Stillers Coaching Grades - 2000 season
Special Teams: Jay Hayes completed another mediocre season as the ST coach. Yes, the positives were the punt return by Poteat and the KO return by Jackwell, plus the FG block by Gildon. There was also some good pooch punting and a solid job of downing those balls right near the GL. But there were several downers, too, some of which don't show up on any stat sheet. For one, the length of the kickoffs was absolutely atrocious. Sure, Hayes isn't out there booting the ball himself, but this falls under his auspice. I still can't fathom why Josh Miller can't kick off worth a damn. He was tried in preseason a couple years ago, and stunk, but that's no reason to shelve the concept forever. In high school, I recall my team had 2 kickers capable of booting the ball a good 55-60 yards in the air, when given a running start and booting the ball off a tee. We have Kris Brown, a man who, all too often, had trouble getting his pathetic spinners to get to the 20 yard line. Totally unacceptable. The coverage teams were also spotty early on, though they did creep back to an above average status later in the season. I felt Hayes should have pushed harder to get Poteat into the regular punt return chores way back in September, not in December. Cowher obviously made the final call of going so much with PeePee Hawkins in the punt return game, but Hayes -- if he was doing his job as a talent evaluator and a coach who is seeing the big picture -- should have demanded Poteat be placed into the role that he so rightfully was superior in. Some day, I'd also like to see the Stillers block a punt or a FG off a designed play in which they go for the gusto with a designed block. Gildon's FG block was nothing more than him throwing a paw up and happening to nip the ball on a low boot. In all, Hayes was mediocre, but except for the stellar returns of Poteat -- who rotted half the season -- the STs didn't provide much impact. C.
Tight Ends: Let's see…the starting TE, Mark Bruener (a former #1 draft pick), had 17, 18, 19, 18, and 12 receptions the past 5 seasons. Of course, TE coach Mike Mularkey is, after overseeing this prolific production by the TE the past 3 seasons, now the team's new offensive coordinator. Can anyone explain why we even waste money on a TE coach? It seems rather possible that any 6th round pick could fall off the couch each week and snare 1 pass per game, culminating in a 17-catch season. Yeah, yeah, the blocking was good. I'm trying to recall the last team that won the Super Bowl primarily because, and only because, their TE was such a good blocker. C.
WR: Coach Bob Bratkowski was given last year's #1 pick (Edwards), and this year's #1 pick (Burress), as well as veterans Hines Ward and Bobby Shaw. Not exactly chopped liver. Bratkowski developed the two former #1 picks so well, that Jumbo Elliot ended up finishing the season with more TD receptions, than those two combined. In fact, neither one scored a TD the entire season. Case closed. F.
OL: Kent Stephenson was given an assistant, Irv Eatman, because Stephenson struggled like a 1-legged man in an asskicking contest, and the team couldn't afford another season of zero development occurring with every lineman. There was a modicum of development that actually took place this season. Most notably was RT Marvel Smith, who was noticeably better in December than in Sep. Wayne Candy also played much better this year, than last. Faneca only slightly improved, and appears to have hit his plateau. The great news is that Stephenson "resigned"; he probably would've been shown the door anyway. The guy was here since 1992 -- 9 seasons. In that span, he developed exactly one lineman in his entire tenure: Justin Strelzyk. That's it. John Jackson & Dawson were established starters here before Kent ever arrived. The other reliable linemen we've used in his tenure, have been pickups from other teams: Love, Newberry, Myslinski, Wolford, Gandy, Shar, & Tharpe. Searcy and Faneca were both first round picks that were extremely talented and capable right from the get-go. But, in fact, neither of these two was developed much by Kent. Searcy was often soft, unfocused, and sloppy in his days here. Faneca has only microscopically progressed in three full NFL seasons. He arrived with a weakness for pass-blocking, and today he still possess that same weakness. Good riddance, Kent. D.
RB: Dick Hoak has been here nearly forever, and he's one coach whom I've always had the highest regard. The guy has continually gotten good play from non-spectacular RBs, ever since Franco moved on. Aside from Hawthorne and Abercrombie, both of whom were soft, pathetic excuses for football players, Hoak has goaded superb results from the likes of Pollard, Earnest Jackson (given up for dead by the Chargers), Hoge, Foster, Thomson, BamBam, Pegramm, and Bettis. Hoak is a primary reason why I'd not jump off the highest building in town if Bettis departs in free agency -- if there's one thing this team has been able to do, and do well, under Hoak's tutelage and guidance, it's develop running backs. A.
