R.D. Lancaster -- to answer the specific question raised.
Having a QB like Danny Mac who could read the defence and get the ball released so quickly added to the effectiveness of the line, for sure. The receiving corps was another strength -- Amerson, Flutie, and Grigg were standouts in that offense.
That being said, it had a shelf life. The 1998-2000 period was the salad days of R.D.'s system in Steeltown.
The shotgun draw as the central feature of your running game works if the other constituent parts of the offensive approach can compensate for the simplicity of the approach. However, it got really easy for defences to read what the Cats were up to.
As an example, defences began to catch what the play selection would be simply by reading where Danny Mac's feet were positioned pre-snap. There were not a lot of wrinkles thrown into the mix from year to year to keep defences guessing: the results showed.
For me, the rushing exploits of Ronald Williams and Troy Davis during the R.D. Lancaster era were particularly impressive in this light. The offensive line was rock solid and its play coupled with the RB play compensated for the limitations I perceived in running most of the offense out of the gun, even on first down.
As for Baressi and Paopao, their difficulties were compounded comparatively speaking because the team did not succeed in the playoffs as it did under R.D. I did not get into the Barressi approach at all, while Paopao was simply too conservative in playcalling (the 3-yard hitch on 2nd-and-7 routine) to be effective.
You can't knock R.D. Lancaster for his contribution to the 1999 title drive.
I expect a much more diversified system under Charlie Taaffe, regardless of the eventual OC hire. Balance in the playcalling is a must, IMHO. Defences ought to be challenged more in a Taaffe system if the Als track record is a barometer.
Oski Wee Wee,