Rumor has it when certain members of the Steelers front-office viewed the famous sideline blow-up between Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and his then offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien five seasons ago, it was the inspiration to finally make a move with regards to Bruce Arians.
The feeling was, "Well, if Brady and his offensive coordinator can nearly come to blows in the heat of the moment yet still be able to work together, that must mean two people in such positions don't necessarily have to be buddy, buddy."
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was best friends with his offensive coordinator. He and Arians vacationed together. They played golf together.
And, oh yeah, they won championships together.
While many fans wanted Arians gone, the other side of the argument was: "If your franchise quarterback likes his coordinator, and success is being had, why not keep your No. 1 asset happy?"
Unfortunately, regardless of the great working relationship Roethlisberger enjoyed with his game-planner, the Steelers offense never quite lived up its potential during Arians' five reign.
Therefore, in January of 2012, Arians was gone, and around this same time, word came down from the boss, himself--Art Rooney II--that he'd like his franchise quarterback to tweak his style, a style that was quite successful, but certainly hadn't been the healthiest for him up to that point.
Mr. Rooney also wanted the offense to regain its blue-collar identity and, ultimately, for his quarterback to reach his fullest potential.
As you might imagine, Roethlisberger wasn't happy with the organization's decision to part ways with his close friend.
The franchise quarterback wasn't happy, and the boss had gone public about wanting him to change his ways--and this coming after a stretch in-which the team had made it to three Super Bowls and won two championships over the previous seven seasons.
Regardless of past success, however, change was dictated, and change was on the way.
The search for a new offensive coordinator was left up to head coach Mike Tomlin, and if his main criteria was hiring a guy with a reputation that wasn't the greatest among the players he had previously coached--and someone willing to engage in sideline blow-ups--he settled on the perfect candidate in Todd Haley, a Pittsburgh native and someone who climbed the coaching ladder from receivers coach to offensive coordinator to, finally, head coach of the Chiefs from 2009-2011.
Not only was Haley hard-nosed and a disciplinarian, the Chiefs led the NFL in rushing in 2010, with 2,627 yards.
Of course, there's a big difference between Roethlisberger and Matt Cassel, Haley's quarterback in Kansas City, but this didn't stop the speculation that Pittsburgh would be a more run-oriented offense in 2012.
Also, after years of being in-love with the deep-pass (and often taking punishment for it), there would be a new focus on Roethlisberger getting rid of the football quicker so as to avoid the kinds of injuries that saw him suffer a high-ankle sprain, late in the 2011 season, when the Steelers looked to be on the same Super Bowl roll they enjoyed a year earlier.
Quick passes to running backs, along with bubble screens to receivers were much more common in 2012. In-fact, in a Week 6 loss to the Titans, Isaac Redman became the first Steelers running back in over 40 years to have 100 receiving yards in a game.
Unfortunately, while Haley did make changes, the offense really wasn't any better than it was in 2011. The running game finished 26th; the passing game finished 14; the team only averaged 21 points a game (the average was 20.3 the season before); and while Roethlisberger's sack percentage dropped nearly a point, he still suffered a serious injury when he sprained his SC joint against the Chiefs in Week 10 and missed several games.
Also, the Steelers missed the playoffs for the first time in three years, and there were rumors that Roethlisberger and Haley weren't getting along.
Things were even uglier in 2013, when the Steelers started out 0-4 and 2-6.
And then, suddenly, everything changed.
It was almost as if there was a specific point in-which the transition from Arians to Haley would be complete, and that seemed to take place around the midway point of the 2013 campaign. After being sacked 31 times over the first eight games, Roethlisberger was only taken to the turf 11 times over the last two months.
Furthermore, after averaging a pedestrian 19.28 points per game over the first seven weeks, Pittsburgh averaged 27 over the last nine.
The following season, the offense really hit its stride. Roethlisberger was never better. Not only did he lead the league in passing yards with 4,952 (that's right, Ben Roethlsiberger led the league in passing yards), he was number one in yards per game with 310. Roethlisberger also threw 32 touchdowns to only nine interceptions.
