Kansas City, Mo. Todd Haley is sticking with The Plan.
What that means, exactly, only he knows.
The Kansas City Chiefs’ head coach arrived at training camp after an atypical offseason and decided to go about things a little differently than his peers. Whereas most other coaches tried to play catch up by putting their guys in pads and ramping up the contact early on, Haley chose to bring the Chiefs along methodically, working on their conditioning and slowly building them up.
The results have been mixed. The Chiefs have lost all three of their games — though Haley is 1-10 in the preseason, so that’s nothing new. But they’ve also fared better with each passing week, the margin of defeat in each game slowly dwindling.
After a 14-10 loss to the St. Louis Rams on Friday night, the Chiefs have one preseason game remaining before the regular season, against the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.
Then Haley will know whether The Plan has paid off.
“We’ve got another three practices and be on a plane,” Haley said. “Again, I believe in the guys. We’ll get a good week in and go out to Green Bay. We’ve got to get things going. You never say you have to this or that or the other, but I’d like to see us start to get some success.”
So would the rest of the Chiefs.
Matt Cassel has been abysmal in three preseason games, hardly throwing a pass in a 25-0 loss to Tampa Bay, struggling in a 31-13 defeat to Baltimore, and going 6-of-13 for 59 yards while taking an 11-yard sack in the loss to the Rams.
The league’s top-ranked rushing attack last year, when Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones combined for 2,363 yards on the ground, was supposed to get better with the addition of former All-Pro fullback Le’Ron McClain. Instead, the first-team managed 14 yards on six first-half carries against the Rams’ No. 1 defense. Charles and Jones each carried twice for eight total yards.
“I think this is all just part of the process, and Coach Haley has decided this is the best for our team,” said Cassel, repeating Haley’s refrain about sticking to The Plan. “As a player you conform to whatever he’s got set up for you.”
When asked whether Cassel thinks the first-team offense will be ready for the season opener Sept. 3 against Buffalo, given so little work in the preseason, he offered up a candid answer.
“I don’t think we have a choice,” Cassel said. “So we’ll be ready to go come Buffalo. I guarantee these guys will be ready to go. We’re ready for the season.”
Just not the preseason it seems.
The final box score from Friday night’s game against St. Louis showed little difference between the teams, but that was due largely to the success of the Chiefs’ second team. The halftime numbers from when both teams put their starters on the field told another story.
The Rams piled up 123 yards rushing, including 72 yards from Steven Jackson, while the Chiefs managed only 14 yards on six attempts. Sam Bradford started 8-of-8 through the air and finished with 95 yards and two TDs, while Cassel struggled under duress most of the night.
St. Louis was 7-of-10 on third down, while the Chiefs were 2-of-7.
Things got so bad at Arrowhead Stadium that the home fans booed repeatedly.
“When we look at the tape, there’ll be some things we see and we’ll think, ‘We could have avoided some of those things,’” linebacker Andy Studebaker said. “We’ll look at it and say we made some mistakes that were avoidable early on. ... That’s what preseason is all about.”
That may be true, but it’s also about building for the regular season.
In that respect, the Chiefs are still under construction.
“We’ve got limited time left,” Haley said. “It’s going to be a short week and then we’ll get on a plane and go to Green Bay. I believe in our guys. I believe in this group we have. But some things are going to have to improve here pretty quickly in some of those areas I talked about. I believe if we do that then we’ll have a chance to be a competitive team that has a chance to win games.”