Could One Game Cost Keith Butler His Job?

Could one poorly coached and poorly planned game cost a coach a job in the National Football League? In almost all cases, including this one, I’m inclined to say ‘no.’ Still, Pittsburgh Steelers’ Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler can’t be sleeping well. His defense gave up 431 yards of offense including 374 yards through the air in the biggest game of his career. Could such a game end up with him looking for work elsewhere?

Because the Steelers’ Organization has the patience of Job, I don’t think Butler is going anywhere. Do I think his status needs to be considered? Yes I do and let me lay out why. 

First of all, Head Coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t exactly get a free pass for what happened in Foxborough Sunday evening. As the head coach, it’s his job to be in agreement (or disagreement) with what the coordinators have developed for each week’s game. The fact that Tomlin was seemingly “OK” with what Butler did is troubling, but let’s stay with Butler.

Butler’s mentor of course was the legendary Dick LeBeau. While there were times I often scratched my head over what LeBeau was doing, he was pretty damn good at his job. Although it took him longer than it should have, LeBeau finally made the necessary adjustment to attack Tom Brady and the Patriots with man-to-man coverage back in a 2011 victory over the Patriots. 

In that game, Brady was held to under 200 yards passing and was sacked three times. I understand the personnel was substantially different then versus now but how do you not at least try something other than zone coverage? Go back and look at the tape from Sunday. There are literally Patriots’ receivers so wide open at times you’d think the Steelers weren’t even on the field. 

Isn’t your job as the protege to learn from the mentor? This doesn’t mean Butler has to do every single, thing that LeBeau did (I’m glad he doesn’t) but against an opponent like this? Why aren’t you reaching into the massive pool of learning experiences to pull out that 2011 tape? Why oh why aren’t you looking at the brutal performance of the first half and saying, “We need to go to more man in the second half?” 

What’s the worst that could happen? Guys get open and Brady finds them for completions? The horror!!

There is little to no chance that Keith Butler loses his job over this one bad outing. We have to put some of the blame on the players here too. After all, they were out of position at times and missed a ton of tackles. But… That still goes back to coaching. 

Butler needs to show he has learned from this in the coming season. He has to be able to adjust on the fly better. I thought he did a brilliant job with this group during their nine-game winning streak but that means little now in the grand scheme of things. 

Keith Butler is safe but his seat should have some warmth to it heading into 2017.

Photo courtesy Pittsburgh Magazine

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