Fast Billie Cowher, Revisited - By John Smathers

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

OK, so I don't swim so well. I went against the tide, no less, and I ended up sinking to the bottom.

But on the way down, I had time to think a little more the departure of Bill Cowher and who might replace him.

First, about the departing coach, I wish him well. I'm a father of three beautiful daughters myself, so his special nod to his wife and three girls at the end of his farewell statement really struck a cord with me.

I do believe money was an issue only in that Cowher might have felt wronged when the Rooneys apparently didn't throw a significant amount of money at him after the Super Bowl. Cowher, after all, was named the biggest coaching bargain in the NFL by The Rooneys should have paid him more, but Cowher has plenty of money and he's a smart man. He shouldn't be crying poor for a long, long time, even if he doesn't return to football at some level.

So Bill Cowher can afford to allow it to be more about the family. Ah, to have that luxury. I envy him.

By the way, Forbes named Marv Lewis as the second best bargain among NFL coaches. I beg to differ with them. The Bengals should be asking for a refund. Any coach that puts up with that Ocho Cinco nonsense just doesn't have control. Sooner or later that translates into failure on the field. But hey, at least this year nobody took a swing at a coach.

Then you have Dennis Green. Dennis, you were what we thought you were and the Cardinals let you off the hook. Or I should say, they gave you the hook. Arizona just wasn't getting any return on its $2.5 million per year investment. He was Forbes' biggest bust.

The article ends with a pearl of wisdom that the Steelers might heed, at least partially: Sometimes, it pays to just promote an assistant and give him a token raise.

I have no problem with the Steelers promoting Ken Whisenhunt or Russ Grimm. I think either one would make a great coach. But a token raise won't cut it. If the Steelers want to keep either of those guys around for a tenure that would rival Cowher's or even Chuck Noll's, they must pony up.

Question is, will the Steelers hire either of them? The trend (if you can call two coaches in almost 40 years a trend) is for the Steelers to hire coaches in their 30s. Cowher was 34. Noll was barely 37. Even Noll's predecessor, Bill Austin, was in his mid-30s when he signed on.

The Rooneys apparently prefer 30-somethings. That doesn't bode well for geezers such as Whisenhunt (44) and Grimm (47). It doesn't bode well for me either. See, up until now, my favorite sports teams have always hired coaches older than me. In fact, up until now, there's always been at least one player older than me. Unless the Steelers sign Vinny Testaverde for 2007 (a sure sign of the apocalypse), then that will never be true again. Now they might sign a coach that's younger than me, too. So for that reason alone, I'm pulling for Whisenhunt or Grimm.

One guy on the current supposed short list that has the age thing going for him is Mike Tomlin, the defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings and just a kid at 34. He became the youngest defensive coordinator in the league when the Vikings hired him in 2006.

Tomlin will turn 35 on March 15. He came to the Vikings in 2006 after being a part of one of the top defenses in the league during the previous five seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as their defensive backs coach.

Tomlin, should he be The One, would become the Steelers' first black head coach. This could be an interesting factor, as Dan Rooney is the head of the league's Workplace Diversity Committee and the man behind the Rooney Rule, a league policy requiring each team to interview at least one minority candidate when seeking to fill a head coaching vacancy. It does not, however, require that the minority candidate be hired.

I could care less what color his skin is, as long as he understands that the fans' thirst for another Super Bowl win is probably stronger now than it was when the team left Saint Vincent College. A season of gross underachievement and unfulfilled promise will do that. Cowher and the Steelers left themselves and the fans with an empty feeling, but I'm not saying that like it's a bad thing.

Anyway, my personal favorite: Chuck Noll. Bring back The Emperor, who turned 75 years old on the same day Cowher resigned (Happy Birthday, Emperor!!). It's time for him to be getting on with his life's work, i.e. winning that sixth Lombardi Trophy. Hey, if JoePa can get it done at 80...