Answer Man

This showed up at the office yesterday without postage. Do you know what that means, Jerry? Freebies!! Yes, it's a Happy New Year for the Answer Man, who talks at length about the Steelers and their coach.

So what's going to happen at Bill Cowher's press conference Tuesday?

I don't think it's going to happen Tuesday.

Why?

I just don't. I don't have any inside information; I'll just defer to what he said this week. This was his answer when he was asked about it at his press conference: "That's for next week. We'll talk about that next week. It won't go long. I'm not sure what the time frame is." So I think that there's an assumption that since he'd said the last time it would be a long time, and this time that he said it's not going to be that long, that people think it's going to be Tuesday. I just think that's pushing it.

Whatever date it is, do you see the same result?

Yeah. He just seems to be someone who's at peace with whatever he's decided. And if decided he was coming back, he'd say it. Wouldn't you? When I'm trying to decide something, there comes a moment of clarity, that this is what I'm going to do, that this is right for me.

What happened in the two weeks?

I don't know. Anything that I say is a guess, but his relationship with his girls is real. And maybe seeing them and realizing what he missed – I don't know.

What kind of time frame do you see for naming a replacement?

The Pittsburgh Steelers will do more than just the letter of the Rooney Rule. I think they believe in that process -- obviously it's named after him -- so I think they'll interview a couple of minorities. I think they will look outside this organization.

Will it be a serious search outside or a cursory search?

No, I think everything is going to be serious because, again, it doesn't happen here that often. I am somebody who firmly believes there are places in the NFL where you cannot win, and this ain't one of those places. So when this job comes open, there isn't anyone you can't have. There isn't anybody you can't have here. Why would you not look outside these doors to see what else is out there? I'm not saying the guys who are inside these doors are not viable candidates. I'm not even saying they won't ultimately get hired. But I think you do yourself an injustice not seeing everything that's out there. They like to do this about once every generation, and, really, I defer to his expertise on this. I mean, the guy's hitting it pretty good.

I'm assuming you're talking about Dan Rooney.

Yes.

And will he be the No. 1 voice?

No. I believe it will be Art, as I believe it was Dan with Chuck Noll when the Chief was still alive. When Art Rooney gave it to his son Dan back when he did, he didn't just say "You're in charge but I'm going to make all the decisions." They don't operate that way, and I believe it's the same thing when Art was named team president a few years ago. Now, his dad is a pretty valuable resource to have, obviously, and I don't think that it would be anything where they were diametrically opposed on anything. There will be some consensus reached, but I think it would be pretty silly not to consult with the guy. I mean, go to Canton and look at that little bust in there.

Also, this particular aspect might be what he does best.

Yeah. He's pretty good at it.

Do any outside names titillate or interest you?

Yeah, there's one that titillates me, but let me just say this right off the bat: I have no idea what makes a good coach. I think that when you're hiring a coach, there are a lot of things that don't matter, in terms of whether people like him. In a company, the employees interact with each other because you spend so much time together and there are personalities, but I don't think it's really important that everybody like each other. You have to work together and there's a purpose for everyone's job. That's why I think that the Rooneys -- Dan and Art -- and Kevin [Colbert] are going to be involved very seriously I would imagine. They have to figure out who the best guy is. Whether other people like him, or even if he's good with the media, or if he's good with the community or any other departments, it doesn't matter. I mean, if he can't coach, he could be the guy next door [Dave Wannstedt] and be a great guy and have been fired twice. So, now again I don't know what makes a good coach, but the guy who intrigues me is the guy from Iowa, [Kirk] Ferentz.

A college coach?

Well, that's a negative. That's a negative. But, see, you can't have egos – well, they're all egomaniacs – but you can't have, like, Holmgren here. You can't have Gruden, Mike Martz, those kind of people. You can't have that, but Ferentz is not one of those people. He's a football-coach kind of guy. The fact he's been at Iowa all this time kind of shows that. He's more into the job and the results than a lot of the accoutrements. So I think that's something interesting to explore.

Does the local angle really interest the Rooneys?

No, you don't necessarily have to have grown up here because Chuck didn't. Chuck wasn't local at all. But I think you have to have an understanding of what this place is, what kind of town it is, what you can and can't do here, in terms of there's not a lot of glitz and glamour, so to speak -- sorta speak. But it's a town more than a city, if you know what I mean. And you have to understand that the people here are nuts about this team. They either make you a rock star or a pariah based on how you did the previous Sunday. So I think that's more important than having gone to a high school in the WPIAL.

Wouldn't you think a college coach like that is used to this kind of town?

