Cowher's Call - By Viktor Figeczki
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|The question is not "Will he or won't he?". The question is "Who cares?". The public's perverted fascination with head coach Bill Cowher's future in Pittsburgh beyond 2006 hasn't quite reached T.O. proportions, but articles, forum-threads and dialogue in sportscasters' booths speculating about the long-term plans of Cowher are sprouting up with the regularity of terrorism-scares.
Personally, I don't give a flying fig if the man retires or not.
"The Chin" has been the face of the Steelers for the past two decades (and what an appropriate face it has been), but the franchise transcends any individual. Every Steelers supporter has his/her favorite player, but few of us would consider ourselves fans of Ben Roethlisberger or Troy Polamalu specifically. People are fallible. People switch teams. People pull guns on their wives and children (as Greg Lloyd allegedly did in 2001). The concept of the Pittsburgh Steelers, however, is incorruptable and lasting.
While Bill Cowher has been a formidable builder of defenses and rushing attacks (not to mention a fine person by all accounts), the franchise existed long before his arrival and will exist a long time after his departure.
Besides, Cowher has fulfilled his mission. He has won one Super Bowl and taken his team to another, not to mention six AFC Championship Games. If he repeats in 2006, he will join an exceedingly select group of coaches and achieve just about everything there is to achieve in football. If he falls short, it will be no blemish on his record. The point is that he has earned the right to make whatever decision suits him without having his every move (such as purchasing an estate in Raleigh, North Carolina, or failing to extend his contract with the Steelers with two years remaining on the current deal) dissected to the nth degree.
If Bill Cowher retires, I, for one, will cherish the memories his time at the helm has brought me. Then, I will look forward to the next person's decade-long tenure.
At this point, the heir apparent is offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. There are some notable differences between "The Wiz" and "The Chin"; Cowher's roots are on the defensive side while Whisenhunt's background, both as a former tight end and coach, is on the offensive side of the ball; and while Cowher is notorious for his spitting, jaw-jutting ways on the sidelines, his offensive coordinator is somewhat soft-spoken by comparison.
Yet the two have more in common than the man who pays their wages. First of all, they physically resemble one another. An omen? Perhaps not, but it's reassuring to know that someone with a more intimidating appearance than, say, Washington's Mr. Magoo is poised to pace the Pittsburgh sideline for years to come.
Secondly, they both know a good thing when they are part of one, which was, to some extent, why Whisenhunt turned down the Oakland Raiders head-coaching offer following the sacking of Norv Turner. Although the Oakland gig was tainted by the inevitable presence of owner/former coach Al Davis (on whose life the motion picture "The Mummy" was loosely based), the opportunity to become head coach of an NFL franchise is like pizza - even when it's bad it's good. The decision of "The Wiz" to rebuff Oakland's advances shows his desire to remain in Pittsburgh, in the position of top dog.
Thirdly, both Cowher and Whisenhunt know football. Whisenhunt's pairing with Roethlisberger has thus far been highly fruitful, and his creative play-calling was a significant factor in Pittsburgh securing its first title in 26 years. Thus, with Whisenhunt calling the shots for the offense and the venerable Dick LeBeau in charge of the dark side, the team's short-term future seems securely nestled in competent hands.
And that is precisely why Bill Cowher's possible hiatus/retirement, his North Carolina mansion and his interrupted contract talks with the Rooneys should be of no major interest (or concern) to Pittsburgh fans. To fans of Bill Cowher, sure, but not to those who worship the franchise itself.
To true bleeders of black-and-gold, only one thing should matter; the building of Pittsburgh's second dynasty.