Hiring the right coach in the NFL can seem mysterious and even Einstein’s famous definition of insanity, does not hold true in the murky waters of the NFL. The truth is many of the league’s most successful coaches have been retreads. Don Shula was essentially a retread. Bill Belichick failed miserably in Cleveland. Jon Gruden moved from Oakland to Tampa before winning a Super Bowl. Tony Dungy went from Tampa to Indianapolis. The list goes on and on…
Joe Gibbs and Bill Parcells are exceptions to another historic fact; they are the only two coaches in Super Bowl history to win with more than one QB. The difference between these two and the experienced head coaches the Dolphins are courting is, they both won amid a single coaching run with the same team. They both had established teams with established systems. To put the accomplishment in perspective, Don Shula could not pull it off, even with Dan Marino.
Winning the Super Bowl is the pinnacle of a coach’s career and without a franchise QB, few are able to climb back up the mountain. The rigors of today’s NFL are extraordinarily taxing on head coaches. Free agency has turned the game almost college like, where teams are forced to turn over their rosters every four or five years. A few exceptionally great players are paid huge sums to remain but at the expense of the roster as a whole. Winning rosters picked over in free agency more readily than losing rosters make it nearly impossible to build the dynasties of the past.
These factors and the pressure to win, take their toll on NFL coaches and many simply burnout or are run out by an ever aggressive media. Andy Reid is one of the best coaches in the NFL and the pressure to win forced him away from his tried and true method of building through the draft into an all out assault on free agency. If Philadelphia does not win this year, the local and national media will run him out of town. Coaching in the NFL is a tenuous existence and without a franchise QB any coach is as good as gone.
Bill Cowher got to the top of the mountain when he drafted Ben Roethlisberger. It is very telling that Cowher stepped down after winning the Super Bowl with a young franchise QB. After taking over for Chuck Noll in 1992, Cowher was exceptional. Paul Brown was the only other coach in NFL history to lead his team to the playoffs in each of his first six seasons as a head coach. In 1996 at the age of 38, he led the Steelers to the Super Bowl but lost to the Cowboys. It would be another 10 years before Cowher returned to the big dance.
Bill Cowher left Pittsburgh because he wanted to spend more time with his growing family, but what he was willing to leave behind, raises the red flags. After 14 years with the Steelers, Cowher had reached the goal he set for himself, winning a Super Bowl. Like Joe Gibbs and Jimmy Johnson before him, the sweet taste of victory lingers but the will to achieve it again, has eluded those men, as it did Bill Parcells and even Vince Lombardi. The quest to regain those heights is ever-present in a man who has been there before, but the hunger has subsided. Cowher may truly feel he is ready to climb back in the game, but defeat is a bitter pill on the heals of victory.
Art Rooney founded the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1933. Rooney then passed the team on to his son Dan Rooney, who is passing it on to his son Art Rooney II, because of this; the Steelers epitomize stability in the NFL. Since the NFL merger in 1970, the Steelers have had 3 coaches. This is the type of organization Bill Cowher is used to working for, Miami has had as many owners since 1970.
The Steeler history allowed them the patience to wait 14 years for Cowher to bring them back to prominence and the Rooney’s faith in Cowher never wavered. Yet, it wasn’t until a franchise QB arrived that the Steelers and Cowher won another Super Bowl, after nearly 20 years. That will not happen in Miami, Cowher will walk into a maelstrom that will demand immediate results. For these reasons, Cowher will not accept the coaching job in Miami.
When Cowher said it was disrespectful for the owner to seek out another coach with one still under contract, his actual thoughts were much deeper. The glitz of South Beach and celebrity owners mean nothing to Cowher, this is a steel town kind of guy and if he returns, it will be to a steel town kind of team, not Miami. Forget it Dolphin Fans, Bill Cowher will never coach the Miami Dolphins.
Next installment, Jeff Fisher…