Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rejoice, for the offensive coordinator is dead

Ron Cook is back to his old tricks.
Seems like everyone is saying the Steelers need to spend more time and money on constructing a better offensive line. The team has invested $102 million in quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Doesn't it need to do a better job keeping him healthy?
Well, here are two more questions:
I bet you ten Romney-minutes that neither of Ron's questions has anything to do with how to go about getting better offensive linemen.
Isn't it important to keep Roethlisberger happy?
Is this guy serious? This is a hilarious joke, right? 
If so, why are the Steelers on the verge of forcing offensive coordinator Bruce Arians to retire?
No! Wait! Too fast!
First of all, an emphatic NO, it's not important to keep the Ben happy, so before we elaborate any further on that, let's say it outright as a means to invalidate the second question.
If so, why are the Steelers on the verge of forcing offensive coordinator Bruce Arians to retire?
Moving on...
Whose job is it to keep Ben Roethlisberger happy? It's not the Steelers' job to keep Roethlisberger happy. That's actually his job, and to a certain degree, maybe it's his wife's job. That's it, that's the list. The Steelers do not work for Ben Roethlisberger. Ben Roethlisberger works for the Steelers. In the nicest of situations, Roethlisberger could, conceivably, elevate himself to a point at which he would work with the Steelers. Franchise players are often consulted on major personnel decisions, and rightfully so. But this is never going to happen with Ben for two reasons:
1. The Rooneys do not give a fuck what makes Ben happy.
1a. Nor should they.
2. Ben has given the Steelers no reason whatsoever to believe he deserves to be treated like an adult, let alone like someone on the level of athletes who've had input in picking their own coaches. LeBron gets that. Kobe gets that. Lemieux got that. Sidney Crosby gets that. Going two years without being accused of rape does not automatically elevate you into that company.
In fact, the very reason it was so important that Arians not be retained as the offensive coordinator is that his buddy-buddy relationship with Roethlisberger has been hurting the offense for five years. Arians has enabled Roethislberger, who when he plays poorly, does so because he's quite obviously winging it. He's undisciplined, he doesn't study film, and he doesn't know his hot routes. When he's healthy and does not perform well, that's why. This is not a referendum on the pass-first offense. This isn't even about play calling, though that's been piss-poor, also.
It makes no sense.
You're right, Ron. Nothing you write makes any goddamn sense. Honestly, your first reaction to the Steelers canning this failmachine is to ask what makes Roethlisberger happy? I'm going to finish writing this post, critique your opinions and so on and so forth, Ron, but holy shit, man, that's so depressing. Is that really the direction in which you want to take this? Is that really what concerns you? You know what would make Ben happy? If the offensive coordinator was four slutty 20-year-old girls, practice was optional on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and the cafeteria at the practice facility served nothing but Taco Bell and Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
That's you're so in the tank for this guy is really sad, Ron. It's sad, and it's infuriating to what Norman Mailer so arrogantly termed "my sense of intellectual pollution."
It hardly matters that I think it's a big mistake.
Yes, and we're glad for that. Fuck, man. Take the PG's buyout and see if Ben will hire you for his entourage. I don't think he has a biographer yet. Down the line, when he gets to work on that memoir, he's going to need someone with some journalistic integrity to lend some credence to his version of what really happened in the club that night.
What does Tomlin think? He's a Super Bowl-winning coach and he's being told he has to fire a coordinator who he wants? No one is arguing that Rooney isn't the boss. Make no mistake, he is. But is this a good thing to do your coach? To emasculate him even a little bit? It's not as if the Steelers have been dreadful for a long time, as they were when Rooney's father, Dan, forced Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll to make staff changes. They went 12-4 this season before losing to the Broncos.
They were a shitty 12-4. We've discussed this.
Firing Arians now is just as wrong as it would have been after the 2009 season when there was media speculation he was out.
Ron is actually dead-on here, except for the part where he says that "Firing Arians now is just as wrong as it would have been after the 2009 season when there was media speculation he was out." Point, Cook.
The Steelers went 9-7 and missed the playoffs that year, although the offense wasn't nearly as much to blame as the defense, which blew five fourth-quarter leads, and the special teams, which allowed four kickoff returns for touchdowns. Roethlisberger went to management and Tomlin and argued to keep Arians. It's hard to say what impact he had, but Arians stayed. Good thing because the team made it to the Super Bowl in '10. In '08, it won Super Bowl XLIII with Arians calling the plays, including those on the late, 78-yard winning drive.
Just so we're clear, this is on the defense. This is on that monstrous front seven and the steady hand of Dick LeBeau.
You know that we're big on numbers here at FTC, and we'll get to those shortly. In late 2008, the Steelers were gearing up for another playoff run that looked like it wouldn' t go far. Ben played terribly all season long. He looked visibly confused and unprepared the entire year. And as they were gearing up for that playoff run, I had a conversation with FTC Tweetster/Writer Emeritus Dan Richey, the gist of which was this:
Matt: Well, you have to figure the plus side of this is that they're going to have to get rid of Bruce Arians.
Dan: You'd think that's the case, right? 
Matt: Yeah, unless...
Dan: Unless what?
Matt: What if they win the Super Bowl? They can't fire him if they win the Super Bowl.
Dan: Don't be ridiculous. They're not going to win the Super Bowl.
Matt: You're probably right. But wouldn't that be tragic in a sense? They'd have to keep him.

