BEREA, Ohio (AP) — 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.
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 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-and-short 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.”
J.J. Watt named Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year
By Austin Knoblauch
Updated: Feb. 3, 2018 at 11:07 p.m.
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who helped raise more than $37 million for people affected by Hurricane Harvey, was named the recipient of the prestigious Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award Presented by Nationwide at NFL Honors on Saturday, Feb. 3.
“This award is about the inherent good that lies within humanity,” Watt said after accepting his award. “It’s about the city of Houston and its ability to overcome adversity at a time when it all seemed lost. It is about the hundreds of thousands of people from all over the country and all over the world who donated to a city they may have never been to, to people that they may never meet. But they donated simply because they saw their fellow humans going through a difficult time and they wanted to help out.
“I cannot express how humbled and honored that I am to be mentioned in the same sentence as Walter Payton. A man who did everything right not only on the field but also off of it.”
Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen and Baltimore Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson were the other finalists for this year’s award, which recognizes an NFL player each year for excellence on and off the field.
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Watt posted a video on social media announcing a fundraising campaign with an initial goal of $200,000, to which he matched the first $100,000. In 19 days, he raised more than $37 million. Watt then dedicated himself to finding organizations that will apply the funds in the way he has promised the donors and victims of Harvey.
“I cannot thank everyone enough for their support and donations from across the country and around the world,” Watt said in October to those who donated to his fundraising campaign. “You have truly shown what is possible when everyone bands together for one common cause. While we are going to do some truly incredible things with this $37 million to make it stretch as far as possible, it is only one small step in the massive recovery effort that lies ahead. I encourage you to please continue to find organizations to donate to, whether they be some of the ones listed below or others. Houston will bounce back from this and we will rise up stronger than ever.”
Watt’s dedication to charitable service stretches beyond his efforts in aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. In 2010, he started the Justin J. Watt Foundation in Wisconsin out of a desire to help underserved kids. His personal motto of “Dream Big, Work Hard” culminated into a mission that he continues to use to impact communities nationwide. The foundation has provided more than $3.4 million in funding to middle schools and organizations that have insufficient funding for after-school athletic programs or no after-school athletics whatsoever for sixth through eighth grade children.
“J.J. is one of the most selfless, giving and inspiring young men in the NFL and we are proud he is a Houston Texan,” Texans owner Robert McNair said in a statement. “During one of Houston’s worst disasters, J.J. was our shining light after raising more than $37 million for victims affected by Hurricane Harvey.”
Watt has been named to the Pro Bowl four times and is a four-time first-team All-Pro. Leading the league in sacks in 2012 and 2015, J.J. was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year both seasons and in 2014 as well. Watt, who missed most of the 2017 season with a fractured tibial plateau in his left leg, has played in 88 games for the Texans and recorded a total of 394 tackles and 76 sacks.
The NFL Foundation, Nationwide and United Way Worldwide will donate $500,000 in Watt’s name. A total of $250,000 will be donated to the winner’s charity of choice and $250,000 will be donated in his name to expand the NFL Foundation’s Character Playbook across the country.
Olsen and Watson will each receive a $100,000 donation to their charity of choice and a $100,000 donation in their names to expand Character Playbook. All other 29 nominees (one from each team) will receive a $50,000 donation to their charity of choice and an additional $50,000 donation in their names to Character Playbook.
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