Stillers Looking to Extend Cowher's Contract (Feb. 16th)
Just when you think things can't get any more moronic in the Stiller front offices, along comes a Post Gazette article today that reports the Stillers are eagerly going to commence negotiations within the next two weeks on a contract extension that would assure Cowher coaches the team at least another two years on top of the 2 remaining years of his current contract.
In isolation, without looking at all the factors and the big picture, this might not be a shabby idea. However, let's take a moment and look at the associated factors:
1. Here�s a team that needs off-season improvement, and is approaching the upcoming free agent "season" with its typical sloth, and now, right when the FA period begins, they want to waste valuable time & effort extending a head coach who has two full years remaining on his contract?? Sheer asininity at its worst. Come Mar. 2nd, the front office should be spending every scarce moment evaluating college talent and pursuing agency possibilities, not negotiating with Cowher's agent. Supposedly, UFA Jerome Bettis is the team's "#1 priority" but the front office hasn't done much work at all in that endeavor, and center Dermontti Dawson's agent hasn't heard from the front office in a month. If the team wants to extend Cowher, WHY not do this task in the May/June timeframe? Or how about in January, since Little Billy's team hasn't made the playoffs in years and he has nothing better to do that month? I can just see the free agency period going into full swing on March 2nd, and the Stillers sitting on their hands and hiding behind the pitiful façade of "Well, we had to first deal with Coach Cowher's extension before we could pursue any free agents."
2. That brings us to the question of whether Cowher should even be extended. Don't kid yourself: the primary reason Rooney is trying to extend Cowher, just as in the Kordell Stewart fiasco, is pure money SAVINGS. Rooney is betting that he can sign Cowher for less than what Cowher might get offered in a few years. But, has Cowher earned this? Most assuredly, no. He's coming off 3 pitiful, non-playoff seasons: 7-9. 6-10, and 9-7. In those 3 seasons, aside from the expansion Browns, only four other teams have failed to qualify for the playoffs at least once. It's become popular to fawn over Cowher's 9-7 '00 season. "What a great job he did bringing the team back, blah blah blah." Baloney. First off, it was Cowher's IDIOCY that got the team in the 0-3 hole in the first place. From the PERENNIALLY poor job he did using training camp and preseason as an opportunity to PREPARE, to the idiocy of calling his last timeout, only to call a line plunge with no time outs late in the Cleveland loss, to throwing rookie tackle Marvel Smith to the wolves the first 2 games and getting the QB massacred, Cowher set the team up for FAILURE those first 3 games. Then there was more idiocy in the second Tennessee loss, in which Cowher claimed, "I thought they would punt" on the fatal 4th & 7, while Cowher inserted a soft, vanilla defense following a Tenn. timeout. Then there was the embarrassing collapse against Jax on prime time TV, in which the entire team laid down and played dead in a must-win game against a Jax team that was ripe for the beating. Cowher had the 18th most-difficult schedule going into '00, littered with cupcake opponents like Cinci (twice), Cleve (twice), San Diego, and an injury-decimated Jaguars team (twice) and a sorry Deadskins team that literally quit after November ended. That's eight wins right there that could have been easily won with a trained chimpanzee at the helm.
3. If anything, '01 should be considered a make-or-break, "fish or cut bait" season for Cowher. This is a coach who extorted the massive payraise & extension following the '97 season, and has since responded with 7-9, 6-10, and 9-7 non-playoff seasons. This is a coach who has found a way each of the past two seasons to lose to the lowly Browns -- the teams biggest rival -- while the rest of the league has steamrolled & toyed with the pitiful Browns. Cowher's been here for nine seasons, and is rapidly -- if he hasn't already -- becoming stale. He's done nothing to warrant an extension, and, in fact, should be removed if he cannot produce better results in '01. I could see a team like the Titans giving a Jeff Fischer an extension, or teams like the Raiders & Giants doing so for Gruden and Fassell. But Cowher? Fuhgetaboutit. He should be given an ultimatum to either right the ship and get this team into the playoffs, or -- as Chuck Noll used to say -- "move on to his life's work".
It's sickening enough that this front office has been playing this mamby-pamby, "Money is tight, and we'll continue to do business as usual in the offseason" line of crap. It's even more sickening to see this team wasting money, time, and resources trying to extend a coach who still has two more years left, and who has done nothing to earn the extension. If Rooney wants to extend Cowher, he ought to consider doing it NEXT January, not now.
The Still Mill