Knowing Their Role … Tuesday Cup O’Chiefs

For every Brad Pitt, there are a dozen actors like Richard Jenkins. For every Meryl Streep, there are another dozen actresses like Mary Kay Place.

Pitt and Streep are stars, who get the big money, top billing on the marquee and unlimited attention from the media and fans. Jenkins and Place are role players, character actors, folks who never get top billing but who help carry a film production. Movies can’t survive without them.

Same for sports teams, especially NFL teams. When the roster is 53 players, not everyone can be one of those 22 starters. Not everyone can get the attention, the money or adulation. But without the role players, the stars can’t get their jobs done.

The subject of role players came up in Todd Haley’s talk with the media horde on Monday, some 24 hours after the Chiefs decisive 27-13 victory over the St. Louis Rams.

There’s no doubt that guys like Matt Cassel and Jamaal Charles were key performers in the victory. But so were players like Wallace Gilberry, Jackie Battle, Verran Tucker, Tim Castille and Leonard Pope. Only Castille was a starter in the game, but his role player status is assured by the fact it was his first time he was active in a month.

“One of the things that I stressed last week was guys understanding their role on the team,” Haley said. “That’s so critical to be a good team is guys really understanding their role – their role may change due to injuries and things like that but guys played their role yesterday. They really did a nice job across the board in a number of different areas.”

Take Battle. When it comes to options at running back, he’s something like the fourth option behind Charles, Thomas Jones and Dexter McCluster. His place to make a contribution has been on special teams where he ranks among the Chiefs leading tacklers in the kicking game. But more and more Battle is getting opportunities for snaps in short yardage and goal line situations.

That got him on the field in the middle of the second quarter, when the Chiefs faced a 4th-and-1 at their own 48-yard line. They were down 6-0 on the scoreboard and had struggled to make anything happen on offense. They were in fourth-down mode, so despite the ball being in his territory, Haley decided it was one of those fourth downs that didn’t need a punter.

Battle took the handoff, hit the line, stumbled, caught his balance and stretched his effort into a seven-yard run and a first down. Five plays later, the Chiefs got their first touchdown to grab a 7-6 lead and they never trailed after that.

“He knew what his role was yesterday and when he was put in position to make plays, he executed,” said Haley.

On defense there’s a guy like Gilberry. Signed by the old Arrowhead regime during the 2008 season, he’s become a second pass rushing force for the Chiefs defense behind Tamba Hali. Physically, Gilberry is more of an outside linebacker type; at 265 pounds he’s not quite the size the Chiefs are looking for as a starting defensive end (Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson are in the 295-pound range.)

But his role has been to come in and rush the passer in the nickel and dime packages and Sunday, he took down Rams QB Sam Bradford three times, giving him seven for the season.

“He’s a great example of a guy that’s bought in and wants to be a part of it and then has developed in the process and is helping us win games,” said Haley. “He is very coachable, very passionate about being a part of this team, unselfish, kind of all the attributes you’re looking for in all of our players, Wallace has a bunch of them. He’s developed and has gotten better and yesterday obviously he had some real big plays for us.”

Every team has roles it needs players to fill. But a lot of players can’t handle the idea of not being one of the stars. The players who make it to the NFL are the best of the best, and they’ve been in the group in high school and college. They are used to playing and being contributors in all areas.

It takes some coaching skill to convince players their contributions need to come in a narrow focus. It takes an understanding of the game on the part of players to accept that fact and to make the most of their role.

“I think it’s an undervalued aspect of what we have to do as coaches and what players have to do,” said Haley. “But I think the more they understand their role within the team and when it’s clear to them what they are supposed to do, and then they execute and put their focus into it. But they have to understand the role first before they can really focus on what they have to do.

“I’m just seeing more and more guys that really get it.”


  • BRONCOS – claimed CB Chevis Jackson off waivers from the Patriots; released OLB Kevin Alexander.
  • BROWNS – placed CB Eric Wright on the injured-reserve list (knee) ending his season
  • RAVENS – released G Bryan Mattison; signed TE Davon Drew off their practice squad.
  • REDSKINS – placed DE Philip Daniels on the injured-reserve list (groin) ending his season; signed DE Rob Jackson off their practice squad.
  • SEAHAWKS – placed CB Roy Lewis on the injured-reserve list (knee) ending his season; signed CB Marcus Brown off their practice squad.
  • VIKINGS – placed G Steve Hutchinson on the injured-reserve list (thumb) ending his season; signed QB R.J. Archer off their practice squad.

12 Responses to “Knowing Their Role … Tuesday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • December 21, 2010  - Butler says:

    All the above is Great Leadership thank’s, Todd

    Go CHIEFS Go

  • December 21, 2010  - Josh says:

    I was dismayed to see Cox inactive once a gain, but perhaps each player’s role is to stay healthy as well. Hard to get injured from the bench.

  • December 21, 2010  - Chuck says:

    No doubt about it. We saw a different team against the Rams than the one we saw in San Diego. Thats why they say “on any given sunday”.

