The business decision makes sense, but a fans should also show some empathy for Randy Fichtner.
The NFL is a cold-hearted, cutthroat business more than it is the “family” that it is so often portrayed to be. I get it, as a multi-billion dollar business, the family analogy is often pretty hollow. Yet, sometimes it’s impossible to not get sucked into amazing stories of perseverance, Ron Rivera, Alex Smith and the upstart Washington Football Team, and dedication, the Buffalo Bills and the Bills Mafia’s long, long road to prominence.
The men and women on these teams do become family, for better or worse, and the fans of such teams often feel that level of camaraderie, dedication and perseverance on personal levels. The highs are exhilarating, like a night ride on the Steel Curtain at Kennywood, but the lows, well, even real families have moments that aren’t remembered well.
On the back of a Super Bowl title, the worries of next season just that: next season. It’s a time of celebration, players and fans alike letting the warm glow of success sustain them through the rest of winter. The heroic veterans can ride off into the sunset, or, if they’re particularly well-liked, they can allow the pleas of “One more season!” to lure them back for one more run. Regardless, it’s a peaceful time of contentment.
On the back of another first-round exit, with that last warm glow of success extinguished, heads will roll.
The Steelers haven’t won a Super Bowl since the 2008-09 season and haven’t made it back to that the grandest stage of them all since 2010-11. The Penguins have won THREE Stanley Cups since the last Super Bowl title, and while Pittsburgh will always adore its Penguins, the Steel City is a football city through and through.
The first-round embarrassment against the Cleveland Browns will sting for a long time, but it’s just the latest in a string of playoff letdowns. The Steelers haven’t won a playoff game now since 2016. Heads will roll, and the first was Steelers’ offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner.
Much like former Steelers’ OC Todd Haley before him, Fichtner became a lightning rod during his two seasons in charge of the Steelers’ offense. However, Fichtner’s system stalled out this season, his play-calling becoming stale and unimaginative, his failed leadership requiring Ben Roethlisberger and company to operate a two-minute offense for entire halves to even show up on scoresheets. It was clearly time for a change, and Steelers’ fans should be happy about the decision, but don’t run Fichtner out of town.
By all accounts, Fichtner is a good man, who spent a decade and a half giving his all to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Since 2007, Fichtner has served the Steelers in some capacity. For a few seasons, including that last Super Bowl victory, he was the wide receivers coach. In 2010, he was promoted to quarterbacks coach — a role he served until being promoted to OC in 2018.
Former Steelers’ lineman Trai Essex, a member of both Super Bowl teams from the 2000s, took to Twitter to defend his former coach from the masses who celebrated his non-renewal.
Randy had a rough go of it as OC but I have never met a more genuine, pure hearted dude in the NFL. Keep the criticism to football. If y’all knew someone like Randy, you would hope and pray that he lands on his feet somewhere great for him and his family! #SteelersNation
— Trai Essex (@TraiDay79) January 14, 2021
For Fichtner, football has been his life. A coach since the late ’80s after his playing career was over at Purdue, his tenure with the Steelers was the longest of his career. His offense was not good this season, for a lot of reasons, but Fichtner’s system shoulder a lot of blame. He’s had success in his career, but this season was just not one of them.
In that time, Big Ben and Fichtner developed a close bond – evidenced by Fichtner’s appointment to OC following Haley’s dismissal. But it goes deeper than just Big Ben, as former Steelers’ wide receiver Mike Wallace agreed with Essex.
All facts bro one of the coolest guys ever
— Mike Wallace (@Wallace17_daKid) January 14, 2021
Fichtner made his mark in Pittsburgh, but at the end of the day, his impact just wasn’t what he probably would have wanted — surely not what fans would have wanted — and he was let go.
It was the right decision, the only decision if the Steelers want to attempt to start to fix the issues on the offense, and while it might be the best decision for the team, it’s the end of an era for a good man.
We should be thankful the Steelers are making moves to improve the team, but we shouldn’t just dismiss Fichtner. He’ll always be a part of Steeler Nation and this family — for better or for worse.