Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Regarding Bruce Arians

Despite his role in bringing home Lombardi Trophy #6, Steelers loyalists run hot and cold and mostly leery of offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. I'm trying to figure out where perception meets reality, where Arians is legitimately questionable, and in what instances the fans have pierogies for brains.

Good Bruce Arians is now a Super Bowl winning coordinator. It's really hard to argue with that.

Bad Bruce Arians might could be the coordinator equivalent of Barry Switzer in that regard. Yup. Switzer won a Super Bowl. No denying it. But nobody in her right mind thinks Switzer was the better coach on the field that day. Is Arians another lucky interloper?

Good Bruce Arians a/k/a BA, works so well with Pig Ben that Roethlisberger finished the 2009 season with a quarterback rating of 100.8 and was second in the league in yards per pass attempt (8.55 yards). Yes, Pig Ben is one of the five best QB's in the league, but you have to credit Arians with at least some of that success.

There is not a scintilla of interest in Bad Bruce Arians for any NFL head coaching openings. When a team wins a Super Bowl, generally that team's coordinators are at the top of the head coaching wish lists. Yet BA wasn't on anybody's short list or long list or any kind of list, except maybe some fan sh*tlists.

Good Bruce Arians was in no way responsible for the defensive collapse or special teams entropy of 2009.

Bad Bruce Arians has been the Steelers OC for three years and only once in that time did the Steelers offense crack the top 10 in terms of points scored per game (2009 average of 23.0 points - 12th; 2008 average of 21.7 - 20th; and 2007 average of 24.6 - 9th). Hardly Don Coryell-type stats.

Good Bruce Arians Started his Steelers tenure as the wide outs coach under Bill Cowher. In that time, he took a very unfocused Plaxico Burress and got him to focus, so much so that Plax got a big free agent payday with the Giants, won a SuperBowl and promptly shot himself. But I don't think we can hold old BA responsible for Plax carrying a handgun around in his sweatpants. BA also had his hand in: making Hines Ward one of the premiere wide outs in the league; transforming Antwan Randal El from a middle of the pack guy to Super Bowl superstar and overpaid free agent; taking wide out Santonio Holmes from draft pick to burner to Super Bowl superstar (he does not, however, provide 'Tone with his doobage); and utilizing the freaky speed of Mike Wallace.

Bad Bruce Arians stinks in the red zone. His play calling is pedestrian and predictable. The Steelers scored just 27 touchdowns in 56 trips to the redzone -- only 48.2 percent. Bah.

Good Bruce Arians knows that this is a pass-first league. The Indy Colts made it to the Super Bowl throwing the ball 601 times and running it just 366 times. The Saints passed 544 times versus 468 rushes.

Bad Bruce Arians doesn't run the ball enough. The Saints and Colts may have made it to the Super Bowl by throwing more than they ran, but the Jets made it the whole way to the AFC Championship game by running the ball 607 times and throwing only 393 times. The once pass-whacky Cincy Bungles threw the ball just 477 times (running it 505) and they won the AFC North.

I'd say there are strong arguments to be made on either side of the Arians debate, but this one is the tipping point for me:

Good Bruce Arians knows that he has one of the five best quarterbacks in the league and a mad fumbler, Rashard Suspect Mendenhall, for a premiere running back. If you were Arians, would you hand the ball to Suspect? Or give it to Pig Ben?