Coaching is an incestuous profession that spins around each season on reputation as much as ability and integrity.
Todd Haley is strong in both areas, and even after a middling season as the Steelers offensive coordinator, the fact he's drawing attention for head coaching vacancies isn't surprising. But before we begin cranking out "who will replace Todd Haley?" stories, it's worth a deeper dive into questions regarding the intentions of the Arizona Cardinals, who sought, and received, permission to interview Haley for its head coach position.
Haley still has strong ties to the Cardinals, having been behind the team's offense that propelled the team to Super Bowl XLIII - a loss to his future employer, the Pittsburgh Steelers. He found ways for veteran quarterback Kurt Warner to get the ball to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald in a way that scored multiple road upsets before falling just short in the title game.
It makes perfect sense why the Cardinals would hold him in high regard. In fact, it makes so much sense, it would be odd if they didn't consider him as a candidate - at least if the nets were being cast broadly enough to give off the perception their search for a new coach of a franchise mired in futility under the previous regime.
Obviously one doesn't need to look very far for precedent of the Cardinals hiring Steelers coordinators for open positions. They fired Ken Whisenhunt last week, six seasons after they hired him as their head coach, promoting him from the offensive coordinator spot he held with the Steelers.
They kept defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who was the Steelers defensive backs coach until 2010.
Even with what appears to be standard operating procedure of hiring Steelers personnel, more somewhat nefarious reasons for considering Haley should be considered.
If Haley has such a great reputation in Arizona, why wouldn't they consider him for their head coaching position? If they planned to conduct a broad search for the right replacement to Whisenhunt, why wouldn't Haley have been considered?
If the Cardinals don't want to hire him, then they don't want to hire him, but if they have that kind of relationship with Haley, others would absolutely wonder why the Cardinals didn't interview him when they had a head coaching vacancy. It would cost them nothing to at least ask the Steelers for permission to interview him. It'd cost nothing more than a plane ticket, a meal and maybe a night's stay in a hotel to bring him to Glendale to talk shop.
But for Haley, the price of being shunned by his former team - one with which he had a great deal of success - would be damaging to his reputation. And it isn't something the Cardinals would wish upon someone who helped give the franchise its best season.
Call it a token interview, or even just something they request for the sake of Haley being able to save face.
It could be a legitimate interview as well. It would be odd, considering the way Haley's lone head coaching stint ended in Kansas City, but it would cost the Cardinals so little to prevent the unfair question of why they didn't at least interview him for their job, and the lack of the perception of interest on their part in Haley could be damaging to Haley's future.