Was Bill Cowher that great a coach?

Everybody who was a Steelers fan in the past ten years likes Bill Cowher.

However, after looking at this article:


in hindsight, was he that good?

He’s made some very questionable decisions, particularly on offense, although it could be the fault of the front office. His starting quarterbacks have included:
Bubby “Not the Janitor” Brister
Charlie “Mr. Basketball” Batch
Kordell “The Mendoza Line” Stewart
Tommy “Mr. Fetal Position” Maddox
Neil “The Cheater” O’Donnell
and a young Ben Rothlisberger.

While the defense has always been good, this could be more because of Dick Lebeau instead of Cowher himself.

The running game has always been good, but then again, is it luck or skill? Did Cowher really have more influence than the front office in bringing in Jerome Bettis (trade), Duce Staley (FA) or Willie Parker (undrafted rookie, friend of the Rooney family)?

Special teams in particular have always suffered while under Cowher. The Steelers have a system where the future starting LB’s play special teams, and when they “graduate”, their replacements aren’t as good.

Nearly all his assistants became successful head coaches elsewhere. Did his assistants have the real coaching talent?

So, looking back, was Cowher really an elite coach?

Bill Cowher’s strength was organizing the team. He was very good at getting the right guys in the right position for leading the team; off the field more than on the field. Some of those quarterback “misses” weren’t that bad either. Neil O’Donnell did a lot of things right and so did Tommy Maddox and Kordell Stewart. None of them was a solid number 1 guy like Ben is because they weren’t natural leaders like he is. They could get to a high level of play but couldn’t stay there. They had other positions to solidify back then though as they transitioned to the 3-4 defense, another big change that Cowher brought in. I think Cowher is a good leader and good judge of talent more than a schemer like Shanahan. I think he’s a great fit for a team in shambles that needs to change things around as long as he has some freedom in hiring. That should make him a good fit for the Buffalo job more so than some of the other openings we’ve heard him linked with. Ralph Wilson is running out of time but is committed to changing the Bills’ fortunes.

As far as his on the field coaching. I liked his intensity and commitment to the run; I didn’t like his fascination with gadget plays. Special teams have long been an issue for Pittsburgh - I have no idea why. The only time Cowher lost my confidence was when he fell in love with the ‘tommy gun’ offense and made Amos Zeroue the starter to try and open up the running game. The experiment failed and I was happy to see the Bus rumbling again even if it was 2 and 3 yards at a time.

Mike Tomlin has a lot of similar characteristics as Bill Cowher; he delegates well, provides tough leadership, projects a winning attitude. The highest compliment I can give coach Cowher is I don’t want him taking the reins of an AFC North team. Take those attributes to Buffalo please, not Cleveland.

His teams were never atrocious, rarely bad, usually good, and occasionally great. That, plus his tenure, puts him in a pretty elite echelon, IMHO.

I think I can support this.

How much control over personnel decisions did Cowher have? Because the Steelers as a franchise always seemed to have a plan during his tenure, taking in young players and bringing them along slowly, teaching them how to do what the team would be asking them to when the time came, and plugging them in without missing a beat when it was time to say goodbye to the veteran starters in front of them. If that process was largely under his control, then he was a phenomenal coach.

How many coaches got elite talent and didn’t win with it? Seems to me like he got the best out of his players (who, on offense, aren’t exactly a roster of Hall of Famers), and sometimes the best wasn’t good enough. Did any of his players ever leave Pittsburgh and get better (I honestly don’t know)? Plus, he dominated in chin juts. It seems suspicious and indicative of bias to leave that out.

I don’t think tenure is a fair defense however. That probably has more to do with the owner being a loyal guy, I’d think. I’m not sure I’d call him “elite,” but it’s hard to argue with his winning percentage considering that crapfest at QB he dealt with. But then again, who are the elite coaches right now? Belichek probably wins in any city except Oakland. Andy Reid’s system indicates he would be successful almost anywhere (even though as a game manager he’s poor to terrible). Cowher probably gets a boost from the rest of the field faring so much worse comparably.

Worst moustache ever.

