The search is on

Team president Art Rooney II talks about the process of finding a new head coach for the Steelers and the thinking behind it.

Pittsburgh Steelers


Good afternoon again. We'll begin our search for a head coach immediately. Our only goal is to find the best person for the job. The timetable will simply relate to when we feel we have reached that goal. We will identify candidates only after we've completed an interview, and only if that candidate wishes to be identified. The only exception to that at this point is I do want to confirm we have informed both Russ Grimm and Ken Whisenhunt that they are candidates and will be interviewed.

Could you go over the rules of who you're allowed to talk to this week?

It's kind of a strange rule, but we're only permitted to interview, of the teams that are in the playoffs, we're allowed to interview the teams that have a bye week this week. The teams that don't have the bye this week, we would be allowed to interview their coaches next week. We will be a little bit limited by that with some of the interviews.

Even if that team wins this week and plays next week too?

Yes. If the team wins and has a game next week, we're permitted to interview their people.

Are Russ and Ken the only members of your staff who are candidates?

Yes. At this time, yes.

How many are you looking at?

I can't give you a specific number. We're still in the process of forming the list and investigating people that we'd like to have on the list, so it'll be an ongoing process.

Will you start this weekend?


Will you bring everybody here?

No, the candidates whose teams are in the playoffs, we have to go to their city to do the interview, so we'll be traveling to those cities.

Will you be doing that yourself?

There'll be three people involved in the interviews: myself, my father, and Kevin. Whether we're involved in every interview, I'm not sure about that, but that's sort of our interview committee.

Do you have to keep an eye on other teams' openings?

We do. We'll be aware of what's going on with these other openings, yes.

A lot has changed over time. But is it the same type of process?

No, I would say fundamentally it's a similar process to what we've had in the past. The two biggest things we'll rely on are interviews, number one, and, number two, information and recommendations we can get from other people in the league who we respect their opinion. That's what we've done in the past. That's the way it will be done this time.

How important is continuity, for instance with the 3-4 defense?

I think we'll be aware of the team we have, the roster we have, as we go into this, not that this will put absolute restrictions on anything, but it's certainly something to take into account. I would say overall we've had an approach to the game of football that I think has been fairly consistent going back to Coach Noll. So I think that looking for people who we feel fit with the organization and the approach we