In January of 2007, when Bill Cowher stepped down after 15 years as the Steelers’ very successful head coach, I was extremely worried.
I mean, we’re talking about a guy who came onto the scene in 1992 and rejuvenated a franchise, a city and a fan base that had spent well-over a decade re-living the glory years of the 1970’s.
What once was a run of six playoff-less years in the last seven seasons under the legendary Chuck Noll, quickly turned into six-straight postseason appearances under Cowher, the hometown boy who hailed from Crafton, Pa., my current and long-time home.
After a few tumultuous years starting in the late-90’s, the Steelers were once again bona fide Super Bowl contenders in 2001 and, with the exception of a season or two, would remain that way for the rest of Cowher’s reign on the sidelines.
I loved that man and the consistency and stability he brought to the organization. In fifteen years under Cowher, the man they affectionately dubbed “The Chin,” the Steelers made 10 postseason appearances, were division champions eight times, AFC champions two times and Super Bowl champions one time.
It was a glorious run, and for a Generation Xer like me, someone who mostly missed out on the success of the ‘70’s, it instilled in me the same level of confidence in the franchise that my Depression Era and Baby Boomer relatives enjoyed decades earlier.
Would the Steelers front-office, an entity that hit it out of the park with two previous coaching hires, do so again?
Obviously, the Rooney family hit the coaching trifecta with the hiring of Mike Tomlin, who has led the Steelers to eight playoff appearances, six division titles, two conference titles and one Super Bowl championship in 11-plus years as head coach.
What a glorious run, where the standard has indeed remained the standard.
So why do I now hate Cowher? A man I once loved and defended at all costs? Why do I now use his one Super Bowl title against him, after feeling so happy that he finally got over the hump with a 21-10 victory over the Seahawks in January of 2006? Why do I constantly bring up those four home AFC title game losses—defeats I cried through just like everyone else?
Because I’ve spent 11 years, and counting, defending Tomlin at Cowher’s expense. I remind folks of The Chin’s poor clock-management skills, that he was on the hot seat a time or three in his day, that his players were often in trouble away from the field.
Speaking of Cowher’s players, they’re probably the main reason I hate that man these days. I mean, after hearing other fans adamantly state that Tomlin won his one championship with Bill Cowher’s players enough times to make a man want to pull all of his hair out (it’s working), it’s no wonder I have such disdain for him.
That’s your fault. Seriously, that’s on you.
Cowher’s Super Bowl XL triumph after 14 years of coming up short—a victory that was almost as emotional and satisfying for me as it was for Cowher and his wife and three daughters—should be universally celebrated. Yet, I now find myself mocking Cowher for coming up short so many times. I make fun of him for wasting so many great teams who put together exceptional seasons.
I cite Cowher’s struggles in big games and how he was theoretically out-coached time and time again. I cite his reputation as a player’s coach. I often mention his—again—poor clock-management skills.
I mock Cowher’s sideline antics that often included lots of spittle and many bear hugs with players he seemed to be a little too connected to. I mock his almost critical mistake of not drafting Ben Roethlisberger, the franchise quarterback he lacked for so many years, the player who finally helped him reach the Promised Land.
Why do I do all these things? It’s something that I’ve done almost involuntarily over the past 11-plus years as a means to defend the current head coach, who really needs no such thing.
I hate Bill Cowher for irrational reasons, which seems to explain the level of hatred for one Mike Tomlin.