Ha­ley ex­cited about new start with Browns

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - SPORTS - By Tom Withers

BEREA, OHIO » Todd Ha­ley’s dad played for the Steel­ers, so he grew up in a house­hold where en­emy lines were clearly de­fined.

“I hated the Browns,” Ha­ley said. Not any­more. Af­ter six suc­cess­ful sea­sons guid­ing one of the NFL’s most high-pow­ered of­fenses in Pitts­burgh, Ha­ley is start­ing anew in Cleveland with the win­less Browns, a team he once re­viled but al­ways re­spected.

Ha­ley was hired last month by Browns coach Hue Jackson, who af­ter two sea­sons of han­dling co­or­di­na­tor du­ties, is turn­ing over both his of­fense and play call­ing to the for­mer Kansas City head coach. It’s an­other new chal­lenge for Ha­ley, who was dis­missed by the Steel­ers in the ugly af­ter­math of their play­off loss to Jacksonville.

Ha­ley opened his in­tro­duc­tory news con­fer­ence on Wed­nes­day by tout­ing a few of his ac­com­plish­ments dur­ing “six re­ally good years” coach­ing stars Ben Roeth­lis­berger, An­to­nio Brown and Le’Veon Bell with the Steel­ers, but then made it clear he has moved on.

“I’m look­ing for­ward,” he said, “not back.”

For Ha­ley, the Browns, com­ing off a his­toric 0-16 sea­son, present a new chal­lenge in a coach­ing ca­reer that has had other tests. Fol­low­ing his de­par­ture in Pitts­burgh, Ha­ley said he was at­tracted to the Cleveland gig be­cause of his fa­mil­iar­ity with Jackson, work­ing with new gen­eral man­ager John Dorsey and bring­ing back the Browns, who are just 1-31 the past two sea­sons.

“I had some op­tions, but this re­ally ap­pealed to me — the chal­lenge as­pect of it,” he said. “I think there are pieces in place to be suc­cess­ful. I went out to Ari­zona to be a co­or­di­na­tor, and Ari­zona had not had much suc­cess.

“A lot of peo­ple thought I was crazy for leav­ing Dal­las when I did, but man, when you are a part of turn­ing it around and hav­ing suc­cess, play­ing in big games and hav­ing suc­cess in big games, there is noth­ing like it.

“That is what ap­pealed to me — the chal­lenge and the peo­ple I was go­ing to be work­ing along­side of.”

Ha­ley felt the same way in Pitts­burgh, al­most up to the time that the Steel­ers chose not to re­new his con­tract, cut­ting him loose three days af­ter the AFC North cham­pi­ons were beaten 45-42 by the Jaguars. Ha­ley had been crit­i­cized for sev­eral de­ci­sions in that loss, most no­tably two fourth down-and­short plays that the Steel­ers failed to con­vert.

There’s no sec­ond-guess­ing in Cleveland. At least not yet.

Ha­ley has spent the past few weeks fa­mil­iar­iz­ing him­self with the Browns’ ros­ter, which is ex­pected to un­dergo some ma­jor changes this off­sea­son through free agency and the NFL draft.

The Browns own the Nos. 1 and 4 over­all picks and will likely use the first choice to se­lect a quar­ter­back. Ha­ley didn’t bite when asked if he pre­ferred USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Ok­la­homa’s Baker May­field or Wy­oming’s Josh Allen, the con­sen­sus top QBs avail­able.

How­ever, Ha­ley said it’s ex­cit­ing to be in po­si­tion to get one of them.

“When you have a cou­ple of re­ally high picks like we do, it is a great op­por­tu­nity,” he said. “As my father al­ways said to me, ‘When you are pick­ing in the top 10, Todd, you bet­ter be right most of the time.’ That will be the chal­lenge for every­body in­volved.”

Dick Ha­ley played cor­ner­back for the Steel­ers from 1961-64, and stayed in pro foot­ball af­ter re­tir­ing as a player per­son­nel di­rec­tor for Pitts­burgh and the New York Jets.

Todd Ha­ley learned at an early age about the Browns-Steel­ers ri­valry, and for the first time he’s on the other side of it.

The en­emy has changed. “I al­ways want to beat who­ever we are play­ing,” he said. “Blood is thicker than wa­ter. Every­body al­ways asked me, we had Steel­ers stuff stocked up for six years, and peo­ple are amazed that when you go some­where else, you put it in a box and see who wants it.”

KEITH SRAKOCIC — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

This file photo shows Steel­ers of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Todd Ha­ley watch­ing warm ups be­fore a game against the Browns in Pitts­burgh. Af­ter six suc­cess­ful sea­sons guid­ing one of the NFL’s most high-pow­ered of­fenses in Pitts­burgh, Ha­ley is start­ing anew in Cleveland with the win­less Browns, a team he once re­viled but has al­ways re­spected.

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