There isn’t a football coach in the world that isn’t itching to get back onto the football field with their players. If you went out to watch the Kansas City Chiefs at training camp last offseason, defensive line coach Brendan Daly probably caught your eye with his loud coaching personality and hands-on style.
On Thursday, you could feel his pain about not being out on the turf with his players.
“I’m missing that element of things, for sure,” he told reporters.
The second-year Chiefs coach may not be used to an offseason like this — but he is used to coming off Super Bowl victories. This will be Daly’s fourth season as a member of the defending champions’ coaching staff. There’s a reason he’s had such a successful career: he embraces these sort of obstacles and gets better from it.
“There’s been some challenges — both from a coach’s standpoint in preparing things and a player’s standpoint in functioning in that environment,” said the former New England Patriots coach. “That’s good, it’s invigorating in a lot of ways. Those type of challenges ultimately help you improve. If you don’t get out of your comfort zone ever, you just stay stagnant and doing the same old thing.”
As many negatives as we can list about this unprecedented time, Daly noted one benefit of the virtual meetings.
“You get some separate time with those [young] guys on their own. That’s invaluable time.” Daly admitted. “A lot of times they’re not willing to jump out there in a group setting and ask questions, admit they don’t know things — even though you know they don’t have it all figured out. Those individual segments when you have with them are important, and you really do get to see a lot more personality out of them — a lot more about who they are in a more relaxed environment.”
Chiefs linebackers coach Matt House — also going into his second year with the Chiefs — made a similar point.
“It’s been great,” House declared. “I don’t know if you get this much individual meeting time normally, because you are racing to get out on the field. So hopefully it clears up any questions he has in his mind so when we do hit the field he can hit the ground running.”
Both coaches spoke on individual players that have been impressing them so far this offseason. House touched on two returning players that need to impress in order to stay on the roster.
“I’m excited about Dorian [O’Daniel], he’s really embraced these meetings and he’s been very, very active and worked hard. I’m excited to see how it translates out on the field... I’m [also] excited to see Darius [Harris] on the field. He has done everything we want and more in the classroom. So the great thing about that is... not only does he know and understand our scheme, but he also knows how we operate and what to expect week in and week out.”
Daly seemed most excited about about a 2020 draft pick. He talked about the team’s fifth-round selection — defensive end Mike Danna — multiple times.
“It’s been really good to get to know him,” he said. “I’ve been impressed with his work ethic, I’ve been impressed with the way he has studied, the time he’s spent on his own, the questions that he’s asked. Gives you a very good feeling about where he’s at and the work that he’s put into this situation. I’m excited again to get him on the field and see what that looks like.”
Along with Danna, Daly also praised undrafted free agent defensive lineman Tershawn Wharton for his performance in the virtual setting.
House spoke about the drafted rookie in his linebacker room: second-round selection Willie Gay Jr.
“We really love his athleticism,” he said. “He’s got a good frame, he’s big, and he can run. So we’re excited about that.”
A few weeks ago, Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said that Gay would likely begin in former Chiefs linebacker Reggie Ragland’s role as SAM linebacker. Some questioned this, saying that Gay would be a better fit elsewhere. House backed Spagnuolo’s statement — and explained the thought process a little further.
“Those two outside linebacker positions are very, very similar,” he explained. “There’s a lot of carryover — and when you start talking about conceptually how we build our defense, those guys are asked to do a lot of the same things... It’s a good starting point. Guys’ roles are constantly developing and adapting off what they can handle and how the unit advances. But I agree with Spags: I think it’s a good starting point and see what he grows into.”
Another player who might be in an unexpected role in 2020 is third-year defensive lineman Breeland Speaks. Originally a defensive end, his true position is now up in the air due to his apparent weight gain last season. After missing 2019 with an injury, Speaks is in do-or-die mode; an unimpressive offseason could put him out of a job in September. Daly touched on his progress.
“Breeland’s done a nice job in terms of his rehab — in terms of working post-surgery. He’s had some good time in terms of recovery. We’ll see. I have high expectations for him. The third year, I’ve found over the course of my career, is a year that guys define themselves in a lot of instances. Hopefully we’re going to see that out of Breeland.”
As the Chiefs wait to see when they’ll be able to get back on the football field, Daly is continuing to find the positives in a very negative situation.
“I won’t say it’s been easy by any means, but it has been challenging and interesting… it’s new, it’s different, and I do think there’s probably some pieces that will probably last even moving forward in terms of teaching. It’s been fun in some elements.”
As much as Daly has embraced the virtual offseason, there will be no one happier — and more excited — when teams can once again practice normally.