Todd Haley is in his first year as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, but it was only eight months ago that he was the offensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals, the team that beat the Eagles in the NFC Championship game.
"It's a moment that I'm extremely, extremely proud of," Haley said about the triumph over the Eagles that sent his Cardinals team to the Super Bowl. "I was with a team that hadn't done anything like that, and whenever you're part of something that's never happened before and you have a hand in it, and a fairly heavy hand in it, it's a pretty big moment in your life."
As offensive coordinator of the Cardinals in 2008, Haley twice game-planned for the Jim Johnson-led Eagles' defense. Haley discussed his reverence for the late Coach Johnson, as well as the differences he's seen on tape between that defense and the 2009 unit led by Sean McDermott.
"In my mind the best defensive coach there's been," Haley said of Johnson. "There's nobody I looked up to more than Coach Johnson.
"I think Sean has definitely put a little of his own stamp on the defense, but you're not going to change a whole bunch from a defense that works, and I think that's evident. But you definitely see (McDermott's) stamp. He's a high energy guy that brings great enthusiasm to his defense. That being said, I do feel like I have a familiarity with the defense, now whether that helps or not I don't know. It may just keep me up at night."
Haley is actually pulling double-duty for the Chiefs in his inaugural season as head coach. Two weeks before the start of the regular season, the Chiefs fired offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, and Haley took over his responsibilities.
"I'm busier all the time," Haley said, when asked about his dual responsibilities. "I love my job, I love being around these guys and these coaches. We have to understand that it is a process, and we're just trying to get a little better every day from the standpoint of having a hand in the offense, I love that aspect of it. It's not necessarily the initial plan, but that's where we're at now, so I have to do the best I can to handle that and have a successful offense as well as a successful team."
Haley's team is off to a 0-2 start after suffering two competitive losses to the Baltimore Ravens and Oakland Raiders. Chiefs' quarterback Matt Cassel was brought in during the off-season to be the team's quarterback of the future, but he suffered a knee injury that kept him out of the week one loss.
"I think Matt came off a difficult injury for the position that he plays," Haley said. "We mad some monumental changes offensively while he was hurt so he wasn't getting a lot of the reps that probably would have helped him. But I think he came in last week and showed a lot of guts. We had 400 yards of offense, he ran for 30 plus yards despite being injured. So I think there's a lot to get excited about with Matt Cassel and I think he will only get better as we move forward."
The biggest unknown heading into Sunday's tilt at Lincoln Financial Field for Haley as well as Eagles' fans is how the Eagles plan to use Michael Vick.
"I think you have to go by what you've seen," Haley said, when asked about how his team will prepare for Vick. "There's some preseason tape so you've got to take that. And then you have to assume that over the last few weeks here that he's continued to work and get himself back because that kind of stuff doesn't happen overnight.
"But I will say I've been very impressed with (the Eagles) offensively. Any time you get ready for Coach Reid's team, you know it's going to be up-tempo, and they are that and there's great speed and it looks like a lot of different weapons to me."
Haley and the Cardinals also have a measure of uncertainty regarding the status of Eagles' running back Brian Westbrook and wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Both players are injury question marks going into Sunday, Westbrook with a sprained ankle and Jackson with a groin strain.
"I don't think that you can assume that anybody's not going to play, and if you do then I think you get yourself in trouble," Haley said. "So you have to assume that they're all playing and assume that they'll be at their best, and I think that's the only way I know how to prepare."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 3:53 p.m., September 24