Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Mike Tomlin - New Steelers Coach Adds Six Assistant Coaches

Mike Tomlin's coaching staff is complete

New Steelers coach adds six assistants

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Mike Tomlin said he wanted assistant coaches who were teachers and shared the same football values he possessed. Apparently, he also wanted coaches with whom he had previously worked.

After spending the past four days in Minnesota, getting his family and house in order, Tomlin returned to the Steelers' offices on the South Side yesterday and officially put his coaching staff in order, announcing the hiring of six new assistants.

Heading the list is former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson, whose hiring as quarterbacks coach was reported last week. He will replace Mark Whipple, who was not retained, and has been entrusted with working with the team's franchise player, Ben Roethlisberger.

Anderson, 57, never worked with Tomlin, but he was the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator with the Cincinnati Bengals when Tomlin was working as an assistant coach at the University of Cincinnati.

But four of the new assistant coaches who signed contracts yesterday worked with Tomlin either in college or in the NFL.

They are:

Offensive line coach Larry Zierlein, who was the offensive line coach at the University of Cincinnati when Tomlin was there. Zierlein, 62, was also the offensive line coach with the Cleveland Browns when Bruce Arians was the Browns' offensive coordinator.

Wide receivers coach Randy Fichtner, who coached with Tomlin at Arkansas State and the University of Memphis. Fichtner, 43, a native of West Mifflin, was offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Memphis the past six seasons.

Assistant special teams coach Amos Jones, who coached the running backs and special teams during Tomlin's tenure at Cincinnati. He coached special teams and outside linebackers the past three seasons at Mississippi State.

Running backs coach Kirby Wilson, who was the running backs coach at Tampa Bay (2002-2003) when Tomlin was the Buccaneers' secondary coach. Wilson was the running backs coach the past two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals.

"It's not that we all think the same," Tomlin said. "But [I want] guys who have the base core football values that I have. As coaches, we need to be teachers. Success is built on fundamentals, muscle memory and execution."

The only coach who doesn't appear to have some working relationship with Tomlin is special teams coach Bob Ligashesky, a McKees Rocks native who played at Sto-Rox High School and IUP. Ligashesky, 44, was the special teams coach with the St. Louis Rams in 2005-06 and also spent four seasons at Pitt (2000-03) as tight ends/special teams coordinator.

Jones, 47, also spent one season at Pitt, serving as the Panthers' kicking game coordinator in 1992.

Tomlin interviewed all the assistants last week when he was in Mobile, Ala., for the Senior Bowl practice sessions and indicated they would be hired. The hirings were not announced until yesterday, when Tomlin returned to Pittsburgh.

The addition of Anderson, the Bengals' all-time leading passer and a four-time NFL passing champion, is the most intriguing hire.

After working the past four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, he was brought in to work more closely with Roethlisberger, who threw an NFL-high 23 interceptions in 2006, ranked 11th in the AFC with a 75.4 passer rating and appeared to struggle with zone coverages.

"We have to be methodical at assembling a staff because that's important," Tomlin said. "It's the people."

In addition to retaining six assistants from former coach Bill Cowher's staff, Tomlin said assistant secondary coach Ray Horton has been promoted to secondary coach, replacing Darren Perry. Tomlin will also retain conditioning coordinator Chet Fuhrman, offensive assistant Matt Raich and defensive assistant Lou Spanos.

With the retirement of running backs coach Dick Hoak, Fuhrman is the only remaining member of Cowher's original staff from 1992.

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau was the team's secondary coach in 1992, but he left after the 1998 season to join the Bengals and did not return until 2004.

The New Racism Trick: Acuse The Person Who Complains OF Discrimination Of Racism

This is the new trick of racists. To accuse the person who points to racial discrimination of being racist. One example is the reaction of some Raiders fans to my article which openly identifies that the Oakland Raiders have a pattern of going after young white men for coaching positions.

Rather than admit the problem, they attack the accuser. They forget that racism is the act of putting down someone because of the color of their skin. This can be done by words or by actions; the Raiders openly all but skirting the Rooney Rule and deliberately selecting white men to be head coaches; stopping only to hire Art Shell twice, so fools and idiots can point to their "diversity."

What a laugh.

The New Racism Trick: Acuse The Person Who Complains OF Discrimination Of Racism

This is the new trick of racists. To accuse the person who points to racial discrimination of being racist. One example is the reaction of some Raiders fans to my article which openly identifies that the Oakland Raiders have a pattern of going after young white men for coaching positions.

