NFL Nation: Bill Cowher

Joey Porter will turn up the volume

February, 11, 2014
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PITTSBURGH -- The volume just got turned up at Steelers headquarters, and that can only be a good thing for a team that has missed the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.

Joey Porter is returning to the organization as an entry-level assistant coach whose responsibilities have not been defined -- at least publicly -- by the Steelers.

It doesn’t matter.

Just having Porter in the building should restore some swagger and attitude to a defense that could use a little of both after giving up too many big plays in 2013 and recording too few sacks, Porter’s specialty when he played for the Steelers from 1999 to 2006.

Porter, only two seasons removed from his playing career, has relatively little coaching experience. His hiring is a curious one considering Mike Tomlin had a voice in the organization releasing Porter in 2007, less than two months after the Steelers hired Tomlin to succeed Bill Cowher.

The Steelers saved $6 million by releasing Porter, and they had James Harrison ready to play right outside linebacker at a significantly lower price. But what also sealed Porter’s playing fate in Pittsburgh is that a 34-year-old first-time head coach probably needed to get Porter out of the Steelers’ locker room to make it his own.

That is how dominant of a personality Porter was when he played for the Steelers.

Loud, profane, sometimes politically incorrect, Porter’s was the mouth that roared and stirred a defense that helped the Steelers win a fifth Super Bowl title in 2005.

Teammates fell in line behind him like no other player with maybe the exception of James Farrior, who was ice to Porter’s raging fire.

Porter will now be on a different side than the players, some of whom were his teammates and know him as "J Peezy."

But his fierce will to win should serve him as well as a coach, and Porter will add raw emotion to a veteran coaching staff that could use a little of it.

Turning up the volume a little could be just what the Steelers need following back-to-back 8-8 seasons.
PITTSBURGH -- Art Rooney II said it succinctly.

The Steelers president also said it best in regard to Jerome Bettis' fourth bid to gain entrance into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

It's time.

Amen to that.

It can be argued that the more pertinent question when it comes to Bettis and the Hall of Fame is this: Why hasn't “The Bus” pulled into Canton, Ohio, already?

Bettis retired after the 2005 season as the fifth-leading rusher in NFL history with 13,662 yards. He is now sixth on that list, and all of the players in front of him who are eligible for the Hall of Fame are in it.

This should be the year that Bettis, one of 15 modern-day finalists for the Hall of Fame, joins them in football immortality.

Full disclosure: Bettis, who will be among those voted on Saturday, is an NFL analyst for ESPN. However, I was given the freedom to make a case for or against him getting into the Hall of Fame.

I frankly don't know of a credible argument I could make against Bettis.

He was one of the most productive running backs in NFL history. He was also unique.

Bettis may have been the best big back of all-time, and he was anything but a plodding, pile pusher.

Bettis' quick feet were as critical to his success as his sheer bulk -- his playing weight was listed at 255 pounds -- and power. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry, which is just a tick below what Hall of Famer Curtis Martin averaged during his career.

Bettis' value transcended the six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons he posted after the Steelers heisted him from the Rams in the greatest trade in franchise history. It also went beyond his ability to grind out the clock when the Steelers were protecting a fourth-quarter lead.

Bettis made those around him better because of the respect he garnered for playing through the pain that is a daily companion for a workhorse back -- and doing so with a smile.

Bettis was also so beloved by teammates that they wanted to win for him as much as for themselves, particularly at the end of his career.

The desire to get Bettis to the Super Bowl in 2005 helped fuel a stirring postseason run that the Steelers capped by beating the Seahawks for their first world championship since 1979.

Bettis called it a career after getting the one thing that had eluded him -- in his hometown of Detroit, no less -- and now it's time for him to receive an honor that has been equally as elusive as a Super Bowl title.

There are plenty of other people stating his case -- from Rooney, who is anything but prone to hyperbole, to Bill Cowher, who coached him, and Mike Tomlin, who coached against him.

Typical of the support Bettis' latest Hall of Fame bid has received is what Franco Harris said.

“Why he isn't in there, I have no clue,” Harris told Steelers.com. “Should he be in there this year? Absolutely. You are talking about a great football player. I am hoping that he will be able to join me in the Hall of Fame this year.”

Bettis has been gracious about his omission from the Hall of Fame, and he is at peace with the argument he made for inclusion in it during a career that spanned from 1993-2005.

“The way I look at it is I can't be selfish in that why am I not in now?” Bettis said. “I think when my timing is there I'll be in.”

As Rooney said, it's time.

New TE coach must develop Escobar

January, 18, 2014
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IRVING, Texas – With the Dallas Cowboys heading to the Senior Bowl on Monday, coach Jason Garrett knows he has at least one vacancy to fill with the departure of tight ends coach Wes Phillips to the Washington Redskins.

