From Indianapolis, Indiana
As he sat in the busy lobby of the Westin Hotel in downtown Indianapolis, Todd Haley was almost bubbly. The Chiefs head coach was possibly as close to giddy as he gets.
The subject matter that created his excitement was not the parade of NFL coaching and management types strolling through the palatial leather chairs of the Westin. It was not the potential draft picks he was going to see over the coming days at the workouts and interview sessions of the NFL Combine.
What had Haley thinking big thoughts was his 2011 coaching staff. While he escaped the cold, snow and windy conditions of Kansas City for the cold, snow and windy weather of Indy, most of his coaches were back at the team’s facilities, working hard and preparing for the coming season.
“When you can walk down the hall as the head coach and talk with a couple of crusty, veteran coaches like Bill (Muir, offensive coordinator) and Mo (Carthon, assistant head coach) and you ask them how did the day go and they tell you great, then you know good things are happening,” Haley said. “They don’t just throw that word around. If it was a great day then it was a great day for the Kansas City Chiefs.”
Talking publicly for the first time about the hiring of Jim Zorn as the Chiefs quarterback coach, Haley left little doubt that his ability to fill the shoes of departed offensive coordinator Charlie Weis worked out in the best possible manner for the 2011 Chiefs. Muir picked up the offensive coordinator’s title and “has been rejuvenated” according to Haley. Zorn was added to work on the passing game, but to really concentrate his efforts on the continued development of starting quarterback Matt Cassel. ”First and foremost, he is one of the top quarterback coaches in the league in my opinion,” Haley said. “Through research and interviews, I really feel like he’s one of the best teachers of the quarterback and not just the fundamentals.
“He’s a true quarterback coach and those guys are not easy to find.”
From the end of the ’10 season with the loss in the playoffs to Baltimore, through the promotion of Muir and the hiring of Zorn, Haley was deep into research on possible assistant coaching additions and possibly different ways of mixing up the offensive staff and its duties. Haley loves to think outside the box, and he did plenty of that. He also spent a lot of time talking to Dan Henning, who retired after the ’10 season as offensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins.
Haley was quick to point out that during his NFL career with the Patriots and Chiefs; Cassel has never had a “real” quarterback coach, i.e. a guy that played the position at the highest level of the game. “I know Charlie (Weis) wasn’t a quarterback, I wasn’t a quarterback, Josh (McDaniels) wasn’t a quarterback,” Haley said. “Now, he’ll be coached by someone who has been there, whether it’s in the huddle or in the pocket.
“I think its perfect timing for where Matt is at this point in his career.”
Zorn has a track record with the Seahawks, Redskins and Ravens of producing development in the second season for his quarterbacks, with guys like Jason Campbell, Charlie Hasselbeck and Joe Flacco.
“I know there are some things that he can do better,” Haley said of Cassel, who turned in his best season as an NFL quarterback, throwing for 3,189 yards, 27 touchdowns passes, seven interceptions and a passer rating of 93.0, the highest of his career. “I would prefer that Matt gets that help from an expert. I want Jim making those adjustments. With the time he spent playing the position, a decade in college coaching and then 12 or 13 years coaching in the NFL, he understands the position and where it fits in the game itself.”
Haley said having Weis in the offensive coordinator position for the 2010 season was the right move for the Chiefs. “Look at what we got done and there’s no question what we were able to do with Charlie and the offense improved,” Haley said. “I think we can now take it to another level with Matt making continued development and Jim Zorn helping him understand the position.”
There was no doubt that the moves he’s made in solidifying his coaching staff have also rejuvenated Haley. There’s only one piece of the puzzle left – who is going to call plays for the Chiefs offense when and if the NFL starts playing games?
“I know that’s what everyone wants to talk about and has the most attention, but it’s not been the No. 1 goal to get done for me in making these offensive adjustments,” said Haley. “We’ll get that figured out, but we’ll take our time and make sure we get it right. I remember one time when I was in Dallas (coaching for Bill Parcells) and it was the end of August and we still didn’t know who was going to call the plays.”
NFL PERSONNEL FILE FOR THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 24
- DOLPHINS – placed franchise player designation on NT Paul Soliai.
- JAGUARS – signed LS Jeremy Cain to a contract extension.
- RAIDERS – placed franchise player designation on OLB Kamerion Wimbley; signed DB Stanford Routt to a 3-year contract extension; signed DT Jon Henderson to a 2-year contract.