Thursday, January 04, 2007

Steelers Sunset

(New: Table of Contents to lead each entry. Pretty easy to keep track of where each section begins)

-- Steelers fall short, but it's the ending they deserve. And, with Cowher's retirement, some thoughts on possible future head coaches. Also, draft needs.

-- NFL post-season predictions. After hitting only 4 of 8 division winners and 7 of 12 playoff entrants overall, you may want to just ignore this. I have absolutely no prognosticative clout this season, but making predictions comes with this territory.

---Reap What You Sow---

Objectively speaking, when a team goes 2-6 in the first half of the season, projecting a final record of 8-8, regardless of the competition level over the last 8 games, is very optimistic. First of all, if you're 2-6, even if you won it all the previous season, you are in the lower echelon of competition.

Secondly, the entire season has been overshadowed by: a phantom controversy over the validity of your own championship; the retirement of the heart and soul of the locker room; the questions surrounding your long-time head coach's future; questionable draft choices; a star quarterback having to recover from a horrific motorcycle accident as well as an untimely appendectomy; key injuries to other personnel while others underplaying from last season. I gave props 3 months ago (and will do so again) to thejim at for his rationale for his 6-10 prediction.

Cowher will formally announce his retirement tomorrow at 1PM. This is not unexpected. Several columnists, bloggers, and fans at large have referenced Cowher's lack of fire and spittle through the course of this tough season and took at as a sign of his impending departure.

Thanks to Cowher's quick decision, the Steelers front office will have plenty of time to interview plenty of candidates. In-house, they already have Russ Grimm and Ken Whisenhunt, neither of whom made strong cases. Grimm's line was oftentimes swiss cheese against the more powerful defenses, and Whisenhunt's playcalling resembled some of the finest run, run, pass, punt series since the mid-80's. Incidentally, that same offense could not execute against the team that Whisenhunt rejected in the off-season.

The Steelers will almost assuredly interview Dennis Green because of the requirements regarding minorities, but I doubt he'll be hired.

The other head coach who has been let go so far, Jim Mora, Jr., intrigues me. He came to Atlanta and took them to the NFC Championship despite having a complete enigma (and glory-monger) at quarterback. Some folks I've talked to agree that a new system is what the old-guard Steelers players need to get them playing well again. Of course, there is that little controversy that helped get him fired in the first place, telling a Seattle radio personality that he'd be very interested in coaching the Huskies of the University of Washington.

I have a feeling that former Steeler defensive coordinator, former Saints head coach, and current Rams D.C. Jim Haslett could make an appearance in what could quickly become a circus if the F.O. decides early that going with current assistants is not the answer.

Sending the Bengals to the golf course at the same time the Steelers go was great at the time, but may come back to haunt them in April. The teams needs are ever-growing, and a head coach is not necessarily the most pressing. The offensive line and linebacking corps took huge steps backward, and the young secondary could not make up for the latter's lack of a pass rush. I'm nowhere close to the draft expert in the blogosphere, especially because my following of college ball has been very limited this season. Who's going to be out there that will be the next Alan Faneca, or, better yet, Dermontti Dawson? Who out there is going to have the potential to make an instant impact like an A.J. Hawk or Brian Urlacher. They can't play around with wideouts this year like they did with 2 of their first 3 picks.

The theme of this year's draft should be: "Protect our quarterback, rattle theirs."

---Predictions From the Hip---

Ok. I absolutely blew at predicting this season's divisional outcomes. Seven of 12 playoff participants, and only 4 of 8 division winners. I only had 2 new playoff teams in the playoff field from last year, bucking a trend I discovered after the fact. There are 7 new teams in the playoffs this year. The only one I'll say I was robbed of by injury was the Giants winning the NFC East. A host of injuries led to a late season implosion. Of course, the eked into the playoffs anyway...

The only thing that could probably save some face is if three of my final four superbowl contenders (Patriots, Colts, Seahawks, Bears) make their respective conference title games. Looking at the matchups, however, I'm going to go a different way:

Wild Card: Chiefs upset Colts, Patriots over Jets, Cowboys over Seahawks, Eagles over Giants

Divisional: Chargers over Chiefs, Patriots over Ravens, Bears over Cowboys, Eagles over Saints

Conference: Patriots over Chargers, Bears over Eagles.

Superbowl: Bears over Patriots.

Essentially, the Patriots will advance through game-planning and veteran leadership (something new, right?), and the Bears defense will re-focus now that they're playing meaningful games again. This is one of the best defensive units I've seen when they're on. It won't matter who is playing at QB.

(edit: removed future blogging plans)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not so sure you want Mora. The Falcons seemed plagued by the same disease as the Steelers this season, only without the benefit of being beat to death. Under Mora we started strong and finished weak, with healthy players.

Vick is a whole other bag of issues (*cough* ego *cough*). But Mora and his coaching staff definitely played the biggest part.

Plus the Washington comment was just 100% stupid.

-Sean the displaced Steeler in Atlanta

1/06/2007 12:22 PM  
Blogger GM-Carson said...

sad to see the steelers go, but i'm anxious to see the pirates come...oh, that sounded dirty.

1/16/2007 2:54 PM  

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