Let's face it: the next 14 weeks are gonna be brutal. The well-publicized injuries to Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry not only drastically reduced the talent on the Chiefs roster, they brought morale back down to a place no player wants to experience - and no Chiefs fan wants to remember.
It was only three short years ago the Chiefs were mired in a slump that saw them win only six games in two seasons. That kind of ineptitude brought about a drastic change in Kansas City that up until now had seemed like it was working.
While players like Brandon Flowers insist that "we won't go back to the old Chiefs" there is little to look forward to on the rest of the schedule. We do have this Sunday's game, however - against a poorly Vikings squad that presents the first genuine opportunity for this Chiefs team to actually win.
And this is where I begin to really admire Todd Haley.
Rather than take the easy way out (see: Suck for Luck), Coach Haley is calling audibles. Frustrating as it may be, this team has been forced to alter their plan for the 2011 season... heck, they've even changed their motto.
The focus is now on beating the odds rather than building on 2010's AFC West Championship. Each week for the rest of the year, Kansas City figures to be the underdog. It’s no longer about breaking the season into quarters or winning this week or that; the 2011 Chiefs are now evaluating plays. One. At. A. Time. What's going right here? What's going wrong? How does the technique look? How can we make this guy better?
It’s funny: last year there was so much drama about Todd Haley never really saying the Chiefs were a good team. He used all sorts of little mind tricks to try and get the best out of his players... and it worked. Now, he's embracing them. He's saying he likes this group of guys; he's proud of their effort.
If you don't mind my saying, I think it’s brilliant.
While some may point to his lack of football (playing) background, they fail to recognize his ability to manipulate the psyche of his team - something that is becoming more important as the game is modernized and compensation has inflated exponentially. It’s harder than ever for a coach to "reach" players at the NFL level. Given Todd Haley's accomplishments of the past - and even as present as last season - there is plenty of evidence to believe he has an uncanny ability to improve just about any player he's presented with.
Loud mouth divas like Keyshawn Johnson and Terry Glenn had their best years with him. Wayne Cherbet and Marty Booker, players both severely lacking professional traits, had outstanding production under him. Even the incomparable Larry Fitzgerald improved by leaps and bounds because of Haley's tutelage. More recently, do you remember the questions about his methods concerning Derrick Johnson, Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles? They all had career years in 2010.
No, he hasn't lost the players - the majority of them love Coach Haley.
That's not going to change, no matter how bad this season gets. Sure, it hurts to have to reduce expectations to "small victories" on Sundays. I mean, who really relishes every time they see Tyson Jackson in on a tackle? Do any of you get on the edge of your seat when you see Jake O'Connell check-in the game? Show me the guy that enjoys hanging his hat on Dexter McCluster's 65 yards from scrimmage.
As fans it’s difficult to swallow, but just think about having to coach that kind of football. The team's performance last week was downright remarkable, so give Coach his due and proper.
Look: I'm not saying that he should be immune to criticism just because we lost a few players to injury. However, if Todd Haley gets fired due to the inevitably poor record they have this year, that will be the biggest failure of all.