“You don’t have to put yourself in a box.”
Those words belong to Chiefs head coach Todd Haley and that is the attitude his team will take into preparing its defense for the 2009 season.
While those outside the team may be hung up on whether it will play a 4-3 or a 3-4 defense, Haley is more concerned with using the talents on his roster to field a stout and dominating defense that will give the Chiefs a chance to win.
“You have to utilize the players that you have,” Haley said, later mentioning by name LB Derrick Johnson (right). “If you have some creativity and imagination with these guys you can find some things these guys do pretty well.”
There’s no question the Chiefs are moving toward a base defense that will be dominated by the 3-4 scheme. But that’s unlikely to happen in the first year under defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast. Along with assistant coaches Tim Krumrie, Gary Gibbs, Ronnie Bradford and Pat Perles, they will be mixing and matching all sorts of defensive concepts, based on the roster and what opponents may be doing on offense.
Has too much been made about whether it’s a 4-3 or 3-4 defense?
“Yes, I think there’s been too much made of it,” said Haley. “In today’s game, with more and more teams spreading out on offense, half the time you are in the nickel package any way. There are so many variations and things that are going on to be labeled one thing.”
According to Haley, eventually the Chiefs will be a team that runs the 3-4 defense.
“I just think that’s good business,” said Haley.
“We have a general manager in Scott Pioli that’s done a better job than anybody finding players to play that type of defense. It’s a defense that I’m familiar with from a couple of my stops. I just think it is good business when your No. 1 talent evaluator knows how to find those bodies.”
Whether it’s because of the success of New England and Pittsburgh or the cyclical nature of football, more and more teams are experimenting with the 3-4 as a base scheme for the defense. As an offensive play caller the past two years in Arizona, Haley found the 3-4 more difficult to prepare for in game planning.
“If it’s a balanced 3-4, it presents more problems for both the run and the pass,” he said. “There’s more the defense can do and that makes it tougher to figure out what they are going to do and how to counter their plan.
“There are always unknowns because you’ve got those two guys standing up on the edges (the outside linebackers). Are they coming on a pass rush? Are they blitzing to stop the run? Will they drop into coverage? You don’t know who is coming and who is not coming.
“The 3-4 gives you a little more flexibility and versatility.”
In 2008, the Chiefs will play some 3-4, some 4-3 and many other fronts, something Pendergast did last year during the Arizona Cardinals run to the Super Bowl. The team has shown in practices a variety of sub-defenses and blitzes. They will not be playing one type of defense for the season, or even in a game.
Last year the Chiefs defense struggled in essentially every facet of the game. They finished 31st in the league in total yards allowed, setting a new Chiefs record by giving up 6,291 yards or an average of 393.2 yards per game. They had trouble stopping the run, giving up an average of 158.9 yards rushing per game. They also couldn’t get to the quarterback, establishing an NFL record for the fewest sacks in a season with 10 in 16 games.
But the statistic that cut the deepest was the most important one for any defense: points allowed. The ’08 Chiefs set a club record for most points allowed in a season with 440. The defense gave up 46 touchdowns, ranking third in most offensive scores allowed last year.
“We’ve got to keep people out of the end zone,” Haley said. “That’s simple football.”
WHAT MIKE BROWN’S SIGNING TELLS US
Why would the Chiefs be interested in a 31-year old veteran NFL safety who has been injury prone for the last five years?
When Pioli/Haley sign a player they don’t provide a lot of information on why. But we can roundup the usual suspects and explain their actions in apparently agreeing to terms with former Bears safety Mike Brown (left).
First, it comes down to competition, a word the GM and coach have used frequently when talking about making the Chiefs better. They’ve said many times they want to increase the competition at all positions.
That they signed Brown would appear to indicate they are looking for somebody to push the starters at safety, Jarrad Page and Bernard Pollard. It would also appear that they don’t believe Jon McGraw and DaJuan Morgan are capable of pushing Page and Pollard. Without a big training camp and pre-season, Morgan figures to be another one of those ’08 draft choices who will be sent packing. McGraw’s contributions on special teams cannot be ignored and that gives him an edge in any battle for a roster spot.
