Todd Haley’s history as a member of the Bill Parcells coaching tree has been well documented. But Kent Babb talked to the Kansas City Chiefs coach about just how difficult Parcells was on the coaches working on his staff.
Parcells has never been the type to overlook mistakes, whether a star player steps out of line or a grunt coughs up the wrong answer to a big question. But back in the 90’s as coach of the Jets, not all of his targets were players.
The practice field is quiet and a man is running in the distance. Players are watching as the man runs to a fence — coach’s orders. Some of the players are confused that an assistant coach, a young Todd Haley, is in Parcells’ crosshairs this time. Haley made a mistake, and he understood the hard way that there were no excuses and no compassion. He messed up the Jets’ practice schedule, and carelessness has consequences. So Parcells made him run, just another test for Haley.
“In front of the whole team. I was the whipping boy. I think Bill did most everything he could to get me to quit or to see what I was worth.”
Other coaches did quit. They couldn’t handle the abuse. Haley admits that he sometimes questioned Parcells’ approach and whether he fit into this unforgiving game. Haley’s dad, the legendary personnel man Dick Haley, might get a talking-to from his general manager if he missed on a draft pick. But running to the fence while the boss watched and players cackled was never part of the equation.
Todd Haley craved validation in those days. Later, when Parcells hired Haley to coordinate the passing game in Dallas, the old coach often walked off the field with anger on his breath, cursing the pass offense and muttering that it must be the worst group in the league. Parcells said it loud enough for Haley to hear it, and that wasn’t an accident.
“If you coach for Bill Parcells, there is not one day you can take a breath. It’s like dog years: One year working for him equals seven. But it makes you better.”
Parcells was hard on his assistants, but he was harder on the ones with a future. Parcells would find Haley in a quiet corner somewhere, drape an arm on the kid’s shoulders and tell him that he had something, and Parcells was being tough on him because he might be a head coach someday. Haley says his experience is part of the reason he’s 42 years old and sitting in the top coaching office at Chiefs headquarters. But the hunger for validation hasn’t weakened. Haley says he wants to prove to Parcells, more than a decade after the old coach made him run, that Dick Haley’s kid knows a thing or two.
Todd Haley has been waiting for years for Parcells to call and tell him that he has made it. That all the hard lessons paid off. That Todd Haley belongs. Then again, Haley says, it’s the pursuit of that call that kept him up all those nights, made him push all those players, and drove the young coach to unimaginable heights. It’s the same reason he still arrives early, stays late and makes his players’ lives miserable. Maybe someday that call will come. Then again, maybe not.
“If I didn’t get a call after getting the Arizona Cardinals to the Super Bowl I may never get a call.”
There isn’t a lot going on in Chiefs-land right now, so it’s the perfect time to get a piece like this from Babb. If you click over to the article you’ll get three different stories on Haley. I love hearing players talk about how hard things are under Haley, but I have a feeling that things are a vacation in Kansas City compared to a Parcells camp. Also, for as much as Haley is a disciple of the tuna, I guarantee you we never see Chan Gailey running wind sprints during practice.