Must Cowher go?

These are the thoughts of a sportswriter who should be able to find something funny to write about an egomaniac who's nose-diving his team into the basement of the worst division in football, but who can't:

  • I just don't find this stuff amusing anymore.

  • At his Tuesday press conference, Bill Cowher came as close as he has to accepting blame for this miserable season when he said "the buck stops here." But, Cowher kept talking. "The buck stops here because they're doing everything I've asked them to do," he said. "We just can't get a ball to bounce the right way."

  • The buck stops here, but why has God forsaken me?

  • If the ball were bouncing the right way, Cowher could say "the harder we work, the luckier we seem to get" and get away with it.

  • Should the buck stop with Cowher? Really, how much blame does he deserve? Well, it's his team. There's only one opinion that matters during working hours - or during hours the owner isn't being asked to sign off on a big contract - on the South Side and that's Cowher's. So all of it is his fault.

  • Of course, that would make the wonderful 2001 season his fault, too, and that's the way it goes. That's really been the only bright spot for the Steelers since the 1998 season got off to a 5-2 start. Since that point, the Steelers are 45-41-1. So over the last five years or so, Cowher is .523. Chuck Noll was .481 in his last five years. Buddy Parker was .500 in his last five years.

  • Noll was forced into retirement because he clung stubbornly to his old methods. Parker was fired because he traded away too many future draft picks. Mix the two and you have Cowher, who clings to the belief his teams can pressure quarterbacks without a real pass rusher and who's beginning to run amok in the personnel department.

  • Of course, the real reason Noll and Parker were fired was that the air had grown stale around them, and when Cowher admits to having no answers for the current problems, he's walking that fine line.

  • The line of delineation for Cowher is the middle of the 1998 season when the relationship between he and personnel chief Tom Donahoe began to go. Not saying Donahoe was above blame, but whatever magic the two of them had in acquiring talent from 1992 to 1995 unraveled after the 1996 trade for Jerome Bettis. It left Donahoe in the dust after the 1999 season and left Cowher alone to draft Plaxico Burress instead of Chad Pennington in April of 2000.

  • That pick occurred even though Burress had overslept and blown off a dinner meeting with Cowher prior to the draft.

  • Can't say I was enamored of Pennington at the time, but smart-alecky sportswriters shouldn't have to pay for their misses, should they?

  • Tell you what. Had I flown to Detroit for dinner with a wide receiver who can't jump, and been blown off, my scope would've certainly drifted.

  • Burress' problem is he can't jump, not a whit. Whichever team signs him in free agency following the 2004 season will have a guy who lacks good hands, body control, can't jump and will be slowing down as the base salaries go up.

  • And the Steelers will still need a quarterback, although Cowher deserves credit for jumping into the Drew Henson sweepstakes. Yes, it's been learned that he has contacted the Houston Texans, who are awaiting the resolution of Henson's baseball status.

  • While it's commendable that Cowher, with only two years left on his contract, is thinking about the future of the franchise, it's at the same time scary that he's beginning to throw draft picks around as if his offense is running another double reverse in a phone booth on third-and-six.

  • Cowher had to have Troy Polamalu and he got him. Cowher had to have Jay Riemersma and he got him. Cowher didn't get the Larry Brown of the free-agent market, Dexter Jackson, only because of the incompetence of the Arizona Cardinals.

  • Polamalu is coming on, but the thinking behind the trade up, with the bundling of so many draft picks, is a scary precedent with Cowher.

  • Obviously, this is not the fault of Donahoe's replacement, Kevin Colbert. So do you fire Cowher? His personnel decisions are average on his best day. His team is uninspired and lacks discipline on an average day. His 3-4 defense is bad any day it's not playing the Cardinals. And his offense would be funny if it weren't so sad.

  • Those trick plays look awful when they don't work, and they won't work unless there's a threat at running back and receivers who can run and jump.

  • Sorry, Hines Ward, but the beatings you're taking will soon, if they haven't already, take a toll.

  • If Colbert doesn't deserve to go, and the firing of defensive coordinator Tim Lewis would only be viewed as Cowher finding a scapegoat, does offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey take the fall? Not without any help from anything resembling a running game.

  • I still like the trick plays. I like the idea of an exotic power game. Just get some talent to go with it. Jeff Hartings, Kendall Simmons, Oliver Ross, even Marvel Smith, they haven't worked.

  • So it comes back to Cowher. Does Cowher need to go? The creeping smell of hopelessness over on the South Side tells us the answer.

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