Q&A with Todd Haley - 8/10

Posted Aug 10, 2010


OPENING REMARKS: “After a two-a-day yesterday, I think that moving practice back didn’t feel much cooler in my opinion but getting into some shade some of those things helped us get through a pretty difficult day. As I said in the morning, coming off that day back into the grind appeared to be a bit of an adjustment for the entire group through the whole day. It was a long day but less training camp and I think we’re going to have some days like that; hopefully less than the other kind of days. I think that’s where we get into what we’ve been able to do in the off-season in a conditioning and stamina standpoint and then what we’ve been able to do with some of these older veteran players that have been through this. This isn’t their first rodeo. That’s what I feel good about. I feel like we have a good mix of a lot of young guys out there and then enough veteran type players that can help these young guys along and let them know how to handle some of these situations. That’s what I feel good about in general about some of the things going on with this team. As the head coach, I get to see a bunch of examples of that throughout the day, not just on the field. Whether it’s Thomas Jones working with somebody on the side, tutoring, comforting, or whatever the words are; it’s going on all the time and now you’re starting to see some of the players that have been around here that are still in that younger group helping some guys that are younger than they are. Those are good signs, we’re going to get back at it here before too long and have a good-competitive practice; Chiefs versus Chiefs.”


Q: Are you at the point where you need to see live competition against an outside opponent to get a gauge on your progress?

HALEY: “No, I don’t think it’s a must. I’d take three or four weeks before we played anybody because we need all the work we can get so that will be the next step for us as a team to see how we as a group handle the speed. I’ve got to believe that’s going to be a fast track down there, it will be loud, or louder than what we have been dealing with, and that will be an opportunity for us to evaluate these guys in a game situation. Some of these guys haven’t seen the speed of the NFL in a game situation. It’s going to be a good evaluation for us.”

Q: In your eyes, how much of a difference is there between the two inside linebacker positions in the 3-4?

HALEY: “There’s a big difference. There’s a big difference in the type of player we’re looking for from a physical stature. I think there’s a big difference. I think there are more strongside inside linebackers that can play the other side if they have a certain skill set than weakside inside linebackers that can come over and play the other side. The strongside linebacker has to take on a lot bigger bodies a lot more of the time.”

Q: So Derrick Johnson, for the time being, is the right-side inside linebacker and couldn’t slide over to the left?

HALEY: “I’m not saying that he couldn’t. I would say Derrick has the skill set to be that weakside inside linebacker and it’s a very nice fit for him.”

Q: So it would be very unlikely that your inside linebackers would be Derrick and Demorrio (Williams) because they are both more that weakside guy?

HALEY: “I would say that would be more unlikely that that scenario would happen. That inside strong backer is taking on big bodies most of the time and has to be a much more downhill player. When you talk about either one of those guys, they’re not the image you have inside your head as a coach of a strongside inside backer in a 3-4. It’s no issue with them you just need a bigger body to hold up to the pounding and all the things necessary. It’s not mentality or anything like that, those guys, the way they’re looking like right now, look like they could run through a wall. So that’s good.”

Q: Is there a formula that you use going into each preseason game?

HALEY: “I don’t think there’s a formula but you’re definitely trying to build as you go; no different than practice. The good thing is that there are more and more players on this team that I know a lot more about that I don’t necessarily have to put into a bunch of situations to know what we’re going to see. We’ve got to coach them and get them better but in some circumstances to beat the heck out of somebody that you know a lot about just doesn’t make sense. That goes for practice and the games. You’ll see some guys taking more reps, some guys less throughout practice. We’re just moving along the timeline trying to as best I can have all the guys playing to their potential healthy and giving us the best chance to win. No formula, I think some common sense, some experience through the years and then being able to adjust some on the fly and make a decision that hopefully is the right decision.”

Q: How far has (Jovan) Belcher come since last year?

HALEY: “He’s much farther ahead. He was a guy last year that I was very excited about and I know the coaches were excited about because sometimes when you get those guys at the end of the draft that you don’t know a lot about or you don’t have that high expectation so they have a tendency to surprise you a little bit more in some cases; which was the case. He made the team number one, which is a big thing for a college free agent and he was able to contribute. We knew he had a long way to go but the interesting thing about this game or any sport for that matter, and the thing that makes it real fun and exciting as it is, is that it always doesn’t come down to who has the most skill. Who can run the fastest, jump the highest, has the best hands. We’ve seen enough evidence of the most talented person and team for that matter not being the best team.”

