- Associated Press - Monday, December 12, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs fired coach Todd Haley on Monday, less than a year after he led the team to the AFC West title, and appointed Romeo Crennel the interim coach.

The injury-ravaged Chiefs dropped to 5-8 after Sunday’s 37-10 loss the New York Jets in which they committed 11 penalties for 128 yards, including a 15-yarder on Haley for unsportsmanlike conduct.

“This was a difficult decision but one that we feel is best for the future of the Chiefs,” Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said in a statement. “Although there have been bright spots at different points this season, we have not made meaningful progress.”

Crennel, the former Cleveland Browns coach, served as Haley’s defensive coordinator. The Chiefs have called an afternoon news conference in which he’s expected to be available.

“We felt that it was necessary to make a change,” Hunt said. “We appreciate Todd’s contributions during his time with the club, and we wish him well in the future.”

There have been rumblings about Haley’s job status ever since training camp, when the NFL lockout caused him to take an unorthodox approach. Rather than going full speed throughout camp, Haley opted instead to spend the majority of the time on conditioning and strength training.

He hoped that would cut down on the risk of injuries given an abbreviated offseason.

Instead, the Chiefs lost starting linebacker Brandon Siler to a torn Achilles in camp, and tight end Tony Moeaki went down with a torn knee ligament in their preseason finale. Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry sustained the same injury in Week 1 against Buffalo, and All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles tore a ligament in his knee the following week at Detroit.

After three lopsided losses to start the season, Kansas City managed to rattle off four straight wins and pull into a tie atop the division. Haley was being applauded for keeping the team together despite such adversity, and there was a happy-go-lucky attitude at the practice facility.

That all changed when the Chiefs lost to previously winless Miami at home, the start of a dismal stretch in which they dropped four straight and five of their last six. Along the way, quarterback Matt Cassel broke his right hand and landed on injured reserve, and the lack of depth behind him forced Haley to start journeyman Tyler Palko the past four games.

Kansas City has managed only two touchdowns with Palko under center.

Besides the dismal performance on the field, it was not a secret within the walls of the team’s practice facility that there was friction between Haley and Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli.

Pioli said several weeks ago that he values consistency within an organization, and the former Patriots executive has used the Pittsburgh Steelers as the blueprint for rebuilding the Chiefs. But the decision to part with Haley is just the second in-season firing of a head coach in franchise history — Paul Wiggins was fired after seven games during the 1977 season.

“We believe change is important at this time,” Pioli said in a statement.

Haley leaves with a 19-27 record in nearly three years at his first NFL head coaching job. The Chiefs won the AFC West last season with a 10-6 record.

Previously, he was the offensive coordinator for Arizona when the Cardinals won the NFC title in 2008. He also was an assistant coach with Dallas, Chicago and the New York Jets.

Haley is the second coach fired this season; Jack Del Rio was dismissed by the Jacksonville Jaguars late last month.

Todd helped this team in many valuable ways over the past three seasons, and I am thankful for his contributions,” Pioli said. “Unfortunately, we have not been able to establish the kind of consistency we need to continue building a strong foundation for the future.”

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