Alan Faneca, Retirement and Revisionist History

So Alan Faneca retired yesterday. It’s easy to agree with Ed Bouchette when he writes that Faneca was the “the greatest guard in Steelers history.”

But despite Faneca’s place in Steelers history — and ultimately, the Hall of Fame — the organization was right to let him walk after the 2007 season. I figured everybody agreed on that. If not then, certainly later after it became clear Faneca wasn’t nearly the player he once was.

Nope.

TribLive Radio’s Ken Laird tweeted this earlier today:

Which prompted the following tweet from me and the subsequent back and forth.

Here’s the link to the Jets deciding to go with Ducasse or Slauson during the preseason.

And here’s the link to Cards beat reporter Kent Somers talking about Faneca (including the Profootballfocus.com “worst starting guard in the NFL” line).

Laird eventually admitted that “I’m just a huge #66 fan. NY did OK w/ him although it was pricey & AZ was a QB mess.”

I get that because everybody appreciated what Faneca meant to the Steelers. It’s just that the team was smart not to re-sign him. It had nothing to do with what Faneca had accomplished in the previous 10 seasons in Pittsburgh and everything to do with how Colbert and Co. projected him to perform in 2008 and beyond. If anyone has a counter-argument I’m all ears.

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  • t1mmy10

    lol nice.

    from the article: “From my perspective, watching tape, Faneca was still a good run blocker.
    He could still pull and find defenders to block on the second level.
    His pass blocking was acceptable.” i guess when one person says he “had the ability to still pull” and called his pass blocking “acceptable,” that translates into the player still being great in ken laird’s world.

  • t1mmy10

    lol nice.

    from the article: “From my perspective, watching tape, Faneca was still a good run blocker.
    He could still pull and find defenders to block on the second level.
    His pass blocking was acceptable.” i guess when one person says he “had the ability to still pull” and called his pass blocking “acceptable,” that translates into the player still being great in ken laird’s world.

  • Ron

    When we let Faneca walk, he was still probably on top of his game. That wouldn’t have been the problem. The problem would have been what we would have been paying him (including the pro-rated signing bonus) for him to have played the last two seasons for us as a sub-par, aging player. I’d rather be rid of an old player one year too early than one year too late. That was one of the problems with the 70s Steelers once they became the 80s Steelers – loyalty to too many old guys who simply couldn’t compete at a high level any more.

  • Ted

    Interesting back-and-forth, and I think you both make good points. In his defense, spending money on Faneca certainly would have been better than spending the same amount or even more on Simmons and Mahan. However, Mahan was signed to a market-friendly 5-year, $17 million contract that was more backloaded (after we cut him) and only included a $4 million signing bonus. No one thought he would be that bad at the time we signed him, and I assumed he would at worst be an excellent No. 6 man and a spot starter at center/guard at the worst. However, signing Simmons to a 4-year, $23 million extension before the 07 season because he looked good against training-camp fodder made no sense at that time. He was coming off a horrible season, and had already been washed up due to diabetes and a torn ACL.

    While not definitive, if we do not sign Simmons to that extension, we would have been much more likely to handle giving Faneca the $7.5 million per-season hometown discount he likely would have taken. It made no sense to let Faneca walk and then essentially give the same money to a much-inferior player. No chance, though, that we could pay $14 million per season on our starting guards. Moreover, the position arguments favor Laird here, since Chris Kemoteau would probably be better at RG, where he is asked to pull less, faces worse pass rushers and could dominant more in the run game, since we ran much more behind RT each of the last two seasons when Colon (09) and Adams (10) were our most dominant run blockers. Plus, I always thought Simmons should be at LG, because of his lack of power but once-good athleticism.

    However, Laird is wrong and you are right about results. While not as great as he was earlier in his career, AF was still a Pro-Bowl guard in 08. Our offensive line and especially run game would have been much better with him. We might have won the division and not needed help to qualify for the playoffs. Regardless, we won the Super Bowl, so who cares? Can’t finish any better than that, right?

    Our problems in 09 were almost entirely due to the worst special-teams coverage units in modern NFL history and the secondary after Troy got hurt. Although RG was still a weakness and CK would have helped, we did have a 4,000-yard passer, a 1000-yard rusher, and two 1000-yard receivers that season for the first time in Steelers’ history. You can’t tally up those stats if your o-line stinks. While not great, our o-line play was actually better in 09 than 08 thanks to significant improvement by Colon and more overall cohestion. AF was still an above-average guard by this point, but had clearly slipped, especially in pass-pro. It was a joke that he got selected for the Pro Bowl that year. He was obviously better than any guard we had, but would not have made a difference to our season.