The No. 1 task of the next tight ends coach has to be the development of Gavin Escobar.

Escobar
Witten
The new tight ends coach will inherit future Hall of Famer Jason Witten, who will be entering his 12th season in 2014. He is the franchise’s all-time leading receiver. He is coming off a 73-catch, 851-yard, eight-touchdown season. If the Denver Broncos or San Francisco 49ers make it to the Super Bowl, Witten will play in his ninth Bowl.

It’s not that coaching Witten is easy. It might be more challenging. On the CBS pregame show last week Bill Cowher interviewed New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who had this to say about Tom Brady:

"[Tom and I] have had a weekly meeting the entire time we've been together,'' Belichick said. “Tom is one of the toughest players I've ever had to coach, because when you walk into a meeting with Tom, he's already seen every game. Like the Colts. He's already seen every game the Colts have played defensively. So you can't go in there unprepared, you can't go in there saying, 'Well, I don't know if they're going to do this,' because he'll say, 'Did you see the Tennessee game? That's what they did.'

"You have to be as well-prepared as he is. And that's a good thing but it's also a hard thing. You can't throw the curveball by him. You better know what you're talking about, because he does.''

That’s the challenge for a coach with Witten. He knows everything inside and out. The coach has to challenge him in different ways.

But the Cowboys know what they are going to get in Witten.

They don’t know what they are going to get out of Escobar, their second-round pick in 2013. He had nine catches for 134 yards and two touchdowns. He needs to improve greatly as a blocker and it’s more than just getting stronger. He has to work at it, learn the technique, know all three positions the tight end has to play in this offense. Escobar can’t be a one-trick pony (or two tricks) of running the seams in the middle of the field and fades in the red zone.

The new coach has to get more out of Escobar than what the Cowboys got out of their other second-round tight ends in Anthony Fasano and Martellus Bennett.

Cowher dismisses impact of 'Spygate'

January, 15, 2014
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PITTSBURGH -- Bill Cowher has a message for Pittsburgh Steelers fans who think their team was cheated out of a trip to the Super Bowl 10 years ago: Get over it.

The Steelers were drummed by New England, 41-27, in the 2004 AFC Championship Game at Heinz field, a loss that came under suspicion a couple of years later when the Patriots were caught trying to steal signals and formations by illegally videotaping opposing teams.

“We didn’t lose the game because of any 'Spygate,' because of them having any additional things,” Cowher told 93.7 The Fan on Wednesday. “[If] they’re guilty of anything they’re guilty of arrogance because they were told not to do something but it was something everybody does. They got caught doing it with a camera.”

Cowher, who coached the Steelers from 1992-2006, said what the Patriots did happened regularly in the NFL before the league allowed coordinators to relay plays to their quarterback and defensive signal-caller via a helmet radio.

“Stealing someone’s signals was a part of the game and everybody attempted to do that. We had people that always tried to steal signals,” said Cowher, whose 2004 team won 16 consecutive games before losing to the Patriots in the AFC title game. “What happened when we lost that game is they outplayed us. It had nothing to do with stealing signals or cheating or anything else.”

Cowher, an NFL studio analyst for CBS, interviewed Patriots coach Bill Belichick last week, and he said the two talked extensively afterward, the first time they had done so since they were both NFL assistant coaches.

Cowher professed his admiration for Belichick and the sustained success he has enjoyed in the salary-cap era.

The Pittsburgh native also made it clear on Wednesday that he won’t be matching wits against Belichick -- or any other NFL head coach -- anytime soon.

Cowher reiterated that he has “no interest” in returning to the sideline even though his name has been linked to head-coaching vacancies every year since he retired from the Steelers in January 2007.

Cowher, who went 149-90-1 and won a Super Bowl in 15 seasons with the Steelers, acknowledged that he has received his share of inquiries about returning to coaching.

“It’s flattering but it never gets very far,” Cowher said. “If I ever want to get back into coaching I should be calling teams they shouldn’t be calling me. That’s when you know you really want to do it.”

Jay Gruden offers hope and concern

January, 9, 2014
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This is the best hire the Washington Redskins could have made. That’s what some who know Jay Gruden say. He’s reserved and bright, they say. He’s an excellent motivator, others say. His relationship with general manager Bruce Allen will soften any tension that could arise with owner Dan Snyder. Look what he did with Andy Dalton, they say.

“I would have hired him,” one former general manager said.

This is not nearly the best hire the Washington Redskins could have made. That's what the skeptics say: There’s nothing special about him; his last name paved the way. Look what he did with Andy Dalton in the playoffs, they say.

