Forget Cowher, It's Time To Move On

The whole topic of Bill Cowher had finally died off. It was over with. It was finished. Cowher went on national television and said, "I don't plan on coaching next year." Then, just a week or two later, Boomer Esiason told a radio show it wouldn't surprise him if Scott Pioli hired Cowher to coach the Chiefs in 2010. Little by little, the flood gates re-opened.

Now, with the Super Bowl behind us and everyone waiting for a coaching announcement from Arrowhead, Cowher-Mania is running wild in Kansas City once more. Somewhere along the way, the initial comment of "Cowher in 2010" seamlessly transitioned into "Cowher in 2009," without anyone stopping to notice.

Then came the inevitable reports of Cowher being seen around Kansas City. Someone saw him buying a new house, then someone else saw him cruising around with, "I LUV KC" plates on his car. Depending who you believe, Cowher might have even been seen riding a unicycle through the fountains at Crown Center, wearing a Tyler Thigpen jersey.

Yes indeed, the anticipation of Steely Bill being named as the next head coach of the Chiefs has reached a fever pitch for those who never let their Cowher dreams die.

But, hey, what about those reports that he wouldn't coach this year, including the denial that came straight from The Chin's own... chin?

That's old news. None of that matters because the Chiefs hadn't hired Pioli yet.

Oh. And the new contract Cowher just signed with CBS?

Clark Hunt can buy him out of that. He's rich!

But what happened to those claims about Cowher wanting full control of whatever team he returned to coach?

It's no longer an issue. He's been wooed by the power of Pioli.

Yeah, but how about the numerous reports stating Cowher doesn't want to be far from his family, many of whom are entrenched in the Tri-State area?

Well, that's why they invented e-mail. And video conferencing. And airplanes!

Indeed, for the true believers, it seems there's no counter-argument strong enough to derail the ties between Cowher and the Chiefs' open coaching job. It's just too perfect. It's destiny, it's fate. It has to happen. The bonds are too strong to break.

Well, that's not going to stop me from trying. What can I say? I'm a glutton for punishment.

During the season, I wrote that Cowher wouldn't be my first pick for Kansas City's next head coach. Honestly, he wouldn't be my second choice either. I could rehash all my reasons, of which there are several, but do you know what it really boils down to?

I want to move on from the days of Carl Peterson.

Since Derrick Thomas' enshrinement into the Hall of Fame was announced, much has been written – including right here at WPI by my esteemed colleague, C.E. Wendler – about how we can finally close the book on the last 20 years. What a terrific idea that is.

Oddly enough, it doesn't seem like everyone is actually ready to do that. At least not the way I envision it.

Turning the page on Carl Peterson would start with the hire of an exciting new GM – mission accomplished. Next, we go out and hire an exciting new coach. How about someone with no ties to the Chiefs, a coach who is truly a fresh start? What about a young up-and-comer who will stand side-by-side with Pioli for years to come?

Working together, the exciting new GM and exciting new coach can go out with the third pick in the draft and finally grab the Chiefs an exciting new quarterback.

That would be the ideal way to move on from the Peterson era. Not only do they make sense for the Chiefs' current situation, they're both something Peterson would never do.

We all know about his history of avoiding young quarterbacks, and the closest he ever came to hiring an exciting new coach was promoting Gunther Cunningham. The fact that Peterson didn't (and wouldn't) do those things is a big reason to like them so much.

Apparently, though, my view of how to move on places me firmly in the minority. Clark Hunt has finally called upon the winds to sweep away Peterson's stench, and instead of stopping to breathe the fresh air, it seems many fans want the Chiefs to take in a whiff of stale, old air from days gone by.

Oh, the 1990's. Remember those days? Those were some good times, to be sure. The Chiefs were a tough team back then. Not just the "hard to get a win against" kind of tough, but also the "physical, beat you up, leave you sore for days" kind. And the defense! It was a thing of beauty. The offense? Well, it was there, too.

The thing about Cowher-to-the-Chiefs supporters – not all, mind you, but plenty of them – is that when they talk about their favorite coaching candidate, you can hear the wistful strains in their voice as they pine for that faded ‘90's glory. Like grizzled old timers sitting around a fire talking about the good ol' days, they speak of Cowher and of "toughness" as they yearn for the way things used to be.

How about moving on from all that?

For most of Peterson's 19-year run, the Chiefs were led by a head coach who embodied the Marty Schottenheimer vision of football. Whether it was Herm Edwards or Marty himself, we always knew what we were getting. Inevitably, it led to disappointment time and again. I'm not ready to jump back on that train.

Don't misunderstand me - Cowher is a fine coach and wouldn't be a terrible choice to lead the Chiefs. But he's also another link to a tired, outdated and ultimately failed period of Chiefs history that the franchise should be doing their best to move away from.

The same criticisms that dogged Schottenehimer and Edwards throughout their careers are just as firmly associated with Cowher. The one label Cowher finally managed to shake was that he couldn't win the big one, but let's be honest - he only broke free of that curse after the Rooneys gave him 13 years to finally stumble onto a franchise quarterback talented enough to overcome his coach's "play not to lose" philosophy.

Some will try to tell you that Cowher changed in his final years of coaching, but it doesn't seem like anyone shared the details of Cowher's change with Ben Roethlisberger, who all but danced a jig when his former coach left Pittsburgh. If you've seen the clip of Big Ben in his coach's face on the sideline during the Super Bowl, practically pleading with him not to go into a shell once the Steelers were ahead, you know how seriously he'd take the claim of Cowher's alleged "awakening."

Why does hiring Cowher even make sense for Scott Pioli? They've never worked together before. All we've heard about any kind of relationship between the two was from Esiason's radio interview, when he said they were friends.

But what does that mean? How close are they? Do they go fishing together? Do they text each other back and forth while watching episodes of The Hills? Or do they merely respect each other's success and smile, shake hands, and pat each other on the back down on the field before games?

More important than any friendship is the question of how Pioli and Cowher would mesh in a professional sense. Pioli comes from a structured way of doing business – that famed "Patriot way." Cowher comes from a structured system in his own right with the Steelers.

You can find many areas where those formulas overlap, no doubt, but there are also sure to be key differences. One only has to consider the general perception of both organizations to realize there's a few notable ways in which they differ philosophically.

Since Pioli was hired, we've all read about how closely he worked with Bill Belichick, how they were constantly in sync with one another. During his introductory press conference, Pioli made it clear he'd like to form that kind of bond with his new head coach.

Wouldn't it be easier for Pioli to do that with someone already familiar with his preferred method of operation? Or, barring that, someone receiving their first opportunity at the head coaching level, who would basically be a clean slate? Trying to co-exist with a person who did things a different way for 15 years, someone who reportedly wanted full control of a team, and someone who has every reason to believe that his way of doing things is the right way – well, that sounds like the most difficult path to take, doesn't it?

No matter how many times people try to connect the dots to Cowher – a process that often seems to include creating dots out of thin air just so lines can be drawn to them – it just doesn't add up. Coaching this year doesn't make sense for Cowher. He doesn't make sense for Pioli, and Cowher doesn't make sense for a franchise that should be trying to move forward instead of reliving the past.

So please, let's put this issue back to bed where it belongs.

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