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Is the Position of Running Back Still a Valued Commodity? Not as Much as in Years Past According to the Draft Trends

TUSCALOOSA, AL - APRIL 17:  Running back Trent Richardson #3 of the University of Alabama Crimson Tide runs for a first down during the Alabama spring game at Bryant Denny Stadium on April 17, 2010 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Dave Martin/Getty Images)

It's pretty safe to say that a huge segment of Steeler Nation still loves the running game. It's Steelers football. It's our identity. If you make any case for why franchise quarterbacks and passing the football are the way to win in today's NFL, you'd probably get five counter-arguments from Steelers fans emphatically stating that a good ground attack is always the best way to win a football game.

"Forget about the trends! It doesn't matter what the rest of the NFL is doing! This is Steelers Country, and here, we run the ball!"

However, it's kind of hard to ignore trends in sports because they usually tell a pretty good story.

Growing up in the 80's, I was a huge fan of running backs, and there certainly were plenty to be entertained by. I loved watching guys like Eric Dickerson, Tony Dorsett, Walter Payton and John Riggins take over games either by running away from their competition or running them over.

I was also pretty intrigued by college running backs, and as most of you probably know who read my stuff regularly, I often fantasized of the day that the Steelers would use their first round pick to draft that franchise running back of the future. I would then finally get to watch an awesome Dickerson-esque franchise back play for the Steelers and dominate both the opposition and the record books each and every Sunday.

There always seemed to be plenty of backs taken every year in the first round, but other than the time the Steelers selected Tim Worley out of Georgia with the 7th overall selection in the 1989 NFL Draft (so much for that fantasy), they usually focused their first round energy on building up other areas of the team.

But this isn't, yet, another post by yours truly lamenting that sore subject of my youth. No, this is about the four-decade decline of running backs being selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.

I'm obviously a big enough football fan to know that the NFL has trended towards the air more and more with each passing (no pun intended) year, but I hadn't really paid attention to the number of running backs drafted in the first round in each decade; that's not something you just know off-hand unless you're either Mel Kiper or just plain nuts about the draft.

But I became intrigued by the subject after the conclusion of the most recent NFL Draft. There were three running backs drafted in the first round this year, and that isn't necessarily an indication of a downward trend--for example, there were only three running backs drafted in in the first round in 1984 and 1985 combined--but it did spark my interest enough to do some research on the trends of running backs drafted in the first round, and whether or not there actually has been a decline over the years.

Thanks to wikipedia, I was able to do that research, and the stats tell me that the number of running backs drafted in the first round has trended downward over the past four-decades.

In a twenty year span from 1970-1989, there were 88 running backs drafted in the first round for an average of 4.4 per draft.

That tells me that teams were placing way more emphasis on the run in those days, and they needed a horse in order to carry out their game-day strategy.

However, over the next twenty years, things shifted just a bit. From 1990-2009, there were 65 running backs drafted in the first round for an average of 3.25 per draft.

If there aren't as many running backs taken in the first round these days, what offensive skill position is gaining momentum?

Well, wide receiver, of course.

In the decade of the '70's, there were 25 wide receivers drafted in the first round compared to 41 running backs. But in the decade just concluded--the 00's--there were 43 wide receivers drafted compared to 31 running backs.

These days, receivers like A.J. Green and Julio Jones are being drafted in the top 10--last year, the Atlanta Falcons traded five draft picks to the Cleveland Browns in order to move into the sixth spot so they could draft Jones--while productive running backs like Chris Johnson and Mark Ingram are slipping into the end of the first round.

This tells me that NFL teams are putting way more emphasis on passing the football these days, and they need a gazelle in-order to carry out their game-day strategy.

So, while we might still covet a good hard-nosed running attack here in Steeler Nation, it's easy to see what the rest of the NFL likes.

Franchise backs are still nice to have (who wouldn't want Adrian Peterson as the focal point of their team?), but wide receivers are just a little more valuable in today's NFL.

At least that's what the draft trends say.

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

Weekend Check Down: The Big Stories of the Past Week

*** Discuss this article and more at our Pittsburgh Steelers forum ***


After I spent much of last week lamenting the fact that there wasn't much going on in April; events have conspired to make a liar out of me. I wouldn't say that there have been many really big stories since last weekend, but there has been a lot of news, much of it pretty encouraging for Steelers fans. Most importantly, like clockwork the Steelers started swinging in free agency and they did it in an efficient manner.

Jerricho Cotchery

For me this was the biggest and best news of the week. Cotch well represents the type of free agents the Steelers select. They almost never are the player that folks think about or wish the team would court, but once on board cause people to say ‘that makes sense'. There are a lot of things that recommend Jerricho as a player, but one of the things that stood out to me was an interview conducted on a local Pittsburgh radio program where he was asked about who he favored to win the AFC Championship Game between the Ravens and the Patriots. He said he couldn't respond because he didn't like either of the teams. In Steeler Nation this is what would be called a politically correct statement. And I can say that it was the moment when I began to fervently hope that some way, somehow the team could retain his services.

Other reasons are that he is a fine receiver and an important veteran presence. This latter point is particularly important given the loss of both Hines Ward and Arnaz Battle. And it was reassuring because of the uncertainty surrounding the contract situation of Mike Wallace and the health concerns relative to Emmanuel Sanders. Because of injuries we only got a taste of what Jerricho could do on the field, but it was impressive.

The team, players and coaches, seemed equally impressed by what he brought to the locker room as well. While that probably had nothing to do with the team's decision to cut ties with Ward, it may have helped make it an easier thing to digest. By all accounts this is the outcome that Cotch wanted for himself and his family. When compared to the circus, zoo, whatever you want to call the New York Jets locker room, this isn't too difficult to believe or understand. So it's good for him and good for us. But from a business perspective maybe not so good for the agent of...