Kevin Colbert has described some draft days in interviews and Cowher definitely had a lot of input in the later drafts. I don’t know about the first ones in the early nineties. He talked a lot about Cowher’s input on guys like Polamalu and Hampton but the impression I got from the interviews was that the bulk of the work they did was in evaluating late picks and undrafted guys but Cowher was definitely involved. I don’t know how much input the coaches have on other teams but Mike Tomlin had limited input in his first draft with the team and more and more each year. I think a lot of that philosophy comes from the owners. When I’m not posting from my phone I’ll see if I can find one of those Colbert interviews - it was pretty interesting.

ETA: By the way, Cowher’s biggest personnel mistake in my opinion was not being able to find a way to get Mike Vrabel onto the roster.

I prefer the flying spittle emanating from that bottom-drawer-of-a-cash-register jaw of his, while he pathetically screams “We Dey” after every game and during the Superbowl parade of the 2205/06 season. Classy.

Lame, true, but not that bad for a disembodied chin floating in a jar.

LOL, yeah. I just noticed my time machine sitting over there.

Seven trips to the AFC Championship Game. One Super Bowl Title.

In the 90’s they were famous for letting FA’s walk. Now, it’s like a badge of pride and a reflection of an in-team farm system, but back then, it was like, WTF!?!

I became used to seeing guys like Chad brown go and came to trust them on those calls. Mike Vrabel was a different case though. He never found a home in the system. They didn’t seem to know how to use him. The same thing very nearly happened with James Harrison. They tried him inside, outside, fullback, special teams. The only free agent loss that still bothers me is rod Woodson; it was bad enough watching the Ravens win the Super Bowl, seeing Woodson there salted the wound. He’s still my all-time favourite player.

I think Dave Wannstedt’s is worse.


Cowher is immensly over-rated.

Without that Super Bowl win, he is Andy Reid. And no one is claiming Reid is a HOF caliber coach.

Cowher was also an arrogant prick, whose ego cost the Steelers 8 years of Kordell Stewart. His refusal to bench Stewart came to a head when he and Tom Donahoe butted heads on the issue. Rooney sided with Cowher, and Donohoe went to Buffalo.

Kordell went on to suck royally.

Cowher is from the Marty Shottenheimer coaching tree, famous for playing not to lose instead of winning. How many AFC Championships does a guy need to lose at home before we call him what he was? An above average coach, but not an elite one.

Brister left the Steelers the same year Cowher started coaching – he played during Noll’s tenure.

Wow, I would read that post in a completely different way: “Seven trips to the AFC Championship game! He won a Super Bowl!”

He coached the Steelers for 15 years. Getting to the Championship game 47% of the time is a hell of an accomplishment. You’re really going to ding him because those 7 Championship Game appearances yielded 1 Super Bowl victory instead of the 1.75 that should be expected?

Yeah, think about the poor Eagles!

I think he’s a failure as a big game coach. That means something. Ask any Eagles fan.

True, Steeler fans are incredibly lucky… Cowher took 7 teams to the AFC championship. But he only won one at home (a dropped pass in the endzone by the Colts), and lost that Super Bowl to the Cowboys.

The only Super Bowl victory came after an incredible run in the playoffs, on the road, and a fortunate turn of events in the AFC Championship game in Indianapolis. (thank you, Mike Vanderjagt!)

I think he lost 4 AFC championships at home. That’s unheard of. Home field advantage in Pittsburgh should be a huge advantage, and Cowher squandered great teams with great opportunities to win multiple Super Bowls during his tenure. His obsession with Kordell Stewart was his biggest mistake, and he never had anyone behind Steward to challenge him. Tommy Maddox beat him out, for crying out loud. And what did Stewart do in Chicago? Showed his mediocrity, and was benched and out of football soon after.

I think the best thing that could happen for Steeler fans is he goes somewhere in the AFC, takes his team to the AFC championship game, and face the Steelers in the game. More Super Bowls would be in the future for Mike Tomlin and the Steeler Nation. :smiley:

Cowher would be crazy to come back. His coaching legacy can only go down hill with a return. People already think he’s a HOFer.