NFL.com and Ed B of the PPG reported on Thursday that the Steelers have given Todd Haley permission to speak with the Arizona Cardinals about the vacant head coaching job left open by recently fired Ken Whisenhunt. With the Wiz on the outs in ‘Zona and Haley talking with them, the two teams could actually swap coaches with each returning to their former team.
Whisenhunt was the Steelers offensive coordinator from 2004-2006 and helped orchestrate a Super Bowl XL victory. After Bill Cowher retired from coaching, the Wiz interviewed for the position of head coach but failed to land the spot in Pittsburgh. The Cardinals eventually picked up Whisenhunt, and early on his leadership paid dividends. The Cards went to 8-8 and then 9-7 in Ken’s first two seasons. In that 9-7 season (2008) the Cards won the NFC West and made a Cinderella run to the Super Bowl. There, Whisenhunt would face his old team, the Steelers, and lose due to an improbable final drive orchestrated by Ben Roethlisberger.
Since that season, Ken and the Cards have had many downs and few ups with a quick exit from the playoffs the following season. In a weak NFC West division up until 2011, the Cards struggled to garner wins and landed themselves under near last in the division for three straight seasons. Even when things seemed to improve after going 4-0 this season, the team tailspun to a 5-11 record for the second time in three seasons. It was obvious with the combination of Whisenhunt and GM Rod Graves (also fired) that the team was going nowhere fast in the development department. Ken’s a good coordinator, but struggles as a full team leader.
Todd Haley was Whisenhunt’s offensive coordinator in ’07 and ’08. the year the Cards went to the Super Bowl to face the Steelers. Haley devised an offense that was very explosive with the veteran leadership of Kurt Warner. He combined the short pass with splashes of the deep throw that had the Cardinals ranked 3rd in points and 4th in yards. Haley left the Cards in 2008 to take the head coaching gig in KC. After a short stint there, Haley found himself as the new OC for the Steelers.
It’s interesting that Haley should be interviewing for the Cardinals. Haley bailed on the team after helping get them to the Super Bowl. He also had a rough go at head coaching. It’s no secret that personality conflicts was one factor that lead to Haley’s firing in KC. Obviously he still has ties there since those coordinating days, but it’s interesting that the Cards want him back.
With Whisenhunt out, he’ll be looking for a job. If Haley leaves Pittsburgh to coach in Phoenix, that leaves Haley’s old job open. Wouldn’t it be something if Whisenhunt returns to the Steelers as the offensive coordinator? Now, some may say this wouldn’t happen due to bad blood between Wiz and the front office since he was passed up when Cowher retired. But, Whisenhunt’s offense under the Steelers was 9th in points and 1st in the rush. What’s that? The rush you say? Something that the Rooney’s have been clamoring for in two plus seasons.
The Steelers could very much make a big offer to Whisenhunt were Haley to leave and the Steelers to shop for a new offensive coordinator. Maybe Ken will see he’s not head coach material and take back that role. In essence, the Steelers and Cards could swap coaches. Honestly, I feel it would be a good move for both teams. It’s not that I don’t like Haley, but I think Whisenhunt is better suited for the way this Steelers offense is staffed.
Stay tuned. This could get interesting.