Mike Wallace

Seemingly minutes after the announcement of the signing of Cotchery, information was leaked that Wallace would not be signing his tender offer from the Steelers. This bit of news concerned and maybe even upset some folks and it has led to some conversation about trades, holdouts and the like, but I'm not buying.

What our amateur GMs are not taking into account is that the Wallace camp is in a situation of rapidly deteriorating leverage relative to the Steelers camp. As you read this it will be less than a week before the deadline for other teams to make an offer, and if you've noticed those offers haven't exactly been rolling in. Holding out? I see three problems with that strategy, though I won't rule out the possibility that they may go down that road. First, historically speaking using this method to sweat this particular franchise hasn't been much of a winner.

Second, the signing of Cotchery turned a somewhat precarious situation into something much more stable.Last season Pittsburgh had an embarrassment of riches at wide receiver. Before the Cotchery signing all that was in the fold was Antonio Brown and Sanders. Advantage Wallace. Now if nothing changes the team has a very solid receiving corps (the factor that might have precipitated the ‘leak').

Finally, and most importantly, if Wallace wants to have the option of being an unrestricted free agent next year given the questions being bandied about concerning him being a ‘one trick pony', among other things, he needs to have a strong audition year to put himself in the best position possible. With a new offense being installed can he afford to place himself being the curve? The only rationale for holding out would be to try to get the best possible deal on a long term contract, IMHO.

These are some of the reasons I part company with Neal and others who feel that a trade at this time would be advantageous to the Steelers. For one thing there has been something of an undercurrent on this site at least, that the Pittsburgh front office (Colbert/Khan) have been somewhat overmatched by the new financial realities of the league.

Still believe that? I could certainly be wrong but so far they look like they're in control to me. More to the point, trades aren't a big part of the MO of this team. Speaking specifically to the Holmes trade, while there are similarities as far as the contract status of Holmes as compared to Wallace, two other factors were probably what was critical for the Steelers to pull the trigger on that move. First were Holmes' seemingly intractable character issues, second was the level of vulnerability caused by the circumstances surrounding Ben's suspension.

Right now the worst possible scenario, besides some team making an offer at this late date that Pittsburgh can't match, is for Wallace to sign his tender and decide to leave via the open market next year. Wallace, in turn, has every incentive to have a career year, which will cascade down to Brown and the others, meaning a banner year for the receiver corps. By all accounts this will be a deep year for receivers so no unnecessary manipulation is likely to secure a quality prospect if it comes to that.

And it's not just the signing of Cotch that bolstered the Steelers position. It didn't hurt that they acquired...

Leonard Pope

Pope was the week's first free agent signing, and it's worth remembering that tight ends are also part of the receiving corps. Besides being a six year veteran and 6'8" tall, Pope has played for new offensive coordinator Todd Haley at both Arizona and Kansas City. In addition with his familiarity with the new system being installed by Haley, Pope will provide support for group of tight ends thinned, at least temporarily, by the upcoming suspension of Weslye Saunders and the fact that David Johnson, who also resigned with the team this week functions mostly as a blocking H Back. But it wasn't just receivers that were signed this week.

Ramon Foster, Trai Essex, Doug Legursky

Normally very good news concerning a group of veteran linemen; but the enthusiasm was muted given the maligned status of the O line. Many are looking past these solid contributors in search of salvation in the form of other (outside) free agent pickups or (preferably high) draft choices. We like to talk about a sense of history in these parts. Perhaps it's time to inject some history into the ongoing discussion and hand wringing surrounding the offensive line.

A year ago similar hand wringing was going on concerning the defensive backfield. The consensus solution was an infusion of new talent via the draft or free agency. The team did obtain two talented new dbs in Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown, but their contributions were not sufficient to explain the turnaround that led to this group being ranked among the best in the league. It was the improved performances of William Gay and Keenan Lewis, players largely written off by Steeler Nation at the time.

At least two things seem to be forgotten in a discussion of what is wrong or how to fix the offensive line. First, the work at ‘fixing' the offensive line is ongoing. The team has invested high draft choices during the last two drafts (Pouncey and Gilbert) already. Second, nothing could have mitigated against the injury woes this group suffered last season. The list included Pouncey, Gilbert, Starks, Colon, Legursky, and that's the short list of players that suffered significant injuries during the 2011 campaign. Any solution of significance will involve experience, depth and position flexibility all of which are met with this group. Pretty good news.

Lance Zierlein

Neal turned us on to the interview of Zierlein on Steel Curtain Radio with links his two part series The Steelers Project. This is a must read for those seeking insight into the values and methods that drive the Steelers draft strategy.

Mike Tomlin

Coach Mike was selected this week for induction into the William and Mary Athletics Hall of Fame.

Heinz Field to Expand

The Steelers will be bringing a proposal to the league seeking to expand Heinz Field by about 3,000 seats. The new seats would be in the open south end zone area.

The Bounty Issue

Chief among non-Steelers news, Roger Goodell upheld the suspensions of Sean Payton and two other members of Saints management. And Bill Parcells is not coming to the rescue. He decided against coming out of retirement to replace Payton for the 2012 season. Drew Brees is still in contract limbo. The drama continues.

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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Weekend Check Down: The Big Stories of the Past Week

*** Discuss this article and more at our Pittsburgh Steelers forum ***


Easter and Passover greetings everyone. If you read my last post you may question how many really big stories have transpired over the last week, but there has been some news. Like last week I want to begin with something that on first blush appears small, but has, perhaps, larger ramifications for the Nation.

