Saturday, January 03, 2009

Bill Cowher will never coach again

Many ~ media and fans alike ~ have conjectured on when and where Bill Cowher will return to head coaching. In the days leading up to last week's game with Cleveland something approaching "Cowhermania" swept through portions of Ohio. Meanwhile, across the rest of the nation, various internet sites have argued in favor of hiring Mr. Cowher in Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Kansas City, New York (Jets), and Philadelphia.

But now comes word that Mr. Cowher has signed a one year contract extension with CBS Sports. So, it would seem, that he is off the market at least for a little while. The view from here, however, is that anyone hoping to see Bill Cowher patrolling their sideline is in for a long wait.

This is a topic we discussed not that long ago, and we will summarize our earlier posting ~ the Rooney family has been amazingly patient and understanding with their head coaches, and that is not a trait one finds in many pro sports franchise owners.

Then there is the issue of legacy. While legacy can sometimes be overrated, there is little argument that Mr. Cowher is already a Hall of Fame coach ~ there are currently 21 coaches in the Hall and Mr. Cowher's career win total (161) is higher than thirteen of those. Additionally, with Hank Stram, Bud Grant and Marv Leavy having been enshrined, Mr. Cowher's one Super Bowl victory solidifies his standing. Given all of this one has to ask just what is there left to prove? Moreover, beyond the eight or nine million dollars he could expect to garner (and that is not something to take lightly), what would Mr. Cowher gain by heading back to coaching?

Finally, there is the matter of history. Different from legacy, we look at the history of coaches who have left a franchise of their own free will, and then later returned to coaching. In the last twenty years a number of highly regarded coaches left the profession only to later return, and the results have been decidely mixed. For every Mike Holmgren (who took both Green Bay and Seattle to the Super Bowl, and whose winning percentage in Seattle is better than the one he had in Green Bay) there is a Joe Gibbs who followed up a stellar run in Washington (1981-1992, 140 wins-65 losses, 3 Super Bowl Championships) with a four season stint of mediocrity (31-36, no championships). Whatever the reason, recapturing past excellence is a challenge that not all returning coaches are able to surmount.

Having said all of this we can envision Mr. Cowher returning to Cleveland for the 2009 season. Of course that would be as a President of Football Operations, something akin to the omnipotent role that Bill Parcells has in Miami. For all the talk of Scott Pioli jumping ship from New England, it seems that Mr. Cowher ~ with his ability to evaluate both players and coaches ~ would be a better choice. Despite the CBS contract extension the guess here is that Mr. Cowher would jump at the opportunity to build an entire organization.

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