"Not being able to go through training camp definitely caused me to have a slow start to the season. I'm a big believer that training camp is where you form the foundation of your team. Hopefully we can go through with no hurdles this year and get off to a fast start." -Peyton Manning on his early struggles last year.
Most should be familiar with the plight of Peyton Manning and his knee surgery leading into training camp. The result was a missed pre-season and rattled first several games as the Colts dropped four of the their first seven. I love this quote not because I happen to live in the middle of Colts country nor because I'm particularly fond of the iconic QB. Rather it's the middle statement that I wanted to grab ahold of and believe to be invaluable in its insight as we understand the current Chiefs mindset.
It's the month of August that sets the tone for December. That's what Peyton is saying in the above paragraph and it's a maxim that holds true each and every year in the NFL. The bodies most prepared for the grueling schedule of an NFL season, the minds saturated in the schemes of their coaches, the coaches prepped enough to lead the charge... those are the things that either take place or not in August. And this is what has me so excited for this coming season.
In the growing microscope of 24/7 NFL coverage, I can't remember an off-season so analyzed at each and every turn. Of course, Kansas City hasn't been this much of an off-season hot-spot in a long while, but suffice to say that the multitude of blogs, sites and 'zines looking for something original to offer leaves no stone unturned. So watching new Kansas City head coach Todd Haley do his thing has been pure magic.
The new Chiefs regime gets this. They really get it. And they're prepared to make everyone else get it, too. You can hear it in the quotes of grizzled veterans who must relearn a playbook for the first time in a few years. You can hear it in the rookies over their head. Everyone is realizing that the team's train, so to speak, is moving forward and you either get on and help it move ahead or you move out of the way.
You can see it all around. It's the recent article posted about Branden Albert losing weight and keeping his focus in the few weeks off leading up to training camp that shows the new mentality. Sure, Albert showed great promise last year, but that means nothing in the present light and he (and everyone else) can always get better. That's the new message. I even love the grumbling of Pro Bowler Brian Waters who seems to not know what to make of everything, but realizes that complaining, demanding or stomping around doesn't get you heard by anyone.
As Manning mentions, this is about building a foundation. There's nothing glamorous or sexy about the foundation of a house. No one ever complements the foundation. And it's nothing you even notice... that is, unless it's out of alignment. If the foundation of a house is off, most likely it sits there abandoned - unable to be moved on the market at all.
Year in and year out, the teams without the solid foundation are obvious. And those teams with a solid foundation make great news when their foundation suddenly seems shaken (case in point with Manning). It takes time to form a proper foundation but that's exactly what the Chiefs are taking the time to do. Whether or not it leads to great fortune remains to be seen, but I'd rather have a properly laid foundation heading somewhere than a sexier flash in the pan that doesn't lead anywhere in particular. Let's hope this August brings what Manning is hoping for as well.