In an off-season full of head coaching vacancies, a list of the usual suspects was compiled once again. For the first time in years, one name was missing from the top of the list - Bill Cowher.
Cowher returned the Pittsburgh Steelers to Super Bowl glory in his 15 seasons as their head coach. Cowher took over for a retiring Chuck Noll [who recently turned 81], whose team at the time failed in comparison to his teams of the past and four Lombardi Trophies. Cowher and his infamous chin rekindled an attitude, a willingness to grind opponents into submission. He demanded focus on fundamentals, and accepted no excuses. He was definitely the father to Mike Tomlin's big brother.
His approach to the game returned the Steelers to the Super Bowl, a game which had been unreachable for Pittsburgh for 16 years. The Steelers lost the game to the Dallas Cowboys of all people, but Cowher's teams continued to succeed. Pittsburgh laid claim to multiple division titles and reached several conference championship games.
It took another nine seasons before Cowher's Steelers returned to the Super Bowl, only this time Pittsburgh would not be denied its fifth league championship, tying them with the Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers for the most all-time for any franchise post-merger. Many felt Cowher wanted to walk away after the game like Jerome Bettis, but he returned to lead Pittsburgh in an unsuccessful defense of its championship banner the next year. Following the disappointing season, Cowher walked away from the team he had become synonymous with. Replaced by Mike Tomlin, many of Cowher's players continued to uphold what has come to be known as "the standard" as Pittsburgh reached two more Super Bowls, bringing home one Lombardi giving the Steelers the all-time lead with six.
Since his time with the Steelers, Cowher has been working as an analyst for CBS, appearing on their NFL Today pre-game show. Year after year, as coaching opportunities presented themselves, Cowher consistently withdrew his name from any consideration. Many felt he was waiting for the Carolina Panthers job since Cowher and his family used to live in the Tar Heel state. The job came and went as John Fox left the Panthers, and went to the Denver Broncos; however, Cowher remained uninterested. Cowher has since sold his Carolina home, and moved his permanent residence to New York to be closer to the CBS studios.
Rumors quickly changed direction, and began aiming at the Giants and the Jets. Considering the Giants have won two Super Bowls with Tom Coughlin, their ownership will not be in any hurry to replace him, regardless of the fanbase's and media's reaction to a lackluster 2013 campaign. Rex Ryan's seat could be coming to a slow boil, as his Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow experiments have proved unsuccessful, except for their role in inspiring one of the creepiest tattoos of all time.
Interestingly enough, with all the teams in need of a new head coach this year, Cowher's name has not been attached to any. Some felt he would only want to return to a team with a franchise quarterback already installed, but there are decent teams with serviceable passers with coaching vacancies, but no Cowher mentions.
Perhaps team owners find him less favorable the longer he stays away from the sidelines, or maybe they have just given up on trying to woo him away from the camera; but no one sees him as the top candidate anywhere.
The 55 year old Cowher, who was doing a CBS presser for their upcoming Super Bowl coverage, put some of those fears to rest calling them "non-issue(s)" as questions began exposing those types of concern:
I did it for 27 years. You don’t just forget things overnight. One thing about this job 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 how the game is changing.
Cowher also went on to acknowledge how certain hits which he would use as examples to his players were now illegal hits. Cowher served on the league's competition committee in the past, and his duties with CBS force him to remain up-to-date with the league's happenings and policies.
He did not go so far as to name any teams which he would prefer to work for, or describe which situations he would deem more favorable than others. He did not talk about how much money he would expect to be offered, or how long he would want to. He did try to keep the conversation centered on his employer, joking about the fact he is guaranteed to be at the Super Bowl this season, unlike 30 current NFL head coaches - one of whom coincidentally happens to be current Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin.
However, of everything he did say, only one thing was really worth noting. Only one answer to one question really said anything at all about Cowher's doubted desire to return to coaching. It was his answer to Neil Best of Newsday, who came right out and asked Cowher if he would return to coaching at some point. Cowher did not tell anymore jokes, pitch television broadcasters or skirt the issue in any way.
He simply answered the question.
Evidently, the rest of the answer, only time will tell.