Bill Cowher had one of the most famous chins in NFL history.
The question now is whether or not that chin will be bronzed in the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame.
Cowher, 56, has been out of coaching since 2006. He recently announced that he will remain out of coaching for the 2014 season. As it becomes more possible that he has already coached his final game, the question now is whether or not Cowher's body of work as coach of the Steelers is worthy of Hall-of-Fame enshrinement.
Cowher's record speaks for itself. He compiled a 149-90-1 (62.3 percent winning percentage) record in 15 years as the Steelers coach. He won eight division titles that included four straight from 1994-97. Pittsburgh made the playoffs ten times and advanced to at least the divisional round nine times. They reached the AFC championship six times and won two AFC Championships. Cowher's Steelers won Super Bowl XL as the first sixth seed to win the Super Bowl. His postseason record was 12-9 (57.1 percent).
The Steelers were a remarkable 108-1-1 in games in which they led by at least 11 points.
Cowher's detractors will point to his 2-4 record in AFC championship games (with all four of those losses occurring at home) and 8-9 playoff record before the Steelers Super Bowl run in '05.
Fellow one-time Super Bowl winning coaches Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden have garnered more media support for Hall-of-Fame induction. Dungy recorded a 139-69 (68.8 percent) regular season record in 13 years as coach of the Buccaneers and Colts. His Colts won at least 10 games in each of his seven years in Indianapolis. Like Cowher, Dungy endured several disappointing playoff losses before the Colts won Super Bowl XLI. Dungy finished with a 9-10 (47.4 percent) post season record. His supporters also point to the fact that Dungy took a historically bad Tampa Bay franchise and guided them to four post seasons and one NFC championship game.
After turning around the Raiders organization with back-to-back 10-plus win seasons, Gruden replaced Dungy in Tampa and won Super Bowl XXXVII in his first season. The Bucs then struggled through two losing seasons before going 11-5 and dropping their first round playoff game in '05. Gruden was fired at the conclusion of the '08 season following consecutive nine-win seasons.His career regular season record was 95-81 (54 percent) with a playoff tally of 5-4 (55.6 percent) in 11 seasons.
John Madden and Hank Stram are the only one-time Super Bowl winning coach enshrined in Canton. Hall-of-Famer Mike Ditka coached the Bears to a victory in Super Bowl XX but was inducted as a player. The other nine eligible one-time Super Bowl winning coaches are still waiting for their call to Canton.
Sports Illustrated writer and Hall-of-Fame voter Peter King once told former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson that it takes three rings to be a lock for the Hall. He's right. Three time winners Joe Gibbs and Bill Walsh are in, and Noll, in a class by himself with four rings, was inducted a year after his retirement.
Four of the seven eligible two-time winners are in Canton, with Vince Lombardi, Don Shula, Tom Landry and Bill Parcells having their busts enshrined. Johnson, who guided the Cowboys to back-to-back titles just three years after going 1-15 in his first year, is still waiting for induction. Tom Flores, the coach who twice led the Raiders to dominant Super Bowl victories as underdogs, is also still waiting for his name to be called. Ditto for George Seifert, who won two titles with the 49ers in 1989 and '94.
It appears that the voters greatly consider the the overall body of work of coaches with fewer than three Super Bowl victories. Madden retired with a 76.3 winning percentage (103-32-7) . He also coached the Raiders to seven AFC championship games. Stram is the only coach in pro football history to win both an AFL and NFL title. He was also the first coach to lead an AFL team to a Super Bowl.
Lombardi won three NFL championships to go with his two Super Bowl victories, Laundry guided Dallas to five Super Bowls, and Shula led the Dolphins to six Super Bowls while also guiding Miami to the only undefeated season. Parcells enjoyed coaching success with three other teams after he left the Giants following the 1990 season. He guided New England to Super Bowl XXXI, and two years later coached the Jets to the AFC championship just two years after going 1-15. He also coached the Cowboys to two playoff appearances.
With that in mind, it appears that Cowher's overall body of work should be good enough for an induction into Canton. But that decision is untimely up to the Hall's voters, who may or may not decide to bronze the chin that guided the Steelers to many memorable victories.