“I like him, but his offense wasn’t more creative than any other coordinator out there,” one NFL defensive coach said. “If his last name wasn’t Gruden, we wouldn’t be talking about him.”

When it comes to the Redskins’ new coach, there’s a split opinion, and it makes this one of the more unusual hires they have made. Yes, he has a last name everyone knows. But it was his brother Jon Gruden’s success that made it a big name, not Jay's own success. In the past, all but one of the coaches hired by owner Dan Snyder was a big name.

But when it came to this coaching search, there was no big name left to hire. Bill Cowher wasn’t coming out of retirement. Nor was Jon Gruden. And no coach in this field had that wow factor the Redskins often gravitate toward (with the exception of Jim Zorn).

That doesn’t mean it’s a bad hire. We also don’t know if it’s a good one. There’s a chance it could be excellent. But one coach said several days ago that Jay Gruden does an excellent job of getting players to buy into his system. If that’s the case, it will be welcomed. While quarterback Robert Griffin III might have run the last system, it’s clear he did not buy into it. Others did, but if Gruden can sell this to them, as well, that will be a good start.

His Bengals offense sputtered in the playoffs, averaging 11 points per game the past three years -- all one-and-done showings. That’s not good. Nor is the fact that he was knocked for getting away from the run each time. But one thing I’ve learned over the years is not to judge a potential head coach by what his offense did when he was a coordinator.

Being a head coach incorporates so much more. It’s about leadership and command of the room much more than system. It’s about hiring the right people on your staff, and promoting tight ends coach Sean McVay to offensive coordinator will be viewed by many on the roster as the right move. We’ll see where Gruden goes defensively, and that will be worth watching.

It was telling this morning that retired linebacker London Fletcher, knowing Jim Haslett was still around, tweeted this: “Defensive struggles where not solely on salary cap #excuses #blahblahblah” and this: “I think [Raheem] Morris as DC would be great choice! Brings energy & excitement! Would feel pretty good about HC, DC, & OC then!”

I’ve seen too many Redskins hires under Snyder to fully know if this one will work. There are parts to like and wonder about. Marty Schottenheimer, Joe Gibbs and Mike Shanahan -- three of the all-time winningest coaches in NFL history -- all have failed to build consistent winners.

I know the opinions on Gruden from the people I spoke to throughout this search were as diverse as any.

But I also know of the candidates available, perhaps Gruden was the best fit. To have the familiarity he does with Allen and others on the staff will help. Gruden knows what he’s getting into, not just with Snyder but with the market and the entire organization. The fact that a relationship already exists will matter; Gruden needs to trust whatever he’s been told and to know how he must operate in regards to ownership. Here’s a tip: Keep Snyder involved -- and that doesn't always mean allowing him to meddle -- and win. Then he will be happy.

It will also help the Redskins and Gruden to avoid the leaking of stories that hurt the franchise since early December -- and in past years. The organization needs to rebuild a trust, not only with certain players (Griffin), but with the fans. As tired as everyone at Redskins Park was about the leaks, it’s probably quadruple for the fans, who thought that two decades of mediocre to bad football -- and needless drama under Snyder -- had finally ended after last year’s playoff run. A low-key guy has to help here, right? You would think.

Gruden is also tight with the Redskins’ director of football operations Paul Kelly, an understated but important aspect because of how closely the two must work.

There are a lot of reasons this has to work, for many people -- including Allen (who was at the forefront of this hire) and Griffin (who clashed with Mike Shanahan and Kyle Shanahan). It's their jobs, their reputations on the line here.

What I also know is that this hire will shape the franchise for a long time. That’s obviously the case whenever you hire a coach. But it’s even more true now because of Griffin. They have a young head coach; they have a young quarterback. It’s boom-or-bust time.