Rather than admit the problem, they attack the accuser. They forget that racism is the act of putting down someone because of the color of their skin. This can be done by words or by actions; the Raiders openly all but skirting the Rooney Rule and deliberately selecting white men to be head coaches; stopping only to hire Art Shell twice, so fools and idiots can point to their "diversity."

What a laugh.

John Mackey Still suffering from Dementia, remembers playing days with the COLTS

A Great Article By Newsday's Shaun Powell See my Addition at the end

A constant enemy
Mackey among many with neural scars from their playing days

January 30, 2007

At some point tonight on the Amtrak from Baltimore to Miami, a passenger might feel a gentle tap on the shoulder and see a large man balling a fist, ready to hit him with a bit of nostalgia.

"See this?" John Mackey will say sweetly to the stranger while flashing a striking piece of bling. "This is my Super Bowl ring. I scored the 75-yard touchdown to beat the Dallas Cowboys."

This is what he tells people -- on the streets, in the malls, wherever -- not just because the memory of his thrilling catch in Super Bowl V gives him bragging rights. It's also because, in his condition, the touchdown is almost all he remembers about the past.

And the ring. He wears two of them, actually -- a Super Bowl ring on one hand, a Hall of Fame ring on the other. Always. He sleeps with them. He rarely removes them. Which is why he's taking the train to Miami for Super Bowl XLI and not a flight.

A few years ago, while headed to St. Louis for an autograph signing show, he approached airport screening. Security ordered him to remove the rings and place them in the plastic bins. He refused. They told him again. He said no.

Then he noticed these weren't the same friendly strangers on the street who listened patiently when he told them about the touchdown. That's what dementia does. It makes its victims suspicious and also very protective of their possessions, especially the precious ones.

Therefore, Mackey followed his football instincts, which took him from Hempstead to Syracuse to the NFL and allowed him to cover 75 yards on that touchdown catch and run 35 years ago, when he spun away from the Dallas defense.

He elbowed past security and headed toward the gate. He was then, and still is now at age 65, a firm 6-2 and 240 pounds with giddyap. In his mind, he still was the man who starred for the Colts and revolutionized the tight end position.

It took four security jackets to tackle Mackey. In a post 9/11 world, that was enough for his wife, Sylvia, a flight attendant.

"If he could've gotten away and run down the corridor, they weren't going to catch him," she said yesterday. "They'd have to shoot him. And I'm not going to put him up against that."

So they'll ride the train to Miami to watch his old team, the Colts, play in the title game for the first time since their Mackey-inspired 16-13 win in 1971. The trip will take a while, but it's nothing compared with Mackey's long and draining journey to get financial help from the NFL to cover his soaring medical costs.

His situation is not unique among former players who came before the big salaries, who now pay the physical and sometimes mental price for laying the foundation for a league that generates billions in revenue.

Mike Webster, the great center for those Super Bowl-winning Pittsburgh teams, suffered brain injuries and was homeless before dying five years ago from heart failure. Andre Waters recently committed suicide at age 44 after being depressed, perhaps a result of brain damage after playing 12 years as a hard-hitting safety.

Those are just two examples. One report recently said that of the 7,500 former players covered by NFL disability, fewer than 200 receive football disability benefits. These players must prove their disability is a direct result of football injuries in order to collect. The league estimates it shells out $60 million a year in pension benefits; others say the figure is closer to $15 million.

Regardless, it's a cruel coincidence for Mackey. As an outspoken player, he fought for free agency and benefits at great risk to his career. And where did this sacrifice get him? He was snubbed by Hall of Fame voters until 1992, his final year of eligibility. And the NFL players' union, the weakest in team sports, sits under the thumb of the owners.

For many years after his career, Mackey had thriving business interests and successfully raised a family. About eight years ago, his wife noticed changes. He became forgetful about little things. Then she overheard a conversation in which Mackey told someone: "I don't have a sister." Sylvia pulled him aside.

"You do have a sister."

"No, I don't."

"Are you kidding? You have a sister."

"Well, what's her name, then?"

"That's when I knew something was wrong," Sylvia Mackey said. "He went to a bar once, which is something he rarely did, and began singing karaoke with someone. Then he announced they were taking their act on the road. They were going to Vegas. And he was serious."

His health declined, the bills increased. Sylvia Mackey, a retired fashion model, had to return to work as a flight attendant. They moved from Southern California to Baltimore partly to stimulate his memory. He began spending his days in an adult day care center, where the monthly costs almost equaled his NFL pension.

