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Goodbye coach: Cowher to retire from Steelers

January 5, 2007

The decision has been made officially: Bill Cowher is leaving the Pittsburgh Steelers after 15 seasons at the helm.

Head coach no moreSteelers Nation is in mourning today. I’ll probably be wearing black at the office.

It was expected all season, but as a Black and Gold loyalist, you just didn’t want to believe it. The face of your franchise and the heart and soul of the Steelers football (other than the Rooney family and Myron Cope) is now officially gone.

Just some assorted thoughts about Cowher’s resignation:

  • The longest-tenured current NFL head coach won his first Super Bowl last season as the 6th seed in the AFC playoffs — the first sixth seed ever to win it all.
  • His 149 wins over 15 seasons (161 if you count playoff wins) put him at nearly 10 wins per season, which is an amazing mark. I’d think he’s a sure Hall of Famer with that total.
  • When Cowher was hired, there were TWO LESS TEAMS in the NFL. And one of those teams found a Cowher protege (Dom Capers) to be their first head coach, which got the Carolina Panthers to its first-ever conference championship game in its second year.
  • Cowher is only the second head coach the Steelers’ franchise has had since 1969. Chuck Noll lead the Steelers to four Super Bowl titles in his run from 1969-2001.
  • Since 1992, no team in the NFL has more wins than the Steelers.
  • Cowher throws the challenge flagCowher was supposed to be waiting until Monday to make his decision, but decided to move ahead now and save the franchise trouble. Right now, assistant coaches Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm are in high-demand by NFL vacancies (Cardinals, Falcons, Dolphins and now, the Raiders too), and one of the two are likely Cowher’s successor (I vote Whisenhunt, but Grimm fits the personality mold better). So thank you again coach for helping the Steelers as you head out.
  • Yeah, the possibility of Cowher’s retirement was a burden on the team all season long. The decision could have been made in a better fashion. But if any coach deserves the benefit of the doubt, it’s Cowher.
  • Thinking back, my favorite Cowher memories, other than him holding the Lombardi trophy aloft, are from a game in Jacksonville where a TV camera caught the coach wanting to punch out a Jaguars’ kick returner from the sidelines, the time he chased down a referee and stuffed a play printout in the ref’s pocket to prove the ref was wrong on an offsides call, and the numerous “Come here!” moments (pic) that made Scorpion from Mortal Kombat blush.

CNNSI’s Michael Silver has posted eight reasons that Cowher is leaving the Burgh for his retirement home in the Carolinas (a $2.5 mil mansion):

1. The Rooneys don’t pay. Sure, Cowher could have gotten a nice extension in Pittsburgh, but he wants to be paid like one of the best coaches in the business and it wasn’t going to happen in Pittsburgh.

2. His daughters can ball. Two of Bill’s daughters play basketball for Princeton and the third is a high school star in North Carolina. As someone who obsesses over his 10-year-old daughter’s soccer games, I can understand why Bill wants to see as many of his kids’ games as possible.

3. He’s tired. When I saw Cowher this summer riding around St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., on a bike with a built-in motor, I knew his energy level wasn’t what it should be.

4. It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that ring. Cowher finally has his, which means no one can ever question his credentials. He can take a step back, reassess and plot his next move.

5. His quarterback was driving him crazy. This may be somewhat of an overstatement, but think about it. Cowher told Ben Roethlisberger to wear a helmet. Ben didn’t listen. Think that was the only time that happened?

6. Whiz is leaving. Few coaches have hired such impressive assistants year after year, but Cowher, who knows brainy offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt is about to get a head-coaching job, wouldn’t so easily have replaced his gutsy play-caller.

7. The Steelers are done. Well, maybe not done, but this team will have to revamp to compete for another title. Like Tampa Bay in 2002, the ’05 Steelers were so drained after years of trying to reach the top, they didn’t have another run in them.

8. The Brink’s Truck is on his way. All Cowher has to do is sit back, chill, maybe do a little TV, and his value goes up … and up … and up … and up. Meanwhile, owners like Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones will become more and more desperate for a proven winner and master motivator who can take their franchises to the top. Can you say bidding war?

Here’s some Cowher Web fun for one last time in honor of the coach. Play with the famous chin (and hear the MIDI version of the Steelers’ polka) at the Bill Cowher facial improvement page.

Thanks for your service, Coach

Thanks for your service, Coach. We’ll miss you!

Good luck in 2008, when you can re-sign with another team. Until then, catch you on TV this weekend calling a wild-card playoff game.

Cowher and the chin from 96 (AP)

Now, how can the Steelers retire that chin? Maybe retire his facial silhouette?

[UPDATE: John Harris of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review proposes an interesting point.  Cowher says he wants a year off, but there’s a lot of openings and money out there that wants him too.  Here’s his opinion:

What does Cowher really want? We’ll find out soon enough.

If Cowher does take that prized year off, his departure will be exactly what he said it is — a chance to reflect, re-energize and spend more quality time with his family.

But if Cowher’s name suddenly appears on the NFL coaching radar for vacancies in Miami and Atlanta, and he expresses interest in one or both of those jobs, all bets are off.

Nick Saban Jr. won’t be the half of what people will call Cowher if he even considers selling his soul, er, services, to the highest bidder so soon after departing the Steelers.

That would be so un-Steeler-like, so un-Cowher-like. So against everything that Cowher stood for.

Can you say “PARIAH” if Cowher coaches next season, after begging out of his contract?  Oh yeah, persona non grata! 

DIGG me!

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