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Stillers Ignore Key FAs, Extend Miller

June 26, 2001 by Still Mill


Stillers Ignore Key Upcoming Free Agents, Sign Miller to Long-term Deal

In typical fashion, The Stillers eschewed trying to extend key upcoming FAs, and instead extended punter Josh Miller to a 6-year deal worth over $6M total.

As punting goes, Josh has gone from being a total bag of manure, into a fairly reliable and capable punter.

That said, this is yet another in a long line of poor personnel moves by the Stillers, a team that has absolutely no concept of "supply and demand", nor of true impact of what wins and loses football games in the National Football League.

We've seen this kind of lunacy before from the Stillers. After the '97 season, the team heard some rumblings of interest in fat nose tackle Joel Steed, as well as plodding slowpoke tight end Mark Bruener. Fearing that every NFL GM was frothing over these 2 stiffs, the Stillers rushed out in a frenzied panic and signed these 2 clods to whoppingly outrageous deals. The result? The impact from these two stonefoots could probably fill up a thimble. Or perhaps a contact lens vial. Then, after the '98 campaign, the team had RESTRICTED FAs in Emmons and Witman, and, frightened to death at the prospect of numerous teams clamoring for their services, as well as the prospect of losing these budding Hall of Famers, the Stillers panicked and offered each stiff $900K-plus deals. The results, of course, were a fiasco.

Like I've already noted, Josh is a good punter. And the reply should be, "So what?" This is one of only four NFL teams to not makes the playoffs in any of the past 3 seasons. This is the team that has finished 29th, 26th, and 29th in passing the past 3 seasons. This is a team whose collective pass rush the past 4 seasons has been so soft and anemic that opposing QBs have complained of boredom to the league office. And, the team faces a tremendous crisis after '01, with Holmes, Porter, Washington, Scott, Ward, Shaw, and even Gildong set to become UFAs or RFAs. From this group are some players the team should be targeting for extensions, not a punter, who will hardly be lavished with many job contract offers next spring. A stud player like Earl Holmes should have been aggressively contacted for an extension, because this is a man who will command considerable attention as a UFA next spring. Josh Miller? He'd have gotten a few phone calls with the tone of, "We�d like to sign you, but let's wait until our team makes some salcap moves, etc."

Yes, I'm well aware that 2 years ago the Titans managed to sign a very good punter in Craig Hentrich to a similar contract, and it was generally lauded. Different teams in different situations. The Titans were a team knocking on the door of title contention. They had a proven QB, a great RB, very good defense, etc. The Titans signing a punter was no more than fine tuning the manifold of an Indy car that had finished 3rd in pre-race qualifying. Meanwhile, you have a team like the Stillers, which needs a good bit of help with the transmission, engine, and fuel injection systems, plus facing the prospect of losing over 1/3 of its starting defense to free agency next spring.

There's additional points that show the poor fiscal propriety and lack of football savvy of this move.

The past couple of years, Cowher has used Josh as a CRUTCH --- with a mentality of "let's run a plunge on 3rd and 12, and then we'll bring in good ol' Josh, and then we can hope that our defense holds 'em, and then we can get the ball back." That's the kind of mentality that helped set the Steeler TEAM RECORD for number of punts in a game. That's the mentality that causes a joyous uproar any time the QB actually throws for over 200 yards in a game. Just as Doughboy Bettis is Cowher's crutch, so is Josh. Cowher has enough needless crutches for every 1-legged disabled veteran at the VA Hospital near the Pitt campus. Let's pull the crutch -- and the pacifier -- away from Little Billy, and get the man to start earning some of that outrageous contract.

Josh might --- I said "might", as in "it's an extreme reach" --- have had "extension value" if he were able to perform the kickoff chores. IF. Fact is, Josh was tried extensively during camp and preseason a few years ago�and sucked ass. It wasn't that he was merely "average" or "mediocre" --- he flat out sucked ass. Imagine a peg-legged pirate trying to do a kickoff, and this was about what Josh was able to do. His distance sucked, and he often squibbed the ball feebly out of bounds after travelling all of about 35 yards.

Finally, ask yourself this: "Why do NFL teams not select a punter in the 1st round?" Answer: Because there's simply not enough VALUE in doing so, and there's enough supply of similar talent & productivity that ya don't need to fritter away a high pick for a punter. A great QB, or a great RB or LB, can literally turn a team around in just one season. A punter? Fuhgetaboutit. Like a 3rd string catcher in baseball, punter is a position that hardly qualifies as a "make or break". Can anyone name the Ram's punter from '99? How 'bout the 49ers punter during their 1990's heyday?? Bobby Walden punted during the mid-'70's, but can anyone even half-soberly suggest that he was an irreplaceable part of the Super Bowl 9 & 10 championship teams ??

As Steven Covey's "First Things First" teachings espouse, "The enemy of the best is the good." There's a lot of "good" things you can do with your money. Some are better than other. There's a lot "good" things you can do with your free time. Some (going to nite school, for example) are better than others. Signing Josh to this extension, when looked at in a vacuum, is a "good" move. However, when looked at in context relative to other needs and concerns, it was far from the BEST move this team could have made. And with the salary cap, every dollar spent on a non-impact player is a dollar withheld from signing a true stud or a true impact player. Next March, remember this move when Rooney and Colbert lament, "We can't afford to sign Earl Holmes", but they sure could afford to extend their punter. The enemy of the best is the good.

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