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Haley's Chance To Make The Call

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Offensive coordinator Todd Haley (left) gives quarterback Matt Leinart a play to run during Tuesday's organized team activity.

His morning starts with a run up Camelback Mountain, or, more recently, a weightlifting session with John Lott.

Todd Haley attacked his waistline this offseason with the same competitive zeal he does most things, and the Cardinals offensive coordinator has lost about 50 pounds since the season ended.

That's one thing that will be different for Haley heading into the 2008 season. He's also a new father, with his wife recently giving birth to his first son (and fifth child).

But Haley will also be the Cardinals' primary playcaller this season, as coach Ken Whisenhunt takes more of a big-picture approach on game days while giving Haley the same opportunity former Steelers coach Bill Cowher once bestowed on Whisenhunt.

"I definitely respond to competition," Haley said. "That's me, trying to respond to the challenge of a new job or a new title or a new team or a new situation. That is something I feed off of. And calling plays, you are competing. Your decisions have a great effect with what happens."

As Haley had with his diet, the playcalling change will endure a transition phase.

Haley and Whisenhunt have already talked about the difficulty Whisenhunt faces in surrendering such duties – "I told Todd, 'I am going to struggle with it, and you have to be aware of that.' It's not easy to give up any of that," Whisenhunt said – and it will also impact the players.

Quarterback Kurt Warner has already had instances where he text-messaged Haley after a practice, asking Haley if Warner made the same decision on a certain play as Haley would have expected. The time the quarterbacks spend with Haley in meeting rooms will only benefit the situation, Warner said.

While Haley did get a chance to call more plays last season as the year progressed, the process an offense and a playcaller need to mesh can take some time.

"I have been with a lot of young, first-time coordinators where, if they got into a bind, I know what play I am getting. Whether I liked it or not, I knew what play I was getting," Warner said. "You get used to that. Then you have other coordinators, like Mike Martz, where you never knew. And I loved that part of it, because every play was a challenge. You do have to get used to it."

Added Warner, "Whenever (a coach) calls a play, I am always trying to decipher, 'What are they thinking?' "

Haley, heading into his 12th season as an NFL coach, helped coordinate Dallas' passing game for three seasons with the Cowboys before coming to Arizona. But he didn't call plays, per se.

To help put together the game plan and then call the plays on Sunday is something Haley yearned to do, and it's the same kind of career progression Whisenhunt underwent as an assistant with the Steelers. Whisenhunt was Pittsburgh's tight ends coach from 2001-2003 before being promoted to offensive coordinator in 2004.

"I just know this – I am fortunate coach Cowher gave me an opportunity to (call plays) when I didn't have any experience and he let me do it," Whisenhunt said. "It let me grow as a coach, and I feel that responsibility with that position. Todd and our entire offensive staff worked very hard last year … and we had success late in the season."

Whisenhunt may go through some withdrawal pains, but he knows that strengthening the coaching staff – other offensive coaches will also gain responsibilities now that Haley will be concentrating on the plays – can only help the team long-term.

Haley acknowledged his new duties, along with a raise, were big reasons why he passed on a chance to interview for the vacant Miami Dolphins head coaching job this offseason.

He also knows that once 2008 starts – and the battle of his bulge a memory – the chance to call many of the plays will give him another competitive outlet.

"As (last) year went on and Ken gave me more and more freedom, that was fun," Haley said. "And that's why it's hard for Ken to give (playcalling) up, because that's the closest you can get to being in the action."

EXTRA POINT

The Cards returned to voluntary organized team activities Tuesday. As expected, running back Edgerrin James -- who said last week he would miss the second and fourth weeks of the voluntary work -- was absent, as were receiver Anquan Boldin and defensive lineman Darnell Dockett, each of whom want new contracts.


Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 5/27/08.

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