    By 2010, Ryan is right that Faneca was at best an average guard, although he stil could have started for us all us all year, allowing CK to play RG and the below-average trio of Essex, Legursky and Foster to never start at RG. Still, we made it to the Super Bowl last year and lost due to our offensive turnovers and piss-poor No. 2-4 CBs. An older Faneca on the roster does not change that result and probably does not make our offense any better during the season.

    If we had it to do over, we would still not sign Faneca, nor would we sign Mahan, and we damn sure would not have extended Simmons. In comparison, our offense probably would have been a little better with AF still in Black and Gold (mainly in 08 and 09), but it would have made no difference on our finishes those seasons. Call this back-and-forth between you and Laird an interesting but ultimately irrelevant draw. While I would have loved to have seen AF play his whole career in Pittsburgh and he would have been much better than our starting guards in 08 and 09, his departure was irrelevant to our finishes each of the past three seasons.

    • Steeler Stan

      We didn’t cut Mahan, we managed to trade him and get a 7th round draft pick. I agree that he was a disaster here, but the fact that the Bucs were willing to take him back at the price we paid shows that it wasn’t a ridiculous deal. The Jets had to cut Faneca before last year- which indicates the opposite.

      • Ted

        Good point. Forgot that Mahan trade: Colbert’s greatest move. I was not mad about the Mahan signing at all at the time, but he was really bad for us. Faneca played very well for the Jets in 08 and okay in 09. He was due more than he was worth, which is why he was cut before last season. Don’t know if we would have done the same, but we likely would have if he would not take a paycut. Since he did not do so for Jets, he would not have done so for us. That said, we would have had a better o-line in 08 and 09 with AF than not, although it did not affect our overall finishes in those season.

        • Steeler Stan

          Sure we would have had a better o-line in 08 and 09 with Faneca but that’s never really the issue in the salary cap era, is it? The issue is whether we could spend those dollars more wisely elsewhere. I don’t think there’s any doubt that Faneca would have been a poor investment even at the “lowball” price we were offering and that’s especially true given that we would have had to eat some salary cap money to cut him before the end of his contract (assuming there is a cap).

          • Ted

            Agree, but we did end up eating good money on the Simmons deal, although not as much as we would have on AF. Mahan has such a low signing bonus and was backloaded, so we would not have been hindered much even if we could not trade him back to Tampa.

            As I noted, in hindsight we still would not have resigned AF if we had it to do over. But in extending Simmons, we actually wasted a good portion of that money much more so than if we had used it on AF. That said, it did not affect our teams’ finishes each of the last three seasons, so it is probably a fruitless debate.

  • Cols714

    1. The guy wanted to get paid and he did.

    2. He was being a giant pain in the ass about the Tomlin hiring.

    3. For the one good year he had left it was not worth resigning him.

    4. Mahan and Simmons sucked, but I don’t think it’s relevant.

  • Cols714

    1. The guy wanted to get paid and he did.

    2. He was being a giant pain in the ass about the Tomlin hiring.

    3. For the one good year he had left it was not worth resigning him.

    4. Mahan and Simmons sucked, but I don’t think it’s relevant.

    • EasyLikeSundayMorning

      My assessment and memory is the same as Cols’. For the pain in the ass part alone, it was worth it to let Faneca walk. At the time we let Joey Porter go, I thought it was ridiculous, especially since we got nothing in return, even thought he was still under contract. But it also let Tomlin start strong, and in the long run, that’s pretty important. Too bad none of our RGs performed anywhere like Woodley; that would have meant no one like Laird would even think of such an argument about Faneca.

    • Steeler Stan

      Actually the Simmons extension was only bad because of the timing. They didn’t need to sign him yet. It turned into a particularly bad deal only because of Simmons’ achilles injury too.

      The Steelers supposedly low-balled Faneca but he actually didn’t get that much more with the Jets anyway. Moreover, in his last year here he was “below the line”. He was getting turned around and driven back pretty frequently. Maybe he should have switched to left tackle since he apparently though it was easier!

      I loved Faneca when he was here but he had clearly gotten a little bit of superstar-itis at the end. It was a great move by the team to let him go and get a draft pick instead.

    • GlennW

      It was the right decision not to re-sign Faneca, but I’m going to object to the “pain in the ass” stuff as a good reason for it. Faneca was always something of an offbeat, tough-minded, ornery personality who wasn’t afraid to speak his mind (remember the uproar when he questioned the capability of a rookie Ben after Maddox got hurt in 2004?– I had no problem with Faneca sending the message that a rookie has to earn his keep). So was John Hannah, the greatest OG of all time. A player doesn’t always have to walk in Steeler lockstep to be a great Steeler. And I don’t much care if a great player grouses about his contract or the organization (at least in training camp, as Faneca did), as long as he ultimately shows up and plays hard all season, as Faneca did. In any case, my lasting sentiments on Faneca are nothing but appreciative and respectful. Loved the guy…