Friday, January 5, 2007

Good-bye to All That: Today, Bill Cowher bid goodbye to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the franchise he’d coached for 15 years. It’s amazing to think that anyone could coach a pro football team that long; the next-longest-tenured coach might very well be Bill Belichik, though I’d have to look it up. He is only the franchise’s second coach, and has a career record of 161-99-1 and a Super Bowl ring. And on the same day, the Raiders fired Art Shell for the second time in his career, this time after a disastrous 2-14 season during which time Shell may not have spoken a word. Goodbye, Bill Cowher; and good riddance, Art Shell. The AP on Cowher, a living legend:

“History will look back on Bill Cowher as one of the great coaches of all time,” Steelers chairman Dan Rooney said.


Cowher, one of the NFL’s most recognizable faces and successful coaches, has weighed resigning since shortly after the Steelers finally won the Super Bowl in February. But he wouldn’t say Friday he is retiring — meaning he could return to an NFL sideline some day, though he wouldn’t discuss that at his final Steelers news conference.

“That makes you feel old,” Cowher said of the word retirement.

Before winning the Super Bowl, Cowher always said his one goal was to hand Rooney the Lombardi Trophy. Rooney returned the favor Friday, handing Cowher a miniature silver trophy at his going-away news conference.

One of the NFL’s rarest events now will occur — a Steelers coaching search. They have had only two coaches since 1969, when they still were playing in Pitt Stadium: Chuck Noll (23 seasons) and Cowher. The Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts have had 15 coaches during that time.


And ESPN’s Mark Kreidler on the reliably disastrous Second Art Shell Era:

Ye olde problem is beginning to sharpen into focus, isn’t it? The Raiders are 15-49 over the past four seasons. They just completed a campaign that featured the worst offensive performance in the history of the franchise. They had as one of their coordinators a man whose most recent job (this is true) had been running a bed-and-breakfast in Idaho. And Al Davis is reminiscing about the time Jim Plunkett threw over the top of the coverage for that 63-yard touchdown.

Davis is also marking the passage of the days, though, and from a Raider Nation standpoint, that is more significant now than ever. The respective tenures of the past four Oakland head coaches go like this: Jon Gruden, four years; Bill Callahan, two; Norv Turner, two; Shell, one empty campaign. There is no time for patience. Shell was a Raiders guy from the ghost of Raiders past, a pure Al Davis choice, and he still got the boot after a single season, albeit an unmitigated disaster, in which Jerry Porter was essentially banished and Randy Moss might as well have been. (Maybe Jim Plunkett isn’t such a bad place to start, after all.)

But dumping Shell is the easy part, intellectually if not emotionally. Beyond that move, Davis wakes up today in the same situation as when the regular season ended: He has an offense that scored 12 touchdowns in 16 games; he has a feud with Porter in which Davis very publicly has taken an extreme position (he said he’d trade Porter only if Porter paid back a massive chunk of his up-front contract money); he has an unhappy Moss and a pockmarked O-line; and he has a Raiders fan base that is becoming more exclusive by the game.


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