When Haley was hired as the Chiefs' head coach, not much was known about him. He hadn't exactly been a big name in the coaching ranks until late 2008. If not for the Cardinals' postseason success last year, Haley would have remained mostly anonymous outside Arizona.
We knew he liked to yell, as evident by his sideline blowups with Terrell Owens and Anquan Boldin. We also knew he had a reputation for developing wide receivers, something he was widely credited with during the Cardinals' Super Bowl run.
So perhaps more than anything, Chiefs fans could anticipate Haley's impact on Bowe. Despite his talent, Bowe hadn't quite broken through as an All-Pro caliber receiver, and the obvious hope was that Haley could help him bring his game to the next level.
From the outside, it didn't seem like too tall a task. We all figured if Bowe could just focus more and drop fewer passes, he'd be well on his way.
That should have been more than enough meat for Haley to sink his teeth into. After all, Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald is widely considered a model player in terms of his attitude, work ethic, and practice habits – not to mention his on-field production – and Haley still found things to gripe about. He reportedly teased Fitzgerald about being a "one trick pony," suggesting the receiver was relying too much on his ability to out-jump defenders. Fitzgerald took it to heart and began working on his game, improving his separation from defenders and producing more yards after the catch. His performance in last year's playoffs saw him do plenty of both.
Compared to Fitzgerald, Bowe's issues probably seemed like a smorgasbord to Haley. Still, from a big picture perspective, Bowe didn't seem that far off.
However, it now seems safe to say that we didn't really understand Haley's task.
Earlier this season, Bowe confirmed rumors that he hadn't exactly been the most dedicated player on the practice field prior to Haley's arrival. He had developed a bit of a reputation for questionable practice habits, apparently believing he could simply turn it on during games.
In his defense, he appeared to be largely correct. But if Bowe's first two seasons in the league were accomplished while coasting through practices, one can only imagine the leap he might take if he were to start taking things more seriously – something he said Haley has been trying to instill in him.
But now that he's been suspended, Bowe's practice habits seem like a relatively minor complaint. According to ESPN, the suspension is due to a positive test for a diuretic. While diuretics are considered a banned substance because they can be used to mask drug and steroid use, it's being reported that Bowe used them in an attempt to flush water from his body in order to drop weight.
Whether the weight loss excuse is simply Bowe's explanation, or if there's corroborating evidence to support his story, doesn't yet appear to be known.
If we take the story at face value, the fact that a professional athlete of Bowe's caliber needed to worry about losing weight is troublesome in and of itself. Some rumors floated a year ago about Bowe being out of shape during the offseason, but there was no evidence of it by preseason. The issue was dropped and largely forgotten.
This year, however, Haley's emphasis on conditioning brought the weight issue back to the forefront. According to reports both at the time and at the present, Bowe reported overweight to the Chiefs' offseason workouts in March, with the Kansas City Star citing his weight as 30 pounds above normal. For someone at his fitness level, to have added so much weight in three months is almost impossible to comprehend.
The key item to remember, however, is that Bowe's positive test reportedly happened during training camp, months after his initial weigh-in. After showing up overweight in March, Bowe and his teammates went through strict conditioning workouts during Haley's first minicamps and OTAs. It seems like a safe assumption that Bowe would have shed a good deal of his excess weight during that period.
Why, then, was his weight still enough of an issue in camp that he had to turn to diuretics?
One possible explanation might be that Haley wanted Bowe to lose weight well beyond those 30 pounds. But Bowe is listed at a weight of 221 – almost exactly where he's been since coming out of college – and he doesn't appear any different physically. Unless Haley suddenly changed his mind about the weight loss, that entire scenario appears unlikely.
Barring that, the only other rational explanation would involve Bowe falling off the Weight Watchers wagon again during the down-time between OTAs and training camp. If he'd put on additional weight late in the summer, it would certainly explain his urgency to drop those pounds during camp, particularly once his position on the depth chart began to suffer.
As everyone knows, many jokes have been cracked about Raiders' quarterback JaMarcus Russell and his yearly battles with offseason conditioning. The bigger punchline, though, was never about Russell's waist – it was about the Raiders using a #1 pick on someone who doesn't appear dedicated enough to do the things necessary for success in the NFL.
Bowe's weight issues are a far cry from those of his former LSU teammate, but between his practice habits and lax fitness regimen when he's away from the team, some of the same red flags clearly exist. Even more troubling is Bowe's decision to use the diuretics in the first place. This is especially true given the plight of some of his other teammates, namely Branden Albert and Glenn Dorsey, who both waged battles with weight.
Albert, according to reports, weighed in over 30 pounds heavier than his 2008 mark. He hired a nutritionist, completely changed his diet and, courtesy of Scott Pioli, had pictures of himself from his skinner days placed in his locker as motivation. Dorsey put on weight after the season and had to fight just as hard, even failing the first few conditioning tests at training camp.
As of this writing, neither Dorsey nor Albert has been suspended for using diuretics to cut weight. Neither has any other Chief who dropped pounds over the summer, of course. But the fact that two larger, overweight teammates managed to do things the hard way only makes Bowe look worse for resorting to shortcuts.
Admittedly poor practice habits, slacking off during the offseason, grasping for a quick-fix to his weight gain, not even checking to see if the substance he was taking was approved – it paints a disheartening picture of a much lazier, careless player than we'd imagined.
It also gives us a better view of the tough road Haley has to travel if he hopes to get Bowe to that next level.
One can only hope the Chiefs' top receiver has learned from this incident and can use it as motivation to re-focus and grow up a little. Deep down, though, we know this has to be a strike against him in the eyes of Pioli and Haley.
If Bowe's habits don't change, there will inevitably come a time when Haley starts to wonder if the battle he's fighting is worth it. Let's hope we don't look back on this incident as the beginning of the end of Bowe's time in Kansas City.
Haley's Bowe Project Gets Tougher
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