Warpaint Illustrated: Veterans lead the way
By Nick Athan
October 30, 2010
There are several reasons that the Kansas City Chiefs find themselves on top of the AFC West. Sure they�re faster, better coached and they believe in themselves. But there is one difference that sets this team apart from last year�s 4-12 squad: the veterans are showing the kids how to play football.
When General Manager Scott Pioli started to lay the foundation for his second year in Kansas City, he knew the locker room needed an influx of veteran leadership if this team was going to evolve.
But I�m sure even he didn�t think they�d evolve to this state in just the second year of this extreme makeover. But they have. And the Chiefs remain the biggest surprise of the 2010 season.
But as Pioli is the one who laid the foundation, it�s been Head Coach Todd Haley who has made the biggest leap during the regular season. And it�s a rather shocking leap when you consider how awful things were in Kansas City a year ago.
That�s why Pioli brought in linebacker Mike Vrabel in 2009, and center Casey Wiegman and running back Thomas Jones this year. They are the type of players that have been through every NFL war you can imagine. And they know better than any other players on this roster the sacrifices that are needed to become a championship team.
Haley has embraced the veteran leadership. He understands their importance in leading by example. But by teaching the young kids the path to success, the vets know eventually the players they are helping might take their jobs this season or next.
�This I�ve been seeing � veteran guys helping, coaching, working with, teaching, trying to pass along information to younger guys on the team that may even be guys that could replace them at some point,� Haley said.
And that�s part of the unselfish nature that really is at the center of this entire team. Outside of unhappy wide receiver Chris Chambers, there haven�t been any locker room distractions.
Though in regards to Chambers, Haley pointed out on Friday that he�s spent a lot of time with the young receivers. Go figure.
Regardless of which veteran is helping out in practice, this team is light years ahead of where many thought they�d be at this point in Haley�s tenure. And though the head coach downplays the 4-2 start, he understands that this team still has a long ways to go before they�re a real team.
�We�re in the process. We�re still laying a foundation but the positive is at least we�re getting to see some reward on some of these Sundays and I clearly feel like we�re making progress,� he said.
And what�s absolutely intriguing to me about the team at this point of the season is how far they�ve come. More so, how much better they might become in the next ten games.
In the last three weeks, this team has grown so much and learned from their failures in Indianapolis and Houston. Against Jacksonville last weekend, this team learned from their mistakes and put a team away with a strong fourth quarter. A year ago, that would never have happened.
But that was then and this is now.
The jury is still out on whether Wide Receiver Dexter McCluster will be on the field Sunday. Though the Chiefs can defeat the Buffalo Bills without the speedy rookie, don�t be shocked if he�s on the field. He�s one of the most driven players on the roster and if he can deal with the pain associated with the high ankle sprain, the Bills will have one more defensive headache to worry about.
Guard Ryan Lilja was back at practice Friday so it appears that he�ll likely start on Sunday. If he isn�t able to go against the Bills, rookie Jon Asamoah will get the nod. He�s played mostly on special teams and in short yardage situations. But the fact he practiced most of the week with the first team offense likely will pay dividends down the road.
So who wins?
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