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Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Haley: Cassel's progression is key

By Bill Williamson

Kansas City Chiefs coach Todd Haley met the media at the NFL owners meeting Tuesday in New Orleans. Here is a sampling of his session:

On where the Chiefs need to improve:

“I've said this a bunch of times but it has to be said: We have a relatively inexperienced quarterback. He hasn't played a lot of games. You take four years of college away from the guy and another chunk in the NFL not playing in a lot of games. Now he has almost three years under his belt, counting the [one season] in New England. That's just now where with a normal progression guy you'd be expecting great development. Matt [Cassel] is maybe ahead of where a young guy ... would be. I know he's going to work and I know he's going to do anything asked of him. That's what's exciting.”

My take: Haley pushes Cassel and that’s because he believes in him. Haley works closely with his quarterback and he takes Cassel’s progress personally.

On how the Chiefs will react to their sudden success:

“How you respond to success is the next big step for our team. It's one thing to be going to 10 wins from four wins but we've set the expectations, the bar, even higher by playing the way we played last year. Things are only going to get tougher. We have a little tougher schedule. We did a great job of staying healthy last year, which was one of the keys to our success. Now we've got to continue to make progress. We can't do much backsliding.”

My take: I think the two bad home losses, to Oakland in the regular-season finale and to Baltimore in the playoffs, shows this team still has a long way to go. Yes, the Chiefs made great strides. But they aren’t an elite team yet. I think Haley gets that.

On whether he thinks his players will conduct their own workouts if the lockout drags on:

“I have no expectations there. All I can hope for is that a lot of our players recognize through the first two years how important the offseason was as a young, developing team. I've said it 100 times how important that part of the year is to becoming a good football team and staying a good football team. That first year we lost 770 pounds. The second year, I said that should only happen one time. The second year, everybody came in condition so we were able to make huge strides physically, get stronger and get into better condition. One of the points I made when the season ended was this third offseason, there can be no let-up. We've got to build on that second offseason and move into our third.”

My take: Coaches have no say in this matter. But I know they’d be upset if the players don’t take it upon themselves and work out together.

On the importance of the Chiefs’ strong recent drafts:

“I'm a big believer in the draft. It's [in his blood]. Then you get together with a guy like Scott [Pioli], who obviously was big part in New England of their success ... One of the things that gives us a chance is there's a common belief in the types of players, what kinds of players, what do they act like, what do they look like. It's a common thing Scott has infused through his entire scouting staff. Now the coaches are in the mix. The scouts did a terrific job all year on that and there are names that we need to be looking at. Now we're all working together. You're going to have a hard time being a good team consistently year in and year out if you don't do a good job in the draft.”

My take: If the Chiefs can put together another couple strong drafts, this team will be in great shape for years to come.