Quick Takes: Coaching search

January, 3, 2014
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  • I’ve been told several times that Bill Cowher is not returning to coaching. But to think that Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder hasn’t at least reached out to him is insane. Snyder has lured Marty Schottenheimer, Joe Gibbs and Mike Shanahan to his organization. You don’t think he’s at attempted to get Cowher -- one of two big names still on the sidelines (Jon Gruden being the other)? Don’t forget, Snyder heard “no” from Gibbs a couple times over several years before snagging him. Of course, Snyder has hired three of the all-time winningest coaches -- and in their nine combined seasons they produced three winning records and one NFC East title in Washington. Not a great track record. Cowher is smart and would have to know the issues involved, and past obstacles, in coaching here.
  • Cowher
    The CBSThisMorning twitter feed sent this out this morning: Bill Cowher (@CowherCBS) says there is “nothing to” the rumor he’ll return to coaching, but the “door is never closed."
  • That’s why, when I hear that they haven’t talked, I laugh. Any team that doesn’t reach out to Cowher to gauge his interest is not doing its job. And no owner is more attracted to star power than Snyder. Cowher exudes the power and confidence any owner would love, especially Snyder. If he thinks that door is "never closed" of course he'd pursue him.
  • Having said that, even if that door is closed here, if I’m Snyder and Bruce Allen I’m tapping into all my resources to find the right coach. Snyder has a relationship with Cowher, so there’s just as strong a chance that if they have talked, it’s also to run names by him and pick the brain of a Super Bowl coach. Just like Allen would be doing with Gruden. They might not be interested in coming to Washington -- at all -- but they can still help in the search. It’s what I’d do as well. It’s smart. My guess is they'll pick the brain of many others about the job.
  • I also remember when Gibbs was hired, there was a spotting of Snyder’s plane in Charlotte several days earlier. A reporter, Len Pasquarelli, asked Snyder about it -- and about Gibbs -- and was pretty much told nothing was going on. He was hired a few days later. Snyder’s plane was in Denver early in the 2009 season, and again we were told it had nothing to do with a meeting between the owner and Mike Shanahan; instead the plane was there for someone else's use on business. That was the line. Later we found out differently. Point is, believe nothing and consider everything until it’s over.
  • Gruden
    And I’m not saying I think Cowher is coming. At this point I have zero evidence to the contrary, and people I respect and trust say it's not happening, so that’s what I stick with. But I’ve learned not to fully believe certain denials by the organization.
  • The Redskins face an uphill battle in some ways with their search. Yes, there are attractive parts to the job -- young offensive nucleus, cap space -- but the reality is a 15-year record of mostly losing and chaos every few years. That will scare some candidates off and make others leery. So find out from experts such as Gruden and Cowher what they need to do -- and who they need to interview.
  • And just because they interview someone, it does not mean they have a strong interest in them. It’s good to interview coaches with various backgrounds to see how they assess your team and organization. If you limited your search to just, say, offensive-minded coaches, you would not learn all you need to know. It would be quite dumb to operate that way.
  • From what I’ve been told, they have not yet reached out to Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
  • San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, an intriguing candidate for any opening, was teammates with Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew from 1989-90 in Washington. I heard that they’ve maintained a friendship, which could help lure him to the Lions. But if the Chargers win this weekend, would the Lions wait just for him? Not sure about that. One potential drawback to the Lions job: I’ve heard they want to maintain the defensive staff. If another coach wants to hire all of his coaches, that could be an issue.

Allen keeps open mind for next coach

December, 31, 2013
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ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins general manager Bruce Allen called the coaching list an open one, saying there’s a spot for all sorts of backgrounds. Allen said they will talk to people who have no head coaching experience, who are currently college coaches and some whom he’s never met.

“I want to hear what their dreams are, what they can do, the fire in their belly to coach the Washington Redskins, to inspire the kids on this football team,” Allen said.

Among the names that likely will be on their list, as well as other teams: ex-Chicago coach Lovie Smith, Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, and Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. Former Green Bay coach Mike Sherman, currently the offensive coordinator in Miami, was a possibility, but a bad finish with the Dolphins might have changed that as his job is reportedly in jeopardy. The Redskins would be interested in Jon Gruden, too, though it does not sound as if he shares that interest. Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is another name who will surface for most vacancies.

One note: Being on a list and being a strong candidate are two different things. They likely will have 10 to 12 names on the list before it gets pared down.

Other names that could surface: Baylor’s Art Briles, for the obvious connection to quarterback Robert Griffin III – which could keep him off the list as well --and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin. They’ve also talked to Bill Cowher, but, that too does not appear to be of mutual interest.

Allen said he has no blueprint for what systems he wants the coach to run. Defensively that could mean a return to the 4-3. Offensively it could mean going to a different blocking scheme.

“It’s the person who has the understanding and the knowledge of what he wants to teach the players,” Allen said. “As I said at the beginning, we’re going to look for someone who is a leader first and it could be on the offensive side of the ball, defense or special teams. There have been a couple special teams coaches who have made great head coaches. We’re going to keep an open mind.”

This will be the sixth head coach hired under owner Dan Snyder. None have lasted more than four years and none have finished better than .500. Allen tried to play down the lack of success in Snyder’s ownership.

“I can’t speak for the prior years. I can speak for Mike’s years, and Dan was very supportive of all of Mike’s wishes and ideas,” Allen said. “This is the Washington Redskins. This is a very high-profile team. When the Dallas Cowboys or the Washington Redskins are in first place it’s a lot of news, and when they’re in last place it’s a lot of news. I think coming into this environment, knowing that there is a nucleus, I think it will be a very attractive position to coaches.”
Any ranking for the 20 greatest coaches in NFL history would leave off at least two of the 22 enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The ballot I submitted for our "Greatest Coaches" project left off eight of them: Guy Chamberlin, Jimmy Conzelman, Weeb Ewbank, Ray Flaherty, Sid Gillman, Bud Grant, Greasy Neale and Hank Stram.