  • December 21, 2010  - el cid says:

    Got no idea about why SD and why StL. That is one of the mysteries of the Chiefs, cannot seem to find an even keel to operate on.

    As for role players, thank goodness we have them. But come on, would not a couple of HOFers be nice to look for when things get tough. A pass rusher, nose tackle, mlb, or wr operating at a HOF level would be nice. Heck, throw in a couple of OL, too. May get one to develope or with the next draft. You need role players to fill out roster, cover injuries, and have a HOF game once in a while and once in a while one to become a HOFer. But, if you want you team special, role players cannot be to many starters.

  • December 21, 2010  - Jimbo says:

    Every game has an unsung hero. Some of these guys play anywhere from 1 play to 15 or 20 plays a game. Contributing to your team successfully is what it is all about.

    Bob hit on a good point. Most all NFL players were at one time in their career the best player on the team. They are not used to being back up or role type players. Keeping their egos in check has got to be a challenge for any coaching staff.

    There is a certain amount of humbleness each NFL player must swallow. Whether you were a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond, the results are very similar. Back in high school when I was a junior and senior. I started on the team. Most of the faculty and student body knew who I was and I could walk the halls being confident that I was one of the most popular guys in school. My ego was growing. I could cut up in class and the teacher would tolerate it as opposed to other students who would get chastised for the same type behavior. Anyhow, I got injured while playing in my senior year and was unable to finish the season and contribute to the team. My ego was bruised and the fall from grace was difficult.

    I never was the best player on any team that I participated in. The real reward in any sport were those brief moments when the crowd was cheering for something you did. That to me was intoxication 101. To lose that feeling of euphoria and joy was very humbling to me. I really could’nt imagine how it must feel on the biggest stage of all. (Unless of course I was making a million dollars)
    Go Chiefs.

  • December 21, 2010  - Carl says:

    Bob, what is your current take on McCluster? There was so much excitement early about him, but he is seeing little action lately and not contributing up to expectations. Is he still slowed by injuries? Is he proving to be less than than hoped? Why isn’t he used more in the slot? Etc.

  • December 21, 2010  - dan in joplin says:

    carl, my thoughts exactly

  • December 21, 2010  - napahank says:

    When a team spends multi-millions on a handful of potential HOF players that leaves little money for really productive second tier players which isn’t bad as long as the expensive guys never get injured, never suspended and never fall off in production AFTER they have been paid (ala Tony G!)

    But every week I see some of these players inactive due to injury sometimes even IR and infrequently suspended. What I see more often than is admitted by teams and media is a falling off of HOF play due to getting paid guaranteed money or just getting old.

    The reason that Pitt. and NE have stayed good for a long time is the way they develop depth while still getting marquis players in critical positions. I like the way the Chiefs are building and playing their team. I believe it will reap LONG TERM benefits.

  • December 21, 2010  - el cid says:

    I prefer a blend of all types. That includes taking a flyer every now and then on a kid who never played the position ever.

    To go totally no name or to ignor players because they have a known name is a big time mistake. Coaches need to mix all types to get a “team”.

    Look at this year, Haley has gotten a huge return from rookies (at least at the beginning) and who would have thunk it.

    For what it is worth so Pitt and NE have more than their fair share of great players. Although they have grabbed a free agent here and there. I think their claim to fame might be by being about to blend young and old, free agent and rookie. That kind of thing.

  • December 22, 2010  - Edward says:

    First of all El-cid come the heck down. YOu don’t know if Berry, Flowers, Bowe, Charles, or even Cassel will become Hall of Famers. This is one of the youngest teams in the league. At this point in most of these guys careers we don’t know yet if they are Hall of Fame players. Stop finding things to whin about even when this team is winning. Move ON. Enjoy the fact that team that you criticize me for saying they would win the division is about to win the division. Stop being so pestimistic and miserable. Enjoy the ride for crying out loud.

  • December 22, 2010  - Edward says:

    Now as for Bob’s article. Just point out how good of a job Haley and Co. are devloping the roster as a hold. We have bunch of good young players gaining experience now that will payoff for this team later along with a good mix of vets to help show these guys how to work. I fully expect 3-4 yrs from now for this team to be a dominant won not only in the division but NFL. Simply because guys like Berry, Flowers, Charles, Bowe, Carr, Dorsey, Tjax, etc will all be young vets with experience along with talent. This team will be absoulutely specatacular. These guys will be the vets on the team and yet still be talented and young enough to really be something special. That’s why its so vital they start to go through those playoff wars now and it will payoff yrs ahead. I feel the core young guys now will be a huge part in this team finally winning a championship.

  • December 22, 2010  - cychief24 says:

    el sid-
    Just FYI, we are in first place of the AFC West with 2 games to win at Arrowhead.
    This is following 10 wins in the last 3 seasons.
    If you can’t be happy now you may want to find some other interest. Just sayin…..

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