Friday, January 26, 2007

The Road to Super Bowls XLIV, XLVII and LIII

It makes ya wonder if when Steelers' defensive secondary coach Darren Perry resigned his post Wednesday (which was reported yesterday) following a meeting with new head coach Mike Tomlin, if Perry did or did not, in fact, begin that meeting by pulling a Geico caveman stunt by opening that meeting with, "First of all, let me say that I'm not 100 percent in love with your attitude."
Stuff happens.
And, this was an interesting first week of stuff happening during the Steelers' transition from Cowher Power to Tomlin's Terrible Towel Town.
The re-working of the coaching staff is underway, meaning that signs need to be posted throughout Steelers HQ which provide the warning:
"PARDON OUR DUST (during this renovation)."

Let's explore this re-shuffling:

O-coordinator KEN WHISENHUNT -- named Arizona's new head coach last week; was Steelers' O-coordinator for two seasons ('05-'06) after three years as TE's coach ('01-'03); 10 years as a TE and H-back in NFL and NFL asst. for five years ('97-'00) w/ three teams before Pittsburgh ...
QB coach MARK WHIPPLE -- (status = "out!"); KEN ANDERSON named as replacement Jan. 25 ... Anderson was Cincinnati Bengals QB for 16 years ('71-'86) and was an asst. coach for 11 ('92-'02 ... the final 3 3/4 under then-head coach Dick LeBeau) ... Whipple was Steelers' QB coach for three seasons ('04-'06) after replacing Tom Clements ('01-'03), who went to Buffalo to become o-coordinator when Bills named Steelers' o-coordinator Mike Mularkey their head coach ...
RB coach DICK HOAK -- ended his 45-year association w/ the Steelers (10 as a player, the past 35 as coach) by retiring a few days before Cowher resigned on Jan. 5 ...
Receivers coach BRUCE ARIANS -- promoted to O-coordinator on Jan. 23; after being an asst. (RBs) for the final two Bear Bryant teams at 'Bama; the head coach at Temple for six seasons ('83-'88); the RBs coach for four years w/ the K.C. Chiefs ('89-'92 on a staff w/ Cowher, Tony Dungy and Herm Edwards under Marty Shittyheimer); O-coordinator for three years ('93-'95) under Jackie Sherrill at Miss. St.; TE's coach for the Saints for a season ('96 ... under Jim Mora); O-coordinator for a season ('97) at 'Bama under Mike DuBose; Peyton Manning's QB coach for three years w/ the Colts ('98-'00 ... under Mora); and O-coordinator for three years ('01-'03) under Butch Davis for the Cleveland Browns ...
Off. line coach/asst. head coach RUSS GRIMM -- finalist for Steelers' head job; followed Whiz to Arizona after six seasons as Steelers' OL coach ('01-'06) following 10 seasons playing for the Redskins ('81-'91), five seasons coaching the Redskins' TE's ('92-'96) and four years as Redskins' OL coach ('97-'00) ... Hall of Fame finalist in '05, he was one of two OL coaches under Cowher -- the other was Kent Stephenson ('92-'00)
Tight ends coach JAMES DANIEL -- expected to be retained by Tomlin; was asst. at Aubrun for the entirety of Pat Dye's 12 seasons there ('81-'92) and was asst. to Dan Reeves for 11 yrs. during the entirety of his stints w/ NY Giants ('93-'96) and w/ Atl. ('97-'03) before coming to Pittsburgh ...