That seems outrageous. However, there were only 20 spots available, and many coaches appeared interchangeable to me outside the top 10 or 12. Current or recently retired head coaches such as Bill Belichick, Tom Coughlin, Mike Holmgren, Mike Shanahan, Tony Dungy, Bill Cowher and Marty Schottenheimer deserved consideration, in my view, but including them meant leaving out others. I also thought Chuck Knox should be in the discussion even though he's long retired and not a Hall of Famer.

Putting together a ballot was difficult. There's really no way to fully analyze the jobs head coaches have done. We must consider won-lost records over time, of course, but little separates some of the coaches further down the list. I figured most panelists would go with Lombardi in the No. 1 spot, but I'm not sure whether that was the case.

Herm Edwards revealed his ballot Insider previously. We agreed on George Halas at No. 1. He put Lombardi second. I went with Paul Brown and Curly Lambeau after Halas, followed by Lombardi, Tom Landry, Bill Walsh, Don Shula, Joe Gibbs, Belichick and Chuck Noll to round out the top 10. The choices got tougher from there.

Edwards had Bud Grant, Dick Vermeil and Marty Schottenheimer in his top 20. He did not have Steve Owen, Holmgren or Cowher. I easily could have justified swapping out some of the coaches toward the bottom of my ballot for others not listed. Edwards and I both had Coughlin at No. 15. Our rankings for Lombardi, Landry, Walsh, Shula, Gibbs, Belichick, Madden and George Allen were within three spots one way or the other. I had Brown and Lambeau quite a bit higher than Edwards had them.

I tried to balance factors such as winning percentage, longevity, championships, team-building and impact on the game. The coaches I listed near the top of my ballot were strong in all those areas. There was room lower on my ballot for coaches whose achievements in some areas offset deficiencies in others.

Halas was a straightforward choice at No. 1 for me. He coached the Chicago Bears for 40 seasons, won six championships and had only six losing seasons. The Hall of Fame credits him as the first coach to use game films for preparation.

"Along with Ralph Jones, his coach from 1930 through 1932, and consultant Clark Shaughnessy, Halas perfected the T-formation attack with the man in motion," Halas' Hall of Fame bio reads. "It was this destructive force that propelled the Bears to their stunning 73-0 NFL title win over Washington in the 1940 NFL Championship Game and sent every other league team scurrying to copy the Halas system."

Brown was my choice at No. 2 because he won seven titles, four of them before the Cleveland Browns joined the NFL in 1950, and he revolutionized strategy while planting a massive coaching tree. Lambeau edged Lombardi in the No. 3 spot on my ballot. He founded the franchise and won with a prolific passing game before it was popular. His teams won six titles during his 31 seasons as coach.

ESPN has revealed the coaches ranking 13th through 20th based on ballots submitted by Chris Berman, Jeffri Chadiha, John Clayton, Colin Cowherd, Mike Ditka, Gregg Easterbrook, Edwards, David Fleming, Ashley Fox, Greg Garber, Mike Golic, Suzy Kolber, Eric Mangini, Chris Mortensen, Sal Paolantonio, Bill Polian, Rick Reilly, Adam Schefter, Ed Werder, Seth Wickersham, Trey Wingo and me.

The eight coaches, beginning at No. 13: Jimmy Johnson, Coughlin, Grant, Stram, Levy, Gillman, Shanahan and Dungy.

Gillman was an interesting one. He spent 10 of his 18 seasons in the AFL and had a 1-5 record in postseason, but there is no denying his impact on the passing game. Like other coaches rounding out the top 20, his case for inclusion was strong, but open for debate.
Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe has never been one to hold his tongue. Now an NFL analyst for CBS, Sharpe had a lot to say after New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick shunned the network for a postgame interview following a 28-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

"There is something to be said about being gracious in defeat," Sharpe said. “We’ve seen the New England Patriots five times in the last 12 years be victorious [in the AFC title game]. And we’ve seen the opposing coaches that lost come out and talk to our [reporter] Steve Tasker. Coach [Bill] Cowher did it when he lost to them.

"Bill Belichick makes it real easy for you to root against the Patriots. You can’t be a poor sport all the time. You’re not going to win all the time, and he does this every time he loses. It is unacceptable."

Sharpe has a fair point. But for those like myself who regularly cover the Patriots, this is just Belichick being Belichick. He is tough with all media and doesn’t care for interviews whether in victory or defeat.

