Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel has been a lightning rod for criticism throughout the past three weeks and many in turn pointed the finger at Haley. Entering Sunday's game as the worst ranked quarterback in the NFL with three starts, Cassel had a serious monkey on his back. Unfortunately Cassel looked even worse during the first half of the Vikings game completing just over 50 percent of his passes for only 99 yards.
The breaking point for Haley and Cassel's relationship came after an incomplete pass to Le'Ron McClain's feet. Cassel and Haley were seen having a heated argument on the sideline. Mclain intervened and separated the two.
"I was just reminding them, 'next play, next play, everything's good, just move on to the next play," said McClain. "That's all I was saying. Matt came back into the game and started doing his thing."
According to some of Cassel's teammates, "doing his thing" started in the lockeroom at halftime.
"[Cassel] was fired up," said Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe. "He was screaming, 'come on guys, keep me clean.' And the offensive line kept him clean."
Cassel, and the rest of his offensive attack, came out of the half a new team with a fire we had not seen from them since midway through the 2010 season. Cassel played with confidence and his coaches coached with confidence in Cassel.
Cassel finished Sunday 18 of 29 for 260 yards and one touchdown with a quarterback rating of 102.7.
"[Cassel] battled throughout that game," said Haley "He showed one of his great qualities is to keep bouncing back and he did it throughout the game."
We have been quick to point the finger at Haley for Cassel's struggles in the past, but today Haley deserves credit for getting his quarterback on track. Every coach from peewee football to the NFL has a different approach to motivating their players and Haley's just happens to be making his guys madder than hell.
"I tell all these guys to say what you feel, because I'm going to," said Haley. "I'm gonna coach you hard, they know it, they respect it, but I say to them they have the right to say what they want to, too."
The details of the conversation between Haley and Cassel will likely never be known but both can be judged by what happened on the field Sunday, during the Chiefs' first victory of 2011.
Haley is not a typical coach and sometimes his approach is a negative. But other times, his antics inspire mediocre players to play like Pro Bowlers, which is the best compliment you can give a coach. Despite getting embarrassed early in 2011, Haley still seems to have the ears and confidence of his players. As long as he has those two things, for better or worse, he's the right man to lead the Kansas City Chiefs.
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