It Has to Be Tomlin
By CK Stiller
Has any decision been more critical to the future of the franchise in the past 15 years than who will replace Cowher? I can only think of a few that this team made that could even come close in terms of impact. The trade for Bettis, or the drafting of Roethlisberger. Neither would seem as significant, though, as this one. Now that the candidates have been taken down to three, though, I donít know if the decision could be clearer. Tomlin is the man for the job. Neither of the other two candidates measures him to him.
In my mind, there is no case to be made for Grimm. As Iíve already said, his unit was a disaster last season, and has generally been overrated. He has been given more talent than any other aspect of this team. More money has been invested into his playersí salaries. Yet, perhaps no other unit on the team had so much to do with the teamís drastic decline. These stats and facts do not lie.
No line best illustrates Grimmís true ineptitude quite like this line from the Post Gazette: ďGrimm has been involved in the game plan on offense and made the halftime adjustments for the Steelers.Ē I know Iím not the only one who was thinking after that line, ďWhat halftime adjustments?Ē The track record speaks for itself here. Throughout the entire Cowher era, the Steelers are just 23-71 when trailing at the half. Halftime adjustments? If these were being made by the Steelers over the years, they were terribly ineffective.
Grimm, though, has even failed to inspire confidence in his interviews. He made the following statement in the Gazette: "I feel confident as far as when to use timeouts, when to throw the (challenge) flag, when to run or pass, when to punt, when to go for it," he said. "Sometimes they're gut feelings, sometimes everybody in the stands feels one way and you feel another. Am I saying I'm not going to make any mistakes? No. But the more you coach, the more you see and those things come up and you learn from them."
What are you getting with Grimm? From the looks of things, a poor manís Bill Cowher. I question to even give him that much credit. If heís a playerís coach, his lines have look unmotivated. If heís more of a strategist (doubtful), his unit has looked confused by the blitz weekly. Do I even need to mention the disaster in Baltimore, when his line gave up a franchise-worst 9 sacks? Pass protection has always been poor under Grimm. The team is using the same run blocking schemes they always have. This guy shouldnít be in the discussion for head coach. After a season like this past one, we should be wondering if heís going to get canned.
Riveraís resume really starts with the Eagles. He was hired in 1999 as their LBís coach. The defense was 25th in the league. 28th against the run. It jumped up to 10th in the league the next season, but was still 20th against the run. 7th in 2001, but still just 18th against the run. In 2002, they once again rose to 6th in total defense. The run defense was respectable - 9th in the league. 20th in terms of YPC (4.26 per rush). The next season, they plummeted back down to the 22nd spot in terms of run defense. Their overall ranking was 22nd, as well.
Some of you may be asking, who cares? His defenses in Chicago have faired little better in stopping the run. In 04, they were 25th. In 05, 11th. Of course, who can forget what the Steelers did to them down the stretch? His vaunted defense was taken for a ride. They were physically dominated all game long. And while the 06 Bears have good rankings on paper against the run, it has been a glaring flaw at various points in the season. They allowed 5 100 yard rushers (Chester Taylor fell just short at 99). Shawn Alexander had a huge day against them just last week.
The run defense has been a weakness of the Bears. It was a weakness of the Eagles. The Eagles were a team that fell disastrously short in the playoffs ever year, and so far, the Bears defenses have been lit up in their two playoff games under Rivera. This is a man whose defense depends on physically imposing its will on the other team. The cover-2 was installed by Lovie Smith, not Rivera. How much success can he really be given for the defense in Chicago, and how good is it really? I think weíll see him and that defense exposed for a third straight playoff game when they play the Saints this Sunday.
If thereís something to be said to Riveraís credit, unlike Grimm, itís that he may be a coach who actually knows how to motivate his players. Then, just not before big playoff games, apparently. Iím a little tired of the motivator type. Iím a little tired of having teams that look flat come playoff time, too.
The Vikings run defense allowed just 985 yards on the ground at just 2.8 YPC this past season. Thatís in stark contrast with Riveraís teams. Only Steven Jackson went over 100 yards on them, and that was in week 17. Their run defense ranks as the second best of the Super Bowl era, behind only the 2000 Ravens. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that this same run defense allowed 1800 yards at 4.0 YPC just the year before (19th overall). This propelled the Vikings to the 8th ranked defense in the league. They were 21st in the league the year before.
The one complaint that has been raised is the play of the secondary. Minnesota was ranked dead last in terms of passing yards allowed. Then, itís a bit misleading. Opposing QBís had a QB rating of just 73.1, which was the fifth lowest of any defense. They allowed the fourth fewest passing TDís in the league (15). Their 21 INTís were good for 5th in the league. They allowed just 6.3 YPA. They did this while lacking any sort of pass rush from their DEís (all five of them combined for just 13 sacks). They had 30 on the season, good for just 26th in the league. Tomlin didnít even have the luxury of working with his own players. He did this mostly with the players who were on the roster the year before.
Tomlin, though, also showed flexibility. Heís talked about the importance of finding the best scheme to fit his players. The Vikings did not have the players to run a cover-2. He was forced to run a more aggressive, blitzing defense. The team saw drastic improvement under him, and there is little doubt they will see even more improvement when they start getting their draft picks on the field.
Of these three men, there is no denying who has the best track record. Tomlin hasnít even begun his career, though. The man is only 34, yet has already shown more than either Rivera or Grimm as a coach. Cowher, too, was just 34 when hired by the Rooneyís. Noll was just 37. There is no doubt in my mind that Tomlin is the right man for this job. Of these three candidates, he is the only one I believe is capable of continuing the legacy of the two men before him.
Who Ride? .... we do, of course.