“We’ve talked about the right 53, the breaking it down into individuals, and bringing up Belcher. There is still a skill required to play in the NFL but it’s all the other stuff that makes a player talented and then makes a team talented. It’s the other factors; the discipline, the mental toughness, and you see examples all through the league of players that you say well, he doesn’t look like he has the skill of the other player but yet he’s the best player; why is that? That is what we’re trying to develop, the other stuff. You’re trying to improve the skill, develop the skill, which we’re in the process of with a lot of guys, but we’re also trying to develop those other factors that are going to make a player a talented player that you can rely on and depend on to make a better team. That’s the overall team aspect of it all. We’ve seen the teams that aren’t the most skilled teams in whatever sport; the Cinderella, the over achiever, the whatever it is; that find a way to be a much more skilled team.

“(Belcher’s) got some of those other characteristics and that’s what we’re excited about. He had to make a transition from not only the level of competition he was playing at, but if you’ve seen any of his college tape, where he had to play and how he was coached to play. He had to make an adjustment. He’s got some of those other qualities that are a big part of this deal.”

Q: You were just saying that you’re inside linebacker needs to be a bigger more physical player?

HALEY: “I didn’t say more physical. I said be able to hold up to the pounding that is going to take to play the role that we define at the position.”

Q: He is I think your smallest linebacker. How does he fit in that spot? What allows him to hold up?

HALEY: “He’s a young developing player and that goes for physically also. This guy made huge gains in the off-season, this being his first off-season. He made a ton of progress last year in that period from when vets leave and he was able to be with the group he’s been working with. Until you get into that first full off-season, that’s when you get a chance to really benefit. He’s one of those guys that benefited. I don’t know what you guys think but when I see him, I see a different physical body in a lot of different ways. Again, that’s where I started with Derrick and Demorrio. I can’t say that they couldn’t do it because we’ve seen guys at that position play it. You have to have something different for you to hold up and do it over a period of time.”

Q: Wearing your two hats – coaching and personnel – have you ever been able to quantify what the ratio is between skill and the other stuff?

HALEY: “That’s a great question. You need to have a level of skill. There needs to be a skill set to get to this point, just like there needs to get to college level. There needs to be a level of skill whether it’s god-given or developed through time and they’re all doing it different ways. To become a talented player the other factors are pretty critical. I’ve been around enough guys that I’ve said. For example: Wayne Chrebet, the day we sign him he’s across the street at Hofstra. It’s one of the great stories of football in my mind. He’s going to school across the street. I don’t know how many people have been there but where our offices were, literally I could throw a football across Hempstead Turnpike and hit Hofstra. This guy worked out, was at the workout, threw the ball at the workout, dove, never let a ball touch the ground, he was a productive player at a lower level competition school. I don’t know what he was given, a $100, $500 to sign, and he was dead last on the depth chart. He was what you term as a coach - camp legs. I watched him before my eyes – a guy too small, not fast enough, all the reasons that he didn’t even get invited to the combine and he had the production that he had. He started dead last and we had a ton of receivers, I don’t know if it was 13 or 14 guys. In practice he caught every ball. In his first preseason game, I’ll never forget it; we threw a flag route or a corner route against the Giants, and that’s a big preseason game for the Jets, and there was no chance he was catching it and he laid out and made one of the greatest catches that I’ve ever seen. Wayne is a great example of a guy with some skill; he could catch the ball like nobody I’ve ever seen, and he was strong but it was those other qualities that helped Wayne make it from the position he was in to one of the more productive receivers in the league. Had he been able to stay healthy and sustain, I think he would have been at the doorstep of people having to talk about him in that Hall of Fame capacity.”

Q: You referenced what Belcher was asked to do in college opposed to what he’s being asked to do now. What kind of player was he then? What told you that this guy has a chance?

HALEY: “You have to give credit for the Belchers of the world to our scouting staff; somebody that saw a lot more of him. He played a unique position. He was a standup defensive lineman basically that was playing against offensive lineman but now it’s at a different level. When you get a scout that has the vision to see beyond present day reality; he was active and hustling, so you saw some of those other attributes out of him. If we can coach this guy a little bit and if he’s football smart enough to understand those changes and adjust then he might have a chance. You have to give credit to those guys that are there at the school and seeing and talking and listening to the coaches and then come back and say this guy has a chance. The scouts did a great job.”

