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Kovacevic: Haley's hire a nutty narrative

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By Dejan Kovacevic
Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012
 

Nothing says you're nuts quite like aspiring to become the Steelers' offensive coordinator. Except, of course, accepting when they offer.

So, Todd Haley is nuts.

This became official when the team announced his hiring Tuesday by way of a written statement in which Haley described himself as "excited about the opportunity." You know, the opportunity to be an idiot when the Steelers lose, a bumbling obstacle when they win, and generally less popular than anyone in town except the county treasurer whose name you fill out on property-tax checks.

You've got to be nuts.

Just ask Bruce Arians, who dealt with all of that, won a Super Bowl, was fired by Art Rooney II and immediately latched on with the Indianapolis Colts to take the same job.

He's twice as nuts.

This whole offensive coordinator saga is nuts, actually, and it's hard to imagine it's playing out with a franchise as founded in non-nuttiness as the Steelers.

Let's start with Haley himself, whose behavior throughout his 15-year NFL coaching career has been outright certifiable.

How about the interview Haley granted to the Kansas City Star in December, shortly before the Chiefs fired him, in which he first swept a PR office for bugs he suspected were placed by upper management to spy on him?

Haley went on to tell that interviewer he also thought his cell phone, which he owned before joining that team, had been bugged by those same spies. Others have made similar accusations against the Chiefs' autocratic general manager, Scott Pioli, but no proof ever has emerged.

How about the relentless criticism in Kansas City that Haley was more about promoting himself than doing right by the Chiefs?

Jason Whitlock, Fox Sports' renowned Kansas City-based columnist, wrote in January 2011 that Haley tried to compensate for not having played football even at the high school level — back problems limited him to golf at Upper St. Clair — and that Haley was "too insecure to work in a professional manner with confident, competent people for an extended time." Indeed, Haley fired or pushed out two experienced offensive coordinators, Chan Gailey and Charlie Weis, in just two-plus seasons as head coach. Whitlock and others charged that those moves were made to get Haley more credit for the Chiefs' successes.

And, going off the rails a bit, how about in 2009, when Haley and his family sued a McDonald's for $1.7 million after his wife found a dead 6-inch rat in her salad?

Haley's lawyer riotously explained to the Associated Press that the ingestion of the rat caused "violent physical illness" — how do you lift a whole rat onto a fork to ingest anything• — that the store manager "brought them no comfort" when visiting their house, and that "the family needs closure" on the matter. They ended up securing an out-of-court settlement, not to mention securing Haley's perpetual place as the butt of rodent jokes.

Nuts, all of it.

And this is to say nothing of how Haley's spotty background won this job, how his pass-specialist pedigree will address Rooney's wish to bolster the run, how being passed over will sit with the rest of Mike Tomlin's staff and, in the biggest issue by far, how Haley might — or might not — coexist with Ben Roethlisberger. Haley has clashed with some of his best players, often in public.

Are the Steelers nuts, too?

Look, I had no issue with Rooney stepping in to make the call on Arians. Owners are right to get involved when they see something amiss, and they're right to help maintain a franchise identity. Rooney didn't want Arians in the role, and he got rid of him. That's only meddling if it happens regularly.

But to hire this guy?

Rooney had a longtime connection with Haley's father, Dick, the Steelers' famed personnel man from 1971-90, and this sure has the feel of that connection paying off. Yes, Tomlin interviewed Todd Haley. Yes, there's even a chance Tomlin liked him, though they appear to have zilch in common. But this process has Rooney's fingerprints from start to finish.

We know Tomlin wanted Arians back, but Rooney overruled him.

We know a few of Tomlin's players — notably Roethlisberger — pushed for quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner to get Arians' old job, and Rooney evidently overruled that, too.

It's hard to tell what anyone's thinking on the South Side. Tomlin has barely made a peep since the Steelers were Tebowed, and he wasn't quoted in the team's statement Tuesday. Haley himself was whisked in and out of headquarters without a spoken word.

Pardon this pun, especially if you're picking through a salad, but I smell a rat.

 

 
 


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