Baron Batch medically cleared

Read Steel34D's piece on this issue in Fan Posts. This wouldn't rise to the level of news normally. A low-round draft pick that didn't survive training camp and has not participated in a preseason game much less the regular season is now ready to give it another shot. So what's the big deal? First the disclaimer; Baron Batch has accomplished absolutely nothing in football terms. Baron Batch is about promise. Some players win our hearts in training camp; Isaac Redman is one of the more prominent recent examples. But the better comparison in this case is with Antonio Brown. Batch had already been injured by the time I made it Steelers training camp in Latrobe. I did see how Brown stood out, in camp and in preseason games. He was, in fact, impossible to ignore. Reportedly, Batch made a similar impression in the short time that he was in view before his injury.

But competence on the football field, as much as it means, is only part of the story for Baron isn't it? We will be rooting for Baron Batch because we are hoping that he will fulfill his athletic potential and contribute in a significant way to the Steelers accumulating more Lombardi's; that goes without saying. But to be honest, Batch is the type of guy that you are inclined to root for regardless of what he's doing. You would root for him if he was applying for a job with your company or applying to attend your alma mater or marrying into you family. He may be one of those rare individuals who may be doing football a favor by his presence rather than the other way around.

However, the true significance here is that Batch may not be unique in character to others of the new or Tomlin Steelers. Brown and Batch are 6th and 7th round draft picks that have created an air of excitement that goes far beyond their relative modest credentials coming into the league. Add to that another player I am rooting very hard for because of character issues; safety Myron Rolle. Up to this point it would be hard to distinguish those players specifically selected during Mike Tomlin's tenure and those who came before. In the majority of cases they are just coming into their own as players and as such are hard to gauge as to how they might impact the team as leaders. Leadership has been a topic of discussion for the weeks since Hines, Aaron and James Farrior were released. Let's assume just for argument's sake that Batch makes it and becomes a big contributor to the team. Would he, along with Brown, be considered as part of the future leadership of this team? Could some common characteristics be identified that might be given the label Tomlin Steelers?

The ‘Bounty' story continues

The current phase of the story includes the appeals by Sean Payton and others of their suspensions by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The decision on those appeals have yet to made as I write this, but that aspect of the story has been overwhelmed by the release of an audio tape by filmmaker Sean Pamphilon of a defensive meeting presided over by Gregg Williams that is particularly damning. Adding additional spice is that Pamphilon's access came through former Saints player Steve Gleason who has ALS, is reportedly distraught because he gave no permission for Pamphilon to release the tape. One thing is certain, regardless as to how these particular aspects of this issue are resolved, the general mood of Saints Nation is not one of contrition. In fact, the reaction of Saints fans is reminiscent to me of how Steelers Nation generally reacted when the hammer came down on James Harrison and other Steelers players over the past two years. Adding more intrigue is the contract situation for quarterback Drew Brees and the possibility that Bill Parcells will play coach for a year due to Payton's absence. This one is just getting started, so stay tuned.

Demetrius Bell signs with the Eagles

The buzz was starting to build earlier this week that former Bills offensive tackle Demetrius Bell might be rejoining his former coach Sean Kugler with the Steelers. We may never know if Pittsburgh was seriously interested, but it is all moot now. With loss of tackle Jason Peters Philadelphia definitely had the greater motivation to get something done. Those who are concerned about the state of the offensive line are still at square one.

Sepulveda out. The Post-Gazette reports that unrestricted free agent Daniel Sepulveda says that the Steelers do not want him to return to the team. This should not come as a surprise given that 1) Sepulveda has had his season cut short by knee injuries during three of the last four years, and 2) his replacement, Jeremy Kapinos has done fine work in his place. This will probably be judged a failure for Kevin Colbert and the front office given the draft position of Sepulveda. In reality this is more a hard luck story rather than one of failure. We wish Daniel good health and better luck in future endeavors.

Preseason schedule released

We now know who the Steelers will be playing during August when the games don't count. The exact time of only one of those games have been announced so far, a home game against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, August 19th, on NBC. The game will be the likely coming out party for whomever the Colts draft in the first round, probably Oliver Luck. The other home game will be the, now traditional preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers. The preseason opener will be against the Eagles in Philadelphia, and an away game against Buffalo rounds out the schedule. These last three games will be broadcast by KDKA in Pittsburgh. If, like me, you don't live in Pittsburgh, if past practices are continued then the NFL Network will broadcast those games either live on tape delay or both.

New uniforms displayed

Nike and the NFL revealed to the world the new uniforms that will be worn by NFL teams this season. Depending upon whether you are a traditionalist you will either relieved or disappointed by what you see. Besides being more form fitting, and the addition of the Nike Swoosh, the Steelers uniforms have not changed a bit, which for a traditionalist like me is just fine. There is still a bit more drama. Given the fact that this year commemorates the 80th Anniversary of the team (The Year of the Fan; another news item that I am combining in this paragraph) there will be a new throwback uniform, the design of which has yet to be released. Check the Steelers website for more information on official team activities and contests related to this event.

Kirby Wilson visits the Southside Facility

This is the real feel good story of the week. Running backs Coach Kirby Wilson who was severely burned over 40 to 50 percent of his body during the week leading up to the team's playoff loss to the Broncos has returned to the team facility for the first time. His recovery is moving ahead of schedule by all accounts, and it seems likely that he will return to his duties with the team sometime during the upcoming season. This is great news for Coach Wilson and his family, the team and the Nation.

