Building a good football team is a process. It takes time.
Chiefs head coach Todd Haley knows this, and although his team is 2-0 this season, he said that process is far from complete.
And when he looks across the NFL at where other teams are in that process, one of the teams he believes he’s chasing is the 49ers.
“San Francisco clearly is ahead of us in that department because I think they are a good team,” Haley said Wednesday in a conference call with Bay Area media. “We have been not a good team, and we’re trying to transition into becoming a good team. We’re in the middle of that process, which is a lot of work.”
Although Haley sees the 49ers organization as one that is further developed than his own, his team enters Sunday’s matchup with an unblemished record while the 49ers have yet to win a game.
But Haley isn’t fooled by the win/loss column.
When he watched the 49ers take on the Saints in “Monday Night Football” earlier this week, he saw a San Francisco team that “beat the heck out of the other team from a physical standpoint.”
And Haley wasn’t the only member of the Chiefs who took notice.
During Mike Vrabel’s conference call, the veteran linebacker talked about how much talent the 49ers have on their roster. And when he faces the 49ers this weekend, he expects them to play more like they did against the Saints and less like they did their season-opening loss at Seattle.
“They don’t lack for talent,” he said. “They just haven’t found a way to win this early in the season yet.”
Haley and Vrabel both said they were impressed by the 49ers late touchdown drive Monday, and they believe Alex Smith is a much-improved quarterback. And the praise for the 49ers offense didn’t stop there, Haley thinks highly of the rest of the 49ers starters too.
“Offensively, I’ve seen nothing but the group getting better. Alex Smith is trying to push himself, it appears, into the group of top quarterbacks. He really looks like he’s made great progress. The running back is one of the beasts of all beasts… I have so much respect for this guy and how he runs and breaks tackles.
“Being a former receivers coach, I think this group has true, true big-time ability across the board. [Michael] Crabtree and [Josh] Morgan have been a couple of real budding stars. And the tight ends can run all over the place and make big plays.”
But in order for the 49ers offense live up to Haley’s praise, it will have to be able to block out the raucous crowd at Arrowhead Stadium.
Vrabel has been on both sides of the Kansas City crowd, and he remembers it being “impossible to play” when the fans at Arrowhead got going.
But crowd noise doesn’t affect defenses as much, and the Chiefs are aware of what the 49ers do on that side of the ball, especially Patrick Willis.
Vrabel has seen a lot of great linebackers throughout his 14 NFL seasons, and he said its unfortunate for him that he hasn’t had the chance to watch Willis more. But Vrabel knows how good No. 52 is and what he can do on the football field.
“I know that if you don’t block him, he’s going to make the play,” Vrabel said. “That’s the bottom line.”
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