On Monday morning, a new era of Chiefs football will begin as the team gathers for the first day of head coach Todd Haley’s initial conditioning program.
For 20 of the teams in the NFL, these first days of off-season work are pretty standard stuff. For the 12 teams that have new coaches and coaching staffs, it’s going to be like the first day in a new school for most of the players.
That will be especially true in Kansas City, maybe more than just about any of the other situations with new leadership in charge. That’s because the slate has been wiped clean after two seasons with a 6-26 record. There’s new management in Scott Pioli, who hired a new head coach in Haley. Combined, they are working to make a change in the culture around the Chiefs, not just in the locker room, but in the entire building.
Just what Haley has in store for the players that he inherited and those that have been added in the last month is unknown. What we know for sure is this: it will be very different than what the players came to expect in the last three seasons under Herm Edwards.
Some differences will be obvious. There’s a new look to the offense that Haley will run, even if last year’s offensive coordinator Chan Gailey is still in that role. The spread offense that became the Chiefs attack at the end of last year will not be their base scheme this year.
The defense and special teams will be completely different. After five years with Gunther Cunningham running the defense, the team now has Clancy Pendergast as defensive coordinator. Based on what Pendergast did last year with the Arizona Cardinals, the Chiefs will run a hybrid version of the 3-4 defense, one that can morph from 4-3 to 3-4 from play-to-play or against different offenses.
Special teams coach Steve Hoffman will begin the process of finding a solid returner, a consistent deep snapper and some top of the line coverage people. He may also be on the lookout for a kicker. Last year, because of injuries and inexperience, the Chiefs were lacking in all those areas over the 16-game season.
The guys running the conditioning program will be familiar faces in Cedric Smith and Brent Salazar. How they go about their jobs figures to be different, because everything around the Chiefs these days is different.
As important as this time will be for the players, it’s also going to be very important for Pioli, Haley and the staff. This is when they get a chance to see what they have in flesh and blood, rather than on tape. They have impressions based on the production they saw from these guys over 16 game tapes and certainly Pioli is familiar with their backgrounds since he’s been preparing for the NFL Draft for the last decade.
But nothing beats seeing players up close and personal. And you can bet the Pioli/Haley are also going to be looking to see how these players handle themselves, what type of work ethic they have, how willing they are to accept coaching, to accept possible position changes, etc. The new regime is looking for players who love the game, who put football on a level so important to their lives that they’ll put in extra time to get in shape and to learn the offense, defense and special teams.
Those returning players who learn to adapt, will flourish. Those that can’t change will be left on the side of the road in the coming weeks and months.
There’s really nothing settled about the roster the Chiefs will take to training camp in four months and the players who will be on the field for the team’s season opener on September 13.
That process begins on Monday.