KANSAS CITY, Mo. —When Todd Haley's search began, the Chiefs were looking for an offensive coordinator who fit a specific set of criteria. Someone young would be nice. Maybe a coach with a background in the passing game and could help take quarterback Matt Cassel to the next level.
Who might it be? A young phenom or a dazzling name? The suspense drew on for four weeks. This was going to be good, and Haley seemed to be biding his time to pounce on a rising star who, heck, might be preparing his team for the Super Bowl. Then the announcement came Thursday, and it appeared that, at some point during the past four weeks, the Chiefs called an audible.
If there were stars in the pipeline, they wouldn't be shining on Kansas City. After what Haley called a "thorough" search to replace Charlie Weis, the Chiefs promoted offensive line coach Bill Muir, a 33-year NFL coaching veteran, into the job as one of Haley's top lieutenants.
Haley said his decision was based on maintaining continuity, something the team has lacked in the coordinator's position the past four seasons, and added that it was a good thing for the Chiefs that they had an assistant coach qualified enough to be coordinator.
"The key thing here is that we get it right," Haley said during a conference call, "and I feel like we got it right with Bill Muir."
Haley wouldn't say who would call plays, adding that such a thing tends to be a collaborative effort. But Muir gave the strongest indication yet that it would be Haley, who was Arizona's offensive coordinator and helped lead the Cardinals to the Super Bowl as their play-caller two years ago.
Had Muir called plays during his long tenure on NFL sidelines? Sure, he said. Just not on offense.
Muir, 67, is a bit of a throwback. He's a reminder of a time when there weren't specalized 20-man coaching staffs. He was once the Indianapolis Colts' defensive coordinator and made all the calls then.
When Muir was Tampa Bay's offensive coordinator throughout most of the last decade — when the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl after the 2002 season — the play calls were made by Jon Gruden, the Buccaneers' coach at the time.
"Most of the passing game was his, and the running game was mine," said Muir, who will continue to coach the offensive line. "I know there's a big hangup about who calls the plays, but basically the most important part is, get it right. Football in the National Football League is really a situational game.
"I really don't see it being an issue in terms of being with our effectiveness."
Maybe not, but it will stoke questions regarding what Haley was really looking for the past four weeks. Early in the process, the Chiefs realized they had a strong coaching staff with plenty of acuity in the rushing game. Muir and associate head coach Maurice Carthon were qualified to be coordinator, sure, but this team needed someone who understands and appreciates the passing game.
The Chiefs wanted someone similar to Denver coordinator Mike McCoy. He fit the profile but remained in Denver, opting to stay alongside his old mentor, new Broncos coach Jon Fox. And time started passing.
"I just wanted to be very thorough in going through this process," Haley said, "because this is something that's very critical to the success of our team. We were very thorough."
Haley said he spoke to "a number" of candidates about the job but that he ultimately came back to Muir. Haley wouldn't hint at who he might be looking at for the team's remaining vacancy, quarterbacks coach, but while the Chiefs are in the mood for continuity, one candidate could be Nick Sirianni, the team's offensive quality control coach the past two seasons.
"I'm not saying we're finished; I'm not saying I won't hire somebody else or make changes amongst the staff," Haley said. "We're still in that process."
Haley has suggested that another reason for his team's improvement from his first season in Kansas City to the second was because, from August 2009 on, the staff might have changed — but the terminology and offense have not. Muir even worked with Cassel some this past season, Haley said, albeit with understanding protections and not in reads and throws.
Muir's promotion was good news to at least one Chiefs player, defensive lineman Shaun Smith, who also saw action with the offense in goal-line and short-yardage situations.
"I think it's a good move," Smith said while attending Super Bowl festivities in Dallas. "Bill knows a lot about the run game and the pass game. I sat in a few meetings when I started playing offense, and he knew his stuff.
"It's a good thing instead of bringing someone from outside the organization. It's a good thing we have someone inside the organization moving up the ladder."
But for all that talk about continuity, Muir will be the fifth man in that position in as many seasons.
"I'm looking to helping our team," Muir said. "The short and the long of it is, I feel very confident in being able to help our offense move forward."