Todd Haley would turn up the volume for the Cardinals
Not the look on his face, mind you. In truth, you couldn't see that. All you really could see were the slumped shoulders, along with the single bent knee bearing all his weight. But what you really saw was utter dejection. And although you knew it would fade, you also realized right then that losing a Super Bowl lasts a lifetime.
Yet, I still couldn't see his face. Not even from just ten yards away, which is where I was standing at the end of Super Bowl 43. Time had just run out. And I ran back behind the bench to pick up my broadcast gear. Suddenly, with all the players and coaches at midfield, I was the last person on the Cardinals sideline. Just Paulie Pigskin and the Cardinals' offensive coordinator - who still hadn't moved an inch.
Todd Haley just stood there. Staring straight down at his shoe laces. Music blaring. Confetti blowing. And Haley looking without blinking - past his play sheet and directly into the Tampa turf where James Harrison had raced past two hours earlier with… well, we all remember.
The clock had just expired. On a Super Bowl ring. And Haley's coaching career with the Cardinals. Forever. Or so we thought.
Turns out, here in 2012, Haley might be standing on the Cards sideline again - although he rarely stands in one place. Instead, Haley alternates between barking out plays, tearing off headsets, and pointing fingers into facemasks.
In other words, he cares. And for those of us outside professional sports (fans, media, etc.), it always seems like we care the most about the people who really do care. Truly care and share the passion, minus the paycheck, for the game itself. Because, to the rest of us, it's not our job, it's more like an addiction. Somehow, our DNA dictates that we can't help but care. Right?
So, my lasting impression of Todd Haley? Beyond that image of the lone person left on the Cards Super Bowl sideline is that Haley really cares. Deeply. As we reported before the Super Bowl season, deep enough to call Larry Fitzgerald a "One-Trick Pony." Deep enough to help resurrect Kurt Warner (I still remember what he told me late in 2008: "We took the cowboy out of him" - referring to what Whisenhunt & Haley did to transform Kurt Warner from the risk-taking/turnover prone QB with the NY Giants to the "Gloved One" with the Cards.)
Speaking of Whisenhunt, I still remember Haley as one of the only guys with the carte blanche to readily refer to Coach W as "Kenny."
And, as long as we're running the no-huddle down memory lane, there's the Anquan Boldin sideline confrontation, which I'm still asked about to this day. The real untold story isn't what the cameras didn't catch, it's that you could usually set the over/under on sideline smackdowns at three - per game! And at least one of ‘em would involve Kurt Warner. (Heck, I still remember a game in DC where even Paulie Pencilneck had to hustle out of the way as Haley stormed the sideline ready to go Lou Piniella on a 5th round rookie named Steve Breaston, who had messed up a route on 3rd down and killed the drive.)
Which is what made that Super Bowl snapshot so memorable. For once, Todd Haley wasn't saying anything. And that resonates louder than anything else I remember.
With that in mind, if what my NFL sources are saying proves accurate - that Haley has the "Cardinals atop his list of non-head coaching opportunities" - then we all need to break out the ear muffs like Vince Vaughn's kid in "Old School," because the volume is about to be turned up again this season.