On a whim, his wife wrote a heartfelt three-page letter to outgoing commissioner Paul Tagliabue, urging him to take action. She told him about John's behavior, which became childlike, and the financial and emotional drain his condition had on the family. She explained how his memory was running on empty, except for the rings and the TD in Super Bowl V.

Tagliabue was moved. Within weeks, the NFL created the Number 88 Plan, named after Mackey's uniform number, which provides up to $88,000 a year for institutional care to former players suffering from dementia.

"I expected his reply to be along the lines of, 'We're working on it, thanks for your letter, good luck,' something like that," Sylvia Mackey said. "Paul felt everything he saw in my letter."

Other events in Mackey's life seem hazy. Only the NFL still registers strongly. Seizing the chance, his wife strategically puts his medicine in a box with an NFL address, which makes Mackey anxious to take it. Because dementia destroys a person's hygiene habits, she also taped a fake sign in their bathroom from the NFL, telling him to wash his face and brush his teeth. She signed it Paul Tagliabue.

"Works like a charm," she said.

Football was his life, and after a brief separation, is back in his life again. He stays sharp by watching video of old games, including the two Super Bowls in which he played. He never tires of the 75-yard touchdown play, or showing the Super Bowl V ring. But football does have company for Mackey's affections.

"Before this disease, John was a person who had a hard time saying 'I love you' to his wife," Sylvia said. "But now I must hear 'I love you' 10, 15 times a day."

She laughed. "I knew something was wrong when he started saying that."

Wow: John Mackey: the greatest Tight End ever (except for maybe Mike Ditka, Kellen Winslow Sr., and a Kid from Boston who wore #89)
I first remember reading about this about two years ago. Can you Imagine him Knocking out TSA agents trying to tackle him to keep him from getting on the Plane??

Seriously: This is very sad that until Sylvia Mackey wrote Tags a letter, there was no special funding to help players with in juries of the brain. Nice that they are doing something now, but it's still not enough. The players from the old days could use a little more help, and Maybe the NFLPA could help out a little more.

SI's Mike Sliver On South Beach, Media Day, and Dog Collars

A pretty funny take by Sil, who's already in Miami for The Super Bowl. You can read it with a click here.

Monte Poole - On The Hiring Of Lane Kiffin, Team Problems, And Divided Raiders Fans

Silver vs. Black: Young Kiffin steps into a Nation divided
Column by Monte Poole
Article Last Updated: 01/28/2007 07:47:40 AM PST

GIVEN THE VOLUME, the content and the heat of the correspondence and back-seat commentary in recent months, ever more divided over the past few days, a civil war rages within the Raider Nation.
There is no timetable for its end, because that's just one more thing the two sides can't seem to agree on.
It's Silver vs. Black, a virtual stalemate, indefinitely.
On the Silver squad are the true believers, merrily chugging Raiderade, swaggering about the land, preaching of their team's impending return to greatness under new head coach Lane Kiffin.
Peace in the Nation is at hand, they insist, because Kiffin is the right man. Give him a year or three and the Raiders will reclaim their rightful place among the NFL elite.
Anyone who dares to disagree is, well, a Raider Hater.
On the Black team are realists, who haven't touched Raiderade in years. Branded by some as infidels, they've examined the team's fall from grace through three coaches and concluded it's practically impossible for a fourth toreverse the momentum of this rolling tide of calamity.
Peace? Not likely in the Raider Nation until high leader Al Davis expresses repentance for past behavior and displays a newfound enlightenment.
Anyone in the Nation who disagrees is still drinking Raiderade and losing sight with each sip.
Thirty years to the month after their first Super Bowl victory, the Raiders find themselves fighting not only to rejoin the league's perennial contenders

