Haley: Leader and Motivator

January 6th, 2011 by Lee Eldridge

Kansas City Chiefs Todd HaleyLots of interesting things we could discuss this week. The Chiefs are headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2006, and have won the AFC West for the first time since 2003. The game against the Ravens on Sunday. The impending departure of Charlie Weis. But before we do all of that, I want to spend a little time on head coach Todd Haley.

If you spend any time reading the various forums and blogs, it’s amazing the amount of ire some fans have for Haley. He’s described as egotistical, hard headed and ruthless. Even unstable. These people have missed what has been an amazing display of leadership and motivation.

Last year, Haley came to Kansas City to coach a team that had won only six games combined over the two previous seasons. People couldn’t understand his approach. He belittled and pushed his team and his coaches in every way possible. He beat them down for all to see. The media and the fans concluded that Haley was irrational and unable to control his emotions. He was a hot head who was in over his head.

Have you seen the movie Heartbreak Ridge with Clint Eastwood? What does every drill sergeant do in every war movie with a bunch of young soldiers? He breaks them down and builds them back up as a team.

Last year, Todd Haley was that drill sergeant.

It was interesting to hear the talk radio people early this season. Haley had become much more composed. Somebody had gotten to him and Haley had changed his style. Somebody (probably Pioli) must have convinced him that he needed to change. The media somehow missed what had just happened. Last year was about tearing down the individuals. This year was about rebuilding them into a team.

The Chiefs won 10 games. Won the AFC West. And are hosting a home playoff game Sunday against the Ravens. The Chiefs still have some deficiencies. They’re a good team, but not a great team yet. Haley has done an amazing job in Kansas City, and everything he has done was done by design.

Kansas City Chiefs Charlie WeisCharlie Weis
I was very excited about the hiring of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, and am disappointed that he’s leaving after only one year. There has been a lot of speculation that Kansas City is not big enough for Haley and Weis. This stems from the misconception about Haley’s ego. Why is Charlie Weis leaving? I think there are two factors in particular that have transpired.

One, Charlie Weis would like to be a head coach again. He’s not likely to get that opportunity in the NFL. Teams have found success with younger candidates such as Todd Haley and Raheem Morris in Tampa. Seldom do you get the opportunity for your first head coaching job in the NFL later in life. Moving back to the college ranks and a high profile job as offensive coordinator at Florida puts him in a better position to get another crack as head coach. He also gets to work with longtime friend Will Muschamp, who is the new head coach for the Gators.

And two, Weis finds himself in a unique position where he’ll get to work with his son. His son wants to be a coach, and will be joining the staff at Florida as well. Here’s a good article from the Gainesville Sun about Weis and his son going to Florida. Football coaches work incredibly long hours, and I guarantee you that they miss out on a lot of family time. I’m sure many of them look back with some level of regret as their children grow up and they realize that they weren’t around as much as they would have liked. Weis has an opportunity to spend time with his son, and be the offensive coordinator at Florida.

And a quick note about Todd Haley — I’ve spent years reading about leadership. Leaders in business. Leaders in politics. And leaders in sports. I’ve watched many of Haley’s press conferences, and he’s much more humble than how the media likes to portray him. The best leaders surround themselves with the best people. Haley brought to Kansas City two of the most established coordinators in the NFL with Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel. Haley’s ego did not get in the way. And Haley’s ego is not driving Weis out of Kansas City.

Who will be the next offensive coordinator? I’m not making a prediction, but wouldn’t Josh McDaniels be high on the list if it wasn’t for handshake-gate?

Chiefs vs Ravens
I have to admit, I was hoping for the Jets this weekend. The Ravens were my preseason pick to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Baltimore will be very tough. Their defense is very good, though it’s not as good as it has been in years past. They’re ranked #10 in yards allowed and #3 in points allowed.

But you want a reason to hope? The two defenses that have given the Chiefs the most problems recently have been the Chargers and the Raiders. They are attacking, blitzing, aggressive defenses. They put a lot of pressure on the quarterback, and are tied for #2 in the league with 47 sacks. Baltimore is a much more controlled defense, and they don’t put nearly as much pressure on the quarterback. The Ravens are tied for #27 in the league with only 27 sacks. Matt Cassel has proven that if the offensive line can give him protection, that he’ll make very good decisions with the ball.

Kansas City Chiefs Jamaal CharlesOffensively, the Chiefs will need to attack the Ravens much like they did the Titans. They will need to pass the ball to open up the running game. The Ravens are ranked #21 against the pass, and #5 against the run. Expect Weis to move the ball around a lot. Screens to the running backs. Sideline patterns to the receivers. And if the Chiefs don’t give the ball to Jamaal Charles, I’m going to be very disappointed. I like how the Chiefs have shared the ball between Charles and Jones this season. Charles is fresh and healthy because he hasn’t had to carry the load. But Charles is the Chiefs most explosive player. The time for saving him is done. There is no tomorrow if they lose. Charles had better receive the bulk of the carries against the Ravens if the Chiefs want to move to round two of the playoffs.

Prediction: I’ve tried hard not to be a homer this season, but today, I’m a Chiefs fan all the way. Chiefs 20, Ravens 17

Super Bowl Prediction
If you go back to my preseason predictions, I had the Colts losing to the Ravens in the AFC Championship. I had the Packers losing to the Saints in the NFC Championship. And the Saints winning their second straight Super Bowl.

Today? I’m not a gambling man. And it’s easy to pick the teams with home field advantage. The Patriots look unstoppable, and are undefeated at home. The rest of the AFC teams have a few warts, and it will take a Herculean effort to win in New England. It would be very difficult to bet against Brady and the Pats.

I think things are much tighter in the NFC, and I think you could make a case that the two best teams in the NFC are the Packers and the Eagles. The Falcons are very tough at home, but not unbeatable.

Super Bowl Prediction: Would love to see Tom Brady vs Michael Vick. I’m picking the Patriots over the Eagles.

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