Though the season wasn't everything I expected it couldn't have ended any better. It was a huge exclamation mark for Todd Haley and his team. My first thought was obvious, and something I was glad to see. The Kansas City Chiefs didn't quit, this game was still relevant to them. No white flag or halfhearted play. It could have been one of those impassive lackluster types of games. It would have been easy to do, but the Chiefs dished out more determination than the Denver Broncos could handle.
Three things crossed my mind as I watched the Chiefs: foundation, a star being born, and optimism. A fourth I need to admit, both Scott Pioli and Haley are onto something.
"I really believe we were able to lay a foundation for the Kansas City Chiefs," Haley said. "We were able to set expectations for our players of what's expected of them both schematically and offseason, in season and practice -- the way we're going to do things as a team on a consistent basis. I believe that foundation was laid."
This season wasn't whether the Chiefs won five or six games, a few more than last year, but more about the big picture. Something I thought I was in sync with, but because of frustration I lost track of. Perhaps I stop believing Haley when he said he was looking for "the right nucleus".
Last Sunday I was reminded that I'm the fan, and Haley is the coach. Dwayne Bowe showed with his bear hug of Haley that this team is still behind him. Benching Derrick Johnson was hugely unpopular, but it served its purpose. Because Haley never wavered, Johnson benefited from it and showed it with his best game yet.
Johnson proves there's a method to Haley's madness.
"I want mentally tough guys because if you're mentally tough and you're physically tough, things don't bother you," Haley said. "You're able to keep a tough exterior shell which is impenetrable. And when you have players and coaches who have that mindset, generally you'll be able to handle everything thrown at you."
Being a first round draft pick and being told you don't have a job isn't an easy thing, especially when it's been assumed. Haley is showing us that you don't assume anything. Whether we agree or not, the players now know it's only earned.
After Tony Gonzalez left finding someone to represent was tough. I like Brandon Flowers and I think Tamba Hali is great, but when their names are mentioned do you think Kansas City Chiefs? Better yet, when you ask someone who isn't a Chiefs fan do they think of them? Probably not, but when Gonzalez was in Kansas City it was automatic, everyone knew he was a Chief.
I took pride in that. Priest Holmes made me feel good about wearing the colors. You knew your team had that type of player, the kind that could change everything in just one play.
Sunday Charles became that sort of player. It filled me with pride watching Charles dash and slash through Denver's hopes. Now instead of being envious of the Tennessee Titans for having Chris Johnson I can relax, because the Chiefs have Jamaal Charles.
Charles demonstrated in college that he only gets better with time, so I'm already salivating over his potential.
"I was (excited) to get an opportunity to show everybody in the world what I could do,"Charles said. "Coach Haley gave me a chance, and I just tried to take advantage of it. I want to be great."
Did you catch that part of it, the wanting to be great? Not just great, but everything that goes with it. Charles wouldn't have a problem being the face that represents the Chiefs. To be something Larry Johnson never could – a leader. Johnson did a fantastic job of running from that, but expected to get paid. Johnson talked about being great, but without accountability.
Actions do speak loudly, and since being put into the leading role Charles has done nothing but shine. One of Haley's bricks upon his foundation is consistency, that's what Haley wants, and Charles nailed it.
"He's been phenomenal," Cassel said. "He's been such an uplifting guy for this team, especially with the adversity we've gone through this year. Week in and week out, Jamaal has gotten better and better."
In the rout Charles could have finished the game, get even more yards, but asked Haley to pull him. Not because he was hurt or tired, but because he didn't want to attempt to break Adrian Peterson's all-time NFL record (296 yards) that away.
"I didn't want to do it like that," said Charles. "I'll get it some other time."
Someone might read that and think cocky, but I don't. I see confidence. Hey, that sort of thing can be contagious. That's the kind of thinking that needs to be on the Kansas City Chiefs. In Charles mind there will be another time.
I know I know...I said that after the Pittsburgh Steelers game, but I think I'm safe with this one. That was the real deal against the Broncos. The defense gave up too many yards, but I didn't leave the game thinking about the defense or what Matt Cassel didn't do. I felt like this game, along with the Cincinnati Bengals, was a legitimate step in a positive direction.
Brian Waters pointed out something that got past me, but the sack total in their last six games dropped dramatically. In the Chiefs final six games they gave up only eight sacks versus 37 in their first 10 games. That means in their first six they had given up about 22 or 23 sacks, but in their last six only eight.
"We finally got comfortable in what we were trying to do," said Waters. "The idea of what we were trying to do from game to game changed through the course of the year and we finally settled on who we are and we weren't going to change that.
"Talent wise, I don't think I've ever played with anybody as talented as (Charles) is, with the explosive ability he has. He has the ability to make a 5-yard run a 50-yard run just like that.
"He has the ability to make us look better."
This season was tough, hard on everyone, but Haley went through plenty of garbage to find his diamonds. Whether by accident or on purpose Haley has that player in Charles to work from. Charles is a product of this season, and so were a few others like Chris Chambers, but if Charles continues to improve and make the Chiefs better 2009 will have been worth it.
No pain no gain...right?
The season may be over, but keep coming back to Wild Bills, because we love talking about them Chiefs. Call it an addiction, craving, obsession, or a fixation call it what you will but we'll be here rain or shine articulating those Chiefs!