Usually I spend each Monday analyzing some aspect of the previous day's game--a formation, a player, or a play.
Yet, today I'm compelled to discuss something that has received a lot of attention over the past 16 hours. Why did Todd Haley neglect the time-honored tradition of coaches shaking hands after yesterday's game? There are likely many reasons (aside from getting out-coached), but the main one is that Haley didn't like the fact that the Broncos left their starters in the game for all 4 quarters. As we learn from this article from Gregg Rosenthal at Pro Football Talk:
Haley apparently was not pleased with how Josh McDaniels handled a big lead in Denver's 49-29 victory over the Chiefs. The Broncos were still throwing plenty, max protecting, and blitzing on defense with a comfortable fourth-quarter lead.
Haley's response? Instead of shaking McDaniels' hand after the game, the Chiefs' coach pointed his finger at him and turned his back.
One can only imagine what Haley felt as he walked across the Mile High turf at that moment--piping hot, his face as red as the Chiefs' logo. And before he knew it, before he had a chance to go to his quiet place (Overland Park, perhaps?), before he could close his eyes and count to ten, he approached Josh McDaniels and threw what amounted to a temper tantrum.
Honestly, I've seen teenage girls exercise more self-control. At least they don't start waving fingers and pulling hair unless it involves their boyfriends.
Haley's behavior generally runs counter to our American instincts against complaining, but for those of us who have grown up in the Rocky Mountain West, Haley's behavior is particularly comical. Why? Because out here folks really dislike whining. Perhaps it's our rugged individualism and the tough winters. Perhaps it's the open spaces and homesteading culture. But I'd rather think it's the fact that out here, if you get knocked on your ass, you're expected to not only get up, but not bellyache about it. In fact, you'd better come back next time with some more hair on your chest for the rematch.
Here's how Al Swearengen, one of the all-time great characters of the small screen (from the series Deadwood) describes it: (WARNING: strong language contained):
We can see how Al would have treated a guy like Haley, who yesterday acted like a stereotypical "city slicker" from any western movie. You know the sort of whom I speak. The guy who thinks that somehow the rest of the world should accommodate his perceived genteel way of conducting themselves--even while in a fistfight.
Several years ago, when the Patriots beat the Redskins 52-7, Bill Belichick played his starters the entire game, resulting in criticism from the media that he had run up the score on none other than HOF coach Joe Gibbs. What was Gibbs' response when asked directly about the Patriots running up the score?
"No, I have no problem with anything that they did," Gibbs said. "Nothing, no problems from me."
Oh, Gibbs also shook Belichick's hand after the game.
Haley's got a long way to go if he wants to be anywhere near as good as Gibbs. Whether or not the Broncos ran up the score--which is debatable and almost laughable--Haley ought to have had thicker skin than he showed.
Either that, or his team should have come up with a defense to stop the Broncos.
Professional athletes probably don't need any more motivation to play hard, but one of the potential benefits of Haley's behavior for the Broncos--which he is only beginning to realize--is that he committed an error in the art of strategy. Through his finger waving he showed McDaniels a fundamental weakness--namely, that he can't keep his cool. McDaniels--who has learned from his own emotional displays over the last year and a half--will store this away for future meetings.
Joe Gibbs understood this effect of giving power to weakness; Haley does not. Gibbs simply dismissed Belichick's actual running up of the score because he knew to acknowledge it was to give it power over him and his team. Haley made a big deal of McDaniels' perceived running up of the score and now it's a noose hanging around his neck. Perhaps this is why between the time Haley jogged off the field and had his press conference, he refused to get into specifics, referring to his actions as a "private moment."
Of course that private moment was witnessed by hundreds of thousands (and surely millions today), but who are we to quibble over trivial numbers? If Haley says it was a private moment, I'm sure the media will let it go.
There are some who think Haley's actions mean that the rivalry between the Chiefs and the Broncos will be bigger than ever. That's possible. However, for a real rivalry to ensue, the contest of wills has to be a fair fight. Fighting against children just won't do.
So buck up, little Todd, that's only one damage incident you've received thus far. You've got a lot more coming--even with all of those high draft picks. As Al Swearengen would say, "Stand it like a man and give some back."