Todd Haley is presenting me with quite a dilemma.
I tend to be skeptical by nature. If someone makes a claim, I'd like them to back it up with evidence, preferably in the form of something that can be quantified. Otherwise, don't expect me to take it on faith (unless your name happens to be Jesus, and I have yet to run into that problem in my life).
But Haley is starting to make me feel stupid on such a consistent basis for doubting him that I think I may have to turn into a "Yes Man" just to protect my ego. After all, one can only eat so much crow before getting sick, right?
Haley has made his fair share of player handling decisions that came under scrutiny since he came into town. I'd like to look at a few of those decisions and go over what I thought then and what I see now, all the while pointing out just how wrong I was.
Many of us were stunned when he was benched last year and played sporadically. It became one of the bigger debates on AP for over a year; "Should DJ be a starter"? There were a lot of opinions, and I tended to fall on the side that he was too talented to go to waste on the bench, especially on a talent-starved team. I appreciated the idea of teaching a lesson to an inconsistent player, but felt that the way he was being handled would lead to him leaving.
Now? He's playing by far the best football of his career, having won his starting job back. Also (and just as crucial) he's recently inked a new deal to stay with us. If you would've asked me a year ago about this situation, I would've guessed it was going to end badly. Whoops.
This guy is another very talented (but inconsistent) player who was given a great deal of grief from Haley. While he was never benched, he was called out repeatedly for being out of shape.
When Haley showed up, many of us expected instant returns on Bowe. After all, Haley's a receivers coach, right? So when he had a subpar year, we were discouraged and felt a little lied to about Haley (at least I know I did). Many were expecting Bowe to be gone soon as well.
Now? He's currently on the biggest tear of his career, and breaking records left and right. He's still making amazing catches, but he's also catching the routine passes as well (always his downfall until recently). And to top it off, he's turned himself into one of the best blocking WR's in the game. Kudos to Haley for whatever he's done to help Bowe.
We all remember this debate. It was a stupid waste of a talented player to stick with Dorsey in a 3-4 defense. He wasn't built for it. Haley (and Pioli) was trying to fit a "square peg in a round hole". We'd be better off trading him so we could get some real 3-4 defenders. I defended Dorsey a lot, feeling he was better than people thought. However, I really didn't expect him to ever be a key player for us.
Now? He's a big part of our defense, and one of our better players. He doesn't get a lot of flashy stats, but his improvement is a big reason why our run D is vastly improved over last year. He's been very strong at the point of attack, and does provide some push in the pocket now (I sure hope it increases, but it's there).
Still a controversy here on AP, but I've converted completely (well, maybe with .1% of me still doubtful) so I'll include him.
We've heard it a million times. He's got no arm. Terrible pocket presence. Horrible accuracy. Doesn't do anything to help us win. A "drive killer". Many of us assumed he was only playing ahead of Croyle due to his big contract (and Croyle's, ahem, minor injury issues). I was actually asking people about college QB's a month ago because I felt like he couldn't get it done for us. Haley was often called out for treating Cassel with "kid gloves" and not being nearly hard enough on the QB.
Now? Well, it SHOULD realistically be too soon to say, but I'm going to because this is a blog, not a State of the Union Address. Cassel's been killing it lately. As Joel has pointed out, in our last 7 games he's got 18 TD's and 1 pick. That's just incredible. And even more importantly, in the last few games he's made big throws in important situations. In short, he's been a huge part of our wins lately, rather than merely a stand-in QB that was propped up by a strong running game.
Those four players represent to me my own stupidity and inability to see whatever it is Haley (and again, Pioli) can see. I know I didn't think those situations were being handled very well. I thought that he should be kinder to DJ and Bowe, harder on Cassel, and maybe go ahead and ship Dorsey out for the "right" type of guy. Well, I was wrong.
And this isn't even taking into account Jamaal Charles and Brandon Albert, two more players who are playing great football after going into Haley's doghouse.
Throw in Scott Pioli acquisitions I didn't think would be as good as they've been (Smith, Weigmann, TJ, our entire draft class) and well... I've just been wrong a lot, let's leave it at that.
Now everyone else is free to do what they like, but I have to say, I'm about as close to blindfolding myself and saying "in Haley/Pioli I trust" as I've ever been.
Especially with Haley. Pretty much every player he's come down on has flourished. When you look at DJ, Bowe, Charles, Albert, and Dorsey, you see guys who weren't necessarily looking like a big part of our future but are now forming the core of our young team.
So the next time I see a report on Haley being too hard/easy on someone, I may just have to channel my inner corporate suck-up and just say, "Why yes, that sounds like a fabulous idea, sir!"
Because hey, I'm sick of being wrong.