The Steelers come to Northern Virginia

You may have heard word of an autograph event occurring in Chantilly, Virginia, just a few miles from where I live in the Virginia suburbs of Washington DC. I honestly didn't pay much attention to it, but a report from my friend Arla, a Pittsburgh native and a member of the Steelers Mafia got my attention; particularly since she included photos in her email to me. It turns out that the Steelers contingent at this event would be impressive by any measure. Representing the 70s Steelers was Joe Greene, Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier. Soon to be Hall Of Famer Dermontti Dawson was also present. And representing the modern era were Hines Ward, Big Ben, Ryan Clark and Mike Wallace. Not bad for Chantilly.

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

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Weekend Check Down: Reviewing the Big Stories of the Past Week


It was unlikely that anything could match last week for the number of blockbuster news items during the doldrums of the NFL offseason, but we didn’t suffer a shortage of news this week either. And there was a lot of Steelers news as well. Let’s start with a feel good item from late last week that may have passed under the radar if you don’t live in the Pittsburgh area.

Transportation Link to Heinz Field Completed

For 42 years fans who didn’t travel to Steelers games by car or boat made the trek by foot over one of the bridges crossing the Allegheny River to the stadiums on the North Shore; first Three Rivers, and now Heinz Field. Last week, a light rail link was completed that will transport fans from the southern regions of the Pittsburgh area, through downtown to the very doorstep of Heinz Field. That’s good news, but it gets even better. The Steelers have subsidized the project such that on game days fans traveling from downtown to the Heinz Field will be able to do so for free over the next two years. Just one more reason to be proud of being part of Steelers Nation.

William Gay Signs with the Cardinals

The Steelers lost starting cornerback Willie Gay to free agency this week, while I lost an important tool in taunting some of the haters in Steeler Nation. Transport Steelers fans in a time machine from this time last year to this week and they would be confused and perhaps shocked by the tone of melancholy reflected in many of the reactions to the loss of Gay. In just one year he went from being a prime candidate for a Darwin Award to being one of the Steelers' defensive standouts. It remains to be seen whether Gay's performance this year was an anomaly, or, as PaVaSteeler has suggested that he will regress under the influence of his former position coach Ray Horton. The good news is that he left with the respect of most fans, with a few exceptions that just couldn't let the anger of past failures go.

It should also be mentioned that this Pittsburgh/Arizona thing is pretty amusing. The Arizona desert has become a reliable conduit for Steelers' players and coaches seeking new beginnings. This Pittsburgh West thing is for real.

The Chairman to Return. It appears that Chairman Emeritus Dan Rooney will be returning to the team sometime this summer. Mr. Rooney, who pointed out that he still is employed as US Ambassador to Ireland, would not discuss the matter, but it is speculated that he could rejoin the Steelers as early as the beginning of training camp in July and would take on undisclosed duties. Mr. Rooney attended the NFL Owners Meeting this week in Florida and his return was greeted by expressions of great respect and joy by his former colleagues. And for good reason. Without his leadership the league has struggled with navigating the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the ongoing issue of player safety and head injuries and other matters. Fans of Steeler Nation and the NFL could certainly benefit from a larger dose of Dan Rooney's wisdom, and it would be great to have him back with the team on a day to day basis.

Mike Tomlin Part 1

The coach was in the news this week for his press conference in Florida. But a significant piece of news came out an interview conducted with Steelers President Art Rooney II.

The Steelers are looking to sign Tomlin to a new contract sometime during this off season. "We're obviously very happy with Mike and the job he's doing and we hope he's going to be here for the long term and I think I'm comfortable in saying that will be the case." Mr. Rooney said in an interview published last Saturday. This news stands in contrast to various reports over the past few months that might suggest a lack of confidence in Tomlin's leadership. At present Tomlin owns the highest winning percentage of any coach in franchise history with four playoff appearances, three division titles and one championship in his five year tenure.

Mike Tomlin Part 2

Tomlin's press conference at the AFC coaches breakfast during the owner's meeting was the first extended session with the media since shortly after the playoff loss in January. The headline was Tomlin's claim that the dismissal of former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and the hiring of new coordinator Todd Haley were both his responsibility and decision. This contradicted the notion that these actions were either initiated or heavily influenced by team president Art Rooney II. Tomlin's silence over the past couple of months served to fuel this sort of speculation, but then again, in the tradition of Chuck Noll there is a tradition of being unconcerned with what others, particularly the media, may think about developments on the Southside. What is the truth of the matter? Who knows?

Mike Tomlin Part 3

The really important news in my point of view, and the piece that should fuel a lot of anticipation among Steelers fans was the revelation of the revamping of the Steelers offense under Haley.

This news has all kinds of exciting implications for Steelers football moving forward. First, it signals a clean break from what has characterized Steelers offensive football for over a generation. At best it can be expected that what will be unveiled this spring and summer will be an offense that is more flexible, more responsive to the opportunities and demands of offensive football in the current era and more tailored to the talents and capabilities of the offensive talent on this team without necessarily breaking from what is thought of as Steelers football. This also signals Tomlin's exerting his philosophy on the offensive side of the ball. When you think about it, Tomlin did not come to the Steelers able to put his full imprint upon his staff. The offense was inherited from that which existed largely from the Cowher years. It is significant to me that the one area of the offense that Todd Haley will not touch is the blocking schemes for the offensive line. Kugler is Tomlin's coach.

The team that will be unveiled this fall will likely be more fully Mike Tomlin's team than any that we have seen thus far. It will be a team that, as the coach implied at his news conference, will have some surprises in store for its division rivals on the offensive side of the ball. It will have new leadership, relying more heavily on players who have spent most or all of their careers under Tomlin. While I have had my doubts about Haley, I have to acknowledge that Tomlin's track record on his new assistant hires have been stellar. If this extends to Haley then it will make the Lake Effect (for example) pale in comparison. For certain it will make the months leading up to the season even more compelling than they ordinarily are for Steelers fans.