Belichick usually does the bare-bones minimum with media, although Sunday’s loss probably heightened his want to get out of Gillette Stadium more than usual. Belichick did go through the mandatory post-game news conference Sunday night. But it was clear that was probably the last thing he cared to do after another tough playoff defeat.

Before Saturday's playoff game in Denver, I told an old colleague at The Baltimore Sun that Brian Billick would probably never get another shot at coaching if he didn't get hired this year. A day later, news broke that the Eagles interviewed Billick for their head-coaching vacancy.

I've always been shocked that Billick has never gotten a second chance to be an NFL head coach. The knock on the former Ravens coach is that he's arrogant and he failed to develop an offense (and quarterback) in Baltimore. It also hasn't looked good for Billick's résumé that the Ravens have been to the playoffs every year since they fired him in 2007.

But Billick deserves another shot to be a head coach. He won a Super Bowl in 2000 by understanding how to handle veteran players and strong personalities. He turned a losing franchise into a perennial winner. In nine seasons, he had more playoff seasons (four) than losing ones (three).

For some reason, teams have never been interested in Billick. There have been 36 head-coaching jobs filled since Billick got fired, and he's never been a reported finalist for any of them. Don't feel too bad for Billick since he was getting paid by the Ravens up until 2010 and he's got a good gig as a television analyst.

Still, you get a sense that Billick is eager to show he can still coach. That was made clear in 2010, when he chided the Bills for not calling him (Buffalo settled on Chan Gailey).

"Why [Bills general manager Buddy Nix] had not called a coach with a Super Bowl ring, 10 wins a year for nine years, having orchestrated the highest-scoring offense and defense in the history of the league, is a question worth asking," Billick said at the time.

Billick is right. Whether you like him or not, there's no reasonable explanation why Billick hasn't received a second chance while the likes of Gailey, Mike Mularkey and Dick Jauron have.

In other news involving former AFC North coaches, Bill Cowher said he has no plans to coach in the NFL. This comes a few days after the former Steelers coach told Newsday that he probably would come back at some point. Call me crazy, but something tells me Cowher hasn't made up his mind about his future.

Will Chiefs go after a big fish?

December, 31, 2012
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Monday’s events make the Kansas City Chiefs' head-coaching job one of the most intriguing openings in the NFL.

It makes me wonder if Kansas City owner Clark Hunt is priming to go after a big-name coach.

There are clearly some indications that that could be the case. Hunt fired coach Romeo Crennel but said this about general manager Scott Pioli in a statement announcing Crennel’s dismissal: “The entire football operation will remain under review, and there may be additional changes to come. No final determination has been made at this point on the future of general manager Scott Pioli."

[+] EnlargeRomeo Crennel, Clark Hunt
Zumapress/Icon SMIClark Hunt now shifts his focus to finding a new coach to replace Romeo Crennel.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Hunt will lead the coaching search and then he and the new coach will discuss Pioli’s future.

That means the team will not be hiring another high-powered general manager. It seems like the coach will have more power than Pioli. I think that means Pioli will likely go. Remember, four years ago, Hunt kept coach Herm Edwards on board until he hired Pioli. The reverse may be in play here.

I just don’t see it working between Pioli and a new coach unless the choice is someone like Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz or former New England assistant and current Penn State coach Bill O’Brien.

But it seems like the focus is more on the future and not making it work with Pioli.

So, perhaps Hunt will go for a big fish such as Oregon coach Chip Kelly. There has been some speculation Hunt could be interested in former Eagles coach Andy Reid.

However, a wrinkle in that though is the report from ESPN’s Chris Mortensen that the Chiefs will interview Atlanta offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter this week. Koetter is not an experienced NFL coach and he is not considered a big-ticket candidate. I’d have a hard time thinking Koetter is prepared to give any input on the future of the general manager.

But it’s early in the process. There is a lot to play out. But Monday’s steps show that Hunt is going about his search in a way that was unexpected. Hunt has a reputation for being immensely private and he doesn’t show his cards much. The word is even his closet confidantes are in the dark.

Hunt apologized to the fans in his statement Monday and he used strong words like “embarrassed.” He knows Kansas City fans are fed up. He saw the empty seats in beautiful Arrowhead Stadium. He knows dramatic changes are needed.

So, this might be the team for a big splash. If Bill Cowher ever would want to get back in the NFL, maybe it could be for the team where he was the defensive coordinator from 1989-91.

I think anything is on the table and I think coaches will listen to Hunt.

Of course, the biggest ding on this team is the lack of a quarterback. That is a huge problem and the Chiefs will have figure something out, perhaps bringing in a bridge veteran opposed to staking its future to a risky rookie from a weak quarterback class. But there are a lot of things to like about this team.