As a 31-year old with his resume of injuries, it is unlikely Brown got big money to sign with the Chiefs. The only other team visit he made was to Cleveland; there was not a rush of bodies knocking down his door. More than likely it did not cost the Chiefs much of anything to sign Brown and bring him to camp.
If he stays healthy, he’s the type of player that could help the team. If he has his old injury problems of recent years, he’ll be just a blip on the Kansas City radar screen and forgotten quickly.
UNSPEAKABLE TRAGEDY IN IOWA, AS WE LOSE ANOTHER GOOD ONE
Ed Thomas (right) was the type of person that changed the lives of young people. When he was going to grade school in Parkersburg, Iowa, former Chiefs-now Broncos center Casey Wiegmann drew a picture and wrote a story about how when he grew up he wanted to work on a pig farm and drive a Corvette.
Thomas had that piece of paper tacked up on his office wall many years later.
Wiegmann ended up getting the Corvette, but he could buy many pig farms these days from the money he’s earned from playing pro football, a game and passion instilled in him by Thomas, his high school coach.
The same man who coached three others players that came out of the corn and soybean fields of Iowa and made it in the NFL: Wiegmann, Brad Meester in Jacksonville, Jared DeVries of Detroit and Aaron Kampman of Green Bay. The odds of four NFL players coming from a small school like Aplington-Parkersburg are astronomical.
That Thomas died Wednesday morning in the school’s temporary weight room at the hands of a young man with a gun is inconceivable. The school had temporary quarters because the high school and most of the town of Parkersburg was destroyed during a tornado last year.
The 58-year old Thomas died shortly after arriving at a hospital emergency room in Waterloo, Iowa. He was airlifted there after he was found shot in the head. The county sheriff has a suspect in custody, apparently a former Aplington-Parkersburg student and player Mark Becker who had been having recent emotional problems.
Witnesses said the man shot Thomas at point blank range with a hand gun. There were some 20 students using the weights in the room at the time, a summer Wednesday morning with a session that started at 7:30. That was one of the features that made Thomas and his teams so good: their work ethic. Lifting weights and conditioning were a 12-month a year process under him.
It’s that type of work ethic that allowed four Iowa farm boys to make it in the NFL.
“I think one of the big things he’s done for everybody, it’s not so much the Xs and Os that he taught us about football but it’s the stuff that he taught us that pertains to real life, it’s about being men, that has meant so much,” Meester told Jaguars.com. “He taught us so many things.¬† He taught us things like hard work, just taking pride in what we do and the value of family.
“He treated each and every one of us like we were his kids.¬† He truly did care for each and every one of us and that’s one of the greatest things about him that will always be remembered.¬† I know that each of us who have been through that program and been with him will take so much from that and everything that he’s taught us about being a man we take into our everyday life.¬† We’re able to take that into life with our families, with our job and we thank him for that.”
Thomas just finished his 37th season of coaching, with a career record of 292-84, including 156-31 as head coach. He won state titles in 1993 and 2001 and led the school to 19 state playoff appearances. His victory total is ninth all-time for Iowa high school coaches.
SIGNINGS & MOVEMENT AROUND THE LEAGUE
BRONCOS – claimed WR C.J. Jones on waivers (Chiefs).
GIANTS – signed third-round draft choice WR Ramses Barden and fifth-round QB Rhett Bomar; released TE George Wrightster and OL Mike Fladell.
PANTHERS – franchise player DE Julius Peppers signed his tender offer; signed seventh-round draft choice S Captain Munnerlyn.
SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY …
Born on June 25, 1939 in Mukogee, Oklahoma was RB Curtis McClinton. Selected in the 14th-round of the 1961 AFL Draft out of Kansas, he spent eight seasons with the Texans-Chiefs, appearing in 107 games. McClinton was the AFL’s Rookie of the Year in 1962. He finished his career with 762 carries for 3,124 yards and 18 TDs and caught 154 passes for 1,945 passes for 14 TDs.
Born on June 25, 1941 in Yakima, Washington was DT Curt Farrier. Selected in the 10th-round of the 1963 AFL Draft out of Montana State, he played in 27 games over three seasons with the Chiefs (1963-65).
Born on June 25, 1977 in Daytona Beach was CB William Bartee. Selected in the second-round of the 2000 NFL Draft out of Oklahoma, he played six seasons with the Chiefs, appearing in 87 games, with 31 starts.