D-coordinator DICK LeBEAU -- will remain in same role under Tomlin that he was under Cowher during previous three seasons ... will turn 70 on Sept. 9 in what will be his 49th season in the NFL ... on Cowher's first staff as DB coach ('92-'94) then as D-coordinator ('95-'96) when Don Capers took the head job at Carolina ...
Def. line coach JOHN MITCHELL -- (status = "unknown"); has coached same unit for previous 13 seasons ('94-'06)
LB coach KEITH BUTLER -- expected to be retained by Tomlin; 10 seasons as a Seattle Seahawks LB ('78-'87), Steelers' asst. for previous four seasons ('03-'06)
Def. secondary coach DARREN PERRY -- resigned Jan. 24 after three seasons as Steeler asst. ... Steeler safety for seven seasons ('92-'98) and got his first NFL asst. coaching job w/ Bengals and LeBeau ('02) ...
Asst. DB coach RAY HORTON -- (status = "unknown"); played for six years under LeBeau with the Bengals ('83-'88) and was a Bengals asst. under LeBeau for five years ('97-'01), but won a Super Bowl ring in his final year as a player w/ Dallas ('92) ...
Special Teams coach KEVIN SPENCER -- (status = "unknown"); a Steelers asst. for five seasons ('02-'06)

It's always necessary to keep our records up to date re: who did what (and when) for the Super Bowl-champion coaching staffs of SBs XLIV, XLVII and LII.

Now that ya mention it ... ya gotta love Dick LeBeau, don'tya? Even if you aren't old enough to remember when he was a junior on Ohio State's 1957 national championship team -- in the team photo, that's senior captain Galen Cisco wearing #36 in the middle of Row 2 (before Buckeye LB studs Tom Cousineau, Marcus Marek and Chris Spielman wore that #36) and that's Dick LeBeau wearing #44 on the far right in Row 3 -- maybe you're not too young to remember a time when Dick LeBeau was wearing his #44 for the Detroit Lions for 14 seasons ('59-'72) when he played alongside the likes of Hall of Famers Dick "Night Train" Lane and Lem Barney (back when Lem Barney made #20 popular for the team in silver-and-Honolulu-blue before #20s named Billy Sims and Barry Sanders).

Where were we before we got all sidetracked with the Dick LeBeau Retrosepctive?
Oh, right ... #20.
That was the jersey number that Bengals CB Ray Horton was wearing when the 49ers John Taylor beat him for that TD pass from Joe Montana in the final minute of Super Bowl XXIII.
In defense of Dick LeBeau and Ray Horton (the Bengal D-coordinator and DB that day which Sam Wyche had entrusted to stopping the prolific Niner offense), it was slugs such as David Fulcher and Lewis Billups (and, you, too, Solomon Wilcots) who probably could've played a little better that day.

Anyway, back in the Iron City, the aftermath of the Whiz/Grimm/Tomlin finalist carousel has us asking a few pertinent questions.
Was Whiz REALLY the front-runner -- or did the Cardinals simply threw too much $$$ at him?
Is it possible that Whiz felt as though the Steeler search committee was not moving quickly enough -- so he moved on?

Maybe Darren Perry shoulda said that he wasn't 100 percent in love with Tomlin's resume, rather than his attitude.
After all, as the Minnesota Vikings' D-coordinator, Tomlin had the NFL's No. 1 defense against the run and the No. 31 defense (tied for last) against the pass.
How do we quantify that?

That seems a little "iffy" -- maybe moreso when we consider that Tomlin's most-recent playing days consisted of running pass routes as a receiver for William & Mary ('91-'94) before he jumped right into college coaching as an assistant at VMI ('95), Memphis ('96 ... on the same staff as Keith Butler), Tennesee-Martin ('97), Arkansas State ('97-'98) and the Cincinnati Bearcats ('99-'00).

We assume that Tomlin's six years in the NFL have served him well. Tony Dungy hired him at Tampa Bay and then Jon Gruden kept him ... a five-year association which ended when Tomlin went to the Vikes to serve on Brad Childress' staff.

Nevertheless, not too many of us will miss seeing Mark Whipple's pudgy face every time Big Ben was receives counseling on the sideline. Ken Anderson seems like an outstanding hire, given his decades of NFL expertise.

Now, we'll just wait n' see who Tomlin selects to replace Hoak as RB coach and who'll be the new receivers coach, the new OL coach and if Daniel, Mitchell, Butler, Horton and Spencer remain in the coaching mix.

Where's Woody Widenhofer?

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