As of yesterday, January 7, running backs coach James Saxon was made redundant by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Head coach Mike Tomlin released the following statement, thanking Saxon for his dedication to the organisation. “I have made the decision to not renew the contract for running backs coach James Saxon. We would like to thank James for his efforts over the past five years, and we wish him the best in his future coaching endeavors.”
The decision, for me, is completely unwarranted. First of all, James Saxon has been nothing but a stalwart for the franchise and an incredible mentor for promising prospects.
At the inception of his arrival in 2014, Saxon helped coach Le’Veon Bell to first team All-Pro status, doubling his rushing tally from his rookie season. That year, he was pivotal in Le’Veon’s meteoric rise to superstar prowess, helping to establish Bell’s now patented patient running style. He’s also due credit for helping to improve Bell on his way to 2 further Pro Bowl appearances in 2016-2017.
In addition, Saxon was also crucial in the development of James Conner. With the absence of Bell this year, James Conner vastly improved. It’s no secret that Saxon helped nurture Conner’s talent on his way to reaching the Pro Bowl this year. Furthermore, under Saxon’s tutelage, Jaylen Samuels rushed for 223 yards on 42 snaps in the three games he started, averaging 5.3 yards per attempt.
My Thoughts On The Release
Outside of the Steel City, James Saxon has also coached Larry Johnson and Adrian Peterson. With both being two perennial Pro Bowlers, it does nothing more than spark further confusion.
In my opinion, the only way this move is made possible is by the higher-ups. Some speculation has been made that perhaps Kevin Colbert or Art Rooney II made the move in order to demonstrate that Tomlin is no longer in full control. That said, I find it hard to imagine a decision like that being made. Mainly because Mike Tomlin is a stout believer in himself and his staff, thus I don’t think he’d stand for decisions being made on his behalf. On the other hand, the decision may have been made by Tomlin himself. Clearly the dynamic within the locker room needs to be altered, with many stating there’s too many “Tomlin guys”. Which by some reports, Saxon is.
Regardless, I particularly dislike this move. James Saxon, as aforementioned, has been excellent in his four years with the team. More importantly, there are larger issues to be dealt with like that of Keith Butler. With Butler in mind, he may be on his way out too, but that remains to be seen.
Wherever coach Saxon lands next will be of betterment to that franchise, and a further loss to ours. That’s for certain.
Image Rights – steelers.com