Q: Your freshman class, your rookies, seem relatively bonded with each other. In just talking to them, they say that it really started with rookie mini-camp in May…everybody’s just kind of leaned on each other for support. They’ve become good friends. I know that’s good for the team, but is that something you try to encourage or did it just sort of happen because all of these guys really seem to get along?
HALEY: “I think you try to encourage it as much as you can. This was all of our second year and generally new jobs for a lot of people. You’ve got a chance to learn from the first year, pay attention to everything that went on and think about things that you’d do differently as you get through that first year. We did some unique things, had a rookie dinner and things like that here in the building that I think had some benefit and I really am glad that we did a couple of the things. Some of the things were like that that I’ve done one other place before but I always kind of kept it in my mind that it was a good thing. I’ve, as the head coach, done a lot more team building things in the second year because you’ve got some of the ground work, nitty gritty work behind you that had to be done in the first year. But this year we’ve tried to do more things conducive to building a team and building a family and I think those things have paid off. I think this young group will be the first group to get the benefit from some of those things. A lot of it’s just them. They’re a good group of young men and I’ve said that from the start. They’re fun to be around and I think that’s good for everyone.”
Q: We talked about this on draft day but I think that six of the seven or something like that were captains of their team. How much do you think that has contributed to this cohesiveness? So many of them are playing so well and making contributions. I know that must have been something that you and Scott (Pioli) were aware of on draft day.
HALEY: “Our scouts are the ones that deserve the credit for just exhaustingly searching as good scouts do. They find out everything possible about each and every one of these guys, but it’s not just them. You don’t know who you’re going to end up with. The scouts did a tremendous job, obviously. We were trying to find good football players first and foremost and then just trying to find the right kinds of guys that we think will fit with what we’re trying to get done. That includes veterans, free agents, everybody that we’ve had a hand of bringing into this building or keeping in this building, that’s part of the equation. Being good football players is right up there at the top of the list and then being the types of people that you want to be around every day is another big part of it. Success has something to do with it also. As you become better as a team and you win games, that’s just more conducive to team building because it goes back to my law that to have fun you have to be doing what you want to be doing, be with who you want to be with and you have to be doing what you want to do well. All those three things are at play right now. We have a lot of guys that seem to like being around each other and doing what they’re doing pretty well because they’re having fun.”
Q: You talked briefly yesterday about finishing out this season 8-0, undefeated, at home. How important is it really to have that home field advantage? I’m sure you’ve heard about what Arrowhead used to be around here, what type of advantage that was. How important is it for this team to re-establish that?
HALEY: “I think it’s really critical if you want to be a good team year in and year out and if you want to be a team that has the chance to play in big games. The more of those you can have here at your place, obviously time has shown that there is home field advantage in the NFL, especially here. I didn’t need to be told about it; I’ve been in here at the height of that home field advantage in the ‘90s when it was a scary place to come to and try to feel like you could win a game because of the great fans. The design of the stadium has something to do with it because it’s a loud place. That was something that we’ve talked about from day one – getting our fans back. We knew it was going to take some work and that they had a reason to go away because the team being put out there wasn’t a lot of fun to watch a lot of times. We’ve really worked hard to improve the team, get the team to a position where we could have some success and be competitive. I knew just from being in this business for my whole life that if you have a good team and you’re competitive then people will come out. I just knew from the past that this would be a good place to get them to come out. It’s a great football town and the advantage has been building here this year, especially each week that we’ve had success has been a little better. I expect even more out this week. You can just drive around town and you see more people with Chiefs gear on, a Chiefs flag on their car or truck, waiter or waitresses with a Chiefs shirt on, it’s great stuff. That’s what it’s all about and that was the vision that I had when I accepted the task of coming here and being the head coach. It’s starting to come into clearer view and that’s great.”
Q: Are you starting to see Arrowhead becoming an advantage again?
HALEY: “It was an advantage last year. I was really impressed with our fans from day one because even though, at times, the stadium maybe wasn’t full, there were games last year that they were crazy. It was loud and you said to yourself then ‘Boy, if we could get everybody in here it would be really loud’ and that’s kind of what’s happened. I understood that task clearly that we had to do our part and I feel like we’re doing some of that. The team has improved, we’re making progress. We aren’t there yet but I feel like we’re doing our part for our fans to make it an event that they want to come and go crazy at. The more the better.”
Q: What kind of history do you have with Marty Schottenheimer?
