By Jeremy Hritz
Jim Irsay, who is becoming more eccentric with each passing day, and the Indianapolis Colts wasted no time in hiring a replacement head coach for Jim Caldwell. Nor did they hesitate in hiring a new offensive coordinator. Within eight days, Chuck Pagano, one-time defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens, was hired to replace Caldwell, with the embattled and “retired” Bruce Arians following a few days later.
Some Steelers’ fans may be looking at the Colts with envy, not because the history and tradition of the Colts’ franchise, but because of the swiftness that they moved with to bring in their new leader and offensive coordinator. However, if anything can be gleaned from the search for a new offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh, it is that the organization is taking their time to ensure that all of the necessary research is done before they collect signatures on a contract. Coach Mike Tomlin and Art Rooney II are doing their homework, and that is a good thing.
After Bill Cowher retired in 2007, 17 days passed before it became known that Tomlin would be his successor. As of Thursday, February 2, 2012, the Steelers have spent 13 days conducting their search for a new leader of the offense. As Steelers’ fans, we should be thankful that we don’t have self-absorbed ownership as they do in Indianapolis (Irsay, let your players make the stupid comments on Twitter), and we should be thankful that the Steelers are doing their due diligence to ensure that the right man for the job succeeds Arians. Patience is a virtue, and in a current NFL characterized by hasty personnel decisions, the Steelers are committed to the values that have made them the quintessential franchise.
From who seems to be the most likely candidate in quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner, to Mr. I-have-never-played-a-down-of-football, Todd Haley, and recently fired Raiders coach, Hue Jackson, speculation about who will assume the OC responsibility is wide and wild. Whomever the Steelers chose, what is clear is that their choice will have all of the groceries to make one damn good meal with a franchise quarterback with two rings, a wealth of young and fast receivers, and a variety of running backs, each of whom bring different talents to the position. The greatest area of need, the greatest challenge, is that of the offensive line, which has been the sub-standard dating back to the 2006 season.
And this is where I stray from conventional wisdom.
Sean Kugler, 45, who expressed in an interview with 93.7 The Fan, that “[he] would have no interest in that job,” should be the offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers for the 2012-2013 season and beyond. Now, whether or not his comments were made so that he was being respectful to his colleague in Arians, it is impossible to tell. But, from what we know about the Steelers, and their penchant for hiring young coaches (see Cowher, 34 and Tomlin, 35), don’t count Kugler out just yet. “Koogs,” who served Boise State as their offensive line coach in 2006, earned high praise from head coach Chris Petersen, the only NCAA football coach to win the Bear Bryant award twice, which is given to the best NCAA football coach, when he said that Kugler is “the best football coach I’ve ever been around.” That is some pretty significant recognition from a coach who boasts a 73 and 6 record at Boise State. What also cannot be ignored is the job that Kugler has done over the past two years with the Steelers’ offensive line with considerably average talent outside of Maurkice Pouncey and a myriad of injuries. Any coach who can make it work (see 12 and 4) with Jonathan Scott and Trai Essex is legit.
Kugler, a former guard at UTEP, has yet to assume a coordinator role. With Rooney desiring to resurrect the team’s running attack, Kugler could be the coach who could do just that. And with the Steelers’ history of giving opportunities to young coaches, it may be his time. Even though he has stated he is not interested, I’m not buying it yet. Especially if Mr. Rooney says that he is.