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Welcome Home, Todd


First things first, let's put aside the whole Bruce Arians argument. What's done is done. Those in Steeler Nation who believe Arians got a raw deal are certainly not rooting for failure just to say "I told you so." The arguments about how and why offensive coordinators are much more vulnerable to criticism by the arm chair coaches as opposed to defensive coordinators have all been made. It's time to move on.

It makes sense that Pittsburgh went outside the building to hire their new OC. If we were talking about Dick LeBeau here, retiring in his mid-70s, I would expect the Steelers to hire from within to replace him. Why? Because everyone loves LeBeau and no one would have wanted to see him go. The front office, coaches, players and fans, all in sync with hating to see LeBeau retire, would want more of the same. Wanting more of the same lends itself to a promotion from within. But in the Arians case, there was a great divide over wanting more of the same. The building was apparently divided, players divided and we all know many in the Nation were anti-Arians. So why hire from within and risk more of the same? True, a current coach could have a whole different approach than Arians and might be a refreshing change, but it is more likely that an in-house coach would have a greater problem being "non-Arians," if that makes sense, than a fresh start from the outside.

In addition, when you hire from within, think of the dominoes. You bump up a position guy, then bump up another guy to replace the position guy, then add a real young inexperienced guy to replace the bottom of the ladder. In essence, you add to the mix a starter coach. 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.

Haley is well-seasoned, but still young at heart. He has had offensive success with different teams in different ways. He was an offensive coach for Dallas in the mid-2000s and was good enough to be snatched up and promoted by Ken Whisenhunt in Arizona. As the OC for the Cardinals in 2008, Arizona led the NFL in passing en route to a trip to the Super Bowl. As head coach for Kansas City in 2010, the Chiefs led the NFL in rushing. Haley has the ability to focus on both elements of an offense and make them successful. He obviously has the ability to adjust his game to the talent around him. Interestingly, Whisenhunt wanted Haley back this season after the Chiefs let him go. That speaks volumes. If Haley was a cancer in any way, Arizona would not have inquired to re-hire Haley. Maybe it also has something to do with Kurt Warner's career being re-invented under the Whiz-Haley combo, a matter that should not be overlooked. Arizona racked up 427 points on offense and became the fifth team in NFL history to boast three receivers with more than 1,000 yards, a statistic that should make Pittsburgh's three young receivers more than a little excited.

It must be cautioned that bringing Haley on board is no panacea, especially if the problems that shackled the last regime aren't corrected. The offensive line cannot continue to play musical chairs to the tune of 10 starting units in 17 weeks. Bill Walsh could not be an effective leader with that albatross. Moreover, the organization must call a summit to figure out offensive philosophical strategies. Roethlisberger implied a year ago that both he and Arians wanted to throw the ball more, but felt they weren't "allowed to." His direct statement was a harbinger of a dysfunctional offense: "We both think ... that we call a lot more runs because we know that's what we're supposed to do. And I don't know if that's 'supposed to' from the fans, the media, the owner, who knows?" Statements such as this are alarming. Mr. Rooney needs to gather Mike Tomlin, Haley and Big Ben to make sure everyone is singing from the same hymn book. They need to hammer out when to use running backs more in the short passing game, when to spread, when to no huddle, when to use a backfield blocker, when to set up the run with the pass and vice versa, etc. etc. The Steelers offensive mindset cannot be a house divided.

Much has been discussed, rightfully so, about Haley's behavior. He has had more than his share of confrontations with other coaches, players and front office personnel. This may lend itself to the theory that Haley, like Lebeau, is much more suited to be a coordinator than a head coach. Many people are like that. Haley is the classic example of the Peter Principle. He was extremely successful as a coordinator, but may not have the personality to be the face of an organization. LeBeau himself was a casualty to the Peter Principle. Great coordinator, but just not cut out to be in charge of the whole enchilada. Paradoxically, both Haley and LeBeau are examples of the Peter Principle for opposite reasons - one for having too strong of a personality and one for having too soft of a personality. One you want to punch and the other you want to hug. Doesn't matter. On a professional football team, you just want the job done regardless of why a coach is better suited to be a coordinator than the head man.

Speaking of a professional football team, it would be a mistake to assume that Big Ben, the skill players, the line and all the coaches will not embrace and adjust to Haley. Of course, they are all human beings and thus prefer their comfort zone. However, human beings cannot grow without leaving that comfort zone. This will happen in Pittsburgh. These men are professionals. They have a job to do and they will remain singularly focused on reaching the ultimate goal. Don't be surprised if Ben gets better. He may have topped out with how Arians could have helped him and now will learn and grow from a new professor. Ben is at the precise age where he needs career boost. He may not attend any of the Haley barbeques like he did with Arians, but who cares? There is another level left in Ben and a guy like Haley can bring it out.

This is not a hire that was done in haste. The Steelers operate more slowly and surely than other franchises. They want to make sure they do things right. You can be sure that Rooney, Colbert and Tomlin had some heart-to-heart conversations with Haley about the organization and behavior expectations. Haley is well aware of those things, having been born in Pittsburgh and having a father who spent most of his career cashing paychecks signed by people named Rooney, Haley knows the drill. He's been on the fields and in the locker rooms. I can envision Haley assuring the organization that while he might occasionally be animated on the sidelines, he will not embarrass the Steelers.

Today is a day of celebration in Steeler Nation. No one know can know what the future holds, but we can act in the present to say, "Welcome home, Todd."