There will be tough decisions to be made and along with that there will be new opportunities to be seized. The bottom line is I don't think our expectation will waver. We still expect to win and, in the process of doing that, it will be important to surround ourselves with people who are committed to that and believe that. Part of that process took place right after the season. The last time I talked to you guys, I believe it was the Monday after the game, and I told you, at the time, I did not anticipate any staff changes. Well, a few things developed and there have been some changes, some by choice and some for job advancement. I would like to talk about each guy that we brought on and give you a little bit of a briefing about it.
At the end of the season, the first change that was made was relieving Tim Lewis of his job. That was done for philosophical reasons. Subsequently, we were able to bring back Dick LeBeau. Dick has been a guy that when he was last with us, he left to go back to Cincinnati. I know some people at the time thought that he and I could not get along very well. But that was the furthest thing from the truth. He really wanted to go back. His son was finishing high school and he wanted to be with his family at the time. It turned out very well for him. He ended up not only coordinating, but becoming the head coach of Cincinnati. We competed against him for a number of years and stayed in great touch. As a matter of fact, Dick used to always give me a candy bar before the game when we played against each other. When he was head coach, they were little miniature sized ones. But last year, when he was out of it, he went up to Buffalo and was very instrumental, I think, in their change statistically what they did. His involvement was very evident in some of the things they were doing. I am very excited about the opportunity to be reunited with that. Dick is our defensive coordinator.
Also, Willy Robinson left. Willy had a chance to become the defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers. I have a great relationship with him, and great respect for him. His was also a situation I think where he has had family on the West Coast, and that had a lot to do with his decision based on some of the things that have taken place the last couple years. I wish him nothing but the best.
In the process, we have elevated Darren Perry to become secondary coach and we have hired the assistant defensive backs coach, Ray Horton. Interestingly enough, Ray was interviewed prior to us hiring Tim Lewis. He was also one of the candidates for the secondary job when Tim got the job when Dick LeBeau was a coordinator. Ray comes in and having worked with Dick in Cincinnati and coming from Detroit, he understands some of our terminology and some of our defense. So, he will be a great addition to us. He has played corner in the National Football League as Darren who has played safety, as well. I feel very good about the defensive sided of the ball in that regard.
On the offensive side, I think everybody is very happy for Mike (Mularkey) and the opportunity that he now has as he becomes head coach in Buffalo. I know Mike wanted to take Kenny (Whisenhunt) or Tommy Clements with him as a coordinator and I was not, at the time, ready to be able to talk to either one of them and name either one of them. I wanted to talk to both of them at the time, so Tommy had the opportunity to go up there knowing he would have an opportunity here, but knowing he was offered a job as Mike got it. So, Tommy went with Mike as his offensive coordinator, and the same thing is with Mike Miller. Mike Miller was an offensive assistant for us, and handled quality control. He now will have an opportunity to go up there to work with the tight ends and that is a chance for him also to have some job advancement. I have never stood in the way of anybody, and never will, of any assistant coach who has a chance to gain more responsibility, a chance to move up in his profession, and some day get to where they want to be. I would never stand in the way of that. So, we lost Mike (Mularkey), Tommy (Clements), and Mike (Miller) for all the right reasons for job advancement. Filling their positions, Ken Whisenhunt was named the coordinator. I think Kenny has a broad background. He worked with Bill Parcells, Dan Henning, and has had his own ideas. I know when he came in here, he was a guy that Bill was grooming at the Jets to become a coordinator up there. I talked with him and we just felt that he was the right guy. He gives us continuity. It doesn't mean we want to change terminologies. We will certainly look at all the options in terms of philosophies. But I think he gives us the best continuity to be able to keep Kenny here and have him become the coordinator utilizing the rest of the staff. We made Russ Grimm the assistant head coach. I know we have never had that title since I have been here. But I think not only do we recognize it here, but I think a lot of people in the League recognize the importance of Russ Grimm and what he brings to our football team. He has done an obviously great job with the offensive line, but he has been very instrumental in putting together game plans. I think Mike Mularkey would be the first one to tell you how much we have all relied on Russ and his input. I think it needed to be recognized. That is why he was given the additional title.
We have three new coaches. The tight ends coach is James Daniel. James has coached tight ends for the last seven or eight years. I talked to Dan Reeves and Dan Reeves had nothing but great things to say. He was with Dan Reeves with the Giants. He went with him down to Atlanta and has helped develop some pretty good tight ends in Atlanta, that is for sure. So we are very fortunate that we were able to hire him. There were a lot of other teams that were waiting to talk to this man. He made a commitment to us, and we are excited about having James. I think he will be a great addition to our staff.
