Cowher to Bears? It would be complicated

January, 9, 2013
1/09/13
12:06
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Bill CowherJason Cohn/Icon SMIBill Cowher led the Steelers to the playoffs nine times during his 15 years in Pittsburgh.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher expressed a desire Tuesday to return to the coaching ranks, according to Newsday, but added he hadn't been contacted by any of the teams around the league in the market for head coaches.

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On Wednesday, however, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Cowher, 55, had been contacted by "several" teams over the last few weeks. The report also cited a source saying that Cowher doesn't want to return to coaching for another "4-5" years.

Naturally, Cowher's revelation Tuesday sparked interest locally, with the Chicago Bears in the midst of a search to replace Lovie Smith as head coach. The coach responded with a "yeah" when asked whether he planned at some point to return to the sidelines as a head coach.

Asked whether he was tempted by any of the current head coaching vacancies or contacted by teams about them, Cowher, an analyst on CBS, said, "No, no, no, no."

"Hey, we have the Super Bowl," Cowher told Newsday during an event promoting his network's coverage of Super Bowl XLVII. "All these coaches are trying to get there. I know I'm going to be there."

It's unlikely he'll eventually 'be there' with the Bears. But given the scope of the team's head coaching search, led by general manager Phil Emery, it couldn't hurt to take at least put in a call to Cowher, to gauge his interest in a return in 2013.

The known list of Chicago's head coaching candidates stands at 13, and contains off-the-beaten-path names such as Montreal Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman, and former Bears legend Mike Singletary. Adding Cowher to the list would definitely spark questions about Chicago's stated desire to win now.

After all, despite taking Pittsburgh to the playoffs nine times, including five appearances in the AFC Championship and two trips to the Super Bowl, Cowher didn't win a Super Bowl until Year 14, when the Steelers defeated the Seattle Seahawks 21-10 in Super Bowl XL. Obviously, Cowher's .623 winning percentage speaks for itself.

But the Bears fired Smith after nine seasons. Would ownership and the Chicago fan base be patient enough to endure what would likely be another long wait for a Super Bowl title?

There's also the issue of how much control Cowher would likely want given his pedigree, and the fact he still seems to be a hot commodity after nearly six years away from the game.

"I did it for 27 years. You don't forget things overnight," Cowher told Newsday. "One thing about this job (as an analyst) is it's been really good because it allows me to study the game and do features on the game. I want to know what I'm talking about. So I'm watching tape. It's not like I'm out of it. I know the game is changing."

With Emery entering his second offseason as Chicago's general manager, it's unlikely he -- or ownership -- would surrender the type of control Cowher would likely demand.

His time away from the game might also lead to questions about whether Cowher could put together a coaching staff for 2013.

A former special teams and secondary coach in Cleveland (1985-86 and 1987-88), and defensive coordinator in Kansas City (1989-91) before becoming the head coach in Pittsburgh, Cowher obviously doesn't possess the background on offense that Emery seems to be seeking.

Cowher's roots are also in the 3-4 defense. Chicago's current roster of defensive players isn't suited for a move to that system, and a transition would take time through acquisitions in the draft and free agency.

We won't even get into whether Cowher's fiery persona is an ideal fit for quarterback Jay Cutler.

So while it's natural for a name like Cowher to spark interest, it appears several factors could be viewed as roadblocks. Could Cowher to Chicago work? Sure it could. But just a quick look on the surface reveals it might not be as easy you might think.

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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