Steelers coach Bill Cowher was a "bonehead" as a Cleveland Browns assistant coach in the 1980s and knew nothing about coaching defensive backs, former NFL safety Tim Fox said on a weekly TV show in Boston.
While previewing today's Patriots-Steelers game at Heinz Field on a NESN sports channel show, Fox said he wasn't impressed with his brief association with Cowher when the Steelers' coach was in the early years of his NFL coaching career and Fox was ending his playing career.
"Yes, I am," Fox said when asked if he is surprised by Cowher's success as a head coach. "Because when I had him, he was a bonehead. He knew nothing. He knew a little bit about special teams and a little bit about playing linebacker, because that is what he did, but he knew nothing about the rest of the scheme involved."
Cowher, a former NFL linebacker, joined Browns coach Marty Schottenheimer's staff at age 28 in 1985 as a special teams coach and held that job for two seasons before becoming the secondary coach in 1987. Schottenheimer made that move after hiring his brother, Kurt, as the special teams coach.
"Marty wanted to hire his brother, and the only place they could hire him was as special teams coach, so they moved Cowher into being the defensive backs coach," Fox said.
In the brief time Fox had Cowher as a coach, he said Cowher coached by motivation rather than by knowledge.
"He does have that charisma, he gets his players fired up -- he starts spitting on you and blowing snot bubbles and all that kind of stuff, but when it comes to Xs and Os, putting him and [Patriots coach Bill] Belichick in the same room, Belichick should be coaching him and Cowher should be playing," Fox said.
Fox may have personal reasons for being down on Cowher. A former Ohio State standout who played with the Patriots, Chargers and Rams from 1976-86, Fox was released by the Browns at the end of training camp in 1987 and did not play in the NFL again. That training camp with Cowher was the only time he had Cowher as a coach.
Despite Fox's argument that Belichick is a vastly superior coach to Cowher, Belichick had a 2-7 record against Cowher from 1992-95, counting one playoff game, when Belichick coached the Browns. Belichick is 3-1 against Cowher since becoming New England's coach in 2000, including AFC championship game victories in 2001 and 2004.
Cowher was not available for comment yesterday, when the Steelers do not have any media availability except for the TV and radio networks covering that weekend's game.