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Old 08-03-2006, 07:32 AM   #1
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Default Whisenhunt Heir Apparent?

Steelers' Whisenhunt heir apparent to Cowher?
Thursday, August 03, 2006

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Maybe it was because a demonic highlands sun had turned the floor of Saint Vincent's natural amphitheatre into a microwave, and maybe it was that 80-some Steelers each seemed at that moment a viable candidate for spontaneous human combustion, but as offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt left the practice field in the merciless daylight yesterday, the prospect of being somewhere else seemed like an appropriate question.

"You know," someone mentioned, "you could be spending this week at the Napa Valley Marriott Resort and Spa, summer home of the Oakland Raiders."

"Instead of beautiful Latrobe?" quipped the o.c.

The Steelers' gifted play-caller came within an oft-chronicled Al Davis compulsion of being the head coach in Oakland the week after Super Bowl XL, with only the eccentric owner's chronic inability to dismiss himself totally from the football operation likely sending Whisenhunt back into the arsenal of one William Laird Cowher.

"I don't think about it now," Whisenhunt said.

Fair enough, but if he did think about his own career path, rather than merely the innovative ways in which he'll probably coax another 5,000 yards from this Steelers offense in 2006, those thoughts would be ricocheting through a very different context than the one he inhabited in February. At that time, no one knew the correct interpretation of Cowher's comments on the morning after Steelers 21, Seahawks 10, to wit: "The rest of this week I'm going to sit back and reflect for the first time on this football team, on this season, and on what we were able to accomplish. You're taught with other players never to reflect when you're in the middle of something, and I really like to practice what I preach. But I can tell you, this I'm going to do a lot of reflecting and enjoying every minute of it."

In hindsound, the auditory equivalent of hindsight that I just made up, it seemed that Cowher took a little too long getting from one end of the word "lot" to the other: "I'm going to do a lohhhht of reflecting." But, of course, like hindsight, hindsound is 20-20. Or something.

Obviously, we all know about the big house the Cowhers have purchased near Mt. Pilot, the maturing of the three basketballing daughters and the notion that the head coach might have reflected all the way to where, if he can't see the end of his career, he can certainly see the end of the black-and-gold part. With negotiations essentially stalled on a contract extension for the Jaw, Whisenhunt goes from somebody's-head-coach-before-too-long to the heir apparent in the Noll-Cowher lineage that's made winning football and Pittsburgh virtual cultural synonyms.

"I've been around a very successful organization [going on six years]," was about all Whisenhunt would say about such naked speculation yesterday. "I've always felt I have to do what's right for me and my family, and this is what's right for me."

There are plenty of ways to oversimplify Whisenhunt's impact on the Steelers' organization as constituted, but the one that shrieks for attention is the fact that with this 44-year-old Georgia Tech grad helping to design and calling Cowher's plays, the Steelers are 31-7, including 5-1 in the postseason. (In the five years before Whisenhunt ran the offense, Cowher was 44-35-1 and twice had losing seasons.) The glorious postseason freshest in the memory included a stunning and practically pristine offensive performance through which the Steelers averaged 27 points per game, in large part by converting a staggering 54 percent of their third-down situations, eight of 15 against a flummoxed flock of Seahawks.

You're clearly entitled to any selected postseason moment freeze-framed for the memory, but you'll have a hard time beating Fake Toss 39 X Reverse Pass, the play Whisenhunt spoke into his headset with 8:56 left in Super Bowl XL and the Steelers leading, 14-10. Four players handled the ball on what turned into the only touchdown pass thrown by a wideout (Antwaan Randle El) in the Steelers' Super Bowl history. And wasn't it just the prettiest thing, spiraling most of 43 yards and landing in the dead-sure hands of Hines Ward, who took it deep into the Super Bowl's extensive visual history?

"People don't remember the ones that don't work," Whisenhunt said modestly. "Those kinds of things sometimes work for us because Bill believes in them, and we all have trust in the players to execute them. Those kinds of plays are devised by a great staff, late at night, and a lot of the success we've had is because we've used them in the context of our basic stuff."

But they also work because the gadgets themselves are part of Whisenhunt's basic stuff as well. The Bengals, pursing Randle El hard in the first playoff game in January because they had seen him throw from the same formation, were scalded by Whisenhunt when Antwaan stopped, threw back across the field to Ben Roethlisberger, who found Cedrick Wilson floating near the Cincinnati goal line for the touchdown that put the Steelers up by 11 points as the third quarter was ending. That kind of thing not only electrifies an audience, it inspires an offense even here, eight months later.