It is a talented roster with a lot of salary-cap room. After all, the Chiefs had five Pro Bowl players despite going 2-14. They also have the No.1 pick in the draft. The fan base is good and the team’s facilities are top notch.

This is an attractive situation.

For those who think Hunt will not shell out financially for a big-name coach, remember that Pioli was the general manager prize four years ago and Hunt got him. Hunt may think it is time to go for it again, this time with a high-profile coach.

AFC West coaching possibilities

November, 30, 2012
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We are exactly a month from the end of the NFL regular season. Thus we are a month and one day from the start of the first process of the 2013 season: the firing of head coaches.

With five games remaining, both the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers have to be considered prime candidates to make a coaching change. The Chiefs are 1-10, and Romeo Crennel has to be in danger even though he is in his first full season as coach. In San Diego, Norv Turner’s team is 4-7. It was a major surprise that the team kept Turner after last season. I don’t see any way he makes it to another season, barring an unlikely playoff berth.

The coach firings might not be the end in both cities. If Crennel is fired, general manager Scott Pioli will likely suffer the same fate. I get the feeling Kansas City owner Clark Hunt wants to keep both Pioli and Crennel, but the fan fury is so great, I doubt he'll be able to. San Diego general manager A.J. Smith may also be on the firing line, but I can see a situation where he is kept and Turner is not.

There is always a chance Oakland owner Mark Davis can lose patience and end the Reggie McKenzie-Dennis Allen tandem after one season (or just get rid of coach Allen). But I believe Davis will stick with the current situation despite a disappointing first year.

With potential change in the air, let’s look at some of the coaching candidates, in alphabetical order, who could be available:

Brian Billick
AP Photo/Gail BurtonBrian Billick went into broadcasting after he was fired by the Ravens in 2008.
Bruce Arians, interim Indianapolis head coach: I’m intrigued by Arians. The longtime offensive coordinator is doing a fantastic job with Colts coach Chuck Pagano out because of his fight with cancer. This is a unique situation. Teams could hire a coach who may lead a team to the playoffs without any restrictions -- and what an audition Arians is having. He has worked with Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh and Andrew Luck in Indianapolis. I could see the Chargers being interested in pairing him with Philip Rivers. The Chiefs could also be a fit for Arians.

Brian Billick, former Baltimore head coach: Billick is interesting because he is a Super Bowl-winning coach who might be reasonably priced. He has a reputation for being a strong offensive mind and a strong leader. He could fit in both San Diego and Kansas City, and I think he could work with an established general manager.

Bill Cowher, former Pittsburgh head coach: When Cowher decides he wants to come back, he will likely have his pick of jobs. I’m not sure if any of the AFC West jobs would be more attractive to him than others. Still, Cowher has a history in Kansas City and is the dream coach for many Chiefs fans. But he may be way too pricey for the team.

Jack Del Rio, Denver defensive coordinator: Del Rio has done a terrific job in Denver and had lots of head coaching experience in Jacksonville. I have a feeling he may remain Denver’s defensive coordinator, but he could be a reasonably priced option for the Chiefs or Chargers.

Jon Gruden, former Oakland and Tampa Bay head coach: The most frequent question I get from readers is this: Is there a chance Gruden could come back to coach the Raiders? I’ve heard that countless times since Gruden was fired by Tampa Bay after the 2008 season. My answer now is the same as always: Probably not. There have been plenty of opportunities for Gruden to come back to Oakland and it has not happened. Never say never, but I’d be surprised. If there is a fit this offseason in the division, I’d say it would be San Diego. I think Gruden -- some reports say the University of Tennesee wants to hire Gruden -- would love to live in San Diego, and he’d love to work with Rivers. I’m not saying Gruden is a favorite to end up in San Diego, but it wouldn’t shock me.

Chip Kelly, University of Oregon head coach: See Cowher. Kelly will get his pick of jobs and he will cost a ton. I’m not sure he’d fit in the AFC West, although working with Rivers could be intriguing to him.

Mike McCoy, Denver offensive coordinator: He is going to be a hot candidate. I think the preferred destination for McCoy, a former Panthers assistant, is to go to Carolina if the Panthers fire Ron Rivera; he is highly regarded there. I could see him receiving interest from the Chiefs as well. He is young, bright and won’t break the bank.

[+] EnlargeChip Kelly/David Shaw
AP Photo/Paul SakumaOregon's Chip Kelly, left, may be too pricey for the AFC West; Stanford's David Shaw could fit better.
Wade Phillips, Houston defensive coordinator: The only reason I put Phillips on this list is if Smith remains in San Diego. Smith admires Phillips from Phillips' days as the Chargers’ defensive coordinator. I think he’d be a candidate if Smith is making the choice.