Here are the Steelers' offensive rankings (by points scored) up against their defensive rankings (by points, yards allowed) during the Tomlin era.
2011: O - 21; D - 1, 1
2010: O - 12; D - 1, 2
2009: O - 12; D - t12, t-5
2008: O - 20; D - 1, 1
2007: O - 9; D - 1, 2
[stats courtesy of]
The Steelers have ranked No. 1 in the NFL in either points, yards or both in four of the last five years. The one time they weren't, the offense was ranked 12th in points scored and the team went 9-7. That was the year the offense "carried" the team, but even then the Steelers still had the league's fifth-best defense by yards.
It's nice to think Rooney will realize he's making a mistake and change his mind before the official Arians retirement announcement is made.
There's no doubt Roethlisberger will fight for Arians again, if he hasn't done so already. Last year, he said of Arians: "He gets way, way too much blame and criticism. It's kind of unfortunate because he's so good. If you ask the players, we know." Only days before a playoff loss Jan. 8 in Denver, he said of Arians and the offense: "We've got something special here. We've got a lot of great young players. As long as they don't get crazy and change the offense -- that can really set you back -- the sky is the limit for this team."
That last part is actually correct -- this team has unbelievable talent. Imagine what it would look like if it was disciplined enough to do things like run timing patterns or learn more than two running plays. What if these guys, instead of playing backyard football, were run with the professionalism and complexity of a professional football organization? This team could be amazing. This team could blow Green Bay out of the fucking water. But that hasn't happened because practice is too much work, and it's not a part of the Arians offense. Of course the players love him -- he doesn't make them actually do anything. How's that worked style worked out for the similarly dumb Wade Phillips in his head coaching stints? Hint: terribly.
"If I tell him I hate a play, he won't call it," Roethlisberger said. "He doesn't have an ego that way. He doesn't ever say, 'We're going to do it my way.' It's the same way with the receivers...he has enough faith in his players to do that. He's a players' guy."
Does this strike anyone else as the worst kind of appeasement? Ben hated Bill Cowher because Cowher made him work hard. Tomlin's not going to do that because Tomlin delegates a great deal more authority than Cowher did. But so far, nobody's held Ben's feet to the fire or forced him to do anything he didn't want to do. Ben Roethlisberger does not deserve to have that kind of authority.
"He brings consistency," Batch said. "You don't want to change that right now when Ben is actually entering into the prime of his career. I don't see why you would want to change."
Why would you want to change?
There's a reason we've had a "fire bruce arians" tag in the lexicon for some years now, but just in case you need a quick refreshment:

The Bruce Arians Play-Caller 9000 just turned two years old. I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that most of you have never watched a Steelers game with it on-hand. Well, we have, and it's disturbing how accurate it is. For that matter, Dan is just as good at telling you exactly what the Steelers are going to run in any given situation. 
Point is, we're a bunch of idiots with a blog in somebody's mom's basement, and we figured this out two years ago. Do you really think defensive coordinators don't recognize this stuff? It's a testament to the greatness of the talent that the Steelers have done as well as they have, but sweet Christ-on-a-stick, it's been frustrating to watch. Nobody can honestly tell me they want it to stay this way, or that the Steelers can't do better. Good riddance; can't believe it's taken this long.

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