- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 13, 2011

KANSAS CITY, MO. (AP) - Scott Pioli spoke quietly and carefully, not at all like his reputation might suggest.

He had just fired coach Todd Haley after a miserable 5-8 start, leaving the Chiefs’ general manager to explain the organization’s failures.

Pioli pointed his finger right at himself.

“We have a locker room that has talent. We also have a good makeup of character in that locker room,” Pioli said, “but it’s abundantly clear that we’re not in a spot we need to be with our record where it is and our team in a position it is. I need to do a better job.”

Kansas City has lost five of its last six games to fall from a tie for first in the AFC West to the brink of another losing season. After winning the division title last year, devastating injuries and discouraging losses have quickly turned the environment surrounding the team toxic.

The Chiefs’ 37-10 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday culminated in the decision to fire Haley, once a rising star in the NFL, and the appointment of defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel as interim coach for the final three games of the regular season. The Chiefs host the unbeaten Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

There was no shortage of blame to heap on Haley, from an unorthodox approach to training camp that left the team woefully unprepared to the decision to stick with journeyman Tyler Palko as his quarterback once Matt Cassel went down with a season-ending injury. But there has been just as much reason to blame Pioli for the shortcomings, something he was quick to acknowledge.

“I do believe in the players we have here,” Pioli said. “We need to continue to improve this roster and improve the depth of this football team.”

Depth may be the biggest reason the Chiefs have struggled.

Palko has led the offense to two touchdowns in four games. Jackie Battle and Thomas Jones have been unable to fill in for Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles, who was lost for the season with a torn ACL. The tight end position has been virtually non-existent since Tony Moeaki sustained the same injury, and Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry’s torn ACL has left an enormous void in the secondary.

The fact that the cupboard was bare was particularly discouraging given the reputation Pioli cultivated during his time in the front office of the New England Patriots.

After the NFL lockout wiped away much of the offseason and forced teams to scramble to sign free agents, it was thought that Pioli would be able to shine. He’s considered among the best in the game at finding players who may have slipped under the radar, one of the reasons he’s been honored several times as the league’s executive of the year.

Instead, Pioli brought in just a handful of players and hardly took a bite out of the salary cap, leaving the Chiefs with more money available than nearly every other franchise in the league.

“I do have a lot of confidence in Scott and I do believe he’s going to help us be successful over the long run,” said Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt, who likewise has received plenty of fan criticism for the appearance that he’d rather make money than field a winning team.

Pioli’s inability to land talent on the open market hasn’t been his only shortfall.

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