Andy Reid, Philadelphia head coach: Reid is very likely entering his last month in Philadelphia after a tenure that started in 1999. The word around the league is that he will get instant interest. If Reid doesn’t opt to take time off, I could see San Diego being a fit. He has a home in the area and he’d work well with Rivers. But would the Chargers want to replace Turner with a veteran coach who just flamed out after a long stay with a team?

Rex Ryan, New York Jets head coach: It is no sure thing he will be fired, but there’s a chance. I think he could get some interest in the AFC West. He was a finalist in San Diego when Turner got the job. I think the Chiefs could also be interested. They have the makings of a good 3-4 defense -- Ryan’s specialty. Putting him in a small media market could also save Ryan from himself occasionally.

David Shaw, Stanford University head coach: This is one of my favorites. I can really see Shaw ending up in San Diego. He was born there and may be one of the hot young coaches available. I think he’d be perfect for San Diego whether Smith is there or not. His father, Willie Shaw, was a longtime NFL assistant. David Shaw played for Bill Walsh. He worked for Al Davis. He was an assistant to Jim Harbaugh and he has coached Luck. And he has won as a head coach. If I was hiring a coach next month, I’d seriously investigate this 40-year-old.
The Ravens can clinch a playoff berth with a win against the Steelers. It would be appropriate for coach John Harbaugh to do this against Pittsburgh.

Harbaugh would become the first coach to reach the playoffs in each of his first five seasons as head coach since former Steelers coach Bill Cowher, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Cowher reached the playoffs in his first six seasons with the Steelers (1992-97).

Harbaugh has made his players aware that they can secure a postseason spot by beating their division rival.

"We’re not about hiding something," said Harbaugh, who is already the first head coach to win a playoff game in each of his first four seasons. "The guys know what the situation is and the standings and those kinds of things. We understand that. But, it really doesn’t have much bearing on the game itself and the preparation. The preparation does not change. That doesn’t factor into how we prepare. It’s just the reality of it.”

Harbaugh and Atlanta's Mike Smith are tied for the best winning percentage (.707) among head coaches who began their career since 1970 (minimum 70 games). Harbaugh's record is 53-22.

Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin ranks third on that list with a .670 winning percentage. His record is 61-30.
Mike Tomlin became the youngest head coach in NFL history to both coach in and win a Super Bowl. He has taken the Steelers to the playoffs in four of his first five seasons, and he's led them to the Super Bowl twice.

Tomlint
Tomlin
Now, Tomlin is on the brink of another impressive benchmark as an NFL head coach. A win at the New York Giants would tie Tomlin with Chuck Knox for the fourth-fastest to reach 60 victories among coaches who began their careers since 1970. Tomlin would notch his 60th win in 88 games, which would be the fastest of any current coach to reach that mark.

The only coaches to record their 60th win faster have been: San Francisco's George Seifert (75 games), Washington's Joe Gibbs (84) and Chicago's Mike Ditka (85). Tomlin would also edge out former Steelers coach Bill Cowher, who didn't celebrate his 60th victory until his 90th game.

Will Tomlin achieve this mark against the Giants? Tomlin has a 16-6 record against NFC teams, a .727 winning percentage.
CANTON, Ohio -- Ninety-degree heat and 57 percent humidity could not stop Seattle Seahawks fan Jeff Evert from taking his seat at Fawcett Stadium two-plus hours before the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony.

[+] EnlargeSeattle Seahawks
Mike Sando/ESPN.comJeff Evert of Richland, Wash., wearing a Cortez Kennedy jersey, sits alone in the heat awaiting the Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremonies.
Evert, visiting from Richland, Wash., regretting missing Steve Largent's enshrinement in 1995. He wasn't going to miss Cortez Kennedy's enshrinement with the 2012 class. Evert, wearing a newly purchased "Vintage" series jersey with Kennedy's name and No. 96, sat nearly alone in the stands for hours.

Evert toured the Hall of Fame and overdosed on Pittsburgh Steelers stuff. By the time he encountered the giant mural showing Steelers players dousing then-coach Bill Cowher with Gatorade, he'd had enough.

"I know I shouldn't be that way," Evert said, "but Seahawk fans have always felt like they got screwed over in that one Super Bowl."

They don't have to worry about it Saturday night, although the Steelers do hold a 2-1 edge over the Seahawks in 2012 enshrinees. Dermontti Dawson and Jack Butler are joining Kennedy on the dais.

Update: As I'm looking down on Evert's seat, I notice two Steelers fans occupying the seats next to him.

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