Wide receivers coach is Bruce Arians. Bruce was a coordinator last year in Cleveland. I actually worked with Bruce in Kansas City. He came there from Temple and coached the running backs when we were in Kansas City. I worked with him for three years there. He was on the other side of the ball, but I have always been impressed with some of the things Bruce did in Cleveland and he gives us some knowledge and ideas. I think he will work great with the receivers. He had other options, as well, but I think he was looking forward to staying in this division and playing against one team in particular. We are grateful to have him.
Our quarterbacks coach is Mark Whipple. A lot of people may not know about Mark, but he has been one of those guys where I heard about him a couple years ago, and particularly before we hired Tommy Clements and had him on the list. He has been a head coach at Brown, and he has been at the University of Massachusetts and in 1998 they won the Division I-AA Championship. He has had very explosive offensives. Some people that I have talked with through the League have held him in very high regard. He has had other opportunities to come into the League. I just think we are very fortunate that the timing was such that he was ready to make the move.
I know there was a time where it looked like there were a lot of people departing, but I really feel that we have filled those positions with very qualified people. Frankly, I am very excited about it. The last position was Matt Raich. Matt moved in from working in the scouting department with Kevin (Colbert) and he will now be our offensive assistant and work with the quality control. He has got involved with coaching, and it was a great opportunity for him to also move up. We have gotten a lot of those types of positions filled from that intern type of position to give them a chance to stay within the organization and for job advancement. I am very excited about the staff. There are a lot of changes. Like we have said, we have some work ahead of us in this offseason but I think it is a lot of fresh ideas and a chance for us all to kind of sit back and start from the ground floor again. I am looking forward to that.
One last thing I want to keep you abreast on is that we have had 10 offseason surgeries since the end of the season. All these guys should be ready to go by the end of the coaching sessions. Kendrell Bell had his shoulder, Alan Faneca is going to play in the Pro Bowl this weekend and is going to have shoulder surgery at the conclusion of the Pro Bowl, Jeff Hartings an ankle, Chukky Okobi with a shoulder, Jeff Reed with a hip, and I know some of you have already reported some of these, but I am just giving all the surgeries. Jay Riemersma with a shoulder, Oliver Ross with an ankle, Kendall Simmons had both a shoulder and an elbow worked on, and Jerame Tuman with his shoulder. Like I said, nothing has been serious. There are no serious injuries. They should all be ready to go by the end of the coaching sessions, which will conclude by the middle of June. As an update, Marvel Smith has regained full motion of his shoulder. His strength is back. He is coming into town next week. What we had hoped to be the case was he just needed some time. He does not appear to need any surgery at all. He appears to be a hundred percent. We still have not seen him, but that was probably as good of news as anything we got. We have the month of February until we start dealing with the next phase of the year, and that free agency and the cap, and the roster. We are sitting down and looking at all of our options recognizing there will be some tough decisions that will have to be made. There will be change that will take place, but nothing that every other team isn't going through.
Q: How much does it help you that Marvel Smith has regained full motion in terms of what you are looking at with the line?
Bill Cowher: I think we were all pretty certain that was the case, but certainly it is good. Like I said, the tough thing with Marvel is that we play a game that you have to play with a degree of pain and there are little things that Marvel tried to play through, but consequently in doing that, set himself back where he was never really able to recover. Unfortunately, during the season, you just don't have the luxury of time that he has had since the end of the season. It will be great to get him back. He knows what he has to work on and hopefully there won't be any kind of recurrence next year. It is great to have him back. I documented during the season, you pick one of your top offensive linemen and when you lost him, it was a trickle-down effect.
Q: What does the market look like for linemen in the draft and free agency? Is it a good or bad market?
Bill Cowher: I don't know. We are still in the very early process of doing it. You are looking at all the potential free agents out there, and probably we are looking at that first. We will be doing the college thing. But that is the middle of April. Free agency starts in March, so we are looking at that first. I think there is also going to be another group of players that you are going to be looking at on March 1st when people have to reach the cap number. I don't know if it is so much June 1st anymore as March 1st. A lot of new players are being put on that list. So I think they were looking at information we have now and understand that there could be another group that we have to prepare to look at when they present themselves.
Q: There seems to be a lot of shoulder surgeries here. Is there a common thread? Is there something that they are doing more of in the off season to fix a shoulder?
