Tribal Voice: The Haley Factor

How much can you discover from watching a person for five days? Generally not much at all, but with our return to the practice field last week for OTA sessions and Mini-Camp, I tried to focus on Chiefs Head Coach Todd Haley.

I've come a long way in my opinion of Haley because at first I wanted a big name like Mike Shanahan or Bill Cowher on the sideline at Arrowhead. I thought a veteran coach was what Pioli wanted. That wasn't the case, however, and I've been told Pioli offered the Chiefs' job to Haley within minutes of their initial meeting in Arizona shortly after the Super Bowl.

We're now left with a head coach who is in charge of turning around a team that has been under coached and underachieved on all counts the last five years. You really have to go back to the Dick Vermeil era to understand how bad the wheels have fallen off this franchise.

Vermeil did his best to keep it together after an unfortunate playoff loss at home to Indianapolis. Herm Edwards tried to come in and change the mindset but the cupboard was pretty bare when he took over from Vermeil after 2005.

Haley arrived and found a ton of young players, talented rookies and valuable veterans. But he also found some who couldn't play, including four 2008 draft picks who have already received their pink slips.

He found out that the work ethic, especially in KC's weight room, wasn't up to his standards. Offseason conditioning was lacking. Left tackle Branden Albert was a prime example, as he ballooned up to a hefty 340 pounds and change.

Haley was quick to ride the former first-round draft pick until he slimmed down to 309 pounds. The head coach wants his linemen agile, quick and light on their feet. Albert bought into what Haley preached and admitted he didn't do what he needed to once the season ended.

Others also learned that lesson. Combined, the Chiefs have lost over 300 pounds since voluntary workouts began in March. I suspect the team may have another 300 or so pounds to go before Haley is comfortable.

What this tells us about Haley is that he understands the rigors of the NFL season. You begin with offseason workouts, organized team activities, mini-camp, more organized team activities, and then three weeks of training camp. Then you have the preseason before the regular season finally arrives. The only way to survive it all is to be in great physical shape.

Haley, for all his shortcomings in experience, certainly talks the part as if he's been doing it forever. His style is similar to his mentor, Bill Parcells, and there's nothing wrong with that.

But there is a clear difference. While Parcells loved his players, many could not stand his coaching style. Even so, they played hard for him for two reasons. One, they respected him and two, he would generally have his teams playing meaningful games in January.

Haley is different. Every Chief I spoke with on and off the record told me they really loved Haley's approach and how he's raised the bar for expectations in Kansas City. He has his players running, hustling and gassed after each practice.

The sense in the locker room is that this team can exceed the six wins it put up the last two years.

If that happens, Haley's first spring and summer might wind up being the catalyst. There isn't anything I see that indicates he won't get the Chiefs back to respectability this season. He has a plan that seems to be working and the players are buying into his team concept.


Why the Cloak and Dagger on Brett Favre?

I'm getting fairly annoyed with all the talk about Brett Favre, his surgery, and his possible return to the NFL.

It'll be good for the Minnesota Vikings if he comes out of retirement for the second time in as many years to play in 2009, but Favre's agent, Bus Cook, has been deflecting rumors about a return for the past month.

Reports were rampant that the Vikings had set a deadline for Favre to make a decision, but then we learned those reports weren't accurate. It made little sense for Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress to set a deadline, since he was the one leading the charge to get Favre.

The Vikings don't need Favre to join the team until sometime in early August. He didn't report to the New York Jets until late in the year last season, was no worse for it. He'll only take a few snaps in the preseason.

Some, like former Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton, have come out blasting Favre for thinking of playing again. But it's his right, and if I've learned something in my years of covering sports, athletes like Favre can't give up the game. They are driven by their ego and the belief they have unfinished business on the field. At this point, it's not about the money.

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