"Duce [Staley] and Willie [Parker] seem to think they're auditioning for some type of throwing role," Whisenhunt noted yesterday. "I see them throwing out here every day, it seems. Hines can throw. Cedrick can throw. Santonio [Holmes] can throw. Miller can throw."

Heath Miller can throw?

"Oh yeah," said the o.c.

He wouldn't be mentioning that here in August just to give somebody something to think about would he?

Naw.
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Old 08-03-2006, 07:39 AM   #2
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Default Re: Whisenhunt Heir Apparent?

Heath can throw I love it putting little thoughts in DC evil little minds


great story
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Old 08-03-2006, 08:08 AM   #3
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Default Re: Whisenhunt Heir Apparent?

The more and more I keep hearing from the local media around here, it sounds as if this may very well be Cowher's last season as the HC of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The majority seem to feel that this is his last season (understandable if you add it all up) and that he will take a few seasons off (not fully retire). Just take a break.

I see no reason why Whisenhunt would not be the leading candidate for the HC job. He stuck around and learned from one of the best in the business, knows the players and knows the system. I've been saying it since the Cowher retirement rumors broke, he will be our HC of the future.
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Old 08-03-2006, 08:41 AM   #4
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Default Re: Whisenhunt Heir Apparent?

Dont get me wrong, I love the Jaw. Great coach, greater person. But if Wiz gets the HC position, whether it be after this season or 5 years down the road, I hope he has a good DC to go along with his cornucopia of an offensive mind. IF Dick Lebeau is still around, and I only say 'if' because someone is going to give him another HC chance since he is a master mind of defenses. But anyway, if those 2 are together as HC and DC then with all the talent on the team, then the Steelers may not miss a beat if the Cower leaves.
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Old 08-03-2006, 08:42 AM   #5
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Default Re: Whisenhunt Heir Apparent?

I agree. I think Wiz is our next HC and that's a-okay with me!

I was pleaasantly surprised to read that in addition to Hines being able to throw the ball, Cedrick, Santonio and Heath can also put it up. Sounds like the start of yet another hell of an exciting ride for the Steelers with all of these possible options for gadgets. Wiz will keep those DC's guessing and more than likely pulling their hair out trying to figure out who is going to do what! I'm pumped!
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Old 08-03-2006, 08:52 AM   #6
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Default Re: Whisenhunt Heir Apparent?

I have a hard time picturing Cowher coaching anywhere else...unless its NC State.....

Im on record as believing that Whiz is the next HC....this season will dictate Cowhers future...if we repeat...I think he'll go out on top....
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Old 08-03-2006, 08:54 AM   #7
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Default Re: Whisenhunt Heir Apparent?

My assumption is that LeBeau will not be in the running for another HC position based on stereotypes about age and what a NFL franchise is looking for today in terms of the image (dynamic guy in his 30s or 40s) for the HC.

Assuming this is the last season for Cowher (although in the event the Steelers would be fortunate enough to repeat as champs I think Cowher could not pass up the opportunity to come back and try for a threepeat), if Wiz is the heir apparent I would hope for continuity that LeBeau could be persuaded to return as defensive coodinator. Odd man out under this scenario would be Russ Grimm (among other current assistants), whom I assume is on the short list of potential head coaches for other franchises.
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Old 08-03-2006, 08:58 AM   #8
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Default Re: Whisenhunt Heir Apparent?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackNGold203
I have a hard time picturing Cowher coaching anywhere else...unless its NC State.....

Im on record as believing that Whiz is the next HC....this season will dictate Cowhers future...if we repeat...I think he'll go out on top....
Can't see Cowher coaching on the college level - he has definite ties to NC State but going from the NFL to what will always be a second tier ACC program seems unlikely to me.

I see Cowher recharging his batteries for several yeras with a cush TV job and then coming back somewhere with an ownership stake (with whomever ends up owning the return to Los Angeles franchise?) in several years.
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Old 08-03-2006, 08:59 AM   #9
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Default Re: Whisenhunt Heir Apparent?

i would like to take credit for keeping wiz in town. at the superbowl parade, his car stop right in front of me and I started a chant thatt got half the crowd chanting "OAKLAND SUCKS" "OAKLAND SUCKS"
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Old 08-03-2006, 09:01 AM   #10
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Default Re: Whisenhunt Heir Apparent?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Atlanta Dan
My assumption is that LeBeau will not be in the running for another HC position based on stereotypes about age and what a NFL franchise is looking for today in terms of the image (dynamic guy in his 30s or 40s) for the HC.
Not only that, LeBeau is on record stating that he has no interest in a HC job. In my opinion, LeBeau is better suited as a DC anyways. I think coaching in Cincy put a bad taste in his mouth when it comes to HC'ing.
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