BFR Debate: Cowher must top wish list

If Bill Cowher changes his mind and decides to coach this season, Buffalo must pounce. With Cowher, Buffalo could win sooner rather than later. In Pittsburgh, he built a powerhouse through defense. The Bills have the pieces to do exactly that, BFR's Spencer Timkey says...

As good of an argument as he makes, my BFR comrade Ian Smith is wrong when he says the Buffalo Bills should hire Brian Billick as the next head coach.

Billick is great. He led the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl win just two seasons into his tenure as head coach. But Billick is not the answer to this team's woes. You have to love an emotional coach, but not one who blows retaliation kisses to opposing safeties after he gets called out (note: In 2007, Rodney Harrison called out Billick in that crazed Ravens-Patriots game. Billick blew him a kiss.)

The Bills need a coach who wins through defense. Defense wins championships. The old adage is true. Cowher played linebacker for the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles in the mid-80s. He started his career under Marty Schottenheimer in Cleveland as Special Teams coach. Following his stint with the Browns, Cowher followed Marty to Kansas City where he became the Chief's defensive coordinator.

And of course, Cowher's rise to fame came when he was hired as the second coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. In his first season, Cowher turned a previously terrible Steelers team into an 11-5 AFC playoff contender. At the young age of 38, Cowher became the youngest coach ever to lead his team to a Super Bowl. Although the Steelers lost, it showed how much progress they had made since he took over.

In Cowher's first six seasons as head coach, the Steelers made the playoffs each year. In just 15 seasons, Cowher led the Steelers to eight – that's right, eight – division titles. They played in 21 playoff games – six of them being the AFC Championship game. He led the team to two Super Bowls. The first, a loss. The second, a 21-10 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in 2005.

No wonder mouths have been watering throughout Western New York when Cowher rumors heated up earlier this week.

Cowher and new General Manager Buddy Nix would make a deadly combination in the Buffalo front office. Many would anticipate a few more years of "rebuilding" – much like the rebuilding the team has been doing for the better part of a decade.

However, this time it would be different. The players drafted wouldn't be Donte Whitners. Rather, the Troy Polamalus. No more third-round quarterbacks starting and no more shattered offensive lines.

This team would be built around defense. It's good that Cowher already has some incredible tools to work with. Jairus Byrd, Leodis McKelvin and Paul Posluszny are young cornerstones to build around. Cowher's track record with linebackers is particularly appealing. Year in and year out, Blitzburgh attacked opposing offenses. From Kevin Greene to Greg Lloyd to Joey Porter, the Steelers' defenses were feared.

Some coaches wouldn't dare try to come and rebuild this franchise. The hole the team is in is too great, some coaches have said. But as Nix hinted at his press conference last week, a big-name coach could make this a personal challenge. Cowher is beyond the point of tainting his legacy – he will always be remembered as one of the greatest coaches the league has ever seen. The challenge in Buffalo may be appealing to him.

Cowher could take this fragile small-market team and turn it around. Almost immediately, he could restore hope back into this storied franchise. With the help of Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and other Bills alumni, he could make Buffalo proud to call the Bills their own again.

The Bills haven't made the playoffs in a decade. Ten years of mediocrity, misery and missed opportunities.

It's time for Ralph Wilson to step up. Don't hire some B-list coach who led a team to 12-4 once. Hire someone who led his team to consecutive playoff seasons. Someone who hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. A winner. Hire a coach who has traveled the weathered road before. A coach that returned pride to a franchise gone awry. With so many teams — Tampa Bay, Carolina, (and probably) Cleveland — standing pat, the Bills may be Cowher's only opportunity to coach next season. If he's looking to get back into the bigs sooner rather than later, Buffalo it is.

Make the right decision, Mr. Wilson. Don't let Bill Cowher slip away…because he is the missing piece that this team needs to once again be a contender.




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