Chiefs were once where Browns are now
A handful of Chiefs who will travel to Cleveland this weekend have been where the Browns are today when it comes to playing for an interim coach in his first game.
The Chiefs will work to prevent the success they enjoyed on that occasion.
In 2011, head coach Todd Haley was fired by the Chiefs after a 37-10 loss to the New York Jets. Three games remained in the season, and the Chiefs elevated defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to finish it out.
On Monday, the Browns fired Hue Jackson along with Haley, the Browns’ offensive coordinator, and named defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to the top job with an interim tag.
In each case, the team in coaching turmoil faced long odds the following week. The Browns are a nine-point underdog against the Chiefs on Sunday. Seven years ago, the Chiefs were an 11-point underdog to the visiting Green Bay Packers, who carried a 13-0 record into that game.
Does Chiefs defensive end Allen Bailey, a rookie in 2011, remember what happened that day?
“I know it happened after the Jets game and the following game was a home game,” Bailey said. “Who was it?”
Reminded it was the Packers, and that the Chiefs pulled off the shocker, 19-14, behind quarterback Kyle Orton, Bailey’s recollection kicked in.
“Oh, yeah, it was,” Bailey said. “It was a cold day. I remember that now. Got my first sack in that game, too.”
Indeed. Bailey took down Aaron Rodgers in the fourth quarter to force a Packers punt. Everything seemed to go right for the Chiefs that afternoon.
Can the Browns pull off the same type of performance against a Chiefs team that now owns the AFC’s best record at 7-1?
It’s an unusual situation emotionally for a locker room, the Chiefs recalled.
“I remember thinking I had to focus on how I can help my team get out of this hole,” said Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt, who was in his seventh season in 2011. “I think if anything a
situation like this helps guys unite. ‘I have your back, you have mine. Whatever we’re missing, let’s go figure it out.’
“There’s still a love and passion for the game.”
Jackson didn’t seem destined to remain the Browns’ coach for long. He owns a 3-36-1 record, and disagreements with Haley and other coaches in the preseason were captured on HBO’s series Hard Knocks. But perhaps a team plays with looseness or a freer mind in times of abrupt change.
Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield said the early signs are positive.
“There’s no way to correct describe the feeling right when it happens, that first day,” Mayfield said. “That next day, it’s what are we going to do with this?
“We have to do our job, stick together and not use it as an excuse.”
Bailey remembers that feeling in the Chiefs’ locker room in 2011.
“We’re all professionals, so we shouldn’t let it bother us from an emotional standpoint,” Bailey said.
The unexpected victory for the Chiefs that day set in motion a series of events that changed the team’s direction. The Chiefs won two of their three games under Crennel, and the interim tag was lifted from the popular coach.
But the 2012 team proved to be a disaster. The Chiefs finished 2-14 and fired Crennel the day after the season. Less than a week later, Andy Reid was hired, and about two weeks later, John Dorsey was named general manager. Dorsey is now in his first full season with the Browns.
Williams, the interim Browns coach who grew up a Chiefs fan in the Kansas City area, said his focus is on forgetting about what happened earlier in the week.
“You have to understand the past, and we have to focus on what we’re doing today, and we have to put a bunch of great todays together and finish the season strong,” Williams said.