 Dolphins, who recently won the division following 1-15 showing in 2006.
But what of the other 23 teams? The teams averaged an equally disappointed 4.7 wins and 11.3 losses the following season. Worse yet, is that things don't improve a whole lot going into two years following the season. After two years, there are only four play-off appearances (two division titles and two wildcards). Worse, the average record of the remaining teams is actually only slightly better with 5.3 wins and 10.7 losses.
So what is the point? If you look at the records, you see that bad teams take a while to turn around. Generally, 2-14 teams aren't 2-14 due to bad coaching, but due to a complete lack of talent. Changes in the coaching staff do not seem to make a substantial difference in even two years time. The best success story is that of the San Francisco 49ers, who went from 2-14 to 6-10 to 13-3 and Superbowl win in 1981. Still, this was done on the back of some of the most successful drafts in league history. Drafts that brought the 49ers players such as Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott. Similar stories are found with the 1999 Panthers who went from 2-14 to 7-9 and then to 11-5 in 2001 or the Dallas Cowboys, who – after going 1-15 in 1989 were 7-9 in 1990 and then 11-5 in 1991. A final example may be seen in the New England Patriots, who went from 2-14 (1990) to 5-11 and then 10-6 and wildcard.
This final example, however, may be of most interest to the Chiefs. The head coach of this team was none other than the mentor and father-in-law of Todd Haley, Bill Parcells. This team began its 1991 season with a 1-11 record, before finishing with four consecutive victories and going 5-11. After a couple of hiccups, Parcells had the Patriots in the Superbowl in 1996, something that probably wouldn't have happened had the Patriots pushed the panic button and jettisoned Parcells after his shaky start.
So, it may be jumping to conclusions to want to see the Chiefs fire Haley after a 1-6 start. If Haley manages to salvage 5-6 wins out of this season, it may be the interstep that leads to bigger things in 2010. Fire him now and the Chiefs will never know.