HALEY: “Coach Schottenheimer, where my father grew up in a town called Midway, PA which was midway between Weirton, WV and Pittsburgh, PA, and the Schottenheimers were from McDonald, PA, which is a much bigger town than Midway; I think my father’s graduating class was 19 or 20 in high school. It is a small mining town and steel mill. You either worked in the mine or you worked in the steel mill and my grandfather worked for Weirton Steel for 50 years. McDonald was right down the road, much bigger and they were a little more of the powerhouse but Midway managed to find four or five guys that made it to the NFL out of Midway and McDonald, the Schottenheimers, (Cincinnati Head Coach) Marvin Lewis, there are a number of guys out of McDonald. They’re true western PA football towns. Coach Schottenheimer was a couple years behind my father and obviously my father being a bigshot at that time in that small town and making it to the NFL and playing at Pitt, Marty kind of followed in his footsteps and they’ve remained close through the years because of it and because of that I’ve gotten to know him very well and is somebody that I have a great amount of respect for as I watched him as a coach growing, he was really one of my idols, truly one of my idols growing up. Having a connection there is always great and makes it a little easier to put somebody up there. But watching him do his thing, obviously one of the great head coaches who has won a lot of games.”
Q: Is there any particular experience you remember as a kid of being with him or around him?
HALEY: “There’s one funny story that I can’t tell but we were down at the East-West Game, which has moved to Orlando where my father now lives, and coach Schottenheimer was coaching this year and (Chiefs defensive coordinator) Romeo (Crennel) was coaching the other side, but I stayed at my parents’ while we were down there scouting the week of practice but we stood out after practice one day and my father and he (Schottenheimer), they can tell stories forever, but it was one that I hadn’t heard in a little while – Coach Schottenheimer was talking about my dad, saying that he always had the best car, he had a convertible – you’d have to ask him, I don’t know what my dad had but Marty did – a convertible something, 1960, it was baby blue I think is what he said, and he said not to tell my mom, ‘Your dad always had the best looking girl and he’d cruise through McDonald in that girl and I just wanted to be Dick Haley.’ This off-season, it’s always a treat when you hear people who have accomplished so much and came out of such small towns that are truly small, small towns and make great accomplishments. It’s always fun for me to sit around and listen to.”
Q: Will you be able to have a moment to see him this weekend?
HALEY: “Hopefully. I’m going to try get over there Saturday. We have our meetings that night but I’m going to get over and at least see him and say hello to him.”
Q: You’ve had a couple days to go over the game plan. Do you have more of an idea of how you want to handle this game as far as resting some guys?
HALEY: “Just as I’ve said, we’re a team in transition trying to develop, trying to get to where we want to get to which we’re not there yet, we’re just not. So we’ve got work to do. Every day counts, every game counts. I think it’s very critical in this league and people have differing opinions but I feel like you’ve got to finish strong and you’ve got to have momentum and all those things count, especially for our team. We’re trying to accomplish our goal and that’s to get to three wins in this quarter and that’s what our mind is set on so I would expect to do not a lot different and then you just have to see how the game goes.”
Q: Since WR
HALEY: “I think the big thing is getting healthy and he’s getting a lot closer, really that’s a good thing with our team, nobody feels good this time of year like I’ve said many times, you’re just never going to be 100 percent once the season starts but he’s really been fighting through an injury that it’s actually impressive that he’s been out there as much as he has been out there as much as he has but he’s getting closer now. I saw a little bit last week that I thought was encouraging, he made a couple real good plays for us and I would just expect him to build on that. He’s had a couple good days of practice and like I said, health is a big part of that, feeling better about getting closer to up-to-speed.”
Q: When you’ve got someone who is potentially as explosive as he is, is it difficult or challenging to take it slow with him and give him more time than he’s had?
HALEY: “I think we’ve all been through this a bunch and Richie Anderson, our receivers coach, has done a great job of managing him. You can only do what they are capable of doing but it’s pretty clear with him, he’s a tough guy but he’s pretty forthright on where he is and has been so I think you just work accordingly with him and back at the beginning of him coming back, he might have been able to be back but we didn’t feel like he was going to be able to get enough plays to contribute where it was more important to have somebody else up, that’s always going on. The good thing is he’s getting a lot closer to 100 percent and obviously has a unique skill set that makes it easy to use him, actually.”
Q: His injury, that really impacts him because he’s built around movement and if you have a leg that’s dinged up, that’s not going to help?
HALEY: “Yeah, whatever it is, it’s not good for those little sports cars to need tune-ups. The guys that rely on speed or quickness, they need to be fast and quick. There are other guys that don’t rely on that and they may be able to play through different injuries a little better or a little differently but it’s all relative.”
Q: Talking about this rookie class, when you and GM Scott Pioli prepared the personnel department to go out last fall, did you go out with a template or did they bring back the information and as you’re starting to sort through you’re starting to go, ‘captains, we like that, or we like this.’?
HALEY: “I think Scott, this is probably more of an off-season talk, but I think Scott is one of the best in the business at having those guys prepared but we obviously did a lot of work together on the types of players that we’re looking for and that’s not just exclusive to ability, it’s taking everything into account. Scott’s tremendous, Phil Emery, who’s the (college scouting) director, is tremendous. He and I were actually together in Chicago for a few years and worked closely together because he always had receivers – he was the receiver cross-check guy but Phil’s done a great job and everybody has been on the same page for the types of players, both ability and character that we’re looking for, with ability being the top of the list. They’ve got to fit. Good football, good football players that are pretty good people would work.”