Should Todd Haley Call His Own Plays?

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Shut up, just shut up. You had me at "hello".

 

Judging by this FanShot yesterday, we've got two different schools of thought when it comes to whether or not Kansas City Chiefs head coach Todd Haley should call his own plays, like he did as offensive coordinator with the Arizona Cardinals.

One argument is that Haley and current offensive coordinator Chan Gailey should work together when it comes to managing the play calling. The other argument is that Haley has too much on his plate as a rookie head coach and is best suited to let a veteran coordinator like Gailey run the plays during the game.

The current trend we're seeing across the NFL is the head coach taking a more active role in the play calling.  But an example during the 2007 season that goes against this trend might help Chan Gailey.

Ken Whisenhunt, head coach of the Cardinals, used to call the team's offensive plays until he handed those duties over to then offensive coordinator Todd Haley. The success Haley had was evident last season when the Cards made the Super Bowl, due in large part to his aggressive offensive play calling that got the most out of the explosive talent on the field.

New Lions head coach, and former defensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans, Jim Schwartz, agrees with the school of thought that you hire a coordinator for a reason and that's to call the plays.

"I'm going to have enough on my plate. I think the head coach's role is to manage the game and his role is to set a clear vision of what he wants the game plan to be."

Haley is a rookie coach and will most definitely have plenty on his plate entering his first season.

Coaches like Wade Phillips, Jim Mora Jr. and Rex Ryan are experienced in defensive play calling and feel as if they can handle that job as well as the head coach job. Those coaches will enter the season as the primary signal callers for their respective teams.

The argument against the coordinator being the primary play caller is that the head coach would, in a sense, take himself out of the game. Mike Shanahan was one of the best at calling plays yet still had an offensive coordinator for much of his time.

''I have the utmost confidence in my offensive coordinator, Gary Kubiak,'' Shanahan said several years ago, ''but the reason I have not given up the play calling on a long-term basis is because I think what happens is you remove yourself from the game.''

Shanahan makes a decent point. But is it valid? Will a head coach really feel removed from the game if he's not sending in the plays? For Shanahan, calling plays isn't so much a move for the present, but for the future instead.

''You become detached. I think it hurts you as a coach in the long run. And what if you give those duties to your offensive coordinator, and for a year or two he calls the plays, then leaves for a head coaching job? Then instead of you learning all of the nuances of the offense those few years, your offensive coordinator learned them and took those lessons to another team.''

In the end, it all comes down to the head coach's preference. One way isn't more successful than the other. In fact, Charlie Weis took over some play calling duties for Notre Dame last year while uber-successful USC coach Pete Carroll lets his coordinator handle that part of the game.

Bill Belichick believes in more of a partnership when it comes to how much control his assistants and coordinators have over play calling.  His philosophy resides more in allowing himself to have a hand in everything while still letting his men do their job.

"I feel with my experience as a coach—I've coached special teams for eight years, defense and offense, I can go in an area and not feel lost," he said. "So if there is something that needs to be said, I can do that. Or I can tell a coach to say it or we can have a meeting and say it. I don't feel out of my element."

What's the best fit for Haley?

To understand more about what Haley will do, or should do, we need to only look at one man: Bill Parcells.

Parcells is known as a control guy but, like Belichick, also believes strongly in delegation.

"As the head coach, you are responsible to manage the game," said Parcells, who called offensive plays during some of his coaching career. "I would never, ever put the game totally in the hands of an assistant coach. I don't think it's smart to do that. Bill Walsh and Tom Landry are the two guys who influenced me that way the most. They said look, you might let them run the game, they might be calling the plays, but you need to be right there when you want to get your 2 cents in and how you want the game to go."

Parcells obviously wants everyone on the same page. He may not necessarily say run this exact play, or run that exact play, but he's certain that his coordinators are well aware of his philosophy and how he thinks the team can be successful. When Parcells preferred a running play, his offensive coordinators knew that. It didn't matter if it was a toss or a draw.

I think this quote from Parcells is a pretty good indicator of what we can expect from Todd Haley in his rookie coaching year:

"When you are young, it's too much to do both," Parcells said. "When you get the lay of the land, I don't think it's too much. But the reverse usually happens. Young guys stay in it, they do their half and they don't round themselves out as coaches. Older ones step back because they realize they probably are not coaching the whole team well enough if they are just doing one side."

My prediction is that Haley will heed Parcells' advice and leave much of the play calling duties up to his offensive coordinator. Chan Gailey sticks around in my mind and they form the type partnership that Parcells and Belichick have advocated- let the coordinator know your philosophy and delegate the rest.

Remember, as Todd Haley and Scott Pioli have both said, it's not about who gets the credit or answers the question correctly.

It's about "getting it right."

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