The People's Choice

When Bill Cowher was named head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers no one anticipated what has transpired over the past 15 seasons.

In a league where coaches win consistently or shop for a new job it's remarkable that a man would remain in one position as long as Cowher has.

Cowher spent his college years at NC State, where he was a standout linebacker for the Pack and graduated in 1979. He went undrafted, but was signed as a free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles. His NFL playing career would turn out to be short-lived, however, and he found himself working as the Cleveland Browns' special team coach in 1985 under Marty Schottenheimer at just 28 years old.

"The hard-nosed coach with a patented scowl fields teams with a blue-collar attitude who pride themselves on running the ball and physically dominating opposing offenses."

When Schottenheimer left Cleveland to take over in Kansas City he brought Cowher along as defensive coordinator. In his three years in Kansas City, Cowher's defenses never finished lower than eighth in the league. Not long after, Cowher took the reigns in Pittsburgh, a city with high expectations for their football team.

Since taking the reigns in the Steel City his accomplishments are tremendous. The Steelers have captured eight division titles, earned ten postseason playoff berths, played in 25 playoff games, advanced to six AFC Championship games and made two Super Bowl appearances. He is one of only six coaches in NFL history to claim at least seven division titles. It has become an article of faith among NFL pundits that the Steelers do not have a bad team two years in a row – they have never lost 10 or more games in consecutive years since the 1970 NFL merger.

At the conclusion of the 2005 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers have the best record of any team in the National Football League since Cowher was hired as head coach. As of the end of the 2005 season, Cowher has boasted a 106-1-1 record when his Steelers are up by 11 or more points at any moment in a game. On February 5th, 2006, Cowher's Pittsburgh Steelers won Super Bowl XL by defeating the Seattle Seahawks 21-10, giving Cowher his first Super Bowl ring.

Bill Cowher has been in many ways the embodiment of the city of Pittsburgh. The hard-nosed coach with a patented scowl fields teams with a blue-collar attitude who pride themselves on running the ball and physically dominating opposing offenses. The recipe is simple: strong play in the trenches and sound tackling. While other coaches have attempted to replicate his formula for success, year-in and year-out Cowher's teams do it as well as anyone in the NFL.

The Steelers under Cowher have led the NFL in rushing three times and have only finished lower than 11th once. His defenses have finished in the bottom half of the league only once, with an average yearly ranking of seventh. Just as impressive as those stats is the fact that Cowher has won without consistently great quarterback play. His teams pride themselves on playing mistake-free, disciplined football, and they have rarely beaten themselves.

What Makes Him a Viable Candidate: There aren't many bigger names in football at any level than Bill Cowher. If Lee Fowler were able to woo the Pittsburgh-native and NC State grad back to Raleigh it would bring instant credibility to the program.

"There aren't many bigger names in football at any level than Bill Cowher."

Cowher would immediately change the image of NC State football. Whereas much of the rest of the nation saw Amato's teams as talented but underachieving and undisciplined – a fair analysis – Cowher would bring in a new brand of football.

The recipe for success in the new ACC is the same that Cowher used in the NFL. Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and Boston College play fundamentally sound football, tackle well and make a concerted effort to get it done on the ground. Those teams are also winning a lot of games. NC State's backfield duo of Toney Baker and Andre Brown would be a perfect fit in an offense fielded by Bill Cowher.

While Cowher does not have coaching experience at the college ranks it would be difficult to predict anything but success on the recruiting trails. Now surrounded by proven recruiters such as Frank Beamer, Al Groh, Philip Fulmer, Steve Spurrier, Tommy Bowden and Butch Davis, NC State is going to need a coach that can bring in a high level of athlete. Who better than a coach that could boast of a long NFL coaching tenure and pull out a Super Bowl ring while visiting with recruits?

The fact that Cowher attended NC State certainly couldn't hurt the Pack's chances. Alums are almost always popular picks. Chuck Amato undoubtedly had visions of building a national power at his alma mater and Cowher certainly hopes for the same thing. The only question would be whether he wants to be the man to try to do it.

Cowher's wife, Kaye, also graduated from NC State. That both have a history in Raleigh could work in the Pack's favor, should Fowler offer the coaching position to Cowher. Being familiar with the area is another plus that could help the Wolfpack.

Most Pack fans who have been following the situation closely know that Cowher has held off on signing a contract extension with the Steelers. While he is now in his 15th year with the franchise some have speculated that he might be ready for a change or even retirement. If he just wants a change of scenery and a new challenge, having already reached the pinnacle of his profession, where better than his alma mater?

While Amato's job performance was not enough to stay in town, Cowher would certainly have a grace period. No coach is immune from criticism, but a coach like Cowher would unite the fan base. At just 49 years old Cowher could have a long time left in coaching if he wants it.

Why it Might Not Happen: While a lot of Wolfpack fans are getting their hopes up over the possibility of hiring Cowher, we have seen or heard nothing definitive that would indicate he is interested in the job.

"There is a chance he will still be coaching the Steelers next season."
There is a chance he will still be coaching the Steelers next season. While that might be a bit of a long shot at the rate things are going now it's hard to imagine Pittsburgh not making a strong push to keep him. Cowher is a winner. With the Steelers struggling this season, could he really walk away like this?

Cowher is still a fairly young coach but he may feel as though he has accomplished all he would like to. Having won the Super Bowl and made his family financially secure he might think it's time to move on to the next stage in his life.

Coaching in the NFL is not all X's and O's, but coaching in college entails a lot of things Cowher does not have a background in – namely, recruiting. Dealing with egos in the professional ranks is one thing, but some coaches simply do not like the idea of having to almost beg 17 and 18 year old high school students to attend a particular university.

Pack Pride's Take: Almost every NC State fan would be thrilled to see Bill Cowher roaming the sidelines of Carter-Finley Stadium. Aside from being a former star and alum, Cowher is one of the best-known people in football at any level. He would more than likely command the respect of high school prospects hoping to one day take their game to the NFL, and his emphasis on discipline and fundamental football would be a welcomed change.

It's tough to predict what Cowher will do. If he really wants out of Pittsburgh and he is not done coaching, anything could happen. If it doesn't work out there are still plenty of capable candidates. That said, it's hard to imagine that Cowher is not at or near the top of Fowler's list. Cowher has to be at the top of the list... that's a no-brainer.

With that being said, it's probably a longshot at best that Cowher will be roaming the Wolfpack sidelines in 2007 as head coach. However, he hasn't come out and officially stated that he isn't interested in the job, and until that time comes (or another coach is named), all Wolfpack fans can speculate that it just might happen.


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