These are the words of Todd Haley. In one variation or another, he's said the same thing over and over again as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. He's put those words into action time and time again through moves on the depth chart and roster.
Thursday, general manager Scott Pioli went on WFAN in New York, and reiterated what Haley's been telling us.
"Were three games in, and obviously we're 0-3," he said. "Something I believe firmly is that you have to find good players, and those good players have to be the type of guy that can respond to the coaching of the leader, and Todd (Haley) is our leader here. So part of the turnover here and part of the change, if you want to build something long term, unfortunately when there's a dramatic shift in the culture like is happening here, it's going to be a little bit more painful than some places."
"Are we where we need to be in terms of having the right people and the right fit for the head coach? No, were not, and I expect, and Todd expects, we all expect win games along the way. I just don't believe in writing things off and saying, ‘Oh we don't have the right guys.' That's a loser's attitude. We're just not going to have that."
When fans evaluate a depth chart or free agent, they often look at two things - names and numbers. The numbers can consist of age, starts, and statistics, how a player's previous team played with him. All of that matters, but one things fans often overlook is what they can't see by simply looking at game film, box scores and scouting reports. Pioli believes a player can be a great player, but not be the right player. Based on that variable fans, media and other laymen often err in judgment.
"They may not fit schematically and they may not fit makeup wise," said Pioli. "One of the things I've learned along the way is just because a player can't fit here or can't fit with the program that you're in, doesn't mean they're a bad player or it doesn't mean they're bad person. It doesn't mean any of that. It just means it's not the right fit. There's going to be players that leave here and go to another situation and be successful. I'm a firm believer in fit. Anyone can go out and find good players. You've got to find good players that can respond to the leadership."
Damion McIntosh, Bernard Pollard, Monty Beisel and Turk McBride are just a few of the casualties of Pioli and Haley's quest to find players who fit their program. Several players like Wallace Gilberry, Andy Studebaker, Demorrio Williams and Bobby Wade have all benefited from that approach. Undrafted rookie linebacker Jovan Belcher may be the next.
"He was a free agent guy for us who we had our eye on," said Haley of Belcher. "We had some familiarity with his agent. Sometimes when you know those guys, you keep your eye on them. They have similar type players a lot of times. Just a guy that our scouting, personnel staff had on the radar. We thought he was a draftable-type player that, when he wasn't, we thought it was a bonus to end up with him as a free agent. Now he is getting a little chance to play."
Belcher played last week, and many thought it was due to the absence of Derrick Johnson, but Haley indicated otherwise. In fact, Haley said Belcher could have played more in last week's loss to the Eagles, and said his role will increase going forward.
"He is a guy we wanted on the field and just because the way the game went and ended up, not enough," he said. "I think he was a little wound-up last week with it being his first real action defensively. That caused him to get out of position a little bit, but I think the more he gets his feet under him and gets comfortable a little bit, we are going to see that he has a chance to be a player. We are going to do some more things to get him out there."
During Pioli's interview, he kept referring to his teenage years in Washingtonville, NY, and the lessons he learned playing high school football. It's clear those days left a profound impact on the man now steering the ship in Kansas City.
"In 1981 we were this group of people where our high school had never won anything in terms of football and we were a group of 32 guys that went 10-0, and we only let up 33 points the entire season," reminisced Pioli. "It was just an amazing experience. We were this small school, and it was a coaching staff that pulled us together and brought us together, and at 17 years old, we learned not only what greatness was, but we learned what perfection was."
"As silly as that may sound, it's one of those things in life that when you learn and when you're positively enforced at a young age, in the scope of things at point in our lives it was the most important thing, and then as you grow older, you have all those lessons that taught you and taught us what it took to be great."
Hopefully, Pioli can channel the lessons he learned as a small town, underdog football player into success as the GM of a small-market, underdog franchise.
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