Watch Tower: Range of Opnions on Todd Haley Hire as Wide as Red Sea

Todd Haley is the Pittsburgh Steelers new offensive coordinator. And if the divergent opinions in the press are any indication, Haley figures to be a far more of a polarizing figure than his predecessor, Bruce Arians.

Coaching hires have been debated as long as mediums have existed to cover them. But as the Watch Tower sees it, the range opinons about the wisdom of the Haley Hire are as wide as the parting of the Red Sea.

Dejan Kovacevic Fails to Make His Case

The Tribune-Review’s Dejan Kovacevic was one of the first to pounce on Haley, declaring the entire affair to be nutty. He didn’t stop there, delving immediately in to specifics observing:

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

To back up that claim, Kovacevic claims that last fall Haley had a room swept for bugs prior to an interview with the Kansas City Star. For good measure, Kovacevic reminded his readers that Haley made similar claims about a cellphone which he’d purchased prior to joining the Chiefs.

He doesn’t stop there, going on to cite a column by Kansas City-based columnist Jason Witlock who charged that Haley’s firings of Chan Gailey, Charlie Weis were rooted in Haley’s desire to ensure that credit for any success was to go to him.

  • Citing another writer’s work is fair game, but Kovacevic quite frankly could have and should have done some of his own reporting to verify such a charge.

Kovacevic also admonishes Haley and for suing McDonald’s over finding a dead rat in his wife’s salad, going as far to mock some of the claims made by Haley’s lawyer.

  • Kovacevic goes a little far here, Haley is not directly responsible for quotes made by his lawyer – and who wouldn’t think of suing if they found a rat in their salad?

Getting back to football fundamentals, Kovacevic asks how “how [Haley’s] pass-specialist pedigree will address Rooney’s wish to bolster the run.”

  • Um, er, ah, what about the fact that Haley’s had the number one rushing offense in 2010?

Delving into how Haley’s fiery personality might impact the locker room, Kovacevic wonders:

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.

The first part of the claim is almost undoubtedly fact. Finhtner is the QB’s coach, and Tomlin very well may have promoted him to that position to groom him as a replacement for Arians.

But the final part of Kovacevic’s claim is a little more problematic. For Rooney to overrule Fichtner, Tomlin would first have to want to offer him the job. He may have wanted to, but there is no public evidence to suggest that, in fact the evidence is to the contrary, and again Kovacevic fails to support his claim with original reporting.

When Kovacevic defected from the Post-Gazette to the Tribune-Review, one of the main reasons he cited was the fact that PG sports editor Jerry Micco was reluctant to let him write a regular column.

Might we now understand why Micco was so reluctant?

The View from Cook’s Kitchen

The Post-Gazette’s Ron Cook made no effort to skirt the issues surrounding Haley’s cantankerous disposition. In fact, he embraces them. After reviewing a litany of Haley’s public confrontations, Cook concludes:

He even had on-field disputes with former boss Bill Parcells. You might say he’s a chip off the Parcells block.
And this is a bad thing?
I say not necessarily.

Conceding that “every coach has enemies,” Cook goes on to argue:

I’m not naïve. I know that endorsement doesn’t guarantee Haley will be successful with the Steelers. But it does tell me that Haley isn’t always the monster he’s portrayed as being. And even if his tough-love coaching style is tougher than most, it doesn’t guarantee that his players will hate him and he will fail.

Cook largely confines his arguments to the subjective, avoiding delving in too deeply into the X’s and O’s, but he does conclude that Haley track record is that of an offensive coordinator that plays to his team’s strengths, something that was frequently, but not always true about Bruce Arians.

Blogsphere Amplifies Division on Haley

For once, the dichotomy evident on the professional press is reflected neatly in the blogsphere, and no where is this more clear than Behind the Steel Curtain (full disclosure, I also write for BTSC.)

When Haley’s name first surfaced as a candidate, Neal Coolong, BTSC’s assistant editor, wasted little time in going to town on the prospect, observing:

He’s an interesting, if not obvious, candidate. Interesting in the sense he appears to be an incredibly poor fit for the job. [Emphasis added.]

Coolong attacked Haley’s coaching candidacy with zest, citing all sorts of red flags behind the coaches clashes with former players and coaches, his poor performance minus Hall of Famers like Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald, and several questionable coaching decisions.

His colleague, Tim Gleason, aka Mary Rose took a completely different tact, lauding the hire in glowing terms:

By bringing in Haley, the Steelers have added to the mix an experienced, lifelong, successful offensive mind rather than a starter coach. That can only be a plus in draft preparations, in-house player evaluations and every other aspects of strategies and Xs and Os of offensive football. Haley will begin immediately to be an asset in drafting options.

Gleason extols’ Haley’s varied paths to success, praising him for revitalizing Kurt Warner’s career and for leading only the fifth NFL offense to have three 1000 plus wide receivers.

How’s that for diversity of opnion on the same site?

Pick Up the Phone and Do Some Reporting, Please

Everyone knows that Art Rooney II forced Mike Tomlin to fire Bruce Arians. The fact that Arians’ “retirement” lasted all of 8 days and that the Steelers have made no attempt to refute the story establishes this as fact.

Cook suggests that Tomlin’s lack of availability to the press, refusal to answer questions at Todd Haley’s press conference all signal that Tomlin cannot be happy with the way this affair unfolded.

And he’s right. Tomlin publicly endorsed his offensive coordinator only to have Art Rooney II pull rank on him. That’s a nasty brew to swallow.

But Cook extrapolates to the extreme:

Hey, all speculation is fair until we hear from Tomlin or more from Rooney. I can’t say for sure one way or the other who hired Haley. [Emphasis added.]

The key to Cook’s entire column is the word in italic above “speculation.” Webster’s on-line dictionary gives a couple of definitions of the root word “speculate.”

  • to meditate on or ponder a subject : REFLECT
  • to take to be true on the basis of insufficient evidence

In other words, Cook is taking a wild-ass guess. Which is fine, up to a point, but Cook then extrapolates to the extreme, where after extolling the Rooney’s wisdom of hiring Tomlin, he suggests:

There aren’t better owners in sports than the Rooneys, at least there weren’t before this offensive coordinator mess. [Emphasis added.]

Had it been established that Rooney did in fact for the Haley hire on Tomlin, that would be one thing. But no one knows that. But Cook simply doesn’t stop there, he continues aruging:

I’m guessing Tomlin will have the chance to be here for a long time. I’m just not so sure anymore that he wants to stay.
We’re not going to have to wait long to find out. has reported Tomlin’s contract runs through next season with an option for 2013.

So in a simple 836 words, Ron Cook takes the Steelers change at offensive coordinator from the awkward firing of Bruce Arians, to Tomlin getting forced to hire someone he didn’t want to hire, to Tomlin planning to pack his bags.

Cook might be right. If he follows past procedure, Rooney will attempt to extend Tomlin’s contract this off season when he has two years remaining. If Tomlin balks Ron Cook will have bragging rights, and the Watch Tower will be the first to say so.

  • But until then this is merely speculation.

But Cook is a professional who has been a credentialed member of the Pittsburgh sports writers for over 20 years.

If he’s going to go so far as to suggest that this is the beginning of the end of Mike Tomlin’s tenure in Pittsburgh then he owes it to his readers to make the simple effort of going out and finding some facts to back up his claim.

Sure, he’s a columnist not a reporter, but professional columnists have the obligation based their opinions on facts. Otherwise, he might as well join the ranks of the bloggers.

Thanks for visiting. For more Steelers media analysis, click here to read more from Steel Curtain Rising’s Watch Tower.

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