Haley Appears Poised to Shake Rookie Blues

ST. JOSEPH, MO - You can say what you want about Todd Haley's rookie season as head coach. Let's be honest: it wasn't very good.

In fact, with a record of 4-12, one would think that could be cause for termination, though he did win two more games with less talent than his predecessor Herm Edwards. I maintained all offseason that he deserved another chance. Now that he has it -- what's he going to do with it?

For the record, I like Haley. I can look past the fact he was put in the impossible position a year ago of taking over a franchise in complete disarray. The team changed general managers from Carl Peterson to Scott Pioli. And to a man, every player loved their previous coach because Edwards was one of them.

Then Haley came in and the buddy-buddy open door demeanor of his predecessor was out the window. Haley had his own style. The problem was his players didn't understand it and they weren't happen. Tony Gonzalez was one of them and he was dealt to the Atlanta Falcons. All-Pro guard Brian Waters was another, but the two sides were able to gain mutual respect once they began to trust each other.

But one by one, Haley knew he had to, for a better phrase, clean house. He did that player by player, position by position. Of the 53-man roster that will play in the season opener September 13th against division rival San Diego, only 23 players remain from the Edwards/Peterson era. And only 14 of them will be starters in 2010.

Those players are LT Branden Albert, WR Dwayne Bowe, CBs Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers, RB Jamaal Charles, P Dustin Colquitt, FB Mike Cox, DE Glenn Dorsey, DT Ron Edwards, LBs Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, and Demorrio Williams, and G Brian Waters.

As far as starting jobs go, I could argue a few of the above-mentioned players, such as Waters, Johnson, Cox, and Edwards. But for the benefit of this column, it's safe to say barring injuries or trades that most of them will line up come opening day. The rest of the starting group is made up entirely of players that Pioli and/or Haley brought into the fold.

However, a 53-man roster is only as strong as it's last member. Sure, only 22 players start (24 if you count your kicker and punter), but without the remaining 29 players pushing, pulling, and fighting to be one of those 22, you can never build a competitive team.

Haley has Weis to run the offense.
Getty Images

For his part, Haley now has the benefit of one of the best defensive minds in Romeo Crennel to handle the defense. It's an area that Haley doesn't need to worry about. On offense, it's the same with the addition of Dr. Charlie Weis, who possess a championship pedigree that will elevate the Chiefs offense.

Still, Haley did get a team to the Super Bowl as an offensive coordinator in Arizona. So it's going to be interesting to see how his relationship with Weis works in the public eye. So far, I think the two of them have been pretty entertaining on the sidelines and I think that's allowed Haley to loosen up a bit.

With a week to go before the Chiefs open the exhibition season next Friday at Atlanta, there still is much work to do as Haley discussed when talking to the media on Thursday.

But I really believe that all he's worried about now is making sure he has, as he continues to say, the right 53. And from all accounts, when the final roster shakes out, some from that other era won't make the final grades.

Change is good in the NFL and your roster should always be evolving, as it was a year ago when guys would sign mid-week and play on Sunday.

Part of that was by design. The other was based on the fact the talent wasn't all that good. But this year is different and you can tell by the way Haley conducts himself that he has a sense of that as well.

I've now watched four head coaches in training camp: Hank Stram, Dick Vermeil, Herm Edwards and Haley. I can say without a doubt that the current head coach has a better handle on his team than the last two did in their second year on the job.

He lacks head coaching experience, and he still may rough around the edges in certain areas, but he's a down to Earth, intense head coach who understands how to do things better after a turbulent maiden voyage.

If he can rely on the players he's acquired since he arrived, and hope that the others left over can trust the entire coaching staff, this football team is going to surprise quite a few people.

And if that happens, it'll have been the adjustments Haley has made that will have been the catalyst.

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