Haley's Hard Work is Paying Off

KANSAS CITY, MO - Head Coach Todd Haley has his Chiefs off to a 4-2 start. But this sudden change of fortunes isn't about luck, good bounces or an easy schedule. Instead the change occurring in Kansas City is directly related to Haley's ability to show his players what it takes to become a football team.

I never thought this football team would be this good this fast in their latest reclamation project. In fact, based on what we've all seen to date, it's becoming clear that a team that had no identity a year ago has suddenly found one after just six games.

On Sunday, the Jacksonville Jaguars strolled into Arrowhead hoping for an upset. The Chiefs had just suffered their most painful loss of the year. So nobody really knew what to expect.

The Chiefs played solid offensively in the first quarter but the defense was flat until linebacker Derrick Johnson touchdown midway through the third quarter. The heralded special teams have all but disappeared both in coverage abilities and in the return game.

But none of that matters to the head coach, who keeps preaching this football team is a continual work in progress. He understands that his players have a long way to go before Haley will publicly state they're any good.

But it's clear the lessons learned form the painful loss at Houston and the first half adversity against Jacksonville, shows me that they are starting to get it.

Charlie Weis and Todd Haley have the makings of a potent offense.
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"What this team has been built for is adversity. I know myself and our coaching staff talk a lot about learning from situations and handling adversity because very rarely in this life is it going to be easy," Haley said.

"That's the case here. It's a lot of work; it's a big job for everyone involved, I'm talking players first. What I'm seeing from these guys is that they can handle some adversity and that's a real good sign."

And that's why after the Jacksonville victory, Haley has started to open up about the potential of his football team. On Monday morning, when the rest of the world realizes the Chiefs are still leading the AFC West, some perceptions are likely going to change about the resurgence in Kansas City.

When Haley took the Chiefs job after the 2008 season not one person used the name teacher in their description of his abilities or qualification in regards to the head coaching position.

But that's just what he's done.

And I think that factor alone is the reason that Kansas City has their sights set on a return trip to the playoffs. Should they expand their lead in the AFC West the next three weeks, something that is far more likely than not, Haley can use the remainder of the season to continue his teachings to mold his team for meaningful games in January.

I keep using the words unfathomable, unbelievable and shocked the Chiefs are standing in the position they are today. But I'm not going to fight it any longer.

The fact Haley has his team winning, despite the fact they are still not a fundamentally sound group, makes their start even more remarkable. But it's clear that the players have their attention.

DJ's impact on the Chiefs defense can be attributed to his desire to buy into the new direction of the coaching staff.
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And one would think that the perception that each of Haley's players are over-achieving might in fact be a mirage. Maybe they're already past that point. How else can you explain the sudden play-making abilities of linebacker Derrick Johnson, Defensive End Glenn Dorsey, Quarterback Matt Cassel and Wide Receiver Dwayne Bowe.

For a variety of reasons, each of them struggled a year ago. And if I were a betting man, I would have said that most, if not all of them, wouldn't have made the Chiefs 2010 roster. But to Haley's credit, he knew to execute his plan; these four in particular would need to play at a high level.

So as the team gets ready to prepare for Buffalo a week from now, Haley isn't taking anything for granted. He knows his team is close to becoming what he envisioned they'd be when he, Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel and Scott Pioli laid out the blueprint to change the Chiefs from one of the worst teams to one of the best.

"I'm not ready to say it yet but we're getting closer. We are becoming a team. I might say that we are a team right now and are just trying to be a good team. We're not there yet," he said.

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