Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Hail Haley

From the penthouse to the outhouse. That pretty much encapsulates Todd Haley’s strange, and yet challenging, trip from Pittsburgh to Cleveland as he adds to his National Football League coaching résumé.

The news Browns offensive coordinator, who has lived the good life for the last six seasons coordinating the high-power offense for the Pittsburgh Steelers, now gets a chance to see how the other half lives.

That will be the massive challenge in Cleveland for the combative Haley, whose reputation as a no-nonsense, hard-driving, polarizing figure precedes him to his new job. He is the antithesis of his new boss.

He becomes Hue Jackson’s first offensive coordinator, a job the head coach handled historically ineptly for the last two seasons. It entails not only scripting the new Cleveland playbook, but calling all the plays, two aspects that are certain to gnaw at Jackson’s ego.

It will be interesting to see how much latitude Haley receives to implement his own style of offense, which is dissimilar to Jackson’s. It very well could turn into a clash between two strong-willed and stubborn men. It’s entirely possible this will not end well.

I get the impression the front office values what Haley gives them to the point Jackson had better focus on the entire team for a change if he values his job security.

In Haley, the Browns ramp up the attitudinal approach to football. The Cleveland offense of the past two seasons needs a good swift kick or 10 in the hind flanks and he is the perfect choice to apply those boots.

His aggressive nature, which might not play well with several members of the current offense, has reaped too many positive results in the past to be ignored. In addition to his Pittsburgh success, Haley’s offense helped the Arizona Cardinals reach Super Bowl 43.

That accomplishment elicited a hearty endorsement from Kurt Warner, the Hall of Fame quarterback who quarterbacked that team and whose comeback flourished courtesy of Haley’s coaching.

“There is no doubt with what Todd has done with players and offenses in the past that he would be an asset to any organization in terms of improving them on the field,” Warner told Arizona Republic columnist Dan Bickley recently.

Haley has no problem getting in the faces of those players he believes are not performing up to their – and sometimes his – standards. His tough-love approach rankled players and yet, they ultimately played for him. That’s exactly what the Cleveland offense needs.

If it’s on his mind, it’s on his tongue. According to Bickley, Haley once called wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald a “one trick pony.” It was, he wrote, “criticism that accelerated the wide receiver’s development as a Hall of Fame player.”

Haley was more than the play caller for the incendiary Pittsburgh offense. He brought out the best in quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Bell, the most dangerous trifecta in the NFL.

He identified their strong points and exploited them to the consternation of opposing defensive coordinators. That was an aspect of coaching Cleveland offense the last two seasons at which Jackson spectacularly failed.

Haley set very high standards in Pittsburgh. It is no coincidence the Steelers annually ranked in the top 10 on offense. Browns fans know that all too well considering the Steelers’ domination of their team during the last generation.

Now there is no question Haley will not have the kind of talent with the Browns that he enjoyed in Pittsburgh. There are no Le’Veon Bells, Antonio Browns or Ben Roethlisbergers on the Cleveland roster. That will prove to be his biggest challenge.

But he must have seen something to quickly accept the Browns’ offer to jump on board. Perhaps it was a chance at revenge after the Steelers chose not to renew his contract despite spectacular offensive results the last half dozen seasons. Playing his ex-team twice a season might have been too much to pass up.

In strictly a speculative way, it is entirely possible that one of the lures that brought Haley to Cleveland was an unwritten promise that he would be considered for the top job in the event Jackson stumbles and is cashiered.

Signing him also gives the Browns additional gravitas as new General Manager John Dorsey liberally massages the roster. His reputation as a wildly successful coordinator is certain to have a positive effect as Dorsey seeks to improve an offense that brought up the rear in the NFL the last two seasons.

Playing in a Haley offense is a lot more enticing than a Jackson offense, which should help Dorsey, Alonzo Highsmith and Eliot Wolf recruit free agents and be a prime influence in a trade or two.

No longer will Cleveland be the vast wasteland of the NFL, where veterans signed only if the price was right. The losing culture that has plagued this moribund franchise is almost certain to be a thing of the past.

Last season, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was, in essence, the head coach on that side of the football and Jackson was merely a bystander while in control of the offense. That figures to be the case with Haley now on the other side of the ball.

This now frees up Jackson to do what he was hired to do in the first place – be a head coach. That will be the biggest adjustment he has to make.

The primary jobs of a head coach are to establish a culture and coach his coaches, who in turn coach the players. In his first two seasons with the Browns, Jackson concentrated on the offense and had little or no time to be the head coach.

If he wants to be successful, he had better stay away from Haley and allow his new coordinator to do what he was brought to Cleveland to do.

Bottom line, there is no question Haley is the best offensive coordinator the Browns have hired since they were the old Browns and Lindy Infante coordinated back-to-back high scoring seasons (791 points) in 1986-87 with Bernie Kosar helming the offense.

That team was never too far behind in a game because of its ability to quickly ignite the offense and play catchup. Steelers fans enjoyed the same type of offense the last six seasons.

Now it’s Cleveland’s turn with Haley in charge. Unless Dorsey and his guys have the magic touch and are able to construct a radically different and more competitive roster this offseason, it won’t happen right away, but it will happen and sooner rather than later.

Suffice it to say, the Browns are finally, finally headed in the right direction.


  1. Let's not forget we still have the carcinoma known as Hue Jackson on the coaching staff. Untreated cancer offers no hope!

  2. You're worse than I am, Bill. Maybe you should start your own blog.

    1. I just can't figure how you can find optimism with this moron still in charge. He's a bullshit artist to the nth degree, which is the only reason he still has a job. No other coach in the history of organized football would/did survive with his record.

  3. Bill, Your View Of The Head Coach Is About As Accurate It Gets. Rich, I Believe Your Comment Regarding A Potential Clash Of Egos May Have Many Opportunities To Become A Reality.