The question “where do we go from here” has been asked a lot in Pittsburgh this week as the team and fans try to quantify the success or failure of an offensive system not operated by Bruce Arians, the team’s former offensive coordinator.
There are problems brewing all over the place, and there are solutions that must be found before the team can feasibly move forward with their offseason calendar. Here’s a look at some issues and how to fix them.
Fired or retired? It makes a difference on many levels. The original reports and statements from the Steelers were that Bruce Arians had decided to retire from coaching, something he’d considered the previous year before being talked out of it by his quarterback and head coach.
Now, we’re not so sure. Arians has said that he did not retire willingly, and instead, was not offered a contract by the team. Then there is the question of whose call that was if it was made. It’s always been perceived that Mike Tomlin had control over his coaches, but this decision may have been made by Art Rooney II, who was noted to be unhappy with a pass-heavy offense.
The truth matters. The team must come clean so that everyone can move on from this circus of whispers.
This much has never been secret: Ben Roethlisberger has great respect and affinity for Arians. He has lobbied openly for his coordinator and has been possibly his most vocal supporter within the organization.
There’s been some rumblings now that Roethlisberger is upset that the team parted ways with Arians. If that’s what happened. See where the truth matters?
Now, this has far-reaching problems. Roethlisberger had previously said he was willing to restructure his deal to help the team with their cap problems. Is he as willing (or willing at all) if he isn’t working with his favorite coordinator? His $11.2 million number for 2012 is a figure the team needs to reduce to get themselves solvent.
So how do you appease the quarterback? You can’t bring Arians back at this point. You have to either give him input on the next hire or make sure he’s happy with whomever you choose.
So a lot of this one depends on who made the call on Arians and who knew about it. Right after the season ended in Denver, Tomlin said that he expected both of his coordinators back for 2012. That seems to indicate that he thought Arians was on board.
If Arians retires, it really isn’t a big deal. If the team let him go, it really is a big deal. You see again here how the truth matters.
If Arians was let go, did Tomlin know? Did he approve? Nobody knows for sure. If he’s not happy and didn’t approve, the team needs to explain itself to him and then let him hire the next coordinator. I’ve never believed that owners should dabble in team construction (Jerry Jones and Al Davis can almost impede success because of that, as can Dan Snyder). The Rooney family wants their team to win, so the best way to do that is let the football men make those calls.
So once the team comes clean and if they made the call without Tomlin’s approval, they have to do some damage control and make sure they allow their coach and his GM the power to make this right.
For as little as we ever heard from Bruce Arians during his tenure, the guy can sure talk now. He keeps talking about his situation, and one has to wonder what the truth of it is. He seems pretty upset, but is he posturing? I won’t say I know, and I won’t even guess.
There’s only one good way to fight bad press (which is what Arians is giving the Steelers). That’s with good press. They need to get a new coach in there quickly to fill his spot. Then, they can spend the press time talking about his work and his system.
The key is to give the press people something new to talk about. If you hire someone new, they’ll want to know his ideas and his system and what he’ll do with the quarterback and the running game and the young receivers. It all becomes a story.
Until then, there’s speculation on who will replace Arians, which the team is keeping quiet, and Arians himself, who is not being quiet at all.
Time to get the show on the road, Pittsburgh!
And that’s the big question in all of this. Who takes the reigns now? Fans have been clamoring for Arians head for years. Many of my colleagues (including myself) have been lukewarm or worse on him. I’ve been openly upset at his system.
The problem is that nobody seems to know how to replace him.
There’s the obvious hire (Randy Fichtner, a key Pittsburgh assistant) already in the building. He’s got a good resume, and he’s got some good collegiate experience in that type of role. He’s very well-regarded.
That’s about as far as anyone has gotten with any credibility.
Do you trust an offense that everyone seems to want to fix to someone with no coordinating experience in the NFL? Do you bring in someone who’s been a coordinator? Do you go to college?
The problem with two and three is that it can be a vast expanse of unknown. If a guy isn’t locked into his coordinator job right now, there’s a reason.
One name that could get play is Cam Cameron, but Joe Flacco doesn’t get along with him. Will Big Ben? What’s the reasoning for that bad blood? I wouldn’t hire anyone else’s leftovers. That leaves Hue Jackson, but I don’t know if I like his attitude after he viciously threw his team under the bus.
You see the problem. College is no better. The success rate of college coaches in the NFL isn’t great. Jim Harbaugh is changing that. Jim Tressel wants to as well. Speaking of Tressel, is he a candidate? Should he be? The questions are endless.
The answers are not.
And there’s what you probably either don’t care at all about or have been waiting to hear. As someone who’s been calling for Arians’ head for years now, I guess it's my duty to say what I’d do now that I finally got what I’d been begging for all along.
I’m reminded of the whole “be careful what you wish for” sentiment now.
If it were me, assuming I’m in Mike Tomlin’s shoes and I can hire anyone I want, I interview Jim Tressel, Hue Jackson, Cam Cameron, Randy Fichtner, Todd Haley and Sean Kugler to start things off.
Part of my evaluation process would be sitting down with each candidate and asking their opinion on the offense, its strengths and weaknesses, what they would change or keep and how successful they think it can be immediately (2012) under their guidance.
I take that information to Ben Roethlisberger, my franchise quarterback that I’ve proven I need to have to be truly successful in the big games. I ask his opinion. I ask him if there’s anyone I should stop considering and why. I wouldn’t ask him who he would hire. At this point, I just want to know who he wouldn’t hire.
Then, I set up my second round. I include new candidates if necessary (Roethlisberger might recommend someone even). Get that list down to two or three, and then I sit down and deliberate with Kevin Colbert and Art Rooney about what our offense is and what it can become under each coach. Then, I make a group decision.
This is tough. I’ve always respected every coach I’ve listed in the previous slide for different reasons. Let’s start at the bottom.
I’m not sold on Kugler as a position coach just yet, so I’m not moving him. I do want him to be happy with the hire, however, since he’s done a great job building the young linemen into effective players.
Haley is also out for me. His combative attitude will conflict with Roethlisberger, who likes to do things his own way and wants at least some play calling control himself.
Of the rest, I’d say Cameron’s issues in Baltimore (a lot of running when he should be throwing or vice versa and the issues with his quarterback) scare me the most. That leaves three.
I see it as a choice between Tressel and Fichtner. The team likes to promote from within, so they might go with Fichtner in that situation. Jackson just doesn’t work to me, so I’ve already eliminated him.
I’d hire Tressel myself, but if I’m going to be someone in the team’s current front office, I’d probably hire Fichtner.
In the end, the safe hire might work much better. The difference is that they must make sure he will be more liberal with the no-huddle and with other facets of the offense that have been missing. If not, you go with someone else.