I personally started paying attention to Todd Haley about during that three game winning streak in Weeks 11-13. By the end of 13, the Chiefs were 8-4 and running away with the AFC West. Then ended with a 10-6 record, took the West and hosted a playoff game at Arrowhead to the Baltimore Ravens. Then the season came crashing to a thud with a 30-7 beating by the Ravens.
The following 2011 season was a promising one for Haley and the Chiefs. But, they opened the season at 0-3 and really never fully recovered from there. The team was hampered by injuries, the play calling on offense became stale. If anyone ever thought Weiss had no hand in their 2010 playoff run, that person is mistaken. The team finished 7-9, and Haley was fired before the season even ended. Well 7-9 isn’t THAT bad, right? Three seasons as head coach and his record was .714. Better than most franchises out there in a league that is already saturated. So what was it about Haley that led to his firing and makes some Steeler fans on edge about them hiring Haley as the new offensive coordinator? And should they be?
To get more insight, I turned to fellow blogger and Chiefs expert, Patrick Allen. Allen has run ArrowheadAddict.com for several years now, and believe it or not, has turned that site into the most popular NFL site in the FanSided network. I actually went to college with Allen, who was a Chiefs nut back then. Born and bred in the ‘Burgh, I never really expected to come across any other type of football fan than either a Steelers or Browns fan when I went to college just an hour and fifteen minutes north of Three Rivers (at the time). He is from Cleveland… so can you blame him?? On campus he could be seen sporting a Chiefs winter coat walking across the quad, not giving a rats ass what anyone thought of his fandom – dude had guts I give him that. So yeah, he’s an expert….
Well it comes to no surprise that one of the first things Allen has to say about the Haley is that he is a ‘polarizing figure.’ Allen adds, ‘He comes off as grumpy and surly. He often looks dirty and unshaven. As a head coach, he often caught criticism for these things.’ Despite Haley’s rough around the edges look and personality, his play calling seemed to be on par. ‘I always liked the type of plays the Chiefs called while they were under Haley. His first season he called plays and it was a disaster but I think that had more to do with the players being crap than Haley’s plays. I’m a big believer that if a team doesn’t have the players to execute the plays it doesn’t matter what is called.’ Crappy players are not an issues with this Steelers roster. They have some of the most talented offensive players in the league – Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Wallace, Heath Miller, Isaac Redman, etc etc etc. Haley could be promising yet, even though Allen notes that the Chiefs’ successful year with Haley, Charlie Weiss was running the offense.
There is a cloud of mystery hanging over Haley and how he worked with all the KC staff. Allen notes, ‘Haley is reportedly difficult to work with and many speculate that Weis only stayed in KC a year for that very reason. Then again, he also only stayed in Florida for a year after that. In short, it is difficult to judge Haley’s time in KC because the organization is so shrouded in secrecy. Because of that secrecy, there is rampant speculation in the media. Is Haley a nut job who thought his boss was bugging his office or is Scott Pioli a nut job who was bugging his coach’s office? We will likely never know.’
Allen also thinks that Haley could have potentially just cracked under the pressure of being a head coach. ‘I think Haley made some questionable decisions as a head coach,‘ Allen writes, ‘He gave Thomas Jones more carries than Jamaal Charles, he started Tyler Palko four games in a row.’ Pressure or just dumb moves – no one really knows.
He was just a wide receivers coach from 1997-2006 (and ’97 was his first year of coaching any team in any role). He became the offensive coordinator as the Cardinals (Pittsburgh West) where a young Larry Fitzgerald flourished under Haley’s tutelage. ‘His work in Arizona, with Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald was excellent. Fitz has often cited Haley as the reason he became a top flight receiver. Since [Whisenhunt] came from Pittsburgh, I think Haley fits more in the Steelers style than he did in the KC Patriot ripoff environment.’ This speaks well for the Steelers young receiving core – Wallace, Brown, Sanders. But what would he say if I said the words ‘bubble screen’…. yeah I just can’t let it go can I?
Allen left me with one other note of wisdom that we should all be considering given the history of the Steelers front office. ‘Keep in mind that despite all the bad press out there about Haley and the reports that the Steelers were only interviewing him as a courtesy, he still got the job. If the Steelers were just interviewing him as a favor to Dick Haley, I think it is even more impressive that Todd won the organization over.’ Todd’s father, you remember, hails from the University of Pittsburgh and was the Director of Player Personnel for the Steelers from 1971–1990 (some pretty good years in there for the franchise).
I feel a little more at ease with Haley than I first did after my correspondence with Allen. There’s a bit of mystique behind the man – a surly burly dude who could hold the keys to the Endzone Kingdom for the Steelers. Hell his gruff stuff could fit right in with the blue collar mentality of this team and this town. Haley is smart and is a straight shooter. I’m pretty sure we won’t get any BS from this guy over the course of the season. But will he run the ball??!?! That is still uncertain. But whenever that is asked, I always have to go back to Rooney and his call for the running game to return. Would anyone dare ignore that prime directive? For ones’ own sake (and future career), I doubt it.
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