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Golf coach to Chiefs coach


Sunday's game will be a homecoming of sorts for rookie Kansas City Chiefs head coach Todd Haley, a University of North Florida graduate who played on the golf team there and even spent a season as the school's golf coach.

"It was a last resort," Haley joked. "I was at Florida for three years. I shouldn't say last resort because I loved it and I got my degree from there, but I went to Florida for three years, Miami; I was doing the tour of the state of Florida."

Once upon a time, Haley dreamed of a career in professional golf, but his roots brought him back to football. As a youngster, Haley was a ball boy for the Pittsburgh Steelers, for whom his father was director of personnel.

"It was obviously a blessing for me to grow up around my father. The longer I've been in the business, the more I recognize he's maybe the best or one of the best ever at evaluating talent, and I think just the fact of growing up around those Pittsburgh teams and seeing what great players look like and what great coaches did and how great teams played was nothing but a huge positive for me."

In those days, winning was a constant. Now, as coach of the 1-6 Chiefs, a win is seen as a blessing.

"As a youngster, you thought the Super Bowl came every other year, but you realize real quick when you see your father stay in the business for as long as he has and not ever get back to one, it is hard," Haley said.

The former golfer/ball boy is off to a tough start as a head football coach. He shot up the coaching ladder last season as offensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals, but the team he's coaching this year doesn't have a Larry Fitzgerald on its roster. The Chiefs are 30th in overall offense and 30th in the league in passing.

Haley's father, Dick, will be in attendance at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium on Sunday when the 3-4 Jaguars attempt to even their record at the midway point in the season. It is Haley's father who executed the greatest draft in NFL history when he selected four future Hall of Famers – Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster – in the first five rounds of the 1974 draft.

Any chance Haley has of putting a smile on his father's face would seem to rest with quarterback Matt Cassel. Cassel hasn't enjoyed the success he did as Tom Brady's replacement in New England last year, but he has shown flashes of being the player in whom the Chiefs have entrusted their future.

Cassel has thrown eight touchdown passes but he lacks the kind of receiving corps he had in New England and on Sunday he'll be without running back Larry Johnson, suspended for having made derogatory comments. Johnson also made remarks critical of Haley's background as golf coach.

Jamaal Charles, who's rushed 23 times for 116 yards, will replace Johnson. The Chiefs' best receiver is Dwayne Bowe, who's caught 23 passes for 301 yards and four touchdowns.

The Jaguars' focus this week will be on improving a defense that was steamrolled by Tennessee for 305 yards rushing last Sunday.

"We're looking forward to getting back out in front of our fans and putting out a great product," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said.

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