Say it ain't so, Bill ... How dare Cowher talk to Cleveland
Sunday, June 24, 2007
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The story was bizarre, the reaction to it almost laughable. An Internet site reported last week that Bill Cowher has had secret talks with officials from the Washington Redskins, Carolina Panthers and Cleveland Browns to explore a possible return to coaching in 2008. You would have thought the world was ending, to listen to the talk shows and saloon conversations around here. How dare he? The nerve of the man. The Browns?
Get over it, Pittsburgh.
Cowher owes you nothing. He owes the Steelers nothing. What? You thought he wasn't going to coach again? You're naive and foolish. Darn right he's going to coach again, sooner rather than later.
And why not Cleveland?
In a lot of ways, Cleveland is the perfect fit.
That isn't to say Cowher has talked to the Browns. It's hard to believe he or his agent has spoken to any of the teams. He's too big in the game to have to sneak around to find out what's going on. He should have too much respect for the coaches of those teams to do that. Maybe he hasn't been in the position of the Redskins' Joe Gibbs, 66, a Hall of Famer who probably will retire for good after the coming season. But he has been in the shoes of the Browns' Romeo Crennel and the Panthers' John Fox. He, too, was a coach under fire during the '98, '99 and '00 seasons when the Steelers failed to make the playoffs and he was fortunate the Rooneys picked him over player personnel man Tom Donahoe in their little power struggle. He wouldn't have appreciated another coach sniffing around for his job then, would he?
When the time comes, almost certainly after this season, Cowher won't need long to find the right team. He figures to go to the highest bidder, the owner that's willing to pay him $8 million per year or more. Why not? This is America, right?
Cowher still would be coaching the Steelers if the Rooneys had come up with the jack. Forget the party line that he wanted to spend more time with his family in North Carolina. He won a Super Bowl and was insulted the team didn't offer him more in a contract extension. That's his right. It's also the right of the Rooneys, who don't overpay for anyone.
Neither side owes the other anything. Cowher gave the Steelers 15 great years. The team compensated him well. If anything, Cowher did the Rooneys a favor by not insisting on coming back as a lame-duck coach this season in the final year of his contract, which would have been a bad situation for everyone. He chose to walk away from about $4 million and sit out the season, not just setting himself up to become an in-demand free agent in January, but enabling the Steelers to get on to the Mike Tomlin era.
And now you want to begrudge Cowher taking his next job?
Wasn't it just a few years ago that so many of us thought he couldn't win the big game and would have loved for him to leave?
Even for Cleveland?
Any number of NFL teams could take a run at Cowher. It wouldn't surprise anyone if Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones fired Wade Phillips after just one season to make a pitch for him. Patience is running thin with New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin. The same is true with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Jon Gruden.
But the Panthers, Redskins and Browns probably make the most sense.
At least the Browns make sense.
Carolina would be convenient for Cowher because of his new mansion in Raleigh, but Fox might not be going anywhere. His five seasons with the Panthers have gone like this: 7-9, Super Bowl, 7-9, NFC championship game, 8-8. Do you see a trend? Fox and the Panthers are on schedule to have a big year.
Washington probably could pay Cowher the most, but does he really want to work for Dan Snyder? Talk about a culture shock after working for the ultra-supportive, ultra-patient Rooneys. Snyder has had five coaches since buying the Redskins in '99, Marty Schottenheimer among them for the '01 season. Do you think Schottenheimer might have a word or two of advice for his good pal, Cowher, about the job? You know, like, run the other way.
Cleveland really might be the best fit for Cowher. He was a Brown long before he was a Steeler, playing for the Browns from '80-82 and coaching them from '85-88. Cleveland fans would love to see him as their coach. They aren't as fortunate as you to be living here. Certainly, they don't know what it's like to experience a championship team. It's not hard to imagine Cowher getting it done for them, doing with Brady Quinn there what he did with Ben Roethlisberger here.
Get over it.