The Cardinals' offense made a few successful adjustments this season en route to scoring 404 points, including a package with Edgerrin James at fullback.
Todd Haley spent the 2006 season as the wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, a team that finished as the fifth-best offensive team in the NFL and fifth in passing.
And from his current view as offensive coordinator of the Cardinals, Haley can see parallels between the Cowboys then and the Cardinals now.
"We were a pretty good offense (in Dallas)," Haley said. "We had some of the things we had here, little inconsistencies, we turned the ball over too much, things like that. But I know when we reached the end of the year here (in Arizona) and we were building in the right direction, I started to say, 'We might be as good, with a guy here and a guy there, as (the Cowboys).'
"People are talking about the Cowboys (offense) this year as being the greatest thing since sliced bread. Now, they're good. They are. But I don't see us as being far off. I felt like, if we had been able to get into the playoffs, people would have been worried about playing us – I know that."
Haley, who signed a contract extension earlier this week, was encouraged by how the Cards' offense performed this season. The 404 points the Cards scored was second-most in team history. More importantly, they did it despite injuries at quarterback and wide receiver, and they did it despite a significant amount of adjustments on the fly.
Because it was the first year for a new staff, and because the offensive coaches generally either had Steelers backgrounds or Cowboys backgrounds, Haley said the preparation process was more difficult heading into the season.
The coaches had to use film cut-ups of old Steelers' plays or old Cowboys' plays – none of which, obviously, featured the Cards' current players – and put together the playbook from there.
Early last offseason, Haley had coach Ken Whisenhunt go through a playbook and told Whisenhunt to circle in red "things you absolutely love or things you thought you did best."
The systems Whisenhunt and Haley each favor are actually descendents from the same system, so both used similar terminology.
There was further adaptation to the offense once Kurt Warner became the full-time quarterback, especially once the passing game became more effective for moving the ball than did running. Whisenhunt and Haley turned to throwing the majority of the time.
"I think we adapted to what we needed to do to be more efficient," Whisenhunt said. "It gave us confidence that we could do something different and be successful. It is something we can integrate into our package. What is your scheme, what is your offense, well, that's a part of it, the way we operated the last eight games of the season."
Both Warner and Haley traded compliments for the willingness to work with each other.
"(It's) having the openness and the humility to say, 'OK, maybe not everything I'm doing is the perfect way,' " Warner said. " 'Let's find a mix of different things, whether it be my ideas or Todd's ideas or Coach's ideas.' "
While Warner's 27 touchdown passes – the second-highest total in franchise history – were tangible proof of success, Haley didn't forget about his sidelined starting quarterback either. Haley told Leinart to break down tape while he was out, first just on blitzes and then on all types of defenses.
The coach hopes the homework -- and the overall mental approach to the position forced on Leinart – will make a difference to the young quarterback heading into 2008.
On a larger scale, the Cards' offensive coaches will be helped now that they have Cardinals' film, with Cardinals' players, to dissect heading into 2008.
"We are still getting there," Haley said. "Good coaching is just that, that you have to make some adjustments to the players you have. You just can't force a square peg into a round hole."
Contact Darren Urban at email@example.com. Posted 1/10/08.