Loose Slag from the Still Mill�
Loose Slag from The Still Mill�.
It was rare, but refreshing, to see a Stiller coach bust on his players, the way Haslet did a few days after the Atlanta game. Maybe there is some hope for Haslet after all�.Nah, I doubt it. But I agree with his reasoning and mindset on keeping the heads of the defense from swelling to blue-ribbon pumpkin-sized proportions. On paper, the defense looks just about as good as the '76 Stillers. On paper. Problem is, none of the game are played on paper, Strat-O-Mat, or the computer. They're played on the gridiron. Our stats have been fattened considerably by feasting on the NFL's junior varsity --- Browns, Ravens, Bungals, and Falcs. If you take away the games these four pathetic teams have played vs. one another (in which someone HAS to win), our four victims are a combined 2-21. The only "non-incestuous" wins were Atlanta & Cleve beating the �Aints. Whipping up on greenhorn rookies (Couch, A. Smith), washed up vets (Detmer, Mitchell), and a beaten, hobbled QB (Chandler) doesn't prove a whole lot to me. This defense got its tail handed back pretty severely in losses to Seattle and Buffalo.
Gilbride has a boss who is ultimately approving game plans and in-game playcalling. His name is Bill Cowher, aka "Marty Jr.", "Bill Cowhead", and "Field Goal Bill". While I'm not pleased with what Gilbride has done, it's sickening to see Field Goal Bill foolishly repeat history. Last year, we used the Nickel & Dime Offense, and it sucked. The final gun had barely sounded in the finale at Jax, and Cowhead was already bemoaning the lack of a downfield passing game. So what does he do differently this year? NOTHING. N-O-T-H-I-N-G. Our 9.46-yard average on pass completions is the worst in the league. Keeping things in relative terms, this means that such woeful, pitiful offenses like New Orleans, Cleveland, and Tampa have a better average per pass completion that our vaunted 15-Cent Offense. The mulestubborn Cowhead is content to wallow around in a funk for the 2d straight year, obviously pleased with himself that the media and fans will once again heap all the blame on the coordinator & players and none on Marty Jr. himself.
On a similar note is the FB situation. Gilbride was brought in to rejuvenate a sagging offense, and 1 such supposed improvement was to get the FB involved in the passing game. Prior to the season, many fans and media were frothing over the thought of Jon Witman serving as a "multi purpose FB". I vociferously questioned that line of reasoning, since Witman is too slow, lacks quickness, has only average hands, and is unable to beat hardly any defender assigned to cover him. Sure enough, Witman has a whopping 5 catches for 19 yards. To me, the player who could actually jump-start the FB position is none other than Rich Huntley. Hunt has the speed, power, and moves that Witman has never had, nor will ever have. Hunt leads us in TDs, despite only touching the ball a handful of times each game. And lest people think Huntley is some scrawny RB who cannot block --- Hunt is as strong and sturdy a 220-pound back as there is in the NFL. I've iso'd on Hunt's blocking, and it is every bit as good as Witman's. That�s not saying much, of course, but if Hunt can block as well as Witman, and has better running, receiving, and RAC skills, then it becomes a no-brainer that Hunt can immensely provide more impact and production. Coincidental to this, is Gilbride's bizarre fetish of running Witman in motion out wide, or having him split out wide. This serves no useful purpose whatsoever. No defense is going to over-shift because the bootfooted Witman is plodding out wide in-motion. Most defenses don't even waste a wan to cover Witman. Huntley, on the other hand, would attract a defender, thus freeing up Bettis, the TE, or a wideout. I'm praying that this bye week gives Gilbride and Cowhead some time to reflect, and causes them to insert Huntley at FB for at least 10 plays a game. If Cowhead and Gaypride refuse to use a resource that is readily at their disposal, then it's their fault when this offense staggers and founders the rest of the season.
One certain failure on Gilbride's part is the pitiful progress Stewart has made as an a NFL-caliber QB. Prior to the season, it was widely known that Stewart had poor mechanics, poor footwork, a gross inability to throw downfield on the run, and a incessant fetish with staring at the primary receiver from the snap of the ball. Through 7 games, Stewart has shown improvement in exactly zero of these terrible shortcomings. I'm not asking for Stewart to suddenly display the poise and skill of a Roger Staubach, but for Stewart to show no improvement at all reflects some poor tutelage by Kevin Gaypride.
WR coach Culley was fired after the '98 season, primarily because the team was disappointed in the development and progress of young receivers (primarily Blackwell and Ward). Then Bob Bratkowski, former offensive coordinator and receivers coach of the Seattle Seahawks, was named receivers coach in January. He joins Gilbride as a coach who has done nothing in terms of enhancing the development of the players he's in charge of. Troy Edwards, while showing flashes of brilliance, has also shown slop & poor concentration. Will Blackwell has shown nothing. Ward has progressed a lil', but only as a possession-type receiver. His effectiveness in going after the deep ball has clearly been poor. The entire WR corps looked like crap in the Atlanta game. Bratkowski thus far has been a miserable flop.
At what is just about the midway point of the season, we may as well look at our top players of the 1st seven games�.
Best O player: Kris Brown. Yuk yuk� ok, so he's a special teamer, so someone else needs to get the nod here. But who?? I scoured the dickens out of our roster. Stewart�s pathetic 5 INTs & just 4 TD passes, along with a host of terrible outings, easily disqualifies him. Bus has come on a bit, but due to our overall offensive problems, he hasn�t made the big impact this year. The WRs are all just catching (and sometimes even dropping) little piddly curl patterns. The TE is simply a glorified tackle-eligible. The vote here goes to Richard Huntley. Not only does he lead the team in TDs, but his 9.3 YPC is just about equal to what our sorry receiving corps is averaging. And, Hunt leads all RBs in yards per carry. Runners up: None. No one else is even close to deserving.
Best D player: Earl Holmes. The Hit Man has been a Manster --- half man, half monster. He�s had maybe 1 off-game to date this season, but in all others he�s been a dominant force. He leads the team in tackles, despite almost always being pulled on passing downs, and his reading, hitting, and tackling have all been first rate. He doesn�t get enough glory to garner a lot of Pro Bowl votes, but to date he�s having a pro-bowl season. Runners up: Flowers and DeWayne. Flowers has been hitting and leading. Washington has had a couple slightly off outings, but all in all has provided excellent coverage while also snaring 3 INTs.
Best Spec teamer: Kris Brown. Sure, he has little competition from the rest of our sorry special teamers, but Brown�s 11-11 FG streak has been a great surprise. His KOs are a bit shallow for my taste, but if he can crank that up just a bit, we�ll have ourselves one heckuva kicker. Runner up: Joey Porter. He�s been a superb combination of speed and head-hunting, 2 key ingredients sadly missing from the rest of the un-special teams. Like Ward, who played his tail off last year on special teams, it appears Porter will have to wait until next August to receive any kind of non-special-teams PT, since Cowher doesn�t believe in playing rookies.
The Still Mill