If you've listened to any of the Todd Haley press conferences in the past two weeks, you can sense the inner-struggle with the Chiefs head coach to remain positive regarding recent headlines. You can also sense who he wants to be the Chiefs starting running back.
More losses, turmoil surrounding the ex-Chiefs Larry Johnson, and a coach struggling to find any answers on the field are just a few of the topics that Haley has to address in most press conferences.
In recent weeks Haley's emotional spectrum has traveled anywhere from disappointed, to confused, to happy. Haley, who is known for his fiery outbursts on the sidelines, keeps his temper in check when indoors. In fact, he's almost dull when it comes to answering the media's questions. That is except for when asked about Kolby Smith.
It's happened a few times now, a Kansas City media member asks something to the extent of how Jamaal Charles is looking as a primary ball carrier. Haley always answers in his best Ben Stein voice something close to "I think Jamaal is finally starting to get it. He had some struggles in training camp and in the early part of the season, but is starting to come together." This answer is essentially the PC answer for "He's OK".
Then that same media member will ask the coach about Kolby Smith. Immediately you can hear Haley's voice raises a couple of octaves. He becomes almost giddy when talking about Charles. You can just tell Haley prefers Kolby Smith. You can hear it in his voice. He is genuinely excited when talking about Smith. With a man who doesn't even crack a smile over the holidays, his getting excited gets me excited about Smith.
Smith saw his first in-game action last week, in over a year since his patella tendon injury. He totaled only four carries for 17 yards, but then again Chiefs only ran the ball a total of 12 times against Jacksonville.
Smith is undoubtedly not in "game" shape yet, and will most likely take at least a handful of games to get his strength back in his legs. However, Haley likes his progress enough to possibly start this week against Oakland, according to the Kansas City Star :
“He’s worked very hard. He’s practiced now four weeks, so I would say he’s getting better. But I would still say that, given the circumstances, it’s still asking too much to feel like this guy is going to be the best he’s going to be right now.” - Todd Haley
I still think the Chiefs should give Jamaal Charles this week. I don't feel like Charles has been given a true opportunity to see how he would handle being the primary ball-carrier. If he has a breakout game, Smith could be a perfect complement to Charles by filling some of the "between-the-tackles" plays.
Smith is built more like a NFL running back who can carry the majority of the load. Smith and Charles are both 5'11" but Smith outweighs Charles by 20 lbs. In Haley's eyes, Smith's body type and work ethic may have already won over the starting job over Charles. And the only reason that Charles may get the start for a second straight week is because Smith is still not 100 percent.
If Smith comes back and proves that he is in "game" shape this week, look for Haley to give Smith the starting job from this point on.