New Coordinator - Old Problem Revisited?
First went Chan Gailey, then Ray Sherman and now Kevin Gilbride. The list of offensive coordinators under Bill Cowher will grow by one more to start the 2001 season. And from the murmurs leaking to the public, it sounds like it is all but Mike Mularkey's job. While Gilbride's overly complex offensive scheme did nothing to improve the passing game in two years, is canning Gilbride just forcing the Black 'n Gold to revisit problems of the past all over again? Kordell has, in the past, publicly stated that changing coordinators has retarded his progress. With young receivers and Kordell at the helm, will we all be doomed to watch a floundering offense again? Is Mularkey really the man to get the job done?
Mularkey started his coaching career as an offensive line coach at Concordia College. Then, from '94-'95, he moved to the NFL first as quality control coach, then as tight ends coach for Tampa Bay. He's been tight ends coach in Pittsburgh since '96. His experience is not vast, yet those close to the team say he's thorough, he knows the running game and he's a perfect fit for the job. Maybe he's just the man for the job since he's an insider. Maybe that's exactly what the Stillers need since he's:
- Someone who already has experience dealing with Stewart
- Someone who understands the running game
- Someone without a preset, fixed scheme (a la Gilbride)
- Someone who understands how tightends can help the passing game
I'm not usually a big fan of keeping choices within the family -- especially when something needs revamped (like the Stillers' offense). But, I also think that this is a case where a complete overhaul would be detrimental to the team's progress. The team overachieved this year and in so doing, gained a feel for winning games. That should not be thrown away. Rather than one step forward and two steps back, Pittsburgh needs to try take another step forward and build off this year's efforts. Completely scrapping the offense is not the answer, rather they should trim the passing game and simplify the existing schemes. Mularkey might be able to do that for several reasons:
- He's been with the Stillers for several seasons and knows the personnel
- He understands Cowher
- He understands Kordell
- He's respected by the players
With his existing knowledge, he can build off the progress made late in the year. He should have a rapport with many of the players and coaches which will allow him to hit the ground running rather than wasting time getting to know the players, gaining their respect, and then moving forward.
Nothing is set in stone, but I hope to Mularkey takes the offensive reigns next season. He might be young (39), he may not have experience as an offensive coordinator, but then again, maybe those are good things. And just maybe, he can avoid revisiting the problems we've seen after changing coordinators in the past.