Stillers Fight Off Reality, Extend Cowher�s Contract
In a fit of absurdity unparalleled in the recent history of sports, the Stillers extended the contract of head coach Billy Cowher thru the 2005 season.���
It should come as no surprise that the team conveniently announced the extension only a day after the front-page headlines of the Jaromir Jagr trade.�� Rooney and company might lack the business and football acumen that is needed to win the Lombardi Trophy, but they�re certainly slick enough to at least attempt to capitalize on the circus of Jagr�s trade, so that most of the city might somehow be �left out� or otherwise engrossed in other sports news when the word of this outrageous extension was made public.
Of course, much of the Steelers fan base has been mesmerized and bamboozled �- as has Rooney -� with Billy Cowher.�� �He went to the playoffs his first six seasons� is the blind mantra of the Cowher-loving crowd.��
It is true that Cowher went to the playoffs his first six seasons.� However, there�s more �- a lot more -� to the big picture that is typically & conveniently forgotten or ignored:
Upon making the playoffs after the �97 season, Cowher -- just weeks after a pitiful home loss to Denver in the AFC title game -- had the gaul to literally threaten to leave the team while still under contract and join the still un-formed Cleveland franchise.�� Rooney and Co. blinked and lavished Cowher with an exhorbitant new contract worth over $2M per year, a figure that, at the time, was equaled to only by coaches (like Johnson and Parcells) who had actually won a Super Bowl.��
Since his clever little extortion ploy, Cowher has had such splendid seasons as 7-9, 6-10, and 9-7.� And for that, yesterday he was rewarded with a fatty 3-year contract extension that pays him $3M per annum thru the �05 season.�� We Pittsburgh sports fans have wondered for months how Derek Bell�s agent was ever able to swindle a 2-year, $9M deal from the Pirates when no one else was even remotely close to showing interest in Bell.� While Derek�s agent should be applauded for his ability to fleece the Pirates into bidding against themselves, Bill Cowher�s agent should be equally lauded for being able to fleece Rooney into an extension after 3 shameful seasons that have been highly hampered by some of the sorriest coaching in recent NFL memory.�
It�s become readily apparent that Cowher�s 6-year reign in making the playoffs was the direct result of playing in what, at that time, was easily the easiest, or at �worst� the 2nd-easiest, division in all of football and in a conference that was far inferior to the NFC.� In that time span, Cinci fell apart from its 1989 Super Bowl berth and was a laughingstock.� Cleveland was its typical subpar group, and things got bad enough with their owner that their entire team moved in Baltimore in the mid-90�s.�� Only Houston had any redeeming value, and that was more so in the early 90�s.� After the Great Collapse against the Bills in the �93 playoffs, Houston literally fell apart and was never the same.��
What�s equally apparent is that Cowher�s success of 6 playoff appearances was also the result of inheriting an incredibly solid nucleus of stud players from Chuck Noll.� Cowher had the luxury of inheriting such leaders and stars as Dawson, Nickerson, Woodson, Lloyd, Lake, and Jackson.�� Ever since that core of players has faded or gone away, Cowher has shown a gross inability to develop players.�� Until OT Marvel Smith played solidly as a rookie last year, Cowher had not developed a SINGLE offensive lineman who was not around since Cowher first arrived.� (Justin Strlzyk, for example, and Dirt and Jackson, were here before Cowher�s arrival.� Faneca was a 1st rounder, and frankly, isn�t much better as a 3rd-year player than as a rookie.)� Remember, this is a head coach who thought so little of LB Earl Holmes as a rookie, that Holmes actually was deactivated the 1st 15 games of the season.� The 16th game?�� Holmes was finally allowed to play, and facing a desparate Carolina team trying to secure a home-field playoff game, Holmes went out and led ALL players from both teams in tackles that day.�� Defense and special teams are supposed to be Cowher�s strengths.� Again, Cowher has failed to develop defensive lineman; and his work with highly touted LBs has been marginal, at best.�� Special teams ?�� His have perennially been among the weakest in the league.��
