Sometimes a football coach will rearrange his staff without ever officially firing anyone and that may be the case again with the Steelers.
Three coaches have left the team since the end of the season, two under dubious reasons to take another job with another team.
Amos Jones, hired by Tomlin as part of his first staff in 2007, went sideways to Arizona as the Cardinals’ special teams coordinator. That might be explained this way: He was the Steelers’ assistant special teams coach his first five years and only became their special teams coordinator when Tomlin fired Al Everest last preseason. Little good happened on the Steelers’ special teams last season other than the kicking of Shaun Suisham. It’s possible Tomlin told Jones that he could stay as the assistant special teams coach again but that he would seek someone else to fill the No. 1 job. After all, Jones was bypassed after Tomlin fired Bob Ligashesky following the 2009 season (program note: Dave Wannstedt is the new special teams coach at Tampa Bay, replacing the fired Ligashesky). It’s also possible that Tomlin told Jones to find another job before he fired him and he did.
Scottie Montgomery last week left the Steelers to take a job at Duke. We’re told that job will be as co-coordinator of the offense. Duke PR said their current coordinator, Kurt Roper, will remain their coordinator. We’re also told that Montgomery will be the heir apparent when Duke coach David Cutcliffe, 58, retires or whatever.
There are a couple of odd things about this, taken on the surface of it. Montgomery played at Duke and was the wide receivers coach t Duke for four seasons before Tomlin hired him in 2010. There is an opening at Duke for a wide receivers coach because that man, Matt Lubick, took a job as an assistant to join the Jacksonville Jaguars. Now, it was one thing for Sean Kugler to leave the Steelers to become head coach at UTEP – we’ll get to that later – but to become co-coordinator/wide receiver coach/head coach in waiting at Duke, the punching bag of the ACC?
Cutliffe has been praised for “reviving” Duke. The Blue Devils are 21-40 in his five seasons, 9-31 in the ACC. They did go to their first bowl game since 1995 after last season. They played in something called the Belk Bowl down the road a bit in Charlotte and Cincinnati beat them 48-34 to drop Duke’s record to 6-7 for the season.
So Scottie Montgomery, 34, opted to cast his future with the Duke Blue Devils -- in whatever capacity they officially announce when the school gets around to officially announcing his hiring – rather than stay with the Steelers, who went straight to serious self-analysis after an 8-8 season.
Something’s amiss there. If Tomlin – or someone above him – didn’t force Montgomery out, his move to Duke is a strange one indeed.
We were told that Montgomery did not exert enough control over the wide receivers the past season and, with Hines Ward no longer around, the students ran the classroom and became more undisciplined. Their performance on the field certainly would back that up.
At least Kugler left the Steelers to become a head coach in college. Many questioned that move as well because it is the University of Texas at El Paso, a coaches graveyard. The only coach to have a winning overall record there in the past 40 years was Bob Stull, who left in 1988 after three seasons. That counts 10 coaches.
Kugler was well regarded around the NFL as an offensive line coach and that resume could have turned into a candidate to become a head coach in the league, as Russ Grimm’s once did. What is possible is that Kugler’s philosophy did not jive with his new offensive coordinator, Todd Haley, and he decided to get out rather than go through another year of clashing philosophy.
Stuff happens and coaches change their staffs all the time. Mike Tomlin did not even want to change his staff after the 2011 season and it was forced on him when the team did not renew Bruce Arians’ contract.
It is instructive, though, that the only staff change among coordinators or position coaches on defense under Tomlin came when Ray Horton left as secondary coach to become a defensive coordinator with the Arizona Cardinals (and now with the Cleveland Browns). Carnell Lake replaced him. The other three that Tomlin inherited from Bill Cowher’s staff are still with him – Dick LeBeau, John Mitchell and Keith Butler. Jerry Olsavsky joined the defensive staff in 2010 as what is now termed an offensive assistant and used to be called a quality control coach.
Danny Williams became the fourth special teams coach since Tomlin arrived. Jack Bicknell Jr. became his third offensive line coach, and the next receivers coach will be his third.
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