Reaching Back For Help … Thursday Cup O’Chiefs

That’s Rod Woodson on the left, and Merril Hoge on the right. What are a couple of Steelers doing at the top of a story from the Chiefs? Read on and you’ll come to understand a bit more about the never ending imagination of Chiefs head coach Todd Haley.


Today, it’s one of the toughest parts of being a head coach in the National Football League – communicating with your team on a daily basis.

Think about it – for six months a head coach stands in front of his team at least six days a week. So much of what he says sets the tone for the day, the week, even the season. But how does a coach capture the attention of his players when he’s giving 150-plus speeches? How does he get messages across that will grab the team’s attention?

On Wednesday, Todd Haley reached back into his own memories and along with help from the world wide web, came up with an angle that he hopes will focus his players on the task at hand.

Haley recalled for his team during their Wednesday meeting the story of the 1989 Pittsburgh Steelers. That’s not a Steelers team that won a Super Bowl. In fact, it was the next to last season of Chuck Noll’s career as the team’s head coach and the Steelers finished 9-7 that season.

But the Steelers did make the playoffs and pulled off an upset in the opening round beating the Oilers in Houston before they fell 24-23 to Denver in the divisional round of the playoffs. This was not a team full of those great Pittsburgh names – only DB Rod Woodson is a Hall of Famer, and only C Dermontti Dawson deserves that consideration. The quarterback was Bubby Brister. His backup was Todd Blackledge. RB Merril Hoge and WR Louis Lipps were the best offensive players on the roster.

Still, this Pittsburgh team that made the playoffs and won a post-season game, began the season getting waxed by division rival Cleveland 51-0, in what was the worst loss in franchise history. In that game, the Steelers turned the ball over eight times, while not getting a single takeaway themselves. The Pittsburgh offense gained just 53 total yards and had five first downs. And, this debacle happened at Three Rivers Stadium, in front of their fans. Despite four Super Bowl trophies, the Steelers Nation was calling for Noll’s firing.

Those 1989 Steelers actually started the season in an even worse manner than the Chiefs experienced last Sunday. Haley’s team didn’t get shut out, they weren’t outscored by 51 points (it was 34) and they gained more than 53 yards in total offense. They turned the ball over three times in the loss that came at home in front of crowd that started happy, but ended the day upset and disgruntled. Already, the drums beat for the end of Haley’s time as head coach.

“That ’89 Steelers team some say was the greatest non-Super Bowl team in Steelers history,” Haley said, who was in college at that time in Jacksonville, Florida. “That was a team you could say a lot of things about and one was they weren’t real good. They turned the ball over eight times in that first game. But …”

The “but” comes from the fact that over the next 15 games, the Steelers went 9-6, reversed their turnover ratio from minus-8 to plus-11 and made the playoffs as a wildcard team that went on the road and beat their division winner to advance in the post-season.

“They managed their way into the playoffs and managed their way almost into a shock the world situation,” Haley said. “That plus-minus (on turnovers), that’s No. 1 for us, both defensively and offensively. We need to create more turnovers and we need to protect the ball.

“If you do that, and just that alone, even if you have struggles in other areas, you can win games.”

The Chiefs have a lot of struggles in a lot of areas right now. Offense, defense and special teams all need to make dramatic improvement. There isn’t a single facet of the game – run offense, run defense, pass offense, pass defense, kicking game coverage, kicking game returns – that was good enough against Buffalo.

Haley’s point to his team was that yes, we started poorly, we shot ourselves in the foot, we sucked and we know we sucked. But cliché or not, it was but one Sunday in an NFL season. Teams have started worse than the Chiefs did and made the playoffs. There may other teams that are better examples than the ’89 Steelers, and if they are out there, Haley will find them. In trying to keep his comments fresh and motivating, the coach leaves no stone unturned.

He believes his team can handle the situation and bounce back from the disappointment.

“I have great faith and hope by what I saw on tape (from Buffalo game) with this group we’ll be able to bounce back, and that’s the key,” Haley said. “Five division winners from last year lost this weekend. Some have similar issues to us and are going through the same things. I don’t think it matters who you are or where you are.

“The solution is how do you not do the things you did and where do you end up when this weekend’s over? Are you in the category of teams that let it drag you down, or are you in the category of teams that showed some perseverance and resolve?”

12 Responses to “Reaching Back For Help … Thursday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • September 15, 2011  - KC_Guy says:

    We shall see what happens on Sunday.