For certain it will make the months leading up to the season even more compelling than they ordinarily are for Steelers fans.

No News is Good News

The Mike Wallace Watch continues. As each day goes by, confidence grows that the team will be able to retain Wallace for at least one or two more years. There are concerns. It is still possible, but a lot less likely, that some team will make some sort of massive offer before the April 20th deadline. There are long range concerns over whether the team can retain all three of their Young Money receivers over the long haul. I believe that the results so far validate the strategy, considered risky by many, that the Steelers front office undertook in handling the Wallace situation and by extension quell concerns that they are mishandling cap management and other personnel issues generally. The main concern at this time is that until this issue is resolved the personnel process will likely be constipated, delaying the signing of other free agents.

Season Opener

According to a source with the Denver Post the Sunday night season opener will be played between the Peyton Manning led Denver Broncos and the Steelers in Denver. This potential matchup would be so intriguing and challenging on so many levels, if the league and the networks weren't planning it they should reconsider. To say that it would be a ratings bonanza would be an understatement. The only negative from my perspective is that for second consecutive year Pittsburgh has to play a high caliber opponent in an away game. Additionally, it will mean putting safety Ryan Clark on the shelf as well. But this brings to mind a Tomlinism from a few years back that best characterizes this situation; it's a five star matchup because we're (Pittsburgh) in it.

Rule Changes

One of the rule changes proposed by the Steelers passed at the owners meeting in Florida.

The rules for play in overtime will now be uniform for both the regular season and the playoffs. Another rule proposed by the Steelers banning horse collar type tackles on quarterbacks did not pass. Other proposals such as allowing for a non-season ending injured reserve designation were tabled until meetings in May.

Again, considering the time of year, a busy and significant week of news.

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

Will the Steelers choose Mike Wallace and the future or the past?

It has become blatantly apparent that Mike Wallace either has to get the franchise tag or sign a new contract before the start of free agency or there is a damn good possibility he will be in another uniform next season.  It did not matter which channel I turned on or which site I looked at over the past two days.  They all are hyping the same thing.  Mike Wallace being a restricted free agent will likely land him on another team.
Wallace can only receive a first round tender from the Steelers as protection.  That is a small price to pay for a 25 year old wide receiver who can blow the top off of the defense.  Wallace is going to be a prime candidate on the market.  It is a good year for wide receivers with Vincent Jackson, Wes Welker, Reggie Wayne and others out there.  Most are about to hit or are over 30.  Wallace is about to hit his prime.  The production a team will get out him will well exceed everyone else on this list.
There seems to be four team names that come up all in mo...

Source: Yardbarker: Pittsburgh Steelers

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A Comprehensive Look at Offensive Coordinators in the NFL for the Past Five Seasons


I thought it would be interesting to have a look at the Offensive Coordinator position around the league. As I suspected, there has been a fair amount of liquidity, you might say.

There are several teams that do not have an OC as such. In Cleveland, Dallas, and Arizona the head coach also serves as the offensive play caller, and Chan Gailey mainly calls the plays in Buffalo, although they have a figurehead OC who apparently is mainly the RB coach.

Since the beginning of the 2007 season there have been 76 changes in Offensive Coordinator in the NFL. That isn't the extent of it, since I am also counting new hires for next season, and there are five teams, including the Steelers, who are currently without an offensive coordinator, so presumably that number will go up to 81. It could even be more, as the OC in IND, for example, might be encouraged to move on when they hire a new head coach.

If one were to try to make a flow chart of the movements of coaches between teams, you would quickly get a headache. Or at least I would. During the time when 76 changes were made on teams, 58 men were involved in those changes, which included lateral moves, demotions, promotions, and those who no longer coach in the NFL.

You can find a complete list by team of the offensive coordinators at the end of the post, including where they came from and where they went. Here I've divided them up into what they are currently doing below. As you can see, 10 of them, about 18%, are probably finished coaching. Five of them, or about 8%, are now head coaches in the NFL, and 24 of them, about 41%, are currently OCs in the NFL. Of the remaining 19 men, (about 33% of the total,) five are currently seeking jobs, nine are position coaches in the NFL, and the other five are coaching in colleges or the UFL.



Position Coach, NFL

Chan Gailey, BUF

Darrell Bevell, SEA

Jeff Davidson, MIN

Jason Garrett, DAL

Bob Bratkowski, JAX

Gil Haskell, CLE

Mike Mularkey, JAX

Cam Cameron, BAL

Jim Hostler, BAL

Joe Philbin, MIA

Pete Carmichael, Jr., NO

Greg Knapp, HOU

Pat Shurmer, CLE

Rob Chudzinski, CAR

Greg Olson, JAX

Brian Daboll, MIA

Sherman Smith, SEA

Rick Dennison, HOU

Mike Solari, 49ers

Kevin Gilbride, NYG

Ron Turner, IND

Jay Gruden: CIN

Alex Van Pelt, TB

Dirk Koetter, ATL

Scott Linehan, DET

Mike McCoy, DEN

Josh McDaniels, NE

[Curtis Modkins: OC/RB coach, BUF]

Tom Moore, Sr. OC, IND

Marty Mornhinweg, PHI

Bill Muir, KC

Bill Musgrave, MIN

Chris Palmer, TEN

Greg Roman, 49ers

Al Saunders, OAK

Brian Schottenheimer, STL

Kyle Shanahan, WAS

Tony Sparano, NYJ

HC, University


Norm Chow, Univ. of Hawaii

Turk Schonert: Off. Asst.