Off. Coord: Kevin Gilbride came here amidst much fanfare, with the media fawning over the "great work" he'd previously done in Jax. and Houston. Two years later, we now know why Buddy Ryan punched Gaypride on the sidelines during their tenure in Houston. What we don't know, of course, is why Ryan only gave him one punch, and why Ryan didn't stuff Gaypride into a Gatorade jug. I warned everyone here way back during camp this past summer, that this offense looked every bit as shit-laden as the '99 version. You can blather on and on about all the great work and supposed changes that were occurring, as Gaypride did, but a drunken cyclops could have seen that this raggedy-assed offense was going nowhere when we broke camp and braced for the regular season. Much of the problem with Gaypride, was this asinine fallacy that "more complicated" is always better, and that the more slop you throw on a plate, the better the meal tastes. You know the offense is absurdly complicated, when the QB has to bark out signals at the line-of-scrimmage to the tune of, "Sine! Cosine! Tangent! Exponential derivative of zx-squared, to the y power, times bx-cubed!! Atomic weight of xenon!! Formula for sulfuric oxide!! Terminal velocity in atmosphere of Neptune…..Hut! Hut !!! The Stillers set a team record in TOWs -- Time Outs Wasted, because of the inordinate amount of time it took Gaypride to call the play, coupled with the amount of time reciting the play in the huddle, and then coupled with the 17 reads the QB had to make prior to the snap. Then, once the ball was snapped, the QB had to make about 14 reads, and each receiver had to make 6 reads. All this algebraic manipulation had to occur within 3 seconds of the snap. The other primary problem with Gaypride, was his imbecilic uses of the resources at his disposal. Rather than lobbing the ball to huge targets like Burress or Malcolm Johnson, Gaypride is trying to hit a shrimp like Hawkins. Rather than using the sleek, ultra-quick Zeroue on a flare pass or a sweep, Gaypride tries to use the slopoke doughboy, Jerome Bettis. Rather than using a real receiver as a flanker, Gaypride thinks he's fooling the defense by using glacially slow clods like Witman, Bettis, or Bruener as split-out receivers. Then there's "clock management", which, under Gaypride's astute coaching, is a total paradox. Gaypride couldn't manage a 1-hole latrine, much less a clock, timeouts, spiking the ball, the sidelines, and all the other simple football nuances that American children learn by the time they reach 7th grade. I could go on, but just thinking about the ineptitude of Kevin Gaypride makes me sick. F.
DL: John Mitchell made some strides this year with some players, most notably Aaron Smith, who rotted the entire '99 season but was finally allowed to play some after Sullie suffered from a sore back. He also made the most of Kimo's abilities, rather than insisting that Kimo just squat in-place like his predecessor, Fat Joel Steed. Mitchell didn't do much for journeyman like Henry, Sullie, or Staat, but I doubt anyone could. B.
LB: Mike Archer has one of the easiest jobs in the country --- right behind the guy who serves as the taste tester at the Jack Daniels distillery -- as the LB coach in the 3-4 defense. The entire defense is built around making his 4 LBs look like golden boys. Still, Archer find a way to take a cake job and foul it up from time to time. Among his boners is the asinine use of Joey Porter, who happens to be Archer's best passrusher. Actually, Porter is the best passrusher on the team, period. But Archie prefers wasting Porter on covering lumbering fullbacks or cloddhopping tight ends, and in the meantime the opposing QB is given 9 seconds back in the pocket to pick apart the secondary. Archie has one of the highest paid LBs in the entire league -- Big Levon Kirkland -- but hasn't been able to get much impact out of the big doughboy in years. Archie's best LB this season, Earl Holmes, had an off game when his head coach told him to not be so aggressive. Archie, being a position coach, should have smelled a rat and gotten both the head coach and the player straightened out immediately. That he didn't speaks volume of Archie's brains and spine, or lack thereof. You also have to wonder exactly what goes thru Archie's mind during film review with his linebackers, when Jason Gildong is continually bullied by a FB or TE and allows a massive hole for the RB to saunter thru, or Gildong is once again bamboozled on a reverse or a bootleg. You'd think maybe Archie might get Gildong to start playing like a 6-year veteran, but instead Gildon makes the same mistakes over and over again, like a 6-year old. C-.
