Color me a homer, but I think Todd Haley is the closest we’ve been to Marty Schottenheimer since the Kansas City Chiefs’ Derrick Thomas-led resurgence in the 1990′s.
They are both complicated characters. I think you have to be to coach a professional football team. If I had to nutshell them, I’d say Marty was incredibly passionate, and brought out the best in his players through pure inspiration, by playing to their love of the game.
Gunther and Herm simply had no idea how to properly convey passion. Gunther simply employed decibels and sheer anger — he thought you could just yell it out of people. Herm Edwards thought you did it by turning your chair backwards before you sat in it and straightening out the bill of your cap — look like a player and sound like a player, with a little extra of that theatricality attached to it, and the players will follow whatever flame you think you’re lighting.
You can’t. That anger of Gunther’s and that stupid act of Herm’s get tuned out over the course of a season. Passion cannot purely come from the top down. It has to be fostered in the organization itself so that the coaches, the players, the personnel, the brass… everybody buys in, and the motivation comes from everywhere all the time. A coach’s role is powerful, but limited at the same time.
Haley understands that better than just about everyone. He gets the benefit of having Pioli escort in a great group of players, but he understands that volume doesn’t work it by itself. He furiously yells at players during games, he treats those who do their jobs like The Man during games, he screws around with them (sometimes) in practices and pregame, he texts them and calls them to chide them during the week and offseason…
Personally, I see him as the real deal. He understands it takes a village, and he’ll happily be the bell cryer. There’s a reason he’s been able to bring the best out of all those receivers. There’s a reason Kurt Warner lamented losing him after the Super Bowl season. And there’s a reason players like DJ, Dorsey, Richardson, and Bowe took fifteen leaps forward when he came on board.
We know this from the 1,000 little tidbits we see and learn from the guy, and the whole package is manifested by his behavior on the sidelines at all times. Nobody is more pissed than him when things go wrong (remember him firing off on Bowe in 2009 for lining up on the wrong side of the field?). Nobody is happier than him when things go right (remember his elation when McCluster returned that TD against the Chargers?). Nobody tries harder to turn the refs (remember him breaking out photocopies when the refs penalized an on-side kick?). And it’s hard to find a guy who cares less about what he looks like in front of the media than Bill Belichek, but I think we have him in Haley.
And best of all for us fans: he really, really, really gives off the appearance that he wants to win more than every single person in the stadium every Sunday. And he really, really gives off the appearance that he’s enjoying the players he coaches.
There’s a lot of faults in this guy; don’t mistake this for a saint-ing. He’s still got a lot to prove as an offensive coordinator after his turn i n2009, and his gambling nature backfires as much as it works. He’s not perfect.
But for now, I’m really digging this guy as a coach.