Donahoe's success in the early and mid-1990's is unquestionable. His first three draft picks (Searcy, Kirkland, and Steed), and his ability to replace departed free agents such as Jerol Williams (remember him anyone?) with Kevin Greene, Merril Hoge with John L. Williams and Tom Newberry with Will Wolford offer ample evidence.
But since the Super Bowl what did he do?
OK, he did bring in Cortney Hawkins to replace Andre Hastings, but finding a good number three receiver isn't the same has bringing in a Kevin Greene.
But let's look at the rest of his record.
He brought in Jermain Stephens to replace Leon Searcy. Jahine Arnold to replace Ernie Mills. Will Blackwell to replace Yancy Thigpen. Paul Wiggins to shore up the 0-Line, and I'll speculate that Wiggins was to eventually replace Wolford.
All of these players have turned out to be unbelievable BUSTS. Steven Conely certainly showed that he didn't deserve to be a third round pick.
And while the jury's still out, lets look at some of Tommy D's other recent prime picks.
Jeremy Staat's still got a chance to live up to potential, but so far, he's disappointed. Ditto with Chris Conrad, who recently was demoted from guard to tackle.
As I mentioned before, early on Donahue was able to find mid-priced free agents to replace departed veterans. Likewise, that is a trend that stopped recently.
Travis Davis to replace Carnell Lake? PLEASE! Anthony Brown to help fill the void left by the departure of Will Wolford and John Jackson? I don't think so. And Wayne Gandy -- You've got to be kidding me. I don't care what Steelers Digest says, the guy SUCKED last year.
Free agency in general is something else that bears looking at. Steelers fans need to accept that Dan Rooney is NEVER going to spend money like Daniel Snyder, Jerry Jones or Eddie DeBartlo. This just isn't going to happen. However, the style, if not the substance, of the Steelers decisions in free agency under Donahue's tenure is at issue.
Our web master Tim has brought up the example of Woodson. After Woodson floundered in San Fran. many people (including me) said: "Yep, the Steelers made the hard decision they had to." But after he was cut by San Fran, Rod wanted to come back but Tommy D. balked. I'll agree that Rod never returned from his pre-injury from.
But don't we all remember how our secondary got torched time and time again last year?
In that light, consider Woodson's play for the Ravens last year and Travis Davis' play in Pittsburgh. Who do you think would have been a better mentor for Scott Shields? Rod Woodson or Travis Davis?
Losing free agents is a reality in today's NFL.
But my point here is that with such stars as Woodson, Lake, Thigpen, and Chad Brown the Steelers didn't even TRY to resign them. In most of these aforementioned cases, an honest effort wasn't made, and in the case of Woodson, I suspect an intentionally half-hearted effort encouraged his departure.
Clearly, Tom Donahue was no dunce. On balance, he made more good moves thand bad while with the Steelers. No one can deny that Tom Donahue was a large part of the Steelers success from 1992-1997. That is clearly obvious.
But it is also obviously clear that he made some large contributions plenty to our recent 7-9 and 6-10 seasons.
Now I still have concerns about Cowher's ability to command the respect and thereby motivate this team. The lack of focus, and worse yet, the lack of effort put forth by members of this team in '98 and '99 is alarming.
But five months after the fact I'm not longer so ready to classify Dan Rooney's decision to keep Cowher and dump Donahue as a mistake.
BTW -- Like most of the changes. Your's is STILL the best Steelers website of them all.
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