DB: Willy Robinson got off to a rocky start, getting hired when Lewis moved to the DC job and seeing his DBs commit several hideous blunders that directly led to the 0-3 start. But the secondary even its keel and played pretty well the rest of the season. Robby oversaw the solid grooming of youngsters like Battles and Codie, as well as the solid play of Brent Alexander. A good effort for his first year in this job. A.
Def: Coord: Tim Lewis had the envious job of replacing Jim Haslett, a dullard who, for 3 solid seasons, did next to nothing in terms of getting the big play to seal the deal late in a game. Unfortunately, a good bit of Asslet rubbed off on Lewis, who managed to fritter away two late losses to Tennessee and one to Philly, all 3 of which could have easily been won had Lewis' defense made even one single mediocre play down the stretch of any of those ballgames. What was really sickening was the absurd, mamby-pamby schemes of Lewis that led to these losses --- in the first Tenn. loss, a blown call to the defense on coverage, & using Lee Flowers to blitz from a spot 10 yards from the line of scrimmage; and in the 2nd Tenn. loss, dropping Porter into coverage and using Townsend and Simmons to blitz McNair in the 2nd Tenn. loss; and refusing to double cover the ONLY receiver on the field who had ever caught an NFL pass on a 4th & 8 play that ultimately won the game for Tenn. Then there's the loss to Cleveland, in which Lewis' befuddled defense came out and immediately allowed the Browns to march up and down the field its first 2 possessions easier than a skeleton drill, which put the team into a hideous 14-0 hole. Yes, the defense played better later in the season, but much of that was the benefit of playing offensively deficient teams like Cinci, Wash., and SD. Lewis did an adequate job at times, but his lack of creativity, inability to think outside the box, and refusal to use the resources at hand to the max extent possible make him a similar simpleton as Jim Asslet. C-.
Head Coach: If I hear one more "What a great job Cowher did bringing this team back from the 0-3 start", I think I'll lose my lunch. Who, praytell, got the team into the 0-3 start?? It was Little Billy Cowher, who once again used a 5-game preseason for nothing but playing fiddle faddle and wasting 7 weeks of what should have been good preparation. Instead of working on the team's most glaring weakness -- the passing offense --- Cowher spent the 5 exhibition games mostly running plunges and kicking field goals. As his norm, his team flat out stunk on opening day, and in a disorganized funk got whipped versus Baltimore. Then there was the late-game fiasco at Cleveland, which showed the team's gross inability to manage a clock. Then there was the late-game choke to Tenn, in which Cowher's defense got scorched by an ice-cold Steve McNair, who stumbled off the bench late in the game. Then there's the late-game chock to Tenn, when Cowhead claimed that, on the 4th & 8 late in the game, he thought Jeff Fischer would actually be dumb enough to punt the ball. The 3 games at the start of the season were all DIVISION games, and inherently they all were MUST WIN games. Cowhead lost all 3 of 'em, and set the team in a despicable hole that was far too deep to crawl out of. Cowhead's total inability to evaluate talent & potential was once again quite evident. Cowhead insisted on keeping PeePee Hawkins and instead cut rookie Danny Farmer, who was quickly snapped up by Cinci and had a single-game production that bettered ANY receiver the Stillers had in '00. There's FB Dan Kreider, who had an outstanding preseason but was cut anyway in lieu of Cowhead favorite Jon Witman, who was clearly outplayed by Kreider, who was most deservedly voted the team's rookie of the year. There's Aaron Smith & Joey Porter, both of whom who gave the team good production & contribution this season after rotting on the bench last year behind stiffs (Harrison & Emmons) who are no longer with the club. There's Hank Poteat, the team's most dangerous punt-return threat in over 10 years, but who rotted the bench and sat behind PeePee Hawkins a good majority of the season. Then there's the total misuse of Plex, along with the rotting of Huntley and Zeroue, all of which hampered the passing game. Most people forget that Marty Jr. extorted a massive payraise after the '97 season by threatening to bolt to Cleveland. It's no surprise that since then, Cowher's team has flopped miserably; has failed to use the assets available to their utmost effectiveness; and has yet to make the playoffs. C-.
The Still Mill