Remember, this is a coach who, facing the Lions� 19th ranked defense, admitted �I got scared� after a near-Stewart end-zone INT, and then ordered 2 plunges from deep in Lion territory, settling for a FG to set up the infamous �Coingate� overtimes loss.�� Prior to that point in the game, Cowher insisted on ordering a reverse on a kickoff --- despite cold, hard facts that the Lions were kicking off from midfield (due to a personal foul penalty on a PAT) and that the man who had practiced the reverse all week, David Dunn, suffered a broken hand and was out the rest of the day.� The ensuing attempted reverse ended with a disastrous fumble on the handoff, giving the feeble Lions free points they would have never gotten.� Then there�s the infamous loss at Cleveland last season, in which Cowher�s team called its last TO after a long Fu run put the ball at the Cleve. 8-yard line.�� Despite all the time allotted during the time out, the best Field Goal Bill could come up with was a line plunge on 1st down, followed by a spike.�� The thought of lobbing the ball to either of his 6-5� receivers was far too trembling for the field goal miester to handle.�� This is a man, who, facing a division rival that was scratching for a playoff berth, actually called a timeout to mull over the Titans� 4th and 8 from midfield with less than a minute remaining.�� Then, with only ONE WR in the game who had EVER caught an NFL pass, (and the receiver who had murdered the Stillers all game long that day), Cowher eschews doubling up on that receiver (Mason), claiming afterwards, �I thought they would punt.� �Come to think of it, has there ever been an NFL coach who gets LESS out of a timeout, than Billy Cowher?
Then there�s Cowher�s playoff record.�� Despite the chorus of �But at least he made the playoffs�, let us examine the playoff history of Little Billy Cowher:
- '92 - with home-field edge secured throughout the playoffs, Cowhead's Steelers get absolutely demolished by the Bills, 24-3, in 3 Rivers Stadium in the 1st round.
- '93 - gets Steelers into playoffs as wild card; team loses at KC on a terribly-protected blocked punt by a very mediocre KC team.
- '94 - again with home field secured throughout the playoffs, Cowhead's team easily beats Cleve, a team they�d already beaten up on twice in the regular season.�� Then they faced wild-card SD in the AFC Title game.� Cowhead allows his men to hold video dance practices days before the SD game, and his team falls flat on its face in losing at home to a terribly average SD team that gets thoroughly destroyed in the Super Bowl.� The game's big play is a 40-yd TD strike to little used Alfred Papunu, on a play-action play that Bobby Ross built specifically for this game.� Cowher�s offense that day was as imaginative as the gray buildings the Soviets built in East Berlin after WW2.�
- '95 - Cowhead's team ekes out a weak win at home over an aging, decrepit Buffalo team, then lucks out and gets the AFC title game at home when KC loses to the wild card Indy Colts.� Cowhead's team flounders and flops about for about 57 minutes and allows Indy to remain in (and lead) the game, and only a last-minute TD saves the team from a disgraceful loss.� Then, in the Super Bowl, Cowhead arrives to a Sun Devil Stadium field that is sopping wet, sloppy, muddy, and soggy.��� Rather than playing the bigger Morris, who proved himself as a superb �mudder� in the mid-season win at Cleveland on a wet, muddy field, Genius Bill insists on starting and playing scatback Erric Pegram for a large majority of the 1st half.� Pegram continually ran line plunges into the heart of the Dallas defense and was totally engulfed and ineffective.� Meanwhile, Cowhead's defense is thoroughly bewildered and surprised by the Dallas offensive attack, and the game is quickly well in Dallas' favor.�
- '96 - playing in NE in the fog, Cowhead's entire team was in a fog.� The very 1st offensive play from scrimmage --- a play that is typically rehearsed 30 times prior to the game -- is flagged for 2 men being in motion at the same time.� The entire team smells in every aspect of the game and is given a severe can of whipass by New England.
�'97 - At home, Cowhead's team ekes out a 7-6 win against an injury-decimated NE team, a win that was ugly, piss poor, and totally undeserving.� Then, in the AFC title game, facing a Denver team they had already beaten and a team that was on the ropes in the 2d quarter, Cowhead managed to again snatch defeat from victory with a series of shoddy tactical moves on both sides of the ball.
