Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Has A Message Been Sent To Ben In The Hiring Of Haley?

A lot has been said already regarding the hiring of Todd Haley as the Pittsburgh Steelers new offensive coordinator, including this blogger made on Twitter regarding Ben Roethlisberger needing to basically keep his nose clean because Art Rooney was sending a message to him by the hiring of Haley. A little clarifying is obviously needed here: do I think Roethisberger is on his way out the door? No. That's asinine and I won't even address that any further. But, do I believe that Rooney II wants it clearly understood that he didn't exactly like how the offense was being executed and the decisions, let's just say, that Roethlisberger had made this past year? Yes. Unequivocally, yes.

Lynn Swann, former Steeler wide receiver and Hall of Famer, may have said it best last week when he was asked about the Steelers' quarterback and his statement made at the Pro Bowl that he was going to sit down with Art Rooney II to find out in which direction the offense was going to go now. Swann said," The last time I checked, he was a paid employee of the team." He later said, "I don't think you question an organization that has had the consistency and success the Steelers have had." Well said. I'm not saying that Ben needs to shut up and deal with it - this is by no means a Ben Bashing Blog - but I do believe that Swanny makes a good point. A point that was accentuated by the hiring of Haley, in that one of the knocks against Arians was that he was Ben's BFF and that it hindered Arians' being able to lay down the law and get Ben back in line when he veered off course or just plainly and simply did something stupid. That won't be the case with Haley.

And now that Haley has been officially named the new offensive coordinator, we will see just how much Swanny's comments may come to fruition and if Ben likes being just a "paid employee."

Was this, though, a wagging-of-the-finger at Ben and, by extension, Mike Tomlin? I wouldn't go that far with it, with Tomlin at least. A gentleman on Twitter whom I respect who goes by the handle @SteelersNasty suggested that it may have been by saying that "Tomlin didn't want him." While I don't agree there, it is obvious that this was a Rooney II hire. He then backed up this sentiment by tweeting this: “@SteelersNasty: "Tomlin had told Arians several times since the end of the season that he wanted him back for 2012 and Arians
 The posted link connects to an ESPN article debating whether or not Tomlin was on board with this at all or not. Regardless, I still believe this smacks at Ben being sent a message long before Tomlin being sent one.

Quarterback coach Randy Fichtner (pronounced "Feet-ner"), thought by many to be the OC-in-waiting and the one whom I was personally hoping would get promoted, will now probably have the job of mediator in the early going. Though, he won't have much say in what Haley puts together for a game plan, at least not early on, he may just be the buffer needed at first, if Haley lives up to his reputation. Assuming, also, that Ben does in fact react the way many seem to feel he will. It is still possible that we could see Ben actually respond to Haley. At this point, only time will tell.

Aside from any messages that may have been sent to Big Ben and how this affects him, what about the other players on offense? Expect Haley to chin up others too.

As a for instance, I've been somewhat harsh in how I speak of Mike Wallace since his going MIA after approximately the Cardinals game this year and don't ask any apologies for it. Wallace's number fell in half in the second half of the season - literally in half. Trust me that Haley will get in his face about catching the ball more with his hands and running more precise routes in order to finally be able to shed the "One-trick pony" (or maybe "One-and-a-half-tricks" as Tomlin said during one weekly press conference this year) moniker.

Also, expect Antonio Brown to definitely hear it the first time he misses a hot read and runs the wrong route. There are a few others on offense as well who are sure to be in for something they have not seen before, ("Redman, for each %#@&% fumble you %@&#$ make, I'm gonna %#@&% %#@&% %#@&%...") But, you get the idea...

None of this, though, bothers me. Abrasiveness, ego, etc...bring it on! I know that many in Steeler Nation are already chafing at the idea of the "disagreements" he will have with one of the offensive players, but most of them could use a kick in the pants now and then. He's a fiery SOB who ain't afraid of no one. Not a bad thing in my book.

Besides, Haley's reputation precedes him in how he make offenses go too. Whether the strength is in the running game or the passing game, he made the most of what he had in front of him. Here are some of Haley's accomplishments:

2007 - In Haley's first season as OC, quarterback Kurt Warner passed for 3,417 yards in 14 games with 27 TDs and 17 INTs. Warner was only sacked 20 times also. Edgerrin James, the Cardinals running back, rushed for 1,222 yards on 324 carries. Good numbers. The key is this, which Steelers fans will love: the offense had a 68% red zone percentage that was good for 3rd best in the league in '07.

2008 - In '08, Haley's final season in Arizona as the Cardinals OC, Warner passed for 4,583 yards in 16 regular season games and threw for 30 TDs and only 14 INTs. He was sacked just 26 times also. The backfield was split that year, though, with James carrying 133 times and Tim Hightower toting the rock 134 times. They averaged about 3.5 yards per carry. Though, the red zone percentage dipped down to about 58% that year, it was still good for 9th best in the league.

2009 - Haley was named the Chiefs head coach in '09 and had nothing but issues from the word go. Matt Cassel was brought in to be the quarterback and only threw for 2,924 yards and only had 16 TDs against 16 INTs. He was also sacked 42 times. Here, though, he was able to establish the running game for as Jamaal Charles ran for 1,120 yards on 190 carries and Larry Johnson added 377 yards. The running game averaged 4.4 yards per carry, good for 8th best in the league.

2010 - With Charlie Weiss brought in as the Chiefs' new OC in '10, Cassel threw for 3,116 yards in 15 games with 27 TDs and only 7 INTs. He was only sacked 26 times that year. The running game was even better as Charles ran for 1,467 yards on just 230 carries, and veteran Thomas Jones ran for another 896 yards and the Chiefs' 4.72 yards per carry was good for 4th best in the league. The Chiefs also turned their fortunes around and returned to the playoffs after winning the AFC Western Division.

So, from his track record we can see that Haley knows how to manage an offense. The knock has simply been his seeming inability to manage players. It's no secret either: there have sideline blow-ups caught on camera as proof.

How he's received, though, is as important as how he comes across. Though they had a run-in or two, Kurt Warner enjoyed a renaissance while playing QB in Arizona under Haley. Warner: "He's a coach who's not afraid..." For more on what Kurt Warner said, read this article by @ScottBrown_Trib: Warner: Haley will challenge Ben - The Steel Mill:

Still, it's impossible to say for sure yet if Haley will be good or bad. Sure, he has a great offensive mind, but what makes teams winners goes beyond Xs and Os and that is what has most fans concerned. As I alluded to earlier, the key to it all may well be Big Ben and whether this "paid employee" gets the message.