Todd Haley has been to the 101 Awards twice before. On both occasions, he watched the national portion of the program from the tables in the crowd.
Saturday night was different.
Instead of heading to the 101’s solely as a presenter of team awards, Haley was one of the seven national honorees highlighted at the 41st edition of the prestigious NFL awards ceremony.
“Whether its flying to Kansas City from Los Angeles or sitting up there on the stage, I’ve always thought, wouldn’t it be cool if the Kansas City Chiefs head coach would win an award just to add to what is already a wonderful event,” asked host Paul Burmeister. “We have that here this year with Todd Haley.”
Orchestrating the greatest single-season turnaround in franchise history can have that affect.
For the first time since Marty Schottenheimer did so in 1997, a Kansas City Chiefs head coach took home the hardware as 101 AFC Coach of the Year. Haley joins Schottenheimer (1995 and 1997) and Hank Stram (1969) as the only head coaches in Chiefs history to receive the honor.
“Football is the greatest team sport there is,” Haley said. “Without a group of assistant coaches that sacrifice so much and, first and foremost players, this wouldn’t (be possible).”
Kansas City’s 2010 turnaround included the club’s first AFC West title and home playoff game since 2003. The 10-6 finish was especially impressive considering the Chiefs won just 10 games in the previous three seasons combined.
Haley dubbed “Chiefs WILL” as the team’s motto long before the 2010 season kicked off and he reflected on the core behind that mindset Saturday night.
“When you are a new coach coming into a situation, (players) have to take a leap of faith,” Haley said. “I’m not always the smoothest or the nicest guy, at least at the start, and our guys had to take a leap of faith and had to believe in what I was asking them to do and they did that over a two-year period.
“I just could not ask for more than what they have given and I’m standing up here today because of their sacrifice, their hard work and their dedication. They truly put themselves out there and their lives on the line every day for this great team. I’m being honored, but this is for my coaches and our players that have given so much.”
Loaded with NFL star power, the crowd at the Westin Crown Center was surprised with several guest presenters in attendance.
Super Bowl Champion Tony Dungy presented Eagles QB Michael Vick with the 101 NFC Offensive Player of the Year Award while Pro Football Hall of Famer “Mean” Joe Green handed Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu the 101 AFC Defensive Player of the Year Award.
In Haley’s case, the presenter was his father, former NFL player and Director of Player Personnel Dick Haley.
“He was very excited that he’d be able to present the award to me,” Haley said. “Everybody here locally gets tired of me talking about him, but I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. Between his 50 years playing and working the NFL, and now my 16 years coaching and scouting, I’ve been able to spend my life growing up in and around the NFL.”
The101 AFC Coach of the Year Award is the second post-season coaching honor for Haley this year. He previously won the NFL Alumni Coach of the Year Award during the week of Super Bowl XLV.
“I’ve taken great pride in getting to be a head coach in the NFL,” Haley said. “It’s a rare opportunity for anybody. I’ve done it through hard work and just by doing my job the way that I was taught by my father from a young age.”
101 Award Winners Included:
AFC Coach of the Year: Todd Haley (KC)
NFC Coach of the Year: Mike Smith (ATL)
AFC Offensive Player of the Year: Tom Brady (NE)
NFC Offensive Player of the Year: Michael Vick (PHI)
AFC Defensive Player of the Year: Troy Polamalu (PIT)
NFC Defensive Player of the Year: Clay Matthews (GB)
Lamar Hunt Award: NFL Films (Steve Sabol)