Chiefs coach Todd Haley talks about New England influence
|02.27.10 at 12:47 pm ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — Chiefs coach Todd Haley knows that his franchise is fast becoming perceived as Foxboro West.
Kansas City imported Patriots GM Scott Pioli last offseason, and he brought quarterback Matt Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel along with him via trade. In recent months, former New England coordinators Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis signed on to join Haley and the Chiefs’ coaching staff.
All that’s missing now in Kansas City is a lighthouse at one end of the stadium, right?
Speaking at the NFL Scouting Combine on Saturday morning, Haley was quick to credit the Patriots’ system and the influence it has had on the Chiefs’ approach to team-buidling. But he did remind reporters that by and large, these relationships took root with the Jets more than a decade ago: Pioli was in the front office, but Weis and Crennel all worked with Haley with the Jets, a staff that included (for a time) Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells.
“I think in talking about the Patriots in general, you’re talking about the model that everybody would try to follow if they could,” he said. “But I don’t look at it as the Patriots just because so many of us were together even before that, in a situation in New York that was a turnaround situation.
“Eighty percent of the staff was sitting in Hofstra at Hofstra for three or four years together.”
Haley also discussed the state of several of the ex-Patriots, including Cassel and Vrabel. In his first full season as a starter with the Chiefs, Cassel struggled at times but finished strong, ending up with 16 touchdowns and 2,924 passing yards.
“I think Matt throughout the year, you know, he had ups and downs like all of us. But the thing about Matt is that he did continue to improve. He continued to go in this direction,” said Haley, extending his arm upward. “Which is good. He’s an extremely tough guy. And [he’s] mentally tough, because it was not an easy year to be the quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs. And he withstood that onslaught. He didn’t show any signs of cracking.
“He’s working his butt off right now. He’s into football. I think he’s got the ability to continue to get better. And I just know he’s really excited. And when you get a tough-minded guy like that, just being around long enough, you know that those guys generally will find a way to succeed. And I think that’s what Matt’s going to do.”
As for Vrabel, the outside linebacker who spent eight seasons in New England before being traded to Kansas City last spring, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 5. He told the Boston Herald’s Karen Guregian that he would welcome a return to the Patriots, but the Chiefs remain his “first choice” when it comes to picking a team next season.
“I think the world of Mike,” Haley said of Vrabel, who had 53 tackles and two sacks for Kansas City last year. “I think he’s a heck of a player and a heck of a positive influence for me as a first-year head coach in multiple areas, whether it was leading during practice or in-game situations coming to me to point things out. Just a tremendous football player who is fun to be around.”
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