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Senior Bowl Brings Quick Turnaround for KC Coaches

Posted Jan 26, 2011

Scouts play an important role in preparing the coaching staff for this year's crop of prospects

MOBILE, ALABAMA -- Todd Haley sits in the bleachers Ladd-Peebles Stadium with several members of the Chiefs coaching staff. It’s likely that they’ll be interrupted at some point while taking notes on this year’s Senior Bowl prospects.

A handful of people have already stopped Haley this afternoon to say hello, catch-up or simply start small talk.

Several rows down from Haley, and two sections to the South, Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio sits alone watching the North team practice. Within five minutes of taking a seat, someone asks Del Rio if he has a few minutes to chat. Del Rio is no longer watching practice alone.

The Senior Bowl is a different animal for NFL head coaches. Haley has been coming to this pre-draft event for the better part of the last two decades. He spent most of those visits as an anonymous assistant in the stands, but those days are over.

“You see a lot of people that you have worked with and gotten to know over the years,” Haley said. “As a head coach, it’s a little harder to hide. When I started coming here I would sit up in the top row with my father learning how to scout. Nobody knew who I was, but as a head coach it’s a little bit harder to get in and out of the stadium. That’s all part of the deal and it’s a fun week.”

An unofficial coaches convention of sorts, the Senior Bowl is a place where business cards are exchanged and phone numbers are traded. The flurry of off-field activity isn’t just reserved for the players. Coaches must effectively shift through the masses just like prospects.

For both, what happens on the field is the most important part of their week.

In a way, the Senior Bowl represents the unofficial start to 2011. It’s also a reminder that building a successful football team is a 12-month job, requiring overlap from all areas of the football operation.

Kansas City’s coaching staff enjoyed roughly a week of down time after finalizing year-end reports. This week signaled the beginning of the next chapter. Some coaches had barely set foot in Mobile before attending an all-staff meeting at the team’s hotel headquarters on Monday afternoon. The turnaround is quick for Haley and his staff, but each is expected to learn about this year’s class of prospects quickly.

“This is the coaches’ first opportunity to really start their evaluation (of the college players),” Haley said. “We will rely heavily on the scouts. They are the guys who have done the real groundwork on these players up to this point.”

While Haley and GM Scott Pioli represent high-profile members of the organization attending practice this week, there are numerous individuals wearing the Arrowhead logo around Mobile. Many of those staff members are anonymous to fans, but carry a significant role in the future of the Chiefs.

Scouts spend the majority of their fall on the road. Most don’t have the time to attend a game at Arrowhead more than once each season. In a way, it makes them faceless. But while their faces may be anonymous to most, their efforts can directly affect the on-field image of the franchise.  

“This is one of their playoff games, so to speak,” Haley said of Kansas City’s scouts. “They work all year and are evaluating these guys full-time and now they get a chance to see them shine in a setting like this. The coaches will rely heavily on the scouts during a week like this week, because the scouts know these guys like the back of their hands already from school visits and practices.”

Last year, the Chiefs plucked Dexter McCluster, Javier Arenas and Cameron Sheffield out of the Senior Bowl. Each of those players was presented in a fashion similar to the 100-some prospects participating in this year’s game.

Based off previous drafts, the chance that a Senior Bowl participant will land in Kansas City this April is high. This week signals a very important time in Kansas City’s 2011 draft preparation.

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