With no incumbent starter at quarterback, Tony Gonzalez traded to Atlanta and Brian Waters looking for a way out of town, do the Kansas City Chiefs have a leader? As Kent Babb reports this morning, Branden Albert sure would like to fill that role.
I t wasn’t easy for Branden Albert to sit at the barbecue joint and take a pass on the ribs, the brisket, the pulled pork — everything. It wasn’t easy to keep his mind on a strict offseason diet and exercise plan and ignore the meat-scented air and the colleague across from him, digging in.
“You’re sitting right there and everybody’s enjoying the food…I’m trying to be a leader, and I’m trying to win games. Coach Haley and Scott were on me so hard about: ‘You know what type of guy you can be. So why don’t you be that guy?’”
The offense needs a leader, and Albert said he wants to prove he’s up to the challenge, even if he is entering only his second NFL season. Albert worked to lose the weight — he said he’s down to 305 pounds, the lightest he’s been since spending a season at a Virginia prep school five years ago — and he began noticing the results. He was suddenly out front during players’ running sessions. Haley praised Albert in news conferences and in private, the stone-faced coach telling his left tackle that he had something special — but he could only tap into it if he was willing to work.
He thought of ways he could expand his reach beyond the Chiefs’ locker room. He visited Children’s Mercy Hospital and donated tickets to another organization. Then Albert involved himself with the Love Fund, taking over the spot that Waters once held. And whether that means Waters continues to distance himself from the Chiefs or that the veteran is simply handing off to his young teammate, Albert said he wants Kansas City to know that, even after six wins the last two seasons, there are still some things worth smiling about.
“I want to be a face in the community that people know. They know the name but don’t know the face. I want them to come up and talk to me and not be scared. I want people to come relate to me. They love their football here. They love their football just like a college town. They want winners. It’s important that we let them know that this new regime we have, it’s going to come to pass this year.”
I love seeing Albert pick up where Waters left off and hopefully he keeps it up because this team desperately needs a leader in the locker room. Could it end up being Matt Cassel? Sure, but no one knows just what he will end up being as a starting quarterback. We’ve seen the potential Albert has and he is not showing the kind of work he can do out in the community. And not that I expect Albert or any player to say “We’re going to stink this year”, but it is nice to hear a player talking about this year. Not next year, not three years down the road… This year. I’m not quite as optimistic as he is, but it’s good to hear.
The Chiefs aren’t just in need of a player to step up and be a leader, they desperately need solid leadership out of the coaching staff. Head coach Todd Haley put together his staff late in the offseason, but was able to find plenty of rock solid coaches on the defensive side the ball. Haley sat down with Bob Gretz to talk about each of the new (and old) coaches on his staff.
Haley eats, sleeps and breathes football. But he is the first to admit that he can’t match Defensive Coordinator Clancy Pendergast when it comes to living the game.
“Sometimes we go out for a beer I’ve got to shut him up because all he wants to do is talk football. He lives and breathes football. He comes over, and before you know it, he’s talking about this or that and I’m like ‘Clancy let’s talk about the weather, let’s shut it down for a few minutes.’”
The 2009 season will be Pendergast’s 15th year coaching in the NFL and his 19th-year in the coaching business. He did previous stints with the Oilers, Cowboys, Browns and five seasons in Arizona, where he was first hired by Dennis Green.
“We had to play Arizona a bunch when I was in Dallas and they were pretty good on defense a couple of those years. I thought there was some creative, outside-the-box thinking that I liked. He’s done some unique things over the years.”
If Pendergast is the workaholic then linebackers coach Gary Gibbs will be expected to serve as the calming force. Haley says he knows that’s going to be needed this season.
“Gary is a former head coach and I’ll lean on him a bunch and already have. He’s probably the steadiest guy we’ve got. I need that and I know I’m going to need that as we get into the real stuff. That calming, level headedness is a big item with Gary.”
A 20-year coaching veteran, Gibbs will be in his eighth season of coaching in the NFL with previous stops in Dallas for four years and New Orleans for three more. He broke into coaching at his alma mater, the University of Oklahoma, as a graduate assistant in ‘75 and was eventually promoted to linebackers coach, defensive coordinator and head coach (’89-94).
“He’s another smart guy that understands defenses. He’s been around the 4-3 and 3-4. He’s been around the transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 in Dallas. The big thing to me, other than the fact he’s an excellent linebackers coach, is that he’s a big picture guy with that head coaching experience.”
Defensive Quality Control coach Pat Perles is the only person on staff that has known Haley since he was a kid. When Dick Haley was the player personnel guru of the Steelers and George Perles was first defensive line coach and then defensive coordinator of the Steel Curtain, the two young sons saw each other every year.
“His father and my father obviously worked together with the Steelers and we’d be at training camp together every year. We lived in the same neighborhood, but because he’s about three years older, we weren’t on the same teams. Back in those days, Tom Moore would actually drive Pat and me into the Steelers games when we were both ball boys. So we spent a lot of Sunday mornings, with a 7 a.m. drive together.”
But once Perles went off to college, they lost contact for some time. This will be Perles’ 21st year in coaching, with two previous seasons in the NFL with the Rams, and six seasons in the Canadian Football League.
“We didn’t talk to each other for almost 20 years. Then one Senior Bowl he bumped into me, introduced himself and we caught up. We stayed in contact after that when he was up in Canada and we stayed in touch when he went back to the colleges at North Dakota.”
Perles served as a training camp intern one summer for the Cardinals and they were able to reconnect again.
“I thought he was good. He’s pretty much all football and with an added bonus he’s from the neighborhood.”
It’s not top-secret information that Todd Haley has a beer with Clancy Pendergast or knew Pat Perles when he was a kid, but it’s still very cool to get this sort of glimse into how a coaching staff is put together. For as much as Herm Edwards and Dick Vermeil loved talking to the press, I don’t ever remember getting this kind of rundown for every coach on staff straight from the head coach. Yesterday, Gretz ran down the offensive staff and today looks at all of the defensive coaches, so make sure you head over to his site and read the whole run down. Great work, Bob.