Column: Playing Old-Fashioned Football

From Arrowhead Stadium

It’s a shock to many when they find out that Todd Haley is really a newer, younger version of Marty Schottenheimer.

Although they are of very different generations, they share common roots. In western Pennsylvania, the distance between McDonald where Schottenheimer was born and raised, and Upper St. Clair where Haley called home is about a dozen miles as the crow flies. A football education in the river towns and hollows of that little corner of the country are based on defense and the running game.

Yes, some of the greatest passers in the game’s history came out of the same area, guys like Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Joe Montana and Dan Marino to name just a few. But they were all raised on old-fashioned football values where the ability to control the line of scrimmage was paramount to the success on the field.

All those folks who love the type of game where passing dominates and footballs are flying through the air some 100 times in a game thought they were getting a like-minded head coach when the Chiefs hired Haley. Look at his stint as offensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals, especially in that Super Bowl season, where Kurt Warner was flinging the ball to Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin and the desert red birds finished last in the league in rushing.

That wasn’t Todd Haley. Not in any way shape or form. He did what he had to do with the talent that was available. The Cardinals didn’t have a top notch back and they didn’t have much in the way of blocking tight ends. So head coach Ken Whisenhunt and his coordinator went with what they had and it was almost enough to win a Super Bowl.

But given his druthers, and now that he’s the head coach of his own team and involved in the personnel end of who stays and who goes, Haley wants a team that can grind it on the ground, and can stop the other team from doing the same thing.

That’s what won Sunday’s game for the Chiefs in beating Jacksonville 42-20. It’s the major reason they are 4-2, having already equaled their victory total of last season. It’s why they are on top of the AFC West and have a cushion.

It’s old-time football. It’s running the ball and stopping the run. It might not be sexy. It might not sell more tickets or create more headlines. But it’s a tried and true way to win football games.

“I’ve been known over the years, even by some of my mentors, as a pass-happy guy,” Haley said. “But I’ve always taken great pride in liking to run the football. I think it goes back to my roots of growing up. I like the way we’ve been able to run it like we have this year.

“It’s going to be an important factor for us continuing to improve, being able to run the football week in and week out.”

It was the winning factors on Sunday against the Jaguars. First, they ran the ball down Jacksonville’s throat, gaining 236 yards on 42 carries. That’s a very nice 5.6-yard per carry average for the team. They ran for three touchdowns.

So dominating was the performance, that Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio couldn’t hide how badly he felt about his defense.

“I am heavily invested with the defense and our defensive performance was embarrassing,” Del Rio said. “When you allow a football team to run it, get a couple plays over top of you in the passing game, it’s just unacceptable.”

But it’s been common place for the 2010 Chiefs. It was the third time in the last four games where they’ve run for more than 200 yards. They beat San Francisco and Jacksonville, but lost to Houston with better than two bills in running yards.

They are now averaging 176.5 rushing yards per game, which should allow them to maintain their status as the league’s best running attack.

But it’s not just running the ball – it’s stopping the run that is so important. The Chiefs were on top of their game again against the Jaguars. Led by one of the league’s better runners in Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville ran 23 times for 84 yards. Jones-Drew had 47 yards on 16 carries. He was able to break one run for 21 yards. After that, the Jags had just 63 yards on 22 carries, not even an average of three yards per run.

“It all starts with the run,” said LB Derrick Johnson. “We didn’t really know or care what quarterback they were going to have today. When you’re in this league, the quarterback is good. Our main focus was to stop the run and I think we did a pretty good job of it today.”

The game was the fourth time in six games that the Chiefs defense did not allow over 100 rushing yards to an opponent. They are now allowing an average of 89.7 yards per game on the ground. Last week they were fifth in the league and there’s a chance they may move up after this performance.

Its blood and guts, old-fashioned football where the team that controls the line of scrimmage controls the outcome of the game.

Over his 10 years as head coach of the Chiefs, Marty Ball was good enough to win 104 games.

Todd Ball is starting to show similar winning tendencies.

9 Responses to “Column: Playing Old-Fashioned Football”

  • October 24, 2010  - Rick says:

    Being able to run combined with being able to stop the run will serve the Chiefs well later in the year when the weather gets nasty. And maybe, dare I say it, when they potentially will be hosting playoff games in Arrowhead.

    The Red & Gold koolaid tastes great!

  • October 24, 2010  - Robert says:

    Bob, it appears that both McClusker and Vrabel got nicked. What did you see in the locker room?

  • October 24, 2010  - aPauled says:

    Winning Football! Haley is much more of a gambler than I ever recall Schottenheimer being though. Brings some excitement to the game…although not always with positive results.

    Saw Haley in person in the game in Denver last year. Walked away thoroughly impressed with how he handled the game, players and fans. We have a winner here.

  • October 25, 2010  - Chiefs Beat Jax 42-20 For Victory No. 4 | Chiefs Football at says:

    [...] COLUMN – Marty Ball is alive and well at Arrowhead. [...]

  • October 25, 2010  - hanknapa says:

    The most valuable “player” on the 2010 Chiefs is Bill Muir, especially in how he has transformed Barry Richardson into what we hoped he would be.
    Someone needs to throw some cudos to Barry!

    And then Muir added two veterans in Casey and Lilja and created a ball control, no sack machine!

  • October 25, 2010  - dan in joplin says:

    When I hear “martyball”, I get mixed emotions! On one hand, we won alot of games, on the other hand we couldn’t get it done in the playoffs! So…. lets hope that “toddball” can come up w/ the solution!

  • October 25, 2010  - Devin says:

    I think the difference between Marty-Ball of the past and Haley-Ball, is that going forward after this season, I think we will see a stronger offense that is more balanced between the run and the pass. Given our current wide receivers, we have to be more run oriented. I think in the next year we will add more receiving talent. I just think Haley, being more aggressive minded, will build that type of offense.

  • October 25, 2010  - scott.go says:

    The top 4 passing teams all lost this week (a trend so far this year?). Much as I think I want a strong passing game to go along with the rush I have to admit that what Haley is doing is paying off. I am slowly converting my mindset.

  • October 25, 2010  - Edward says:

    Love the mentality of the head coach. Haley is more of a gambler than Marty. I think this is the way you should play football. Eventually the passing game will catch as we add more talent at the receiver position. Also with the evolution of guys like Bowe, Mcluster, Moeaki, and maybe Tucker will the passing game catch up. And of course along with the progression of Cassel. But for now this is how it needs to be. Right now running backs are the most talented skill position on the team right now so lets milk it. Allow Cassel to use some play-action and hit Bowe, Mcluster, or Moeaki deep.

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