To say that the NFL right now could be defined as a "What have you done for me lately?" league is like trying to say that the cast of 'Jersey Shore' might enjoy just a fermented beverage or two. It's all about now in the NFL and that doesn't seem to be changing anytime in the near future.
So when a head coach knows that his job could be on the line from just one season to the next, they have to be steadfast and headstrong in their plan. Because after all, it's their job on the line and that means they have to be fully committed to whatever plan they devise.
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Todd Haley has taken a lot of criticism from local KC media for his preseason plan in regards to playing time for his starters. To be fair, it's been mostly due to the unfortunate injury to second-year tight end Tony Moeaki, who was lost for the season because of a torn ACL suffered in the final preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. It was Haley's decision to play Moeaki and starting quarterback Matt Cassel, who also suffered an injury in the game against the Packers, although he's been a full participant in practice and will start on Sunday against the Bills.
Haley had a plan for the preseason and he stuck with that plan, for better or worse. The cost at which the 2011 season will be affected by the loss of Moeaki will never be fully known. But the success of the 2011 season wasn't solely resting on Tony Moeaki, and losing him doesn't mean the Chiefs won't be successful.
The Chiefs' success in 2010 gave them something they haven't had in a while as we head to the 2011 season, relevance. Maybe not relevance as a legitimate threat to win a Superbowl this year, but as a team that's in the conversation of heading in the right direction with young talent, and with some proven success. It's a step in the right direction and it's all Chiefs fans should ask for right now.
The Chiefs have an opportunity against the Bills on Sunday to show the NFL that they are a good enough team to overcome an injury, albeit to a very good player, but to overcome that injury and to show that they are still building on the success of last year. Some professional poker players will tell you that you don't measure a success from one hand to the next or from one session to the next, it's all one long-running game. Sometimes you're up and sometimes you're down.
That's kind of how I feel about the Chiefs and how they are building their team. Success may be judged from one season to the next, or in some cases one play to the next. But championship teams aren't built from the signing of one player or from the drafting of one class, they're built from the sustained effort of everyone in the organization headed towards the same goal. That takes blood, sweat, and tears and Chiefs fans have now begun to see the result of that time and effort coming to fruition.
Losing Tony Moeaki hurts this team, there's no question about it. But if the Chiefs are at a point now in which they feel as if they can compete for an AFC West championship every season, they should be able to overcome any injury to any player that isn't calling the plays in the huddle for the offense. That can be said for any team in the NFL.
There's nothing wrong with being concerned about your team when these injuries occur and even looking at the glass as half-empty. I'm sure there were many Packer fans that were doubting their chances at a championship as their IR list started to look like a who's who last year with seven week one starters on IR at the end of the season. I'm not saying that the Chiefs are going to be the Packers, but it's proof that teams can be successful even if things don't go exactly as originally planned.
It may not have been in Todd Haley's plans to have all of the distractions that the Chiefs have seen thus far this season. With Moeaki being out for the year, Jon Baldwin missing some time with an injury, or Cassel being less-than 100% for the opener, but that doesn't mean the Chiefs won't find success. We won't know until the games actually begin.
Even with the lackluster preseason for the Chiefs you can look around at all of the other times in sports recently in which a team has had to deal with tough breaks early in the season, or even before the season, and then they came out victorious on the other end. Nothing worthwhile ever came without a struggle. The Chiefs have the opportunity to show us that they are in the mold of a team that is built to deal with these things, or that they haven't reached that level yet. Sunday will be the first step in showing us how far they've come and how far they could go this year.