Bill Cowher: A lot of these things, and I hate to use the word clean up, but it really is. It is nothing more. We play a game, the guys are bigger, stronger, they are faster, and more powerful. Like I said, with a lot of these guys none of this really set them back during the season. It is more of a try to maintain in doing the things that will enable them to be at a hundred percent, particularly at this time of year. A lot of this is not major surgery, at all.
Q: Loose cartilage?
Bill Cowher: Yes.
Q: No rotator cuffs?
Bill Cowher: No.
Q: You brought back Dick LeBeau and promoted Ken Whisenhunt, do you think you are maybe closer than what 6-10 may indicate? Will your roster stay more similar than what people are expecting after a 6-10 season?
Bill Cowher: I don't know what people are expecting. I think you have to be able to look around and I think if you open it up and look at it very objectively, I think certainly we have work to do and we have to do a better job as a coaching staff and we have to continue to find enough players to create very competitive situations and hopefully get a degree of luck. But you lose some close games, and I have said before, there is a fine line, but I think you have to stay open minded. We will be open minded. Do I still think that we are going to compete? I do.
I just think when you look at the last three years and you can take numbers, I guess when you stay in one place a long time, you can take numbers and make them whatever you want to make them. But these last three years, we have been close. Certainly, this last year was very disappointing. But, we won this division two of the three years and we need to get back to that. There is no question about that. We have to address some of the issues that are there and we will be in the process of doing that within what we can do and see what the options are. But it is not unlike other teams. Our expectation is to win. That starts with taking care of business in this division, bring yourself into postseason play, and I think as you can see, anything can happen, has happened, and certainly New England has done as good of a job as anybody of winning a Super Bowl in two of three years, and in this system, the way it is, is very, very impressive.
When you look at the injuries that they have gone through, they have been more the exception than the rule. They are certainly going to be the team to beat, and we feel like we are capable of playing with anybody. It is just a question of being able to do it on a consistent basis and making adjustments that you have to make during the season. But we have to give ourselves the ability to do that and that is where it starts in the offseason, making sure we get some good football players on this team and once we get that, we will find out what our identity needs to be to be able to maximize those players.
Q: What is Russ Grimm's role now, is it going to change?
Bill Cowher: I told him to make sure that he does not forget about that assistant head coach. I think that he has always been very involved and as we sat down with Ken Whisenhunt he understands he has a lot of information that he can pull from. Ken is still going to be the one calling the plays and he will still have the last call on the decision-making. Certainly, as I sat down with him and Russ they both will have tremendous input putting together the plan. I think their roles have been very clearly defined which I think is very important particularly when you are dealing with titles and that was important. He (Grimm) is invaluable and he has been. This is more of recognition of what he is to this football team.
Q: So you are confident that he and Ken will be able to work together?
Bill Cowher: Yes. Very.
Q: Why is it that offensive line coaches are more apt to become head coaches than coordinators?
Bill Cowher: I don't know if they are more apt to do it.
Q: There does not seem to be many offensive line coaches that have become a coordinator?
Bill Cowher: Maybe you have done your research, but I really don't know what it is. I think number one when you look at the offensive line and I know you think about run blocking, but you have to also think about protections. I think that is also a part of it, so the passing game is also a part of it. The three step, the quick game, the empty sets, the max protections and what is involved from the back standpoint, from a route standpoint. Some guys just want to coach that offensive line and other guys are able to see that big picture so there are so many different guys. It is like defensive line coaches. I think our defensive line coach is as good as there is in the NFL. Some other guys want more and want to become a coordinator; they want to become a head coach. It is important to get a good mix of everybody. Putting together a staff is like putting together a team. You just can't get the best; you have to get people who understand their roles that can accept their roles and that is why it is important to have a good staff.
Russ Grimm is very good, he is able to see the big picture, he is able to make adjustments, and he is able to understand that there is involvement in terms of the depth of the receivers as much as there is in the footwork of the offensive line. I think he has a very broad knowledge of all that. He has a lot of input and always has.
Q: What additional responsibilities will Russ Grimm have now?
Bill Cowher: I don't know if there are any more additional responsibilities as much as it is a recognition of what he is. He will be involved again with Ken and putting together a game plan. I have sat in that room as well and I think with our offense as it was with Mike Mularkey everyone has input. Obviously, it comes down to Ken putting it together and him working with Russ in doing that and making the final decisions on what we are going to do for each game. As far as additional duties I guess if something where to happen to me I guess he is the head coach. I better not turn my back on Russ too often. I don't know if there is anything additional.
