Column: A New Path Awaits Chiefs

From Arrowhead Stadium

There are certain signs one looks for when watching the development of a team. When the bar is low enough to hold a limbo contest, there are many steps that must be taken before a group becomes a team and before a team becomes a successful team.

Unfortunately, there’s no Goggle Maps or MapQuest that the leaders of a team can call up that provides the path or fastest way to the ultimate goal. Maps and methods used by previous teams can provide insight and help, but it can’t walk the walk. That has to be done by the members of the team and that group changes every season.

The Chiefs have been taking that long walk for the last four years now. On Sunday, they got close to finding the end of the trail. With their 34-14 victory over the Tennessee Titans, they have won 10 games in a single season, this feat coming after they won just 10 games in the previous three seasons combined.

And with the help of the Cincinnati Bengals, they have captured the AFC West, a spot in the playoffs and an opening home game in the tournament.

Once lost on that path to becoming a good team, the Chiefs are now close enough that they can reach out and touch the target.

“I don’t think a lot of people thought we were getting to 10 (wins),” said head coach Todd Haley. “That’s a big step for this team. I’m proud of these guys and what they’ve done. Double digit wins in this league is a milestone.”

There are a lot of miles that have been traveled to reach that stone mentioned by Haley. It has not been a smooth ride for him, this team, the organization and especially its fans. First they headed off down a path behind not Lewis & Clark, but Carl & Herm, a pair of familiar leaders who knew the way. But after two years of stumbles, it was decided that the road taken and the guides leading the way needed to be different.

That brought Pioli & Haley into the journey and last year they carried a group of men down the path and most of the time found themselves stumbling into the briars along the way. They never got lost, but they didn’t seem to make much headway through the tall grass of the NFL. Some of those on the trail had to be left behind, unable to keep up with the pace. Others were dragged along by mates until they finally discovered how to make the march.

Expectations for the 2010 journey were cautious to say the least. There were concerns that the team didn’t have enough talent, or experience, or leaders. But as the season has gone on, the Chiefs have moved down the path and not gotten detoured. Yes, they have several times come to a fork in the road and have taken the wrong path. But they doubled back and got right back on track.

To reach the point where they have won 10 games and are now just a victory away from being division champs is almost unbelieveable, even to some of those who have survived the journey.

“It’s a huge accomplishment,” said QB Matt Cassel. “To go through being 4-12 last year, I know that there was a ton of adversity and it was difficult to handle at times. To be here with 10 wins in our season and one win away from a division championship, it’s remarkable to say the least.”

Funny thing about the journey from a group of people, to a team, to a good team – they reach the end of that trail, and suddenly there is another one they must traverse. That’s to go from a good team to a team that can win in January, to a team that can go to the Super Bowl, to a team that can win a Super Bowl.

Those journeys are part of the future for the Kansas City Chiefs. They will be difficult trips, where the problems and hurdles that must be dealt with increased frequency. But after where this team started its journey in the last days of July, those new paths are exciting.

It’s the reason they make the journey.

11 Responses to “Column: A New Path Awaits Chiefs”

  • December 26, 2010  - napahank says:

    We ARE The AFC West Champs!

  • December 26, 2010  - RW says:

    I have to admit to having broken both legs jumping off the Pioli/Haley bandwagon after the 2009 season. Sure don’t mind eating some Crow today and will admit to not even coming close to seeing a season like this coming.

    It must have a lot to do with what Hali said in his recent interview about the team not being in shape under Herm. Tough love and conditioning meted out by Haley has paid off and then some.

    Now, if anyone wants to do revisionist history, I can crack on CP with the best of ‘em.

  • December 26, 2010  - Dave71 says:

    I think that it should be perfectly clear to everyone now how much difference coaching makes. The difference between Haley & his relentless attention to detail & Edwards & his undisciplined approach is like night & day. That was made clear in Haley’s first training camp that only the real workers would succeed on his team. You made a comment Bob in one of your columns last year that Haley’s approach would not be received well by the players if there wasn’t success. Well what do you say now? I love your work on this site & I visit it every day, but you STILL seem a bit grudging in your praise of Haley.

  • December 26, 2010  - MEDennis34 says:

    Well said napahank:

    AFC WEST CHAMPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • December 26, 2010  - Nate says:

    I agree with the comments about Todd Haley. If he isn’t coach of the year, he should be. And the guy that I want to thank is Scott Pioli. He hired Todd Haley and traded for Matt Cassel. He brought in 4 veteran free agents this past off season who are all starters and have made a huge impact. He pulled the trigger on the best draft in the NFL in April. And he is the reason we were able to get Charlie Weiss and Romeo Crennel as coordinators. Scott Pioli knows football. Anyone who doubts that doesn’t know football!

  • December 26, 2010  - Jonathan says:

    Pioli said during the preseason that he had a plan and he has stuck to it. Remember, to give Clark some credit because he said before the 2008 season that he wasn’t as patient as his dad. That put both Carl and Herm at that time on notice and when they finished 2-14 well it was time to clean house. Everyone deserves some praise even though it was difficult at first. Now that the first step has been completed it’s now time for the second step to be completed i.e. winning a playoff game.

  • December 27, 2010  - Chiefs Win Game & Division – They Rule The AFC West | Chiefs Football at says:

    [...] COLUMN: Chiefs found the right path. [...]

  • December 27, 2010  - johnfromfairfax says:

    Thanks for the post Bob. I recall a lot of people criticizing the disciplined coaching approach that Haley took coming in, even criticizing him for requiring players to be in shape and play smart, consistent football. This despite the fact we saw what the approach employed before he came on board produced. I also recall a lot of complaints about moves Pioli made or didn’t make, particularly regarding free agents that others felt we had to sign to have a chance. I think the present organization has proven their method and the lack of cries for their heads from many here that wrote them off before speaks to that. Hopefully we continue to see the progression we all hoped for and that it brings back the rest of the fans to fill the empty seats I saw in the stands on Sunday. If not, I’m sure we can count on the return of the haters. I for one am going to savor the moment. It’s a great day to be a Chiefs fan.

  • December 27, 2010  - PAChiefsFan says:

    Can’t say I was a Cassel and a Haley doubter but I can’t say I was a believer either. I felt it was too early to be able to tell after just one season. Glad to join the believer club and know that the Chiefs future is bright. AFC West Champs! Go Chiefs!!

  • December 27, 2010  - Jerry says:

    Bob, I asked you the beginning of the season if this coaching staff could coach this team up. Make them play better through coaching. Yesterday I got my answer! Hard to believe we are West Champions, what a great job by all!!!
    Now beat the Raiders and the Jets!! Go Chiefs!!!!

  • December 27, 2010  - Don says:

    Us? Champs? Wow! It’s sure hard to work today. Basking in the glow of victory feels good. I too needed to raise the bar on my expectations as the year went on. I’m still in shock. I was an 8-8 season and be happy with it guy. No more! In my defense I was conditioned to expect less and accept failure as the norm over the last drought. No more!!

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