Q: In this league in general, Cinderellas don’t win Super Bowls. They might beat teams that are better than them but in the last 10 or 15 years the teams that win the Super Bowls have been teams that are pretty good. You need really talented guys, right?

HALEY: “There is a difference between talent and skill. To me, [it] is the skill set combined with the other factors that make a talented player. There’s no doubt you need to have skill to have a chance to compete as we’ve seen in the NFL, but I’m referencing all sports, the Cinderella teams. The 2001 Patriots. That’s a great reference point. Were they as skilled as that St. Louis Rams team? I’m going to ask you a question. Would you say from what any of us saw that weren’t directly involved [that they were as skilled]? They were the most talented team that year because they won the Super Bowl. That day they were definitely the most talented team.”

Q: I guess my question is you’re not worried about going about that route; some would say it requires as many skilled players as you can and try to make it work. It seems like, correct me if I’m wrong, is not the way you guys are doing it. You guys are kind of picking the right players.

HALEY: “We’re trying to find the players that though at the time we acquire them may not be the most talented players. I’m not saying one way or the other, but we feel when brought into our team setting here as we continue to move forward can become the most talented players and be part of the most talented team.”

Q: Do you encourage veteran players to help the younger players or is that something they do on their own?

HALEY: “I think the good ones know what to do. The good ones have one goal most of the time and that’s to win and win as many and specifically win the big one. I’m grateful enough to have a guy like Mike (Vrabel). He’s a resource, though he gets embarrassed some. In my mind, I can’t overuse him. We would rather talk about Charlie Weis’ leg than get to some good stuff. Mike Vrabel is some good stuff. The only way he made the team was special teams. That’s how he got his opportunity because for whatever reason people said he didn’t have this skill to be what we want and there were a lot of people that thought that, I’m sure just because of evidence. He then became a talented, good player that made himself part of a team transitioning from a struggling team to a championship team and he did that by not only having great production as a rusher, as a linebacker, but then playing special teams for a bunch of those early years even after he was a known contributor beyond special teams. We’ve got, I think much better now with what we’ve got with veteran players that know. We’ve got a bunch more than we had. Some were here and some we acquired but I feel a lot better about that situation. To answer the question fully, with the good ones you don’t have to coach them up a whole bunch because they know what it’s like and what it’s about. I think the less you have to coach them the better.”

Q: With guys like him and Thomas Jones, that’s what you brought them here for?

HALEY: “Without a doubt. For their ability, talent, and part of that talent with a bunch of these guys is their leadership qualities. I was talking to my father the other night, driving home after the scrimmage, we had a long talk, and obviously I lean heavily on him. I’m trying to describe Thomas (Jones); he’d left the Jets but he knew Thomas coming out. I said he’s a cross between Curtis Martin and Bryan Cox when we had Bryan Cox. He’s the full package.”

Q: That’s how you described him to your dad?

HALEY: “Curtis, the quiet-quiet leader, led by example. This guy’s not a talkative guy. With the Bryan Cox in him, he’s not afraid to talk when he has to. When he does, when he reacts and that side of him; Thomas will be mad, I shouldn’t be talking, but I’m really happy he’s here. I’m excited about what I see on the field from him; talent aspect and the skill aspect.”

Q: Are you comfortable with (G/C Jon) Asamoah at either guard spot right now?

HALEY: “Probably, I would say getting there. With these guys, you’re seeing it even with Ryan Lilja. Those are big adjustments; either doing one side or the other and the younger you are the more difficult it is to adjust some times. This young kid (Asamoah), I like him. I like some of those other parts of him also. I think that will serve him well. He’s a tough guy, as all those guys have to be on that offensive line position. They have to be of a certain mentality because I haven’t had any on teams of big egos – selfish – that never goes with offensive lineman; the good ones. They’re selfless, they’re tough, they’re nasty, and they’re ornery. That’s the disposition that you’re looking for in that position and he seems to have it to this point.”

Q: Do you view Derrick Johnson as a three down linebacker or a guy that just plays on third down?

HALEY: “I can feel this Derrick Johnson and Demorrio (Williams) drum starting to be beat a bunch here again. This is one of the better battles in camp right now. We’ve got more than we had so that’s good too. I just like the way it’s going right now because I think both those guys have a chance to be real good football players and that’s good for the Kansas City Chiefs.”

^ TOP ^