[From the FanPosts -Joel]
Well Chiefs fans, it has finally arrived. It is nearly time to play the first game of the 2010 season and I am psyched! I spend a lot of time (too much if the truth were known) thinking about the
new current Kansas City Chiefs regime and comparing it to some of the more successful regimes of the past in the NFL.
Predicting success in the NFL is, to say the least, difficult. To say the most, it's damn near impossible. The formula seems to be elusive and in reality no single, easily duplicated formula truly exists. If it did, we would see every GM, head coach and owner flocking to it like bees to honey.
What we do often see, however are certain parts of that intangible formula, that are coveted by those in the know in the NFL. I submit that Character is a part of that formula. Many NFL insiders refer to it as 'essential' for a team to go all the way. Todd Haley and Scott Pioli have made no bones about their desire for players of 'character' to be included as Chiefs. What is it about the possession of 'character' that makes these guys so desirous of it?
Photo via www.aceonsports.com
"There are a lot of [variables] in any season," said New York Giants tailback Tiki Barber. "Injuries, the schedule, a losing streak, whatever. And you can't predict those things, which is why the [pundits] are often wrong when they make their [preseason] picks. But of all those things, the one element that no one from the outside knows about is what goes on in a locker room, the dynamics of how 53 different guys interact, who the 'go-to' guys are. The more of those guys you have, the better chance you have of being successful."
The term 'go-to' here is, I think, a descriptor of Character. It's all about who you look to as a leader. Even for those that wouldn't use the term leader, they will still acknowledge that players like this are the neucleus of what makes their team a winner. Obviously, the more of them you have, the more opportunity you have for one of them to pick the others up on any given day, in any given game. Somebody makes a block and the next thing you know, everybody is hitting the other team so hard you wonder where these guys came from. In games it is palpable. It's called momentum shift and we as fans see it all the time. Usually, it is one of those leaders that strikes the match by making a play. When that match light hits the fuse it sets the rest of the team on fire.
Photo via www.newsworld22.com
In recent NFL memory, there are a few places where the benefits of Character have been on display. Maybe Bill Cohwer's 2005 Super Bowl winning Pittsburg Steelers are a solid example. After a struggling loss in early December that put the team at a 7-5 record and in danger of losing a playoff spot, Cohwer leaned on his leaders.
Len Pasquarelli of ESPN notes:
In the team meeting following the loss to the Bengals, Cowher told his team that the slate was wiped clean, that all that mattered was how Pittsburgh performed from that point on and that the Steelers should take one game at a time. It was a hackneyed message to be sure, but the Steelers heeded it in part because they had enough character players in the locker room to know that Cowher was on point.
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"Let's face it, at that point, the season could have gone either way," recalled wide receiver Hines Ward. "I mean, you can either roll over and just play out the string or get on a roll, and we did [the latter]. Bill kind of led the way in that regard, but there was a lot of leadership in that locker room, guys who have really been through a lot. It's like our attitude was, 'OK, here's where we're at, we made this bed, so now what are we going to do about it?' In this league, you don't just turn things around, overcome adversity, without having some guys around whom you can rally up. I think that's critical, man, really a big key."
Once again from a players perspective, we are told that having those leaders, "who have really been through a lot" (read high character guys) in the locker room were integral to overcoming long odds and being successful. In this instance it meant winning a Super Bowl.
Cowher isn't the only coach that recognizes how important the Character role is in sustaining winning teams.
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"There are going to be some seminal moments in a season," said former San Francisco head coach Bill Walsh, "when things can go either way. And I think, in those moments, character makes a difference. It can win you a game or two. And the lack of leadership can cost you a game or two. You don't go through your roster at cutdown time and say, for instance, 'OK, good guy, good guy, bad guy, good guy.' But you know who the tough-minded, character people are and you want them on your side. Those are the guys, more often than not, who get you through the shaky times. Shaky people don't respond well to the negative kind of situations that are going to pop up in any season. You want stand-up guys, pragmatic people who don't feel sorry for themselves, and who are willing to be your character guys."
This sounds an awful lot like Haley when he talks about Cassel from last year. How many times has he mentioned that Matt could have fallen apart but he didn't, he toughed it out. Cassel has the essence of what all of these coaches and players are talking about. He is a leader. You will notice that none of these coaches or players referred to talent, skill level or ability. Rather they are talking about the intangible of character. Walsh even says that you will know who the tough minded character people are.
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Character people? Who do the Chiefs have that are character people? If you read Haley's interview transcripts from camp and last years pressers, you can get a feel for it. I would say that high on the list are Matt Cassel, Brian Waters, Mike Vrabel. Thomas Jones, Casey Weigman, Glen Dorsey, Tyson Jackson, Tamba Hali, Eric Berry, Dexter McCluster. There are others too and I don't mean to leave anyone out, but the point here is that we are now well into our second year of scouting, drafting, hiring, training, coaching and producing high character players that are Kansas City Chiefs. The culture shift is happening and it WILL make a difference. Brothers and Sisters of the Red and Gold take heed! I submit to you now that this is indeed the meaning of Haley's somewhat cryptic rallying cry of CHIEFS WILL.
Kevin Carter is a fourteen year veteran who now plays for the Tampa Bay Bucs. He began his career for the St. Louis Rams and was a part of the 1999 Super Bowl XXXIV winning "Greatest Show on Turf" team. He has since played for the Titans, Dolphins and Bucs. Kevin is an example of a 'high character' guy.
Photo via assets.espn.go.com
Carter is extremely active in community endeavors. He and his wife, Shima, established the Kevin Carter Foundation in 2002, which is an organization created to enrich the lives of children, focusing on youth and character development. One of Carter’s favorite quotes from his father is: "To whom much is given, much is expected" and he founded his organization on that principle.
For the past six years, Carter has hosted the "Waiting for Wishes" celebrity dinner and reception, where he and his teammates, along with Hollywood stars and musicians have come together to be the waiters and waitresses for dinner attendees. The annual dinner has generated thousands of dollars for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Kevin Carter Foundation. Carter was named the Community Man of the Year Award for three straight years by his Titans' teammates, and while he was with the Rams, he was named a United Way African American Leadership Giver.
In 1998, Carter founded the Kevin Carter Football Endowment at the University of Florida, which provides scholarships to deserving college athletes. He also serves on the NFL Players Association Executive Committee.
High Character guy right? In 2007 he even turned down a two year big money contract with Oakland to sign a one year contract with the Bucs. His agent said that at the time, instead of followin the money, he went with his heart. Something had to keep him playing football for going on 15 years. I say it was Character.
Here are his thoughts on how character affects W's.
"You tend to know, when things are bad, who the character people really are," ... "And those guys know who they are themselves, too. You'd better have some of those guys. Because they will make a difference. When people are asking, 'Oh, man, now what are we going to do?' they are the ones with the answers. It's a big deal, the character and leadership thing, a very big deal."
They WILL make a difference? Chiefs WILL? Could it be? I think so. My prediction for the season has been out there for awhile but I will put it here again. We go 10-6 and if the Bolts stutter, we have a three way shoot out for the
conference division starting in week 15.
Come on all you Haley detractors (note I did NOT call you haters) and just-can't-quite-get-yourself-to-become-believers. It is time to rally.
Just keep this in mind.
Chiefs WILL WIN. Chiefs WILL SURPRISE. Chiefs WILL GAIN RESPECT. Chiefs WILL BELIEVE.
Cue the MNF music!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!