Big Lead Sports Bar

11/28/2006

Bill Cowher's Worst 2006 Decisions

I hear a lot of Bill Cowher bashing these days. Of course, I should expect just as much after that lifeless performance Sunday at Baltimore, one of the worst and least-inspired in the Cowher Era. Critics of the bashers will say "you can't pin all the blame on Cowher" and "he just won the Super Bowl, get off his back". True and true. I think Cowher is one of the greatest coaches of all time and the Steelers are very lucky to have had his service all these years. I also agree that you cannot pin all the blame on Cowher; there's certainly enough to go around with this team. Game-time emotion has been a point of issue with Cowher this year, and I won't argue that he's been relatively sedated by his standards. But that is far down the list of legitimate mistakes Cowher has made this season.
Cowher pushed all the right buttons in 2005, but 2006 has been a completely different story. Here are five key decisions Bill and the Steelers' brass made that I think we can all second guess at this point.
1. Duce Staley. The inclusion of Staley on this year's roster tells you all you need to know about the 2006 team. He has never been a durable back in his Pittsburgh tenure, playing just nine games in 2004 and three in 2005. He was never the face of the franchise (a la Bettis), so the loyalty factor in keeping him around is a flawed theory. He seemed highly content to stand on the sidelines in his famous gray sweatsuit for most of last season, hands down pants.
But the Steelers decided to bring him back, at least for training camp, in 2006. And how did Duce respond?
Check out his four preseason games: 7 carries, 14 yards...5 carries, 11 yards...11 carries, 21 yards...19 carries, 46 yards...That's a total of 42 carries for 92 yards, or 2.19 yards per carry. Was he cut? No, John Kuhn was the sacrificial lamb of the running backs.
Najeh Davenport then becomes available, and the Steelers jump on him like a loose ball. Duce was lapped on the depth chart by a guy just cut from the Packers. To follow that, Verron Haynes went down for the season with a torn ACL, and Staley wasn't even activated---Kuhn was rescued from the oblivion of the practice squad!
Is the presence of Staley hanging around really motivating any players to do their best? Can ANYONE answer why he is here?
2. The wide receivers. Cowher kept Sean Morey for his special teams skills, but if that unit is horrible with him, what's the point of having him occupy a roster spot? Quincy Morgan was a competent kick returner in addition to his receiving skills, but he was deemed not worthy of a uniform. Willie Reid was drafted primarily for his punt return duties, and he fielded the majority of them in preseason. So who was sent back to field them once the bell rang in week one? Ricardo Colclough. Some questionable decisions here, to say the least.
3. Chris Gardocki. The league's worst, albeit unblocked, punter. Inconsistent, with a very weak leg. Rarely puts the Steelers in a good position with his kicks. And he costs a lot more than Mike Barr, the impressive rookie free agent who was cut loose.
4. A lackadasical training camp, by Cowher standards. Cowher gave the team plenty of time off in this year's camp. But his biggest sin was the lack of playing time to the starting unit in preseason games. I know, we don't want anyone to get hurt. But the flipside of having a healthy team is having a very rusty team, especially when several of those players were not healthy throughout or before camp. Honestly, how much time in preseason games did a still-recovering Roethlisberger get? How many reps against first-team defenses did Willie Parker get?
Well, here are some of those answers:
Roethlisberger threw a total of 22 passes in three preseason games: 4, 4, and 14.
Parker had a total of 7 carries in three preseason games: 3, 1, and 3.
Hines Ward had 0 catches in the preseason, due to injuries.
Cedrick Wilson had a total of 6 catches in the preseason: 1, 2, and 3.
Does that look like a recipe for a fine-tuned offensive machine to anyone else?
5. Failure to make lineup changes. Sure, Ike Taylor was benched recently. It only took until the 10th game. But why was Ricardo Colclough sent out to field punts, over and over and over again, after proving he was incapable of doing the job? Why is Cedrick Wilson still starting opposite Hines Ward, when the only thing he has proven is the ability to make a pass-interference gesture after every incomplete pass thrown his way? Why is Nate Washington still getting the ball thrown his way in crunch time when he's averaging about two drops per week (although I will give him credit for holding on after his bell got rung on Sunday).
I think the world of Bill Cowher. But in all fairness, the above list shows that he does deserve some of the blame in this train-wreck of a season. When you're winning, you're always perceived as making all the right moves; when you're losing, lists such as this pop up. There are at least 53 other reasons why the Steelers are 4-7; their respective positions on that list are debatable. The coach always gets too much credit when the team wins and too much blame when the team struggles. But I would have a hard time believing that someone could argue the above list in any capacity (although you're welcomed, and encouraged, to do so).

4 comments:

Bert said...

I agree with your list, but it is just a tip of the iceburg.
A few more Cowher decisions to ponder that have bothered me:
1. Why didn't Batch start against the Jags?
2. Why after running it down Cincy's throat for the 1st qtr, throw it on 1st and goal on the 6?
3. Why didn't Batch start against the Raiders?
4. Why do the CB's all stink? Why is Townsend still a Steeler? Is there a secondary coach? If so, Why is he still employed?
5. Special Teams--the same thing Is there a Special Teams coach? If so, why is he still employed?
6. Why isn't Holmes a starter?
7. Why isn't Miller being thrown to more?

Side note: You have one of the best
blogs. It is one of my daily must reads. Great Job!!

hollywood wags said...

Cowher and his movie day was a sure indicator of this shit filled season. This is just like the last season Gildon played where he was coddled the whole year when it was plain that he sucked ass.

Another one: the Jim Millering of Kemoatu when Kendall Simmons is thrusting his ass to the turf every play.

Washington85 said...

Nate Washington gets clutch catches all the time...Example 1)New Orleans Saints he had 2 catches for a first down then set up the pussy pitch by little Ben. Example 2) last weekend 4 receptions 49 yards...the problem at WR is Holmes he is horrible if Nate averages 2 drops(lie) then Holmes averages at least 6....Nate > all Steelers WR
and if you don't like Nate i got two words for ya

vinnie said...

I'd really have to move Gardocki up one spot to the second biggest mistake of the season. I don't know the name of the punter they had in camp, but I hope he's at home learning how to hold for placekicks!!!