No Labor, Just Football … Weekend Cup O’Chiefs

Friday is Day No. 14 of the football fans of America held hostage by the NFL …

In light of that, we were planning an NFL labor update for this spot.

But I just can’t do it … it’s too depressing, too much of having to look into the mouth of the beast that is greed. Unfortunately, I think there’s going to be plenty of time to touch on what’s going on between the league and the players.

Instead, we’ve pulled together a few stories and notes that passed through the NFL meetings in New Orleans and may have gotten lost in the flotsam and jetsam of the labor scuffle.


Just how the changes in rules involving kickoffs will affect the Chiefs is something that will have to play out through the 2011 season – if there is one – before we see whether it helps or hurts. On paper, the move of the ball to the 35-yard line and the limit on a five-yard start for the coverage people is not going to help what was one of the league’s worst kickoff return teams in the league. Last year the Chiefs were 28th among 32 teams in average kickoff return at 19.7 yards.

It was even worse than that – the longest kickoff return the Chiefs had in the ’10 season was the 36-yard effort by Dexter McCluster (right)  against Oakland in the final game of the regular season. (McCluster matched that with another 36-yard return against Baltimore in the playoffs.) That was the shortest distance for a long return among the 32 teams; the NFL average for longest kickoff returns per team last year was 59.6 yards.

Kickoff return was only a negative for the Chiefs in 2010, as they gave up a 94-yard TD return by Oakland’s Jacoby Ford. Overall, they did do a good job of coverage, ranking No. 6 in the league and allowing an average return of 20.2 yards.

At the NFL meetings in New Orleans, head coach Todd Haley made it plain he was in favor of the rules changes that came down based on safety reasons. He also thinks the change will lead to more onside kicks.

“The kickoff return is not going to be eliminated,” Haley said. “I think onside kicks will definitely go up with the spot moving up to the 35.”

During his time with the Chiefs, Haley has not been shy about being unorthodox or gambling, as in calling for onside kicks, so heaven knows what he’ll do with five more yards to work with in field position.

As for more touchbacks, last year there were 416 touchbacks in the NFL. The leader was Billy Cundiff in Baltimore who had 40 touchbacks. The next closest kicker was Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski with 29. Chiefs K Ryan Succop ranked tied for No. 19 with eight touchbacks with Ryan Lindell of Buffalo. Five more yards will increase those totals, but special teams coaches like Steve Hoffman of the Chiefs can be very creative. Last year when faced with a top returner, guys like Leon Washington in Seattle for instance, Succop was hitting mortar kicks. Those are the high hang-time kicks that travel to the 20 or 25-yard line, giving up distance for the chance to get coverage guys down the field.


In New Orleans, Haley said he had “no expectations” of what his players might do with preparation for the 2011 season under the lockout.

“All I can hope for is that our players recognize through the first two years how important the off-season was for a young developing team,” said Haley.

Me thinks Haley’s initial “no expectations” comment was more along the lines of being politically correct in today’s NFL where coaches have to be careful of what they say and who they talk about because of the union’s decertification and the lockout. I think he has huge expectations that the players will come together at some point and hold practices where they work together, whether the start the chemistry of team building.

“I’ve said it 100 times how important that part of the year is to becoming a good football team and staying a good football team,” Haley said of the off-season. Those 100 times have been in front of his players and they learned last year what a tough strength & conditioning program, along with on-field work with the coaching staff in OTAs and mini-camps.

“Everybody came in condition last year, so we were able to make huge strides physically, get stronger and get into better condition,” said Haley. “One of the points I made when the season ended was this third off-season there can be no let up. We’ve got to build on that second off-season.”

But that building must come out of the locker room. Stay tuned as we wait to see what happens. It’s too early for there to be organized workouts, like OTA sessions. Those are the least important part of the equation anyway. What the players have to do is find a way to recreate the mojo they gained last year tossing weights around and running through other drills. There’s a lot of team building that goes on in those situations, and while there’s carryover from year to year, it’s also part of the equation where the formula changes every year. In other words, the chemistry must be recreated if success is to come.


A coach wants to see his team get bigger and stronger, faster and quicker in the off-season. It’s about maximizing the physical abilities of the players.

But there’s also the mental end of the off-season. Last year, Haley and the Chiefs worked hard pushing the players to consider the final-game performance against Denver as the template for their futures. This year, they don’t have a sell point like that. Rather, they have the 10-6 season, winning the AFC West and making the playoffs, but the most recent memories are of losing the regular season finale to Oakland and then the playoffs against Baltimore. Both were home games and that was the memory the team carried into the winter.

Cut off from his players, Haley can only hope at this point that his veterans have grown up enough to remember what’s important, even when there’s not somebody telling them so.

“How you respond to success is the next big step for our team,” Haley said. “It’s one thing to be going to 10 wins from four wins. But we’ve set the bar every higher by playing the way we played last year. Things are only going to get tougher. We’ve got to continue to make progress. We can’t do much backsliding.”

One Response to “No Labor, Just Football … Weekend Cup O’Chiefs”

  • March 25, 2011  - jimbo says:

    Bob, Thought you did a good job of making a credible story out of a disaster that is the lockout. No trades, no free agency, no excitement. Makes a fella wish as a fan he did’nt love football. Let alone a gifted writer such as yourself who is striving to find something interesting and informative (Chiefs related)for us to digest.

    Have no fear Mr. Gretz. Us bottom feeders (fans) give you a free pass to take a day off whenever you want. Cup O’Chiefs can be a cornucopia of whatever you want to write. No Chiefs news?. No problem, just write whatever you want. I’ll read it.
    3 cheers for a 2011 season. That is all…
    Go Chiefs.

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