Gee, I thought a coordinator had to accomplish something before interviewing for a head coaching job in the NFL.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have allowed the Arizona Cardinals to interview offensive coordinator Todd Haley for their head coaching position, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Haley had some success coaching the Kansas City Chiefs. After a 4-12 season in his first year as head coach, the Chiefs went 10-6 in 2010 and won the AFC West before things went bad in 2011.
Haley’s appeal as a head coaching candidate must be based on his track record in Kansas City and Arizona, where he ran an offense that got the Cardinals into the Super Bowl.
The Cardinals, who fired Ken Whisenhunt, probably figure Haley is the guy who can recapture the magic of that 2008 Super Bowl run.
His tenure in Pittsburgh so far has been anything but magical.
Not only did the Steelers finish 8-8 and fall short of the playoffs, but their scoring offense under Haley was essentially the same as it was under Bruce Arians in 2011. They averaged 21 points a game in 2012, 22nd in the NFL. They averaged 20.3 points per game in 2011, 21st in the league.
Sure, it didn’t help that Ben Roethlisberger was injured in Week 10 and wasn’t the same after he came back. But wasn’t Haley’s offense supposed to keep Roethlisberger upright?
It’s not surprising that Haley is using the Steelers offensive coordinator position as a stepping stone to another shot as a head coach. What’s surprising is that he’s a head coaching candidate so soon.
Haley was supposed to help get the Steelers back to the Super Bowl, or at least help them win a playoff game, which they haven’t done in four of Mike Tomlin’ six seasons as head coach. He also was supposed to make Roethlisberger a better quarterback as he heads into the latter half of his career.
Then after two or three years, Haley could use his success in Pittsburgh as a springboard to another head coaching gig.
Haley might look like a carpetbagger if he leaves the Steelers after one year with all this unfinished business (c’mon, not even one sideline blowup?), but perhaps the Cardinals head coaching position is a dream job for him. Cardinals ownership seems to like him. According to NFL.com, Whisenhunt was urged to try to get him back after the Chiefs fired him last season.
Maybe this is an opportunity that Haley can’t be blamed for taking.
If the Cardinals somehow don’t hire Haley, that’s good news for the Steelers. If Haley stays in Pittsburgh, the Steelers will know his system better next season. Learning a new offense is like learning a new computer system for those of us with a desk job. It takes some time.
If Haley goes back to the desert, however, the Steelers should let Roethlisberger have some input in the hiring process for a new coordinator.
The Steelers did the right thing by letting Arians move on. Not only has it worked out well for Arians, who’s in the playoffs while the Steelers book tee times, but it was something the Steelers had to do. Arians and Roethlisberger were buddies, and that’s not what Roethlisberger needs. He needs a boss, a mentor.
That said, Roethlisberger is the franchise quarterback. The Steelers’ Super Bowl window is directly related to how long he’s around. He’ll turn 31 in less than two months. He’s a father. The Steelers should treat him like an adult and not force a new coordinator on him.
Roethlisberger will be entering his 10th year in the NFL. His playing style isn’t going to change. He’s never going to be as efficient or surgical as Tom Brady, but at his best he’s a top-five quarterback in the NFL because of his ability to extend plays after the pocket collapses. That’s going to put his health at risk, but that’s the way he rolls.
No offensive coordinator is going to change that.
That doesn’t mean the Steelers should let Roethlisberger handpick a new offensive coordinator if Haley leaves. He just needs to be in on the discussions.
Perhaps the Steelers would promote from within and hire running backs coach Kirby Wilson. He was in line to be the next offensive coordinator, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, before he sustained burns in a house fire a year ago Sunday.
Were it not for that fire, perhaps Wilson already has a year under his belt as Steelers offensive coordinator.
Wilson, or whoever the Steelers hire if Haley leaves, might want to be a head coach someday. Hopefully he actually improves the Steelers offense first.