Replacing someone who didn’t do the best job can be viewed as an easy transition.
I remember when I began my coaching career, I coached Boys High School Varsity lacrosse in the state of Maryland, and I applied for my first job. Believe it or not, I applied for an assistant position, after just finishing my playing career in college.
As I walked into the principal’s office for the interview, I saw the Athletic Director and sat down. The first thing out of their mouths was shocking, “Our head coach just quit, would you be interested in being the head coach?”
Shocked by the news, I didn’t hesitate to take the job. Forget the fact I didn’t feel equipped to be a head coach at the varsity level, I took the position without thinking. The program I took over was bad. There is no way around it. I was teaching players how to throw and catch, not focused on specific offensive and defensive systems.
I coached at this school for one year. We won only one game, and then I was hired as a teacher in a different county, and was brought on to coach the high school’s varsity program.
My resume was far from stellar, but I went from a program who was just happy they had a coach who had played lacrosse before, to a program with experienced players who were ready to have their program go from good to great.
Expectations changed drastically overnight.
I’m not about to go into my 13 year tenure at this new school as the head coach, but I will say there was a lot of pressure to perform. No longer was being competitive enough to get by, but wins were necessary.
I feel this is a similar situation to Matt Canada, who is taking over for Randy Fichtner as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive coordinator. The struggles of Fichtner are well documented, and don’t need to be discussed at length in this article, and one might think Canada will have an easy job taking over for the often inept Fichtner.
But when you think about it, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Canada will take over an offense which, despite putting up solid numbers early in the season, struggled down the stretch. A large reason for those struggles were predictability from the play calling perspective. But unlike my first coaching gig, Canada takes over an offense which is brimming with talent.
He inherits a future Hall of Fame quarterback, a stacked wide receiving corps, brand new weapons in Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth from the 2021 NFL Draft, and an offensive line which is looking for a bounce-back season.
Will getting Ben Roethlisberger to buy into Canada’s system be a challenge? Most likely, but that is part of the job Canada took when he signed on the dotted line with the Steelers. Before going any farther, it feels as if the connection between Roethlisberger and Canada might be a bit overblown. It isn’t as if Canada is new to the Steelers. His time last season as the quarterbacks coach will not only be valuable experience with Roethlisberger, but also gave Roethlisberger a glimpse into how Canada handles an offense. Don’t think for a second the Steelers didn’t at least consult with Roethlisberger before they pulled the trigger on hiring Canada. Likewise, it is likely the Steelers spoke with Canada regarding his ability to make it work with Roethlisberger before committing to him in 2021. Therefore, the connection between Canada and Roethlisberger might be something which was predetermined before the future of both quarterback and coordinator were set in stone.
Outside of the Roethlisberger connection, the Kevin Colbert and the Steelers’ front office has done a great job adding to the team’s depth chart. After free agency and the draft, Canada won’t have any crutches to lean on if the Steelers’ offense struggles this season. If the running game remains dismal, he won’t have the luxury of saying they don’t have a good ball carrier on the roster. The offensive line might be green at some positions, but overall it will be up to Canada, and new offensive line coach Adrian Klemm, to make it work.
Canada has been around the block a few times, but this is his first trip in the professional ranks as a play caller. There are situations when a player/team is playing with “house money”. This isn’t one of them. The Steelers put all their chips in with Canada calling the plays, and it will be up to him to deliver the goods.
I don’t expect it to always be smooth sailing, but the pressure is on Canada in 2021. Will he perform? Or will he fall flat and follow is career trend of not staying in one location very long?
Only time will tell, but be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.