Q: Does that mean you two will travel on separate buses?
Bill Cowher: No.
Q: Ken was quick to say that one of his chief philosophies was running the football. Do you think there will be a reunited emphasis on the running game?
Bill Cowher: Yes. We have to run the football better than we did a year ago. I don't think there was a de-emphasis being put on it last year. Contrary to what some people in here may think and even some of the personal moves that were made that we were not trying to de-emphasize the run. We have to be able to run the football better than we did this past year. There is no doubt.
Q: When did the philosophical differences between you and Tim Lewis come to a head and what was the nature of that?
Bill Cowher: I don't think it would serve any purpose to get into it right now. Tim made tremendous contributions when he was here. He has a great opportunity right now to go up there with Tom Coughlin with the Giants and put his mark on that defense, which I am sure he will do a great job of and I wish him nothing but the best.
Q: Would you have any interest in Drew Henson?
Bill Cowher: I know we have been invited probably along with 30 other teams down to Houston to see his workout. We are going to look at all our options at this point. I think you are foolish not to. We will sit down and talk about it. There is still some logistics involved with this. There are a lot of things that would entail. It is not just a guy getting ready for the draft. They have the rights to him so we are certainly going to explore all our options.
Q: His workout is in Houston. The Texans aren't putting it on are they?
Bill Cowher: They have the rights to him so everything is done through them. They have his rights, the drafted him so they have his rights up to the draft.
Q: What are your thoughts on the health of Terry Fair and can he help this football team?
Bill Cowher: He is a former number one pick. The injuries are something that is why we were able to sign him when we signed him. Hopefully, he can come back and be part of the offseason program. We signed him early enough where he can get involved in understanding this defense and he will have an opportunity on the field. We will find out when we get to Latrobe. It was hard to pass up. Not to be able to sign a guy who is still young and has shown ability, but has had some injuries.
Q: Did you see him workout here?
Bill Cowher: I did not see him workout. But from everything that I was told it was obviously impressive enough to sign him.
Q: As you sit here a month removed from the season, was it scheme that was a problem or was it the execution of or was it a combination?
Bill Cowher: It starts with myself and making sure that I look at it and we put the emphasis where we want to put it. We are trying to utilize the people that we have, trying to utilize the strengths we have, trying to not expose your weaknesses. When it does not work you get questioned. That is all part of it. It is very easy to sit back and I understand that when you sit back and you did not run the ball enough. You sit there and no one questioned the New England Patriots when they were just throwing it and throwing it and they were winning and winning. When you are winning, you don't have to answer those questions. When you are losing you have to answer them and when you are losing maybe there is some degree of validity in what you are saying that you are not balanced enough and as far as pressure is concerned. Those are all things when you sit back and you are losing football games you certainly look back at the staff first and foremost and say what could you and should you have done differently.
You look and see where you are having breakdowns and what your options are in regards to what kind of personnel changes you might want to make or attempt to make or should make. All that stops with the head coach and I understand that and respect the opinions that take place every Tuesday when I come in here and try to answer those questions. When you look back we will be doing that. I don't know if I can sit here and say I have every answer here three or four weeks later. That is what part of the cut-ups will be. We get involved in putting a staff together and we get involved in evaluating every play we ran on offense, and every defense we ran on the defensive side. Maybe there were some things we did schematically that we got away from that we should have done more of or that we did too much of that we just kept pounding our head and it was not working. There is a persistence at times that you want to apply that sometimes might not be the way to take; maybe you should change a little bit. There is a fine line between the two and we did not execute well at times, but we probably did not do a good enough job of making the adjustments that we should have made.
Q: When you look ahead do you envision doing the same stuff and doing it better or do you envision some significant changes to your approach offensively?
Bill Cowher: I just think you need to do it better. We have to do it better. I don't know philosophically speaking; I am still the same guy. I am open minded, contrary to what you guys may think, I am an open-minded guy. I just want to win football games. I want to do what it takes. I think you have to take the personnel you have, and you have to build a football team around that and maximize your strengths. Philosophically, you will have an approach that you want to have. We want to control the football, we want to score points, we want to be able to stop teams from scoring and create some big plays.
Some of the things we have done characteristically in the past did not unfold last year and that is why we were 6-10. I don't think, again, it was a philosophical difference it was that it did not materialize that way; whether it be execution, on our inability to adjust. That is still what football is all about. Probably a combination of both. We will sit back and look at and see where we have to get better. First of all with the personnel element of it is we are getting involved in it now and we will certainly look at it collectively. You are brining in two new coordinators and we will certainly be able to look at it collectively and say we probably could have done this better and that better. There won't be any hurt egos when you have two new coordinators. I think it will be a fresh start and the ability again I think when you have Dick and Ken is not having to change terminology where the players are learning. Now you can take a different approach if you think it is the right thing to do but within the systems that we have in place because our systems are not locked where we have to do it a certain way.
Q: What did you think of the Super Bowl and of the halftime show?
Bill Cowher: The halftime show is an NFL issues, and I can't go there. I thought it was a good game, a long game, but I thought it was a good game. It was kind of like those things where they came out and there was not a lot of offense in that first quarter and a half. But I thought what you say in that last two and a half quarters was pretty good football. I was really hoping for overtime. I think that would have been interesting to see how much that may have prompted our overtime rules that we have in place right now. Someday it will change, I predict that.
Q: Do you anticipate any position changes in the offseason?
Bill Cowher: Not that I can think of right now. As we speak.
Q: Were you just too crowded at outside linebacker when Mike Vrabel was here?
Bill Cowher: When I saw his interview afterwards and he said ‘he came a long way from covering kicks in Pittsburgh' and I thought did he take a shot at us. I don't think he did. Knowing Mike Vrabel, that is his way of not forgetting where he came from. He is an outstanding football player. He was productive for us here. We could not assure him of a starting spot, we had two established outside linebackers at the time. I talked to him the day he signed in New England and I wished him nothing but the best. When he went up there he had a chance to start and they were not a very good football team at that time. He is a class act kid and I am happy for him. That guy is a good football player and he was great to have on our football team. I am excited for him.
Q: Did you know he could catch?
Bill Cowher: I did not know that at that time and I did not know Richard Seymour could block either.
Q: With Bruce Arians coming aboard and Ken being a first year coordinator, will Bruce have more input than a normal receivers coach?
Bill Cowher: No. I don't think so. Everyone has to start somewhere. I think Ken is ready to do this. He has worked hard and has earned the opportunity to do this just like Mike Mularkey earned the opportunity a couple of years ago. I think Ken has enough confidence in his abilities to recognize a lot of the thoughts and ideas and experience that we have in that room with Bruce Arians, Mark Whipple, Dick Hoak, and Russ Grimm. I think Ken will be fine.
Q: Will you ever really know about a coordinator until he climbs in the seat?
Bill Cowher: No you don't. It is like anything else, you don't know about a coordinator becoming a head coach until they do it. That is true. I know when I became a coordinator in Kansas City I had to talk Marty Schottenheimer into it. I was sitting there with Tony Dungy and he had Tony and Tony had done it here in Pittsburgh and I had to talk Marty into giving me the opportunity to do it. I was fortunate that he gave me that opportunity. You really don't know. You have a feel for people who are prepared to do it, who want to do it and I think it is important that if you have qualified people that you reward people for their hard work and diligence, particularly when you can do it with in your own staff. I think it sends all the right messages. Ken has earned that opportunity, and I think he will do a good job.
Q: How aggressive will your cap number let you be in free agency?
Bill Cowher: We are going through that process right now. I could not sit here today and tell you. There will probably be some things that materialized through the course of this next month. We will see what happens. There will be change and choices taking place and tough decisions to be made for sure.
Q: Do you think you will make some of those changes before the free agency period?
Bill Cowher: We will have to make some decisions before to get to the cap, so yes.
Q: Do you think some changes should be made in the celebration rules?
Bill Cowher: It is a fine line. My position on that is when you bring foreign objects into it then to me you crossed the line. It is subjective and the things that are done spontaneously. It has been done for a long time this hasn't just started. You go back to Coach Gibbs at Washington all their receivers did that little thing in the end zone the ‘fun bunch.' No one said anything about it then. All of the sudden now we are offending people by that. I don't know. Maybe times are changing. When you bring foreign objects into it whether it be a poster, sharpie, and cell phone to me you have crossed the line.
Anything else that maybe be disrespectful is going to be done subjectively. I don't want to take the spontaneous emotion out of the game because it is still a game played with high emotion. It should be, fans like that and want to see that. I believe that. You don't want to see things disrespectful and you don't want to disrespect the game, but you don't want to take the emotion out of it either. I know that is a fine line but that is how I feel.
Q: So if I scored a touchdown and pulled out a sharpie, what would happen to me?
Bill Cowher: We would deal with it in house.
Bill Cowher Press Conference
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