Roethlisberger set an NFL record in Week 8 of the 2014 season, becoming the first quarterback to throw for over 500 yards in a game twice, when he put 522 on the Colts. The following week, Roethlisberger became the first quarterback in league history to throw a combined 12 touchdown passes in two games, matching his six against Indianapolis with six more vs. the Ravens.
Oh yeah, he also started every single game that year, which was a repeat of the season before.
Heading into 2015, Pittsburgh's offense was supposed to be the most productive in the league and certainly the best in franchise history.
Sadly, injuries and suspensions prevented the offense from reaching its full potential, but Roethlisberger, who missed four full games and parts of three others due to multiple ailments, still led the league in yards per game with 328.
Also, while the team averaged 26.4 points per game for the entire season, the number jumped up to 28.4 in the 12 weeks that Roethlisberger started. Add those 12 starts to the previous 25, and that means the offense has averaged 27.6 points per game during the last 37 weeks that Roethlisberger has started.
So, yeah, I'd say Haley has been good for Roethlisberger, and a change was clearly necessary.
In all fairness to Arians, however, it's important to point out the front office started building the offense around its franchise quarterback shortly before his departure.
After years of journeymen players manning the line, suddenly there was a Pro Bowl center in 2010. In subsequent years, David DeCastro, Ramon Foster and an ever-improving Marcus Gilbert joined Maurkice Pouncey in protecting the franchise's most important resource.
Oh, and those 27 points the team averaged down-the-stretch in 2013; sure, Haley's emphasis on the no-huddle certainly factored in. But the transition from Mike Adams to 2012 seventh round pick Kelvin Beachum at left tackle may have been even more important.
It's also nice to have the rest receiver in the NFL in Antonio Brown, who was a sixth round pick in 2010, began establishing himself in 2011 and has caught 375 passes over the past three years.
As for that blue-collar mentality, well, running back Le'Veon Bell, a second round pick in 2013, isn't exactly Jerome Bettis. But he has proven to be one of the most versatile running backs in the NFL, particularly two years ago, when he rushed for 1,361 yards and added another 854 receiving yards on 83 receptions.
What Haley now has that Arians didn't is a complete offense, which means his playbook is wide-open.
Yes, there is still great emphasis on getting rid of the football quickly, but after averaging 7.3 yards per passing attempt during Haley's first two seasons, Roethlisberger has averaged 8.25 over the past two, which is more in-line with his Super Bowl XL and XLV seasons.
And credit has to be given for the drop in Roethlisberger's sacks--or at least his sack frequency. No. 7's sack percentage has never eclipsed 6.7 under Haley and has dropped each season since 2013, this despite averaging 553 passing attempts. (Roethlisberger averaged 418 passing attempts per season between 2004 and 2012.)
Sure, Haley has benefited from a stacked offense (don't forget about the likes of Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant, DeAngelo Williams, and now Ladarius Green), but what he's proven in the past is that he's capable of utilizing whatever personnel is given to him.
The year the Chiefs led the league in rushing, they had superstar running back Jamaal Charles, who posted 1,467 yards.
Two years before Kansas City led the NFL in rushing, the Cardinals finished second in the league in passing. Why is that noteworthy? Because Haley was Arizona's offensive coordinator in 2008.
Why such a heavy emphasis on the pass? Maybe it was because Kurt Warner was the quarterback, and he had a trio of receivers in Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston, who all eclipsed 1,000 yards during the regular season.
Finally, it's one thing to be handed a loaded offense like the one Haley has in Pittsburgh, but it's quite another to utilize every weapon the right way and have things run seamlessly.
Haley has done that.
He's also made Ben Roethlisberger a better quarterback. Sure, there may have been some kicking and screaming early on (maybe even a blow-up or two behind the scenes), but a mutual respect was eventually gained, as was a very professional working relationship.
And most importantly, Roethlisberger has maintained his elite status over the past four seasons, and he's even taken his play to a new level. He's a leader. He holds people accountable. While still maintaining a lot of his "Big Ben" ways of the past, he's become the efficient and productive quarterback everyone always thought he could be.
I'd say Todd Haley has passed the test and accomplished what Art II envisioned four years ago.