Jim Haslett has had a fairly impressive resume when it comes to his NFL credentials. As a player at linebacker, he was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year playing for the Bills in 1979. A broken leg shortened his playing career, but he moved right into coaching after retiring following the 1987 season with the Jets, serving as an assistant coach at the University of Buffalo for three years.
This offseason, the Cincinnati Bengals hired him to do what he does best, which is to show linebackers how to play the linebacker position, but he has been quite a few places between Buffalo and Cincinnati over the past three decades.
He coached the linebackers for the Raiders when he first cracked the NFL coaching ranks in 1993. He then coached the Saints’ linebackers before being promoted to defensive coordinator in 1996. He served as the defensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1997 to 1999.
After that, he found himself back with the Saints, this time as the head coach, earning NFL Coach of the Year his first season on the job in 2000. He held that post through the 2005 season, and has spent most of his time since then serving as defensive coordinator for the Rams and Redskins. He was a consultant for Penn State last year before being hired by the Bengals to get back to his coaching roots.
If you ask Haslett’s wife, it’s just what he’s been needing, according to an article written by Geoff Hobson for the Bengals’ website, who writes that she asked him “if he wanted to make more money or win a ring”.
His wife, Beth, told Hobson that Haslett is “loving” coaching Cincinnati’s linebackers, saying “it’s just what he’s been needing. She credited his time with Penn State last year in helping him rediscover his love of coaching following his less than amicable mutual parting for the Redskins in 2014.
Even she admits that Haslett, however, fits in with Cincinnati, saying that “his upbringing and so much of him was like those guys”. He said that linebacker Vontaze Burfict is the player he coaches that most reminds him of himself during his playing days, noting an old Football Digest magazine he kept in which he is on a list of the league’s dirtiest players. Haslett acknowledged his use of steroids during his playing career. He also once kicked Terry Bradshaw in the head.
It’s not just the new coach who sees himself in his players, however, as his linebackers have also taken a quick liking to him, with Ray Mauluga quipping, “are we going to end up looking like you after football?” Haslett walks with a notable limp, a reminder of his playing days, which included an All-Pro nod in 1980.
Pittsburgh born, the 60-year-old Haslett still appears to have the same fighting spirit that put him on that list of the league’s dirtiest players, and which has earned him the nickname “Old School” among his players.
Asked how he would have defended Antonio Brown in the era that he played, on the deciding playoff play in which Burfict hit the wide receiver in the head, Haslett told reporters that he “probably [would have] launched him”, with a laugh. A good way to endear yourself to Bengals fans. Not so much those from your home town.