Starkey: One last debate over Arians
If we're talking lightning-rod local sports figures since 2000 -- and why wouldn't we be• -- then Bruce Arians deserves special mention.
He might even be in the Hall of Fame.
Kordell Stewart, Bill Cowher, Bob Nutting, Ben Roethlisberger, Marc-Andre Fleury, Mike Mularkey, Tommy Maddox, Matt Cavanaugh, Walt Harris and Dave Wannstedt, among others, spring to mind.
The mere mention of any of the above could spark weeks of irrational talk-show debate. Sometimes years.
Can you imagine if the Steelers hire ex-Colts coach Jim Caldwell as their new offensive coordinator• Within three games his blank stare would become a reliable source of fan fury.
Arians was magical in his ability to inspire rage. When he "retired" Friday -- kind of the way Wannstedt "resigned" from Pitt -- lines lit up with desired replacements.
I swear to you, the following names were suggested: Harris, Cavanaugh, Charlie Batch, Brian Billick and Jon Gruden. Somebody even mentioned Todd Graham, whose dream job, I hear, is calling plays in the NFL.
He has family here, too.
But forget all that. We'd be remiss if we let Arians go without one more bitter Bruce debate. Let's shoot for a semirational one centered on a simple question: Did he deserve this?
Arians Basher: "Of course he did. The Steelers don't score enough. Simple as that. They finished top 10 in scoring once in his five years here. Score points!"
Arians Defender: "Win games. Work around injuries and incompetence -- did you see the lines this guy had to work with• -- and do your best work in the biggest games. Arians did that. They did win a Super Bowl with him."
Basher: "They won a Super Bowl with Mitch Berger, too. Does that mean he was a good punter?"
Defender: "Berger didn't design the winning play."
Basher: "Big Ben's improvisational brilliance was the key that year. The defense kept things close until Ben would finally burn the playbook, go sandlot and win the game."
Defender: "How about last year's playoffs• Arians put up 31 points on the Ravens and pounded the Jets for a half. Remember, the Jets had just throttled New England's record-setting offense. The Steelers also scored 25 in the Super Bowl. Did Arians fumble in the fourth quarter or miss the block that led to the Packers' pick-six• Did he get shredded by Aaron Rodgers?"
Basher: "The offense stunk this season. A complete waste of talent."
Defender: "One, it was the youngest in the AFC after Hines was demoted. Two, Jonathan Scott started the season at left tackle, a rookie started at right tackle, and Chris Kemoeatu existed. You want to design an offense around that• Three, speaking of talent, it's interesting that so many skill players have realized their potential in this system, isn't it."
Basher: "You have to run the ball more effectively."
Defender: "Who are you, Art Rooney II• They averaged 4.4 yards per attempt, best in a decade."
Basher: "More short passes. They always go for broke."
Defender: "Actually, they don't. And if they stopped throwing long, you'd be screaming, 'How can they waste all that speed?'"
Basher: "Believe this: They should have run it more at Denver. Redman was killing it."
Defender: "They couldn't run until the second half, when Denver expected pass. They also should have scored at least 35 points, except that players kept screwing up. Did you see the errant snap, the mangled 52-yard pass, the Cotchery drop and Ben's fumble at the end• All those drives were headed for points."
Basher: "I'm still trying to get over the wide receiver end-around from the six-inch line."
Defender: "It worked."
Basher: "Of course, I'm still trying to get over Ben's bootleg against Jacksonville in '07 and 32 passes in a wind storm at Cleveland two years ago. Did that work?"
Defender: "No. No it didn't."
Basher: "I'm sick of the excuses. The red zone was the Bermuda Triangle for this guy. We should have called him 'Field Goal Bruce.' A bubble screen to Wallace on 3rd and 7 at the Denver 29. Really?"
Defender: "The bubble screen got a bad name. Statistics say it was an effective play, but let's not let the facts get in the way of a good rant."
Basher: "Give me a coach who'll put his foot down with Ben."
Defender: "If Ben got his way all the time, he'd have been running tons of no-huddle and calling his own plays. He and Arians had an excellent relationship. Besides, what's wrong with keeping your $102 million quarterback happy?"
Basher: "Yeah, keep him happy. I suppose they'll promote (quarterbacks coach) Randy Fichtner, then. Cousin Randy replaces Uncle Bruce. You think Ben won't run him over like The Bus on Brian Urlacher?"
Defender: "This time next year, you'll be sorry they did this. You'll be tired of looking at Jim Caldwell, if they hire him, I can tell you that."
Basher: "Jim Caldwell• Is he the guy with the blank stare?"