but to regain their exalted status. Formerly the bad boys of the NFL, taking what they wanted, the Raiders now have the cachet of road kill.
It's not just the 15-49 record, the worst in the NFL over the last four years. It's not just the profoundly pathetic offense, allowing 72 sacks in 2006, while scoring only 12 touchdowns. It's not just the trapdoor under the coach's seat, Kiffin following Art Shell, who followed Norv Turner, who followed Bill Callahan.
Oakland's greatest loss of all might be the respect it once had. In the sports world. Around the NFL. Within the team. Among marketing executives. Those of us who frequently interact with the Raiders still find ourselves astounded by their zany ways, their paranoia, their misplacement of time and energy; no one was surprised last week when a national publication, The Sporting News, labeled the Raiders the league's worst-run franchise.
That's franchise, folks, not team. Worse now, in 2007, than even the hapless Detroit Lions.
And the Silver squad imagines Kiffin is the man to turn it around. Never mind that he's 31, new to the NFL and was hired not to fix the organization but to call offensive plays.
The organization, Davis believes, doesn't need much fixing.
Which has the Black team rolling its collective eyes. Maybe they remember that Al, upon introducing Turner, described him as a perfect fit for the Raiders. Maybe they remember Al promising a return to the Raider Way under Art Shell. Might even recall that it was Al, at training camp, selling the brilliance of his new offensive coordinator, Tom Walsh.
Moreover, they noticed how the conflict between Shell and wideout Jerry Porter played out over the season — without anyone stepping in to address it from above. They noticed how Randy Moss, the appointed captain, openly expressed his skepticism of the team's direction, even blaming it for his subpar effort — without apparent resolution. They noticed how Shell in November, in the midst of an awful season, tore into personnel man Mike Lombardi — without anyone interceding.
Davis did acknowledge the Shell-Lombardi mess the other day, after introducing his new coach. He referred to it as a "terrible rift," saying it "has to be straightened out."
Davis isn't the leader he once was, though, and his team suffers for it. As do the fans, some of whom remain fiercely loyal, while others long for a day of sweeping organizational change.
There was a time when the Raider Nation stood united behind Al, worshipping at the altar of Silver-and-Black. The Nation was vocal, indivisible and strong as its favorite team.
Such surely was the case in January 1977, when the Raiders collected their first of three Lombardi Trophies. Some of that sentiment applied in 2003, as the Raiders prepared for Super Bowl 37.
But much has changed with the team and its fans. Objective view finds the Raiders disgracing their tradition, finding new and creative ways to stink.
So even as Kiffin steps into Al's machine, the team is suspicious, and the fans rage in debate, one half holding their noses and the other half smelling nothing at all.
Monte Poole can be reached at (510) 208-6461 or by e-mail at

Oakland Raiders Hire Greg Knapp As Offensive Coordinator - Oakland Tribune

Knapp time for sleepy Raiders 'O'
Article Last Updated: 01/30/2007 02:40:16 AM PST

ALAMEDA — The Raiders hired Greg Knapp to replace Tom Walsh and John Shoop as their offensive coordinator, the team announced in a release Monday.

Knapp, 43, spent the past three seasons as offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons. He lost his job when the Falcons fired coach Jim Mora and new coach Bobby Petrino decided against keeping Knapp.

Knapp had the latitude to call plays in Atlanta and also asoffensive coordinator with the 49ers from 2001-03. That won't be the case in his new role.

New Raiders coach Lane Kiffin said in his introductory news conference last Tuesday that his offensive coordinator will "assist me in daily plans and activities." Come game time, the play-calling will be Kiffin's responsibility.

"I'll call the plays for us to make sure that my name's on this franchise, and my name's on this team, and my name's on this offense. That it's run the way I want it to be run, and that it remains a highly explosive offense that is attacking at all times," Kiffin said.

In the team release, Kiffin said of Knapp: "He shares the same vision and passion for what it will take to bring an explosive offense back to the Raider Nation. His history of getting his quarterbacks to play at an elite level is second to none."
Fired coach Art Shell entrusted the play-calling to Walsh and Shoop last season. Walsh called the plays for the first 11 games last season. Shoop handled the play-calling duties the final five games. The results were disastrous.

The Raiders (2-14) scored a league-worst 168 points last season and only 138 of those came offensively. Their offense scored only 12 touchdowns in 16 games, a statistic that managing general partner Al Davis called "unbelievably bad."
Knapp did not return a phone call.

The Falcons led the league in rushing each of the past three seasons. The Raiders finished 29th last season. The Raiders and Falcons ranked 31st and 32nd, respectively, in passing offense last season.

Shoop left the Raiders for the offensive coordinator vacancy at the University of North Carolina earlier this month. Walsh has one year remaining on his contract, and he likely will be kept on as an adviser or released after reaching a settlement.
Knapp interviewed for the Raiders coaching vacancy in 2004 but withdrew his name from consideration once Mora got hired by the Falcons one day later. Knapp followed Mora to Atlanta after spending nine seasons with the 49ers.

Knapp also interviewed with the Cleveland Browns about their offensive coordinator's job but got passed over.

In other news, Kiffin still is awaiting word from former Falcons offensive line coach Tom Cable about an offer to assume the Raiders offensive line coaching position.

Also, Kiffin met with his entire coaching staff for the first time Monday. He likely will make decisions on whether to retain assistant coaches such as Walsh and Jackie Slater in the coming days. Most of the defensive coaches already are under contract, including defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.