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Super Bowl XLIII | The game

Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley never lets his passion wane

TAMPA — Perhaps it will come in the first quarter, perhaps on a missed read. Perhaps it will come in the second, perhaps on a blown assignment. Perhaps it will hold until the fourth, perhaps on a dropped pass.

Sooner or later, however, you know it is coming. Sooner or later, Todd Haley, bless his fiery little heart, is going to snarl at someone.

When it happens, America is going to love the guy just a little bit more.

It is odd, in a way, because there are a great many things to like about Haley, 41, the offensive coordinator of the Cardinals. He is a bright coach in charge of a dazzling offense. He is confident, and he is competitive. He has the right background, the right bloodlines and the right blueprint to be a success.

And he doesn't take any guff.

When it comes to coaching, that seems to be the right stuff.

This should not surprise anyone because, by and large, football fans always have measured coaches by their passion. The hotter the temper, the hotter the candidate, that sort of thing. And so it was that a sideline confrontation with receiver Anquan Boldin late in the NFC title game — replayed endlessly on ESPN and YouTube — has skyrocketed Haley's profile. Soon, a lot of teams (Kansas City?) are going to want Haley to come and yell at their players, too.

Hey, look. He's mad as Bill Parcells, and he's not going to take it anymore.

As for Haley, he seems a little worn down by talking about the Boldin incident. But he hasn't apologized for it, either.

"I'm an emotional guy," Haley says, shrugging slightly. "I've never been one to shy away from confrontation. I've always said to the players, 'I don't care if you like me or not. I'm not trying to be your friend. I'm trying to coach you and get the best out of you.' "

Say this much for Haley: He is a man of his team. Just like the Cardinals, he is filled with passion and electricity and the mystery of what might happen next. Haley can be as explosive as the plays he calls.

On the other hand, the guy is a pretty good coach when he is calm, too.

This is what all of the talk about Haley's sideline spats seems to obscure. He's a pretty good coach. Remember, while the cameras were watching the argument with Boldin, the finest drive in team history was going on.

The Cardinals, trailing by a point, went to a one-receiver offense, and the 14-play drive downfield included nine runs. It was efficient, and it was relentless, and it went from Glendale, Ariz., all the way to Tampa.

For the Cardinals, it was the kind of drive that suggests possibilities for Sunday. Boil down this Super Bowl to the strongest units of each team, and you come away with the Arizona offense against the Pittsburgh defense.

By extension, that means a matchup between Haley and the Steelers' legendary Dick LeBeau, a man who has coached so long that some believe he came up with the idea of forcing the other team to punt.

Can the Cardinals spread the Steelers' top-ranked defense? Can they protect against the zone blitz? Can they run enough to make Pittsburgh worry about it?

When it comes to legends of the Steelers, no one knows more than Haley. He grew up around the great Steelers teams where his father, Dick, was the director of pro personnel.

In particular, Haley remembers his father bringing a projector home to watch films of a young receiver named Lynn Swann. Sure enough, the Steelers picked Swann in the 1974 NFL draft. They also drafted Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster. All four of them made the Hall of Fame.

For Todd, it was a perfect way to grow up. He went to Super Bowls. He worked as a ball boy, fetching for Terry Bradshaw. He worked on the chain gang. And sure enough, he became a coach … in golf.

Okay, okay, the golf part was just a detour. Football was in his blood, and soon enough, Haley was back. He got a job with Parcells, who, as history will note, did a little yelling himself.

"I was watching television the other night, and they were showing clips of Parcells yelling at Phil Simms and various other players," Haley said. "I said, 'See, they aren't making a big deal out of that.' "

As long as the ball keeps moving forward, no one seems to begrudge Haley his passion. There are even proposition bets for which quarter he will snap at a player.

"He probably won't yell until something happens that he doesn't want to happen," Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner said. "It goes on all the time. We kind of yell at each other, and then it passes and we try to figure out what's best for the team."

But, Kurt, do you admire his passion?

"Not when he's yelling at me," Warner said, grinning.

Today, the game will light fires inside of Haley once again. Perhaps he will snarl. Perhaps he will snap.

Who knows? If the Cards find the end zone often enough, he might shout out loud.

Try not to swoon, will you?

Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley never lets his passion wane 01/30/09 [Last modified: Saturday, January 31, 2009 10:58am]
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