  • September 15, 2011  - Morten says:

    I really like Haley’s approach… AGAIN!! After reading this I suddenly believe they will actually bounce back on sunday…. All the people calling for Haley to be fired I completely do not understand… Are you kidding me… Taking this team to 10-6 last year speaks for itself!
    Go chiefs

  • September 15, 2011  - bhive01 says:

    This certainly gives hope to what has been labeled a dire situation by many. Thanks for the good read Bob.

  • September 15, 2011  - Chuck says:

    I agree that sunday will tell us alot about our chances. Reason being that we are NOT playing an elite team but yet they are up and comers and a road game to boot. It should be very interesting. Matt Stafford is a very capable young QB and we’ll see if he picks us apart or not.

  • September 15, 2011  - Tim says:

    Its a LONG season. Time will tell…

  • September 15, 2011  - RW says:

    First of all, I do agree that it’s tough to try and motivate a football team or a sales team when you’re often at the front of the room. Honing in on one area, simplifying it down to eliminating turnovers and using the example that he did, earns Haley credit from me.

    Executing that skill consistently is the real rabbit to pull out of the hat but if Haley can get the team laser focused on doing this skill, they at least have a shot at improvement because the only direction they can go from here is up.

    Will it be enough? You have to start somewhere. Perhaps a heavy dose of professional pride will also kick in and the team as a whole will play above their skill level which they’ll definitely need to turn around that smelly debacle of opening day.

    I’m not expecting Haley to publicly admit he messed up and messed up badly with his abbreviated training camp strategy. If the team remains unprepared to compete Haley’s penalty will be realized soon enough as he joins millions of others across America in unemployment. The rub for the fans is that we’ll have to start over again too and wait another season or two before realistically anticipating another SuperBowl appearance.

    Bottom line, my sense is the team has tuned Haley out with all his Parcells-wannabe behavior and temper tantrums.

  • September 15, 2011  - David Burch says:

    I second bhive01.

  • September 15, 2011  - aPauled says:

    My sense is that Haley has gotten away from worked his first two years. He pushed the guys the first two years…and many of them didn’t like it but the results speak for themselves.

    This year, I haven’t seen/heard Haley push anybody. He’s spent his time on defense justifying things rather than going on the offensive.

    The Chiefs don’t need Herm Edwards again. We need Todd Haley 2009-2010.

  • September 15, 2011  - el cid says:

    A lot can be said about Haley, good or bad or plain nuts. It worked to re-orient the team and he gets the credit for 10 wins last year. Unfortunately, except for some fans, today’s football is more about what have you done yesterday over last year.

    If we had time the Haley plan for ’11, might well have worked. But as of today, not looking like much. Sunday will let us form more opinions but truthfully, we need to wait til the end of the year. A year that could be a lost opportunity.

    What more can you say. Fired him, not unless you get Pioli’s job. Keep him, do not renew your season tickets. You have choices but firing anyone, cutting players are all in your mind, toys in the attic – superfan, Ed Beeler.

  • September 15, 2011  - jim says:

    Many times from dispare comes a true sence of resolve. My half full glass says this will give the right 53 a chance to test that resolve. An opportunity to rally around each other, have everybody step it up a notch, and focus of fundamentals and techniques.There are exactly 1/2 of the teams in the league exactly where the Chiefs are now. Being 0-2 reduces your playoff chances to about 18%, given past 0-2 teams successes.

    My guess is we’ll see a team more ready to play, more blitzes to hide who ever takes Berry’s place, and a more attack style defense. I think we’ll see a back to roots running game with McClain more involved and see Cassell throw more receivers open, i.e., back shoulder passes to Bowe, etc.

    If Haley’s plan had worked, he’d be a genius, but realistically, we don’t know yet that it didn’t work…….one game tells you what you know about one game. Our choices are simple…throw the baby out with the bath water, or stay focused on being the true, unwaivering ans we collectively are, and expect good things to come.

  • September 15, 2011  - el cid says:

    Based on off season action/lack of action, I do not see much playoffs in our future. I would like to see a team with a dominate running attack and a decent defense, even without Berry. And while the season still matters, not after having 8 losses.

    But that is Hunts problem. I cannot figure what I can do about it.

  • September 15, 2011  - Craig says:

    Great Story! I hope it works to motivate the team. Go Chiefs. I still see the Chiefs 0-2, sry.

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