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03-11-2007, 07:46 PM
Notebook: Will he or won't he? Cowher's future uncertain


By Scott Brown
Sunday, March 11, 2007

Like a lot of Steelers fans, Hines Ward will be watching to see how Bill Cowher takes to broadcasting.

Or, better put, how long he stays in broadcasting.

A frequent landing place for fired coaches, the industry also has become a layover for successful ones taking a break in between coaching gigs.

Cowher, who took a job as a CBS studio analyst less than two months after resigning as the Steelers' coach, will almost certainly coach in the NFL again.

When he returns will determine in the eyes of many, including Ward, whether he really left the Steelers with one year left on his contract so he could spend more time with his family. Or whether Cowher walked away because he realized the Steelers were never going to pay him the kind of money made by the top coaches in the league.

"We really don't know what the situation is, but if it came to that point where it was about the money and he was right back into coaching for $6, $7 million (a year) it would probably be kind of disappointing to the guys that he left behind on the team," Ward said recently.

The lines between sport and business always become blurred at this time of year with teams not just adding players through free agency, but also subtracting ones that have been productive -- if not Pro Bowlers -- because of the bottom line.

The Steelers released outside linebacker Joey Porter on March 1 to get under the salary cap and also because they were either unwilling or unable to sign him to a long-term contract extension.

The system (i.e. the salary cap and free agency) had Ward questioning how it compromises loyalty -- not just with the Steelers but across the league.

That also led him to the subject of Cowher, who helped persuade Ward to end a two-week holdout in 2005 and also helped talk Porter out of holding out last year.

He was presumably able to convince both to not just make playing the game about money.

Ward, who ended up getting a lengthy and lucrative contract extension after reporting to training camp, will be watching closely to see if Cowher follows his own advice.

Cowher's youngest of three daughters is a sophomore in high school, and he said last month he won't consider a return to coaching until she graduates.

But as, uh, creative as Cowher can be with some of his pronunciations, broadcasting won't challenge him like coaching did.

And teams in the market for a head coach after next season are sure to tempt Cowher with the kind of cash that would make him as well-compensated as anyone else in coaching.

"If it was a money issue," Ward said of Cowher leaving the Steelers, "then that would probably be more of a letdown to all of the players."

A tall tale

Porter generated his share of headlines during the eight seasons he played with the Steelers.

One story, he told Miami reporters last week, is instead a tall tale that sprouted from a supposed confrontation Porter had with Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.

The two jawed at each other before the 2003 season opener -- Porter didn't play in the game because he was recovering from gunshot wounds -- and at least one report had Porter going to the Ravens bus after the game.

Porter said the story that he wanted to fight Lewis simply isn't true.

"It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to walk on another bus, looking for a fight. I can't win that fight," Porter said. "And part two of that story, they said (Ravens owner) Art Modell broke us up. Now, do you think Art Modell can break up a real fight? You have to know from the beginning that story was fraudulent."