Matt Canada has an extensive history of coordinating offenses at the college level, having done so at a number of different schools for a long period of time, and doing so with enough of a reputation for success and creativity that NFL teams consulted with him over the course of recent seasons about patterns emerging from the college level to the pros.
After taking the 2019 season off following a stint as interim head coach of the Maryland Terrapins under very trying circumstances—the head coach was let go following an investigation into the program’s coaching and training staff following the death of a player—he took his first step into the NFL in 2020 when the Pittsburgh Steelers hired him as quarterbacks coach.
That is not a new position for him by any means, as through many of his posts over the course of his coaching career, he often served as both quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, though he will not do so here. But that more limited role was a good stepping stone for him now that he is moving into the coordinator role in Pittsburgh, following a year in which he acknowledges that he was in student mode.
“The game is different. There are certain parts that are different that I have to try to learn, and I certainly have a long way to go, and that’s why I’m excited where I’m at”, he said back in August in what was perhaps the only time that he spoke to the media last year. “I’m in a position to learn, to assist Randy [Fichtner] in any way that I can, to assist the quarterbacks in any way I can, and just be part of the group”.
Fichtner is, of course, the man that he is replacing as offensive coordinator. He was the quarterbacks coach from 2010 through 2019, and the offensive coordinator since 2018 before being let go earlier this year, to be replaced by Canada.
The Steelers implemented some of Canada’s ideas into the offense last season, which was most obviously displayed in the increased usage of pre-snap motion, but it can certainly be argued that that area is a work in progress.
One thing I think we can say is that the effectiveness of Canada’s concepts cannot and should not be judged based on how they looked in 2020’s offense under Fichtner. He will implement things in a different way, run things in his own vision.
He will still be learning, of course, but now he has his feet wet not only in the NFL game but also in the Steelers’ system. He is still an ‘outsider’ from it, so to speak, but he has an insider’s knowledge of how it has been run, so he knows how best to change it. Or so we can hope.