Well, he's from Upper St. Clair. Joe Moore always spoke very highly of him, sent his players to him. It seems he's on the right branches of the tree. Gruden, those kinds of guys, I have no interest in them. Here's a quote you'll see again. Dan Rooney said this after Chuck left and they were looking for a new coach and names started coming up. Dan Rooney said: "We're not looking for a savior. We don't need saved." And that's the attitude here. Whoever's getting hired here, the first thing he's going to walk past are those five trophies. It's not like when Nick Saban went to Miami and changed the way they operated. You're not changing anything here. It doesn't need to be changed. So this is more of a fitting-in kind of thing, I think, than a "here are the keys to the franchise, let me know what you decided after you decide."

Don't the Rooneys give the coach unlimited power for the most part?

He doesn't get everything he wanted. If he got everything he wanted, I don't think he'd be leaving. Do you?

Is that fluid? Will Kevin become more of a power in the organization?

I don't know. See, that job is never going to be a GM. Dan Rooney says GM is a baseball job. There are meetings here and they decide as a team what they want to do, what they can do, what they are going to try to do.

What about the in-house candidates? Is one ahead of the other?

I have no idea. All I would hope is that not too much is based on this year. It was a bad year, and it was a bad year for a lot of reasons. I don't believe that this coaching staff is solely responsible for the bad year. There were a lot of things that were out of personal control. You can have done the preparation and the teaching, and if it doesn't manifest itself on the field it doesn't make you a bad coach. Just as if your kids don't listen to everything you tell them that doesn't make you a bad parent. I believe that these assistant coaches worked just as hard and put just as much into this year as they did the previous two. The fact that it didn't work out, I hope, doesn't lead them to being discarded. But by the same token, I think it needs to be pointed out that just because they were part of something good here doesn't mean they have the chops to step into the big seat. So again, I'm going to go back to what I said before: There's one guy here who knows what he's doing, knows what to look for in the hiring of a coach, and I'm going to wait for him to say this is who the guy is.

Does the fact that this is a young team, still intact, and has certain schemes like the 3-4 that require certain coaches to stay, help the in-house guys get the job?

I don't know, but it may have some impact though on whoever gets hired, because whoever gets the job might get told, "This is a 3-4 team. That guy sitting in that office there is your defensive coordinator." Because I'll tell you what, they will be told that guy sitting in there is your running backs coach. That will happen. The only reason I say that is -- beyond the amount of respect I have for Dick LeBeau -- this is a 3-4 team. If you look at the guys on defense, the front seven, it's a 3-4 team. You're paying Casey Hampton and Aaron Smith a lot of money. You just signed Brett Keisel to a nice contract. You see what Romeo Crennel's going through in Cleveland trying to switch from one to another. I mean, they stink. He's trying to bring in guys to teach the other guys and it's just a mess. So if you're a coach, a candidate for this job, and you're sitting in the office down there interviewing with the Rooneys and you're saying, "I'm going to come in here and change everything – ." See, you just laughed. So am I. No, you're going to have to come in here and fit in to some degree. We're not going to tell you who you need to play, or whatever, but we've won a lot of games here lately. There are good players here. It's not a bare cupboard, so I think that's going to be a factor, too, in who gets hired.

Do we automatically rule out guys like Dick Hoak, John Mitchell and Dick LeBeau for the job?

Dick Hoak, I'm sure there were opportunities for him to be more than he is and he said he kind of likes what he's doing, and that's fine. I respect that.

So they're not pushy, but do you rule out outstanding position coaches such as Mitch?

Yeah, and I think the reason that they are, and that they are here and have been here and will probably still be here, is they know what they are. They're focused and there's nothing wrong with that. You need those guys. Not everybody's a head coach or a coordinator, and reaching for the brass ring is nice, but if you don't get it and fall on your ass, you're off the ride. It's a pretty nice ride to be on.

LeBeau's not a candidate in your mind?

No.

Age?

Age. And again, I don't believe that Dick LeBeau – and I love the guy – but I don't think he's a head coach. I think that he may be one of the great defensive minds ever. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. But, that doesn't mean he's a good head-coaching candidate.

One last question, since the losses to the Ravens were so definitive, do you believe the talent gap is large and that drastic steps need to be taken?

No. I think the Ravens are having a great year. We had a great year last year. We had a bad year this year. What makes you think that can't happen to the Ravens? A couple of guys get hurt and they're just a little off. I don't believe the edge that they have right now will be able to be reproduced. You can want it and will it and all of that stuff, but it's just not human nature. The Ravens are a force to be reckoned with on a consistent basis in this division, but I don't see them as being something that forces you to change. You need to respect them, and to me Ozzie Newsome does a great job, but hey Steve McNair might get hit next Sept. 3 on the right elbow and be done, just like Bradshaw. What you need to do is what Cowher did when he got here: Identify that team to beat and you deal with them when you're putting your team together. You can't be a will-o-the-wisp team, as Chuck said, and beat the Ravens. You've got to show up and bring it. I think it's a question of doing what you do better as opposed to changing.


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