The playoffs is where the great coaches � be it Chuck Noll, Tom Landry, Jimmy Johnson, or Bill Parcells � establish themselves.� All Cowher has established in his 6 playoff stints is a pathetic history of horrific upsets, subpar play, and entirely poor preparation & in-game tactics.��
Oft-forgotten is Billy Cowher�s shameful history on �opening day�.� Cowher won his first-ever game against the Oilers, but since then has been downright incompetent when it comes to preparing a team in camp to be ready for the regular season.� To wit:
- �93 � thoroughly embarrassed and dominated by San Fran.
- �94 - thoroughly embarrassed and dominated by Dallas.
- �95 � at home, facing a pitiful Detroit team, eked out a close win on a late FG.�
- �96 � a sorry, wretched performance in a shameful loss to 2nd-year Jacksonville.
- �97 - thoroughly embarrassed and dominated at home by Dallas.
- �98 � facing a pitiful Ravens team, stunk & sputtered, and eked out a close win despite a thoroughly slovenly effort, aided by 2 horrible long-snaps by Balt.
- �99 � won big over laughingstock-expansion Cleveland playing its first ever game as a �new� franchise.
- �00 � stunk and sputtered in home loss to Baltimore.�
Then there�s the Pittsburgh �- and Cowher -� predilection of placing all the blame on the coordinators.� After Chan Gayboy left in early 1998, Cowher himself, and nobody else, hired Gay Ray Sherman.�� (Although Cowher did, in a fit of utter stupidity, allow his young, immature QB to also interview Sherman.)� That fiasco lasted just one year.� Then Cowher personally hired Kevin Gaypride.�� To be sure, both Sperman and Gaypride did horrible jobs while in Pittsburgh.� However, both men had to get their game plan APPROVED each & every week by one man, and that man�s name was Billy Cowher.�� So if you thought for the past 3 seasons that the Stillers have underutilized Stewart�s athleticism, or had too complex an offense for their personnel, and so on, the blame for that should ultimately be pointed at Little Billy Cowher.�� It�s humorous that Cowher, in a snide remark to SI after he lost one of his many defensive coordinators, said, �There�s been one man here the whole time, and you�re looking at him.�� Yes, indeed.� And there�s been one man here the past 3 non-playoff seasons in a league where only 3 other teams have failed to make the playoffs during that time span --- and that man is Little Billy Cowher.�� There�s been one man here that past 3 seasons in which the passing offense has been ranked 29th, 26th, and 29th �- and that man is Little Billy Cowher.�� I find it amusing how Little Billy, who is supposed to be accountable and responsible for everything that goes on with this football team, has been able to downright AVOID both accountability and responsibility, and THEN PARLAY it into first an extortion for a new contract and now a 3-year extension.� In the real world, be it the world of business & industry, science, or the military, leaders are held accountable for not only their actions but those of their subordinates.� In a sickening paradox, not only has Cowhead been absolved of any accountability or responsibility, he�s actually been REWARDED for it.��
If that�s not sickening enough, listen to this quote by Cowhead yesterday, after the announcement of his fatty extension: "This allows the players to know that you are going to be there.� That helps a lot. Stability is big. Certainly, you have to be successful, but you have to have success and stability."� Yes, indeed, 3 consecutive seasons of NON SUCCESS, but �stability is big�.� Sure, it�s big...it�s big for Field Goal Bill and his burgeoning bank account.� For the Stillers, it means stability...stability in the continuance of Little Billy�s favorite game since childhood, �Pound the Square Peg into the Round Hole�.�� If anything, Cowher should have been given an ultimatum to extract his head from his anus, or be looking for work come January �02.�
Like extending a punter, this again was another in a long line of poor moves by the front office.� Can anyone provide even one rational reason WHY Cowher should have been extended?�� If Cowher had even, say, a 12-4 record this upcoming season, what would he have been given for a contract?�� $3.2M instead of $3M ??�� What happens if Cowher�s team falters and stumbles AGAIN for the 4th consecutive season?�� Like the 5-year old playing �H-O-R-S-E� on the driveway hoops court, Cowher has been given far too many chances to �re-do� and �re-try�.�� This entire team has gone stagnant, predictable, and entirely devoid of what it takes to win in today�s -� not yesterday�s -� NFL.�� The one man to blame for this sorry situation?� None other than Little Billy Cowher.�� Having to trade the NHL�s leading scorer the past 4 seasons for 3 marginal prospects made this week bad enough.� The prospect of having to put up with Billy Cowher for another 4 seasons is even worse.