Stillers Offense Struggles Badly at Camp (Jul. 25, 7 AM)
There are scathing reports about yesterday's practices at St. Vincent College. In a nutshell, none of the QBs looks worth a tinker's dam; the whole passing offense is a morass of mediocrity; and Plexico Burress continues to mope, slouch, and loaf. In fact, it appears the collective QB corps' biggest accomplishment at training camp has been to lob a couple balls, out of a few hundred attempts, into a trash can. This might actually be quite appropriate, since this offense is already resembling the trash we've been subjected to the past 2 seasons.
I maintain that the same problems that have haunted this team the past 2 season, continue to invade the St. Vincent campus today. Oh�.Quarterbacking and receiving, you ask?? No. It's coaching and leadership.
It all starts at the top, and as Cowher is fond of saying, "Others have left but one guy's been here all along, and that's me." Yes, indeed, that's you, Bill. You're the guy who presumably observed the overt slop in the '98 season. You then fired your OC and observed a nearly identical display of slop in '99. Now, you're 10 days into the '00 camp and your offense looks discombobulated with little relief in sight.
This should come as little surprise. Cowher has shown a marked ability to annually waste nearly his entire training camp. While other teams use camp as a tool to fine-tune the engine, Cowher instead prefers to use camp as a time to rip every part OUT of the engine, scatter them out on the garage floor, and then, without benefit of any manual or plan, half-hazardly try to put the parts back into the engine just as camp concludes. In days gone by, this was acceptable, as training camp was a team's only training ground to work things out. And some folks will balk that I'm being too impatient and impractical. That's bunk. Nowadays the teams have the luxury of structured off-season workouts, organized film study, mini-camp, and so on. Most players around the league don't show up at camp with a "deer in the headlights" look; they've already mastered their job assignments. Classic case in point -- the day he was drafted, Peyton Manning was handed a playbook. The following month, when Manning reported to MINI camp, he'd already memorized the entire playbook, and was barking out signals and instructions to grizzled veterans.
It was obvious last year, and is becoming evident again this year, that Kevin Illbrides' offense is far too complicated. This, of course, hampered Illbride in previous jobs in Philly and Diego. What has Bill Cowhead, who should have seen this over-complication LAST year, done about it? Apparently, nothing. While Illbride's offense stinks and sputters, Bill Cowhead stands there, dumbfounded. Perhaps we can track a new statistic this season: TOW --- Time Outs Wasted.
A large problem is Little Billy's insistence on trying to pound the square peg into a round hole. As I noted a few days ago, Cowhead is still trying Jeremy "I Earn My Living on My Back" Staat at NT, despite overwhelming evidence that shows Staat is totally incapable of playing that position with any modicum of success. With the offense, Illbride continues to force Kordell Stewart to make multiple, split-second decisions, a la Joe Montana or Steve Young, on what should be a simple 10-yard pass play�and Stewart CONTINUES to struggle with it. Kevin Illbride has a boss, and is name is Little Billy Cowher. Cowher has more than enough power and authority, and SHOULD have more than enough "been there, done that" experience, to have gotten this load of bullturds fixed MONTHS ago. A key to coaching, no matter what the sport, is to put players in opportunities where they will excel. Ya don't ask Brian Giles to steal you 35 bases per year. Ya don't ask Jaromir Jagr to be a mucking, checking-line center. Ya don't bat Mike Benjamin in the cleanup spot. The good coaches put players in positions where they can fully use whatever unique talents they bring to the table. Cowher has somehow made a living off of trying to make Lil' Courtney Hawkins a starting receiver; trying to make Jon "Molasses" Wittman a pass-receiving back; Jason Gildon a strong-side, pass-rushing LB; the 1-armed Will Wolford a left tackle; Chris Conrad a member of an NFL roster, and so on.
Also to blame is the sorry, nearly non-existent veteran leadership. How can anyone miss the 6-foot-6, #1 draft choice Burress, loafing and slouching on a daily basis?? But, what to do about it? For starters, at least one defender could and should deliver a jarring blast to Burress, regardless if the playcall is a FB plunge or the Heinz Screen Pass (not named for Hines Ward, but rather sponsored by Heinz Ketchup�.only Gilbride's screen plays are slower than the thick, rich texture of Heinz Ketchup.) Burress should be popped and popped some more, until he gets the message that all-out hustle on every play is the only acceptable option. On offense, if Burress is going to meander back to the huddle, the QB should hustle in another receiver and run a quickly-called play. A veteran offensive player, regardless of position, could get into Plex's face on his way back to the huddle. And any veteran can have a chat with Burress "behind the woodshed" and ensure that the slackly rookie gets some real feedback real fast. Since Burress has been loafing for a good 3 days now, and has yet to break a sweat, it's shameful that no one has snapped him out of these doldrums. It's doubly shameful that the coaching staff has allowed it to go on past the 1st day he started this little charade.
Coaching and leadership. All the first round picks in the world won't do a team much good, until it has coaching and leadership. For those folks blinded by Cowher's PR machine the past few years, ready to induct him into sainthood, I'm going to enjoy watching Cowher's paperwork for canonization go up in smoke, along with his offense.
The Still Mill