Haley Deserves Kudos for KC's AFC West Title

On Sunday, two things had to happen for the Kansas City Chiefs to gain their first AFC West Title since 2003. First, they had to beat the Tennessee Titans, which they did 34-14. Secondly, the San Diego Chargers had to lose to the Cincinnati Bengals, which they did 34-20.

In two weeks, the Kansas City Chiefs will host their first playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium since January 11th, 2004, when they fell 38-31 to the Indianapolis Colts.

If they defeat either the New York Jets, the Baltimore Ravens, or the Pittsburgh Steelers, all of whom could be candidates to play the Chiefs in the first round of the playoffs next month, it'll be their first home playoff win since January 8th, 1994, when Joe Montana led the Chiefs to a 27-24 overtime victory over Bill Cowher's Steelers.

It's nearly impossible to fathom at the conclusion of Week 16 that the Kansas City Chiefs are division champions. And though we've said it before, this team now has 10 wins on the season, which happens to be their entire win total from 2007-2009.

Todd Haley has my vote for the NFL's coach of the year. No, not because he led his team to an improbable division title. But instead based on the fact that – despite leading by 19 points – he pulled starting quarterback Matt Cassel in the third quarter when he failed to execute the offense in the manner the head coach expected it to be done.

That tells me that Haley, more so than any player on his roster, clearly understands that to win in January you have to play with the same energy in all four quarters. If you take plays off, regardless of the score, you could allow an opponent to get back into the game.

Haley's energy all season long has been something that's driven his players. In practice, he's a relentless enforcer of the details. On game days, he's as animated as any head coach in the NFL during the heat of battle. On Sunday, even though his team was pummeling the Tennessee Titans, he wasn't satisfied.

He didn't want his team to let up in the second half. But they did and they scored just three offensive points after putting up 24 in the first half. That's why Haley pulled his starting quarterback, and had you seen Haley on the sidelines at the tail end of the third quarter when he made that decision, one would have thought the Chiefs were down by 24 points.

But that's what you want from a head coach, who like his entire team has been under the microscope all season long. Not many people felt that Haley or his Chiefs would end up as division champs.

And with the Chargers' loss on Sunday, some are going to say that San Diego lost the division, not that the Chiefs won it. But that's ok because Haley can use the no respect card throughout the next two weeks in getting his team ready to begin their championship run.

Haley has been so realistic about his football team all season long. He's never said they were great or even good. But he did give his players praise for understanding the sacrifices that each player has to make to become a team – one that has a chance to win on every Sunday.

In the last five games, the Chiefs are 4-1. The only blemish during that run was their Cassel-less blowout at San Diego two weeks ago. And while everyone felt that game would be the catalyst for the Chargers run to their fifth straight division title, Haley used that game as his team's watermark to see how they'd respond from such a poor performance.

Since then they are 2-0 with blowout wins over the Rams and Titans, and it's clear that Haley made his point. That's how his mentor Bill Parcells did it, and that's how Haley is going to do it.

And that's why the Chiefs are AFC West champions.

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