Doug Marrone, Syracuse

Bill O’Brien, Penn State

Charlie Weis, U. of Kansas

The following coaches retired, willingly or no:

Bruce Arians: retired

Jeremy Bates: fired in 2011, presumed retired

Jim Colletto: retired in 09

Steve Fairchild: fired from HC position, CO State, Dec. 2011

Mike Heimerdinger: fired 2/11, died 9/11

Dan Henning: Presumed retired

Jeff Jagodzinski: HC in UFL, fired in 2011, presumed retired

Mike Martz: Retired Jan. 2012

Jimmy Raye: Presumed retired

Clarence Shelmon: Retired

This leaves the following five men who are looking for a job at the moment:

Todd Haley: fired as HC, KC, Nov. 2011

Hue Jackson: fired as HC, OAK Jan. 2012

Rick Neuheisel: fired as HC, UCLA in Nov. 2011

Mike Sherman: fired as HC, Texas A&M, Dec. 2011

Ted Tollner: fired as OC, OAK, 2011

As you might suspect, a lot of the moving around was concentrated in a few teams. I've divided it up, and removed cases where the OC was hired away for a head coaching position. Since it's pretty hard to tell exactly how badly somebody wanted to "retire," I've treated retirements as moves. For clarity, I've treated currently open positions as another coordinator, and also treated situations where no new coordinator was hired as a move, since it was a change in the person calling the offense.






































Nearly half of the changes were accounted for by seven teams. Consistency isn't everything, but it has a lot to be said for it.

In the current list of 24 Offensive Coordinators, one-third are lateral moves, coming in as an OC from another team: Bob Bratkowski, Dirk Koettner, Rick Dennison, Brian Daboll, Kevin Gilbride, Brian Schottenheimer, Kyle Shanahan, and Darrell Bevell. Very often position coaches are promoted, either from within the team, as is the case with Bill Muir, Marty Mornhinweg, and Peter Carmichael, Jr., or from another team, as with Curtis Modkins, Rob Chudzinski, Mike McCoy, Bill Musgrave, and Al Saunders - position coaches account for a further one third of the current OCs.

Four of the current OCs were Head Coaches previously: Cam Cameron, Scott Linehan, Josh McDaniels, Tony Sparano; Todd Haley and Hue Jackson may well be added to this list within a few weeks. [UPDATE: steelers-chicago sent the info that Mike Tice, former HC of the Vikings, has been names OC in CHI.] Other sources are the UFL (Jay Gruden and Chris Palmer) or college coaches (Greg Roman.) Tom Moore has been the OC for IND since 1998, so it's sort of moot.

As mentioned above, three teams have no OC. The remainder of the teams have open positions at the moment (CHI, GB, SD, TB, and of course PIT.) It will be very interesting to see how the Steelers fill the open OC position. Although PIT typically promotes from within, as we saw with the hiring of Mike Tomlin, they don't necessarily do the expected thing, and if it is true that Kirby Wilson was the heir apparent, they may look farther afield than would have been expected.

Finally, for those who are interested in such things, here is the information I compiled on the OCs for all 32 teams, beginning in 2007. Enjoy!

Arizona Cardinals

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Todd Haley: 2 years

No OC after Haley left - Russ Grimm is Asst. HC, with various offensive duties

OC(s) Background:

Haley: WR coach, DAL, 04 - 06

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

Haley: HC, KC, 09-11

Atlanta Falcons

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Hue Jackson; 1 year (was under an interim HC)

Mike Mularkey; 4 years

Dirk Koetter, hired 1/12

OC(s) Background:

Jackson: WR coach, Bengals, 04-06

Mularkey: TE coach, MIA, 07; released

Koetter: OC, JAX, 07-11

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

Jackson: WR coach, BAL, 08-09; OC, OAK, 2010; HC, OAK, 2011; fired

Mularkey: HC, JAX, 2012

Baltimore Ravens

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Rick Neuheisel: listed as OC, but actually HC Brian Billick was in effect the OC

Cam Cameron: to present

OC(s) Background:

Neuheisel: QB coach, BAL (2005-06); promoted to OC

Cameron: fired as HC of MIA

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

Neuheisel: HC UCLA, fired 11/11

Buffalo Bills

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Steve Fairchild: most of season

Turk Schonert: 1 year

Alex Van Pelt: 1 year

Curtis Modkins: 2010 - present (but Chan Gailey mainly calls off. plays, and Modkins coaches the RBs)

OC(s) Background:

Fairchild: Asst. OC, Rams, 03-05; OC, Bills, 2006

Schonert: QB coach, NYG, 06-07

Van Pelt: QB coach, BUF, 08

Modkins: RB coach, ARI

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

Fairchild: left to take HC job at Colorado State

Schonert: fired at beginning of 09 season, now coaching in UFL

Van Pelt: fired at end of 09 season, hired by TB as QB coach

Carolina Panthers

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Jeff Davidson: 4 years

Rob Chudzinski: 2011-present

OC(s) Background:

Davidson: CLE OL coach, promoted to OC in 2006

Chudzinski: SD TE and Asst. HC, 2009-11

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

Davidson: OL coach, Vikings, hired 1/11

Chicago Bears

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Ron Turner: 3 years

Mike Martz: 2 years


OC(s) Background:

Turner: HC, Illinois Fighting Illini, 1997 - 2004; OC, CHI,2005 - 2009

Martz: OC, DET, 06 - 07; OC, SF, 08;

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

Turner: fired at end of 2009 season; WR coach, IND, 2010, QB coach, 2011 - present

Martz: retired at the end of 2011 season

Cincinnati Bengals

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Bob Bratkowski: 4 years

Jay Gruden: 2011 - present

OC(s) Background:

Bratkowski: OC for CIN since 2001

Gruden: HC, Tuskers (UFL), 2010

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

Bratkowski: fired at the end of 2010 season, currently OC for JAX

Cleveland Browns

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Rob Chudzinski: 2 years

Brian Daboll: 2 years

(No OC for 2011, as Shurmer is calling the offensive plays)

OC(s) Background:

Chudzinski: SD TE coach, 05-06

Daboll: QB coach, NE, 06-08

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

Chudzinski: SD TE and Asst. HC, 2009-11, OC, CAR, present

Daboll: 2010, ?, OC, MIA, 2011

Dallas Cowboys

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Jason Garrett: 2007 - present (he is both HC and OC as of 2011)

OC(s) Background:

Garrett: QB coach, MIA, 05-06

Denver Broncos

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Rick Dennison: 2 years

Mike McCoy: 2009 - present

OC(s) Background:

Dennison: OC, DEN, 06; OL coach, DEN, 01-05;

McCoy: Various offensive positions for CAR, 2000-08

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

Dennison: OC, HOU, hired in 2010

Detroit Lions

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Mike Martz: 1 year

Jim Colletto: 1 year

Scott Linehan: 2009 - present

OC(s) Background:

Martz: HC, ST, 2000-05; OC, DET, 06

Colletto: OL coach, BAL, 1999-05; OL coach, DET, 06;

Linehan: HC, Rams, 2006 - 4 games of 08

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

Martz: OC, SD, 2008; OC, CHI, 2010; retired

Colletto: retired

Green Bay Packers

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Joe Philbin: 5 years


OC(s) Background:

Philbin: Asst. OL coach, 04-05; OL coach, 06

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

Philbin: HC, MIA, hired 1/12

Houston Texans

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Mike Sherman: 1 year

Kyle Shanahan: 2 years

Rick Dennison: 2010 - present

OC(s) Background:

Sherman: HC/GM, Packers, 2001 - 04; HC Packers 05; Offense coach, HOU, 06

Shanahan; WR coach, HOU, 06 - 07

Dennison: OC, DEN, 06-08; ?

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

Sherman: HC, Texas A & M, 11/07

Shanahan: OC, WAS, 2010 - present

Indianapolis Colts

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Tom Moore: 5 years

OC(s) Background:

Moore: OC, IND, 1998 - 2008

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

Moore: Named Senior OC, IND, 09; Offensive Consultant, NYJ, 2011

Jacksonville Jaguars

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Dirk Koetter: 5 years

Bob Bratkowski: Hired 1/12

OC(s) Background:

Koettner: HC, Arizona State, 2001-06

Bratkowski: OC CIN 2001-10

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

Hired by ATL 1/12 as new OC

Kansas City Chiefs

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Mike Solari: 1 year

Chan Gailey: 1 year + (fired at beginning of 2009 season - Todd Haley called the offense in 09

Charlie Weis: 1 year

Bill Muir: 2011 - present

OC(s) Background:

Solari: OL coach, KC; OC, 2006 season

Gailey: left the NFL and returned to Georgia Tech as HC for 1 year; fired

Weis: HC at Notre Dame, 05-09

Muir: OC, TB, fired at the end of 08 season; OL coach, KC, 2009-10

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

Solari: 2008-09, OL coach, SEA; 2010, OL coach, 49ers

Gailey; 2009 - out of football; 2010, HC BUF

Weis: left to be OC at Univ. of Fla; became HC at Univ. of Kansas in 2011

Miami Dolphins

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Cam Cameron: HC, but called offensive plays

Dan Henning: 3 years

Brian Daboll: 2011 - present

OC(s) Background:

Cameron: OC, SD, 02-06

Henning: OC, CAR 02-07

Daboll: QB coach, NYJ, 07-08; OC, CLE, 09-10

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

Cameron: fired 2008, OC, BAL

Henning: fired 1/2011

Minnesota Vikings

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Darrell Bevell: 4 years

Bill Musgrave: 2011 - present

OC(s) Background:

Bevell: QB coach, GB, 03 - 05; OC, MIN, 2006 - 2010

Musgrave: QB coach, ATL, 06 - 09; also Asst. HC 10

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

Bevell: OC, SEA, 2011 - present

New England Patriots

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Josh McDaniels: OC/QB coach - 2 years

No OC named during 09-10; Belichick called the plays

Bill O’Brien: 1 year

Josh McDaniels: OC, hired 1/12

OC(s) Background:

McDaniels: QB coach, NE, 04-05; OC, NE, 06-07

O’Brien: Offensive Asst., NE, 07: QB coach, 08

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

McDaniels: HC, DEN, 09-10; OC, STL, 2011;

O’Brien: HC, Penn State, hired 12/11

New Orleans Saints

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Doug Marrone: 2 years

Pete Carmichael, Jr.: 2009 - present

OC(s) Background:

Marrone: OC, NO, 2006;

Carmichael: QB coach, NO, 2006 - 08

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

Marrone: HC, Syracuse University, 09- present

New York Giants

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Kevin Gilbride: 07 - present

OC(s) Background:

Gilbride: OC, PIT, 99-2000; OC BUF 02-03;

New York Jets

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Brian Schottenheimer: 5 years

Tony Sparano: hired 1/12

OC(s) Background:

Schottenheimer: OC NYJ 06;

Sparano: HC MIA 2008-11

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

Schottenheimer :

Oakland Raiders

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Greg Knapp: 2 years

Ted Tollner: 1 year ("Passing game coordinator")

Hue Jackson: 1 year

Al Saunders: 2011 - present

OC(s) Background:

Knapp: OC, ATL, 04-06

Tollner: QB coach/asst. OC, 49ers, fired 12/08

Jackson: OC, ATL, 07; QB coach, BAL, 08-09;

Saunders: OC, STL, 08, Offensive Consultant, BAL, 09-10

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

Knapp: OC, SEA, 09; QB coach, HOU

Tollner: demoted for Hue Jackson; fired by Hue Jackson in 2011

Jackson: promoted to HC 2011

Philadelphia Eagles

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Marty Mornhinweg: 2007 - present

OC(s) Background:

Asst. HC, PHI

Pittsburgh Steelers

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Bruce Arians: 07 - 11


OC(s) Background:

Arians: OC, CLE, 01-03; WR coach, Steelers, 04-06

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:


St. Louis Rams

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Greg Olson: 1 year

Al Saunders: 1 year

Pat Shurmer: 2 years

Josh McDaniels: 1 year

Brian Schottenheimer: hired 1/12

OC(s) Background:

Olson: OC, DET, 2005; OC, STL, 06

Saunders: Asst. HC, WAS, 06-07

Shurmer: QB coach, PHI, 1999-2008

McDaniels: OC, NE, 06-08; HC, DEN, 09-10;

Schottenheimer: OC, NYJ

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

Olson: OC, TB, 2009 - 11, QB coach, JAX

Saunders: Offensive Consultant, BAL, 09-10; OC, OAK, 11 - present

Shurmer: HC, CLE, 2011 - present

McDaniels: OC, NE, 2012

San Diego Chargers

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Clarence Shelmon: 5 years


OC(s) Background:

RB coach for several teams, inc. DAL and SEA

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

Retired after 2011 season

San Francisco 49ers

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Jim Hostler: 1 year

Mike Martz: 1 year OC, SF, 08;

Jimmy Raye: 1 year +

Mike Johnson: 1 year

Greg Roman: 2011 - present

OC(s) Background:

Hostler: QB coach, 49ers, 05-06

Martz: HC, STL, 2000 - 05; OC, DET, 06 - 07

Raye: RB coach, NYJ, 06-08

Johnson: WR coach, BAL, 06-07; QB coach, 49ers, 09;

Roman: Asst. HC, Stanford, 09-10

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

Hostler: fired at end of 07; WR coach, BAL

Martz: fired, didn’t coach in 09; OC, CHI, 10-11

Raye: fired at beginning of 2010 season; no further jobs

Johnson: not retained at end of 2010: OC, UCLA, 2011

Seattle Seahawks

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Gil Haskell: 2 years

Greg Knapp: 1 year

Jeremy Bates: 1 year

Darrell Bevell: 2011 - present

OC(s) Background:

Haskell: OC, SEA, 2000-08

Knapp: OC, OAK, 07-08

Bates: WR/RB coach, DEN, 07-08; OC DEN 09

Bevell: OC MIN 06 - 10

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

Haskell: Hired as "Senior Advisor to President" by CLE in 2010

Knapp: QB coach, HOU

Bates: fired by Pete Carroll

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Bill Muir: 2 years

Jeff Jagodzinski: 1 year

Greg Olson: 2 years


OC(s) Background:

Muir: OC, OL coach, TB, 2002 - 2008

Jagodzinski: OC, GB, 2006: HC, Boston College, 07 - 08

Olson: OC, STL, 06-07

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

Muir: OL coach, KC, 2009 - 10; OC, OL coach,KC, 2011 - present

Jagodzinski: HC, Omaha Nighthawks, UFL, 2010

Olson: fired 1/12

Tennessee Titans

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Norm Chow: 1 year

Mike Heimerdinger: 3 years

Chris Palmer: 2011 - present

OC(s) Background:

Chow: OC, USC, 2001-04; OC, TEN, 05 - 07;

Heimerdinger: Asst. HC, DEN, 06-07; OC, NYJ, 05

Palmer: QB coach, NYG, 07-09; HC, Hartford Colonials (UFL), 2010

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

Chow: fired by TEN; OC, UCLA, 08 - 10; OC, Utah, 2011

Heimerdinger: fired 2/11; died 9/11

Washington Redskins

Offensive Coordinator(s) 2007 - present; tenure

Sherman Smith: 2 years

No OC named

Kyle Shanahan: 2010 - present

OC(s) Background:

Smith: Asst. Head Coach, TEN, 06 - 07

Shanahan: OC, HOU, 08-09

Changes (if any) and where the OC went:

Smith: RB coach, SEA, 2009 - present

Source: Behind the Steel Curtain

Get your Steelers Fathead!

Giants edge past 49ers to head back to Super Bowl

Lawrence Tynes kicked a winning 31-yard field goal in sudden-death overtime and New York beat the San Francisco in the NFC championship.

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Stingy 49ers slip past turnover-prone Saints

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Alex Smith completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis with 9 seconds left just after Drew Brees had put the high-powered Saints ahead, and resurgent San Francisco capitalized on five New Orleans turnovers for a thrilling 36-32 playoff victory Saturday.

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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Indianapolis rallies to slip past Houston

Reggie Wayne always will remember the winning catch.
The man with the expiring contract caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Dan Orlovsky with 19 seconds left Thursday night, giving the host Indianapolis Colts their only lead in a 19-16 victory against AFC South champion Houston.

Source: post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL

On the Steelers: No chance of looking past Browns

Mike Tomlin amused many at his news conference while talking about Cleveland's Joshua Cribbs Monday. "We cannot let Josh Cribbs do what he's done to us time and time again in the past. We've been dead Indians in his cowboy movie enough," Tomlin said in a not-quite-PC comment because the coach apparently wasn't talking about the Cleveland Indians.

Source: post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL

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