View Full Version : Ed Bouchette on the Steelers: A weekly look inside the team, issues and questions

11-19-2006, 07:18 AM
Ed Bouchette on the Steelers: A weekly look inside the team, issues and questions
Sunday, November 19, 2006

Cowher's retirement home is in North Carolina, not Cleveland

A television crew from Cleveland attended the Steelers-Saints game Sunday to report on a story idea: What if Bill Cowher retired from the Steelers and, after a year, came out of retirement to coach the Browns?

Another Cleveland reporter talked to Dan Rooney this week and asked him about Cowher's future. Rooney asked him why people in Cleveland keep coming after his coach, that the Browns had a good coach of their own.

It's the same reason why, before the Browns returned to football in 1999, there was talk that Cowher could be their first coach. It did not go far because Cowher signed a contract extension with the Steelers before the Browns started play. Cowher played for the Browns and got his coaching start there.

Here's a point many are missing on the possible "retirement" of Cowher after this season: He would still have a contract in place with the Steelers for one more season. He's signed through the 2007 season. So, if he does "retire" after this season, he would be obligated to the Steelers for one more year. Perhaps the Steelers would be willing to let him "retire" and later to remove the obligation to them, but only if another team ponies up with some nice draft picks (re: Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick, Patriots and Jets).

Charley Casserly, the former GM of the Redskins and Texans, reported Sunday that if Cowher does retire, offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt would be the front-runner for the job. One man everyone forgets is Russ Grimm. I'd peg Whisenhunt and Grimm as 1 and 1-A and you can pick either order.

Maybe the NFL doesn't have a monopoly on pro sports smarts

The NBA has it, the NHL has it, perhaps the NFL should think of going to it -- a lottery draft system.

Both the NBA and the NHL shuffle the bottom 14 teams in a weighted lottery system to determine which teams get the higher draft pick. In the NBA, the team with the worst winning percentage has the best chance to win the top pick. It ranges from a 25 percent chance for the worst team in the league to 0.5 percent for the team with the 14th-worst record.

The NHL differs in that only the bottom five teams have a crack at the top draft pick.

Why not have the NFL teams with the worst five records go into a draft lottery to determine the order in which they pick the following April? It would eliminate many suspicions about a team throwing a game late in the season in order to get a higher draft pick, perhaps removing that Cleveland at Houston game on New Year's Eve from having a bearing on who drafts No. 1.

The Steelers met the Philadelphia Eagles in what was then dubbed the O.J. Simpson Bowl on Oct. 27, 1968. Both teams were 0-6 at a time when they played 14 games. They were two of the worst teams in the league and the loser would have a leg up on drafting USC's Simpson, who would win the Heisman Trophy that season.

The Steelers upset many of their fans by beating the Eagles, 6-3, and were so excited they went out and beat Atlanta the next week. The Steelers finished 2-12. The Eagles went 0-11 before they won two in a row and finished 2-12, nearly causing a riot among their fans in Philadelphia. The Eagles were so bad, they said, they could not even lose when they had to.

Buffalo wound up drafting Simpson with the first pick. With a draft lottery, the Steelers, Eagles and Bills all would have had a shot at No. 1. But then perhaps if the Steelers got the No. 1 pick that year, they might not have taken Joe Greene, drafted fourth overall.

Maybe there are stupid questions

Steelers hear stupid questions from all kinds of media every day. Hey, some of the best answers occur after what sounded like a stupid question.

But the saying that there are no stupid questions, only stupid answers is not true. One I would like to see never asked again in football: How did practice go today? It is asked virtually every time Bill Cowher addresses the media on the field in training camp, and continues through the season.

Forget for a moment that the media can watch the entire practice and can actually see how it goes for themselves, but who cares? Who cares if they had a terrible practice or a great practice? Maybe the players and coaches care, but is someone actually going to report to his audience that the Steelers had a great practice today? Whooppeee, lay the 3!

Do they do this in baseball? Do the same guys who ask Cowher how practice went walk up to Jim Tracy and ask the Pirates manager how infield practice went that day? Or go up to Jason Bay and ask him how batting practice went?

Would Michel Therrien even answer someone if he was asked how the Penguins' morning skate went? Other than spit something out and say, "Pardon my French?"

I covered Pitt basketball for one season in the Roy Chipman days and never once thought of what went on in practice except for, perhaps, a lineup change. Hey, Roy, did the guys shoot well today? How did they dribble?

But in the world of stupid questions, here's one that got a great answer the other day. Linebacker James Farrior was asked if today's game against Cleveland could be labeled a "dangerous game," in the same way players often are asked about "trap" games.

Said Farrior, "It's definitely not a trap game for us because we're already at the bottom of the barrel."

Thanks to the fellow who asked, because it's near the top of my story about today's game.

If Bill Belichick does it, it must be genius(?)

When Bill Belichick knock-off Romeo Crennel issued Cleveland's injury report this week, there were nine players listed, all as questionable. That's a move Belichick perfected in New England: List all injured players as questionable and then no one can complain if he plays, or doesn't play, since it supposedly means a player has a 50 percent chance of suiting up. He doesn't use the tactic all the time, but his injury list should be labeled "monkey business."

Belichick always has been paranoid about injury information and he has passed it along to others. The Colts have listed as many as 26 players -- half the team -- on their injury report. It's a wonder they could take the field, never mind be 9-0.

The NFL should either demand more accurate reporting of injuries, or do away with the system altogether. The way it's now manipulated by some teams, it's a sham.