Browns’ new coordinator was Steeler fan
BEREA — Todd Haley’s dad played for the Steelers, so he grew up in a household where enemy lines were clearly defined.
“I hated the Browns,” Haley said.
After six successful seasons guiding one of the NFL’s most high-powered offenses in Pittsburgh, Haley is starting anew in Cleveland with the winless Browns, a team he once reviled but always respected.
Haley was hired last month by Browns coach Hue Jackson, who after two seasons of handling coordinator duties, is turning over both his offense and play calling to the former Kansas City head coach. It’s another new challenge for Haley, who was dismissed by the Steelers in the ugly aftermath of their playoff loss to Jacksonville.
Haley opened his introductory news conference on Wednesday by touting a few of his accomplishments during “six really good years” coaching stars Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell with the Steelers, but then made it clear he has moved on.
“I’m looking forward,” he said, “not back.”
For Haley, the Browns, coming off a historic 0-16 season, present a new challenge in a coaching career that has had other tests. Following his departure in Pittsburgh, Haley said he was attracted to the Cleveland gig because of his familiarity with Jackson, working with new general manager John Dorsey and bringing back the Browns, who are just 1-31 the past two seasons.
“I had some options, but this really appealed to me — the challenge aspect of it,” he said. “I think there are pieces in place to be successful. I went out to Arizona to be a coordinator, and Arizona had not had much success.
“A lot of people thought I was crazy for leaving Dallas when I did, but man, when you are a part of turning it around and having success, playing in big games and having success in big games, there is nothing like it.
“That is what appealed to me — the challenge and the people I was going to be working alongside of.”
Haley felt the same way in Pittsburgh, almost up to the time that the Steelers chose not to renew his contract, cutting him loose three days after the AFC North champions were beaten 45-42 by the Jaguars. Haley had been criticized for several decisions in that loss, most notably two fourth down-and-short plays that the Steelers failed to convert.
There’s no second-guessing in Cleveland. At least not yet.
Haley has spent the past few weeks familiarizing himself with the Browns’ roster, which is expected to undergo some major changes this offseason through free agency and the NFL draft.
The Browns own the Nos. 1 and 4 overall picks and will likely use the first choice to select a quarterback. Haley didn’t bite when asked if he preferred USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield or Wyoming’s Josh Allen, the consensus top QBs available.
However, Haley said it’s exciting to be in position to get one of them.
“When you have a couple of really high picks like we do, it is a great opportunity,” he said. “As my father always said to me, ‘When you are picking in the top 10, Todd, you better be right most of the time.’ That will be the challenge for everybody involved.”
Dick Haley played cornerback for the Steelers from 1961-64, and stayed in pro football after retiring as a player personnel director for Pittsburgh and the New York Jets.
Todd Haley learned at an early age about the Browns-Steelers rivalry, and for the first time he’s on the other side of it.
The enemy has changed.
“I always want to beat whoever we are playing,” he said. “Blood is thicker than water. Everybody always asked me, we had Steelers stuff stocked up for six years, and people are amazed that when you go somewhere else, you put it in a box and see who wants it.”