It's late June, and I have football fever. Now that Carl Peterson has moved on and the Chiefs have landed a hire with Scott Pioli who was arguably the most sought-after GM prospect in the league, the upcoming season actually offers real promise that has been M.I.A in KC since Herm Edwards began his rebuilding project. Chiefs nation is now standing with its chest out in anticipation of real improvement rather than predictable embarrassment.
Although I could list more and hopefully will in a future post, here are five promising elements about the 2009 CHIEFS! All of the items listed below are thanks to insights from websites arrowheadpride, bobgretz, etc. Thanks for the great off season reading!
1. The new coaching staff. We have a coaching staff that is going to play to the strength of the talent on the roster. Herm Edwards had a philosophy and the players had to adapt to schemes that probably worked great with another group of people once upon a time. How many times did we feel that, under Edwards, if we wouldn't have waited until late in the 4th quarter to begin adjusting our approach, we could have stolen a win? The example that comes directly to mind is the 2006 playoff game in Indianapolis. It seemed that Herm had an idea of what was supposed to work, and was dumbfounded if it did not. Thankfully offensive coordinator Chan Gailey joined us last year, hijacked control of the offense, and gave Chiefs fans something to watch in Tyler Thigphen during a 2-14 season.
I will be the first to say that I, like many others, appreciate Herm Edwards as a person. He would be a great neighbor to share a backyard with and have over and cook on the grill, but part of being an NFL head coach is recognizing the strengths of a coaching staff, and he pulled one of the best offensive line coaches (Mike Solari) off of his post and made him an underachieving offensive coordinator.
Todd Haley's coaching staff, however, promises to win as many games as possible by approaching each week with the idea that they're going to use the team's weapons that give them the best chance to win. They're not going to come to a water balloon fight armed with indoor Nerf guns. And if their punching tactic isn't working, they will adjust their scheme and add in some kicking. Herm lacked creativity in his approach to the game plan, which is one of the strengths that has seemingly carried Todd Haley into a head coaching position.
2. Player development under the new staff.
The new coaching staff is one that aspires develop and teach players. A great example of that is Todd Haley's description of our Special Teams coach Steve Hoffman, saying that he is one of few NFL coaches in that position that actually understands the perspective of kickers/punters and can work with them on their mechanics. Bob Gretz has a couple great articles from this weekend about him: one about the special teams in general and one that describes punter Dustin Colquitt's perspective on his role and his new position coach. One of the most interesting insights from this article is that when Colquitt was originally drafted by the Chiefs under Dick Vermeil, the coaching staff brought in Steve Hoffman (who wasn't with an NFL team at the time) to work with him for a few days on his mechanics.
It has been disappointed during the off season that we have not landed a big acquisition such as Anquan Boldin, Braylon Edwards, etc. That could still happen of course, but one thing Scott Piloli has been clear about is that the Chiefs will be a strong, fast, athletic, tough, disciplined football team. I won't say that Pioli doesn't like flash because the players in New England show it, but he and Hayley seem to have a knack of finding flash in likely and unlikely places.
3. The Chiefs' athleticism.
The new regime's emphasis on conditioning should pay off big time in all phases of the game, especially in the fourth quarter and in relation to the injury list. Coach Hayley is obviously proud of the team's off season dedication to the program, disclosing the team's achievement of losing 338 pounds. Bob Gretz mentioned that in a normal off season, the average team will lose 120 pounds!
I loved reading the story from the LA times which described Branden Albert's conditioning achievements and the tactics Scott Pioli used to encourage him - tapping a picture of Albert from over a year ago at the NFL combine in close to peak condition on Albert's locker. It's implied in the article that Albert is in better shape now than he is in the photo!
Our athleticism will pay off on special teams as well. The article from Bob Gretz hyperlinked above hints that the starters will be contributors on special teams this year more so than in years past. Colquitt explained that under coach Edwards, the defense and the offense were filled up and special teams players were the guys leftover. Our kickers, punters, and returners will most likely have the best support cast this year that the roster can offer.
In years to come the Chiefs are going to be on of those teams that will be known for their phyiscality and will take advantage of that in the fourth quarter.
4. Dwayne Bowe.
I am hoping that the Matt Cassel to Dwayne Bowe connection is something that Chiefs fans become very familiar with over the next several seasons.
Todd Haley has been a successful WR's coach in the past, and this is Dwayne Bowe's third year pro. I wouldn't be surprised if Bowe has more ESPN highlights and less dropped passes this year. Also, I think Hayley's staff will bring out the best in the rest of the receivers, hopefully to the extent that the opposing defense cannot all flock around Bowe. If they don't see that potential now, hopefully they will deal for another before training camp.
5. Chan Gailey has been retained.
I won't have to do a lot of writing here, because last season's off season turnaround speaks for itself. Granted, it didn't help us win many games. I'm curious to see what creative things the offense will come with under the Gailey and Haley match up. Furthermore, while I bet Cassel will win the starting job at QB, I think Thigphen will have a role in the offense. Even if it's obscure, I think it will be creative enough to help us win some games.
I had the chance last year, because the tickets were so inexpensive, to attend more games than usual and Thigphen's reception from WR Mark Bradley (on a reverse from a direct snap to RB Jamaal Charles) in the endzone was the most exciting play to witness in person from last season.