View Full Version : Point, counterpoint: Will Cowher return for a 16th season?

12-02-2006, 05:56 AM
Point, counterpoint: Will Cowher return for a 16th season?

By The Tribune-Review
Saturday, December 2, 2006

As the 4-7 Steelers continue their downward spiral, the question whether coach Bill Cowher will return for his 16th season in 2007 looms even larger.

Columnist John Harris and beat writer Scott Brown resume their weekly debate on the Steelers. This week's topic is about Cowher's job status with the only NFL team he has led as a head coach.

Harris: North Carolina State recently fired coach Chuck Amato, so that means a lot of trees and newspaper ink are going to be wasted writing about all the Bill Cowher-to-N.C. State rumors. Cowher leaving the Steelers after this season is one thing. There are too many very real factors that indicate this will be Cowher's final campaign with the Steelers.

Cowher's going to N.C. State doesn't compute. He's an NFL guy, the Rooneys aren't going to let him go while he's still under contract to the Steelers without receiving a generous financial parting gift, and Cowher would have to take a significant pay cut.

Brown: John, N.C. State fans already had one prayer answered when Lorenzo Charles caught that Dereck Whittenburg air ball in the 1983 NCAA men's basketball title game and dunked it along with heavily favored Phi Slamma Jamma. They ain't getting another one answered, at least not in the form of Bill Cowher returning to his alma mater as the head football coach.

The idea is laughable even with Cowher's ties to the school. As you said, it would require him to take a pay cut and recruit. And we're talking about trying to recruit at a middling football school, not Southern Cal, Texas or Michigan. Plus, if he leaves after this season isn't the idea for him to spend more time at home and not in the homes of 17- and 18-year-old high school seniors making recruiting pitches?

Harris: Yeah, sort of like Michael Jordan retiring because he said he wanted to drive his kids to school, then taking a job running the Washington Wizards. That dog don't hunt.

Let's try looking at this from Cowher's perspective.

He's coming off a Super Bowl season. Even though he's already one of the NFL's highest-paid coaches at an estimated $4 million per season, his value was never higher than it was right after winning the Super Bowl. So his contract talks with the Steelers stalled entering this season, then word leaks out that his family purchased a home in the Raleigh area, virtually in N.C. State's backyard. Coincidence or negotiating ploy? You be the judge.

Brown: I think it may have been a negotiating ploy in the sense that he showed he has a card to play in regards to his contract situation. If he ultimately leaves after this season I think he will go to Raleigh, relax and spend time with his family.

That N.C. State needs a football coach and that Cowher may soon be relocating to Raleigh makes for some interesting speculation but absolutely nothing else.

And let's take a look at it from N.C. State's standpoint: even if Cowher would want to coach the Wolfpack he couldn't start there until January at the earliest. That would give him all of one month to put together a recruiting class. And if I'm an athletic director I have to wonder if Cowher is going to be willing to do all of the grunt work that is required in recruiting, especially at a place like N.C. State.

Harris: Scott, your problem is you take things too seriously. Loosen up, man.

We both know Cowher isn't going to take the N.C. State job. Even if you tied me up, covered me with honey and turned an ant colony loose on me, I'd tell you the same thing.

The N.C. State scuttlebutt is merely window dressing for the real question: will Cowher return to coach the Steelers next year?

I really don't know. But something tells me that he will. Just like he couldn't leave after winning Super Bowl XL, he can't allow himself to leave the Steelers in such a sorry state. His pride wouldn't allow it.

Brown: John, I'm a little disturbed at the thought of covering you with honey and a lot disturbed that you would even mention such a thing. If I had you tied up and made to watch last Sunday's game over and over and over you'd be singing N.C. State's fight song anytime Cowher's name was mentioned.

I'm not sure what to think in regards to Cowher coming back. Being the competitor that he is, I'm inclined to think he might come back next season so he doesn't go out on a losing note. But maybe he really has had enough, and if he has who can blame him? Most NFL coaches don't come close to lasting as long in one place as he has in Pittsburgh.

Harris: The Cowher-Steelers union is like a marriage. There have been 15 years of good times, bad times, and everything else in between. But at the end of the day, both parties are glad they hung in there and made it work. Maybe it's time for a divorce. Maybe the players are tired of hearing the same voice and doing things the same way.

Maybe Cowher is tired ot delivering the same message, but he's been doing things the same way for so long, it's difficult for him to change.

Maybe it's time for a second honeymoon. That's when both sides give and take in order to rekindle the fire. But are both sides willing to pull their own weight? Based off this year's record, the answer is no.

Brown: The Steelers' record and their showing in Baltimore offer compelling proof that either Cowher's tactics have gotten stale or the job has for him. I'm not sure I see what he or the organization gets out of it if he sticks around for one more year. His legacy as coach here is secure, and what the Steelers are going to rally around him and win him that elusive Super Bowl? They just did that.

Since good coaches don't retire as much as they do get bored of the broadcast booth is it inevitable that Bll Cowher will resurface on the sideline?

Harris: Oh, yeah. He's a coach. Coaches coach. Can you see Cowher puttering around the house and mowing the lawn on Sunday afternoons, spittle flying everywhere?

I can't, and neither can you. Not to mention he's only 49, which is relatively young for an NFL coach.

He may need to step away for a year to take a look at things, evaluate his coaching style, and determine if he needs to make any changes before jumping back on the coaching carousel, maybe even get a TV gig with NFL Network or ESPN.

He's under contract with the Steelers for one more year, so if he wants to leave for another job, he's going to have to wait at least that long, and only he knows if he has the patience to be out of coaching for that period of time.

Brown: I think Cowher would love nothing more than a year away from coaching assuming he leaves the Steelers after the season. He may not want to admit it but he has to be a little burned out after coaching for so long in a cut-throat league where it's all about the bottom line. But why are we talking about this, anyway? Cowher is going to accept a big pay cut to coach at a school that didn't come close to challenging for a football title in what is still a basketball conference. Think he'll make me his offensive coordinator?

12-02-2006, 06:18 PM
Brown:I think Cowher would love nothing more than a year away from coaching assuming he leaves the Steelers after the season. He may not want to admit it but he has to be a little burned out after coaching for so long in a cut-throat league where it's all about the bottom line.

Bingo - NFL head coach is a very high stress position, especially for guys who have a history of wearing their emotions on their sleeves like Cowher. Cowher has earned my complete respect over the last 15 years and deserves to leave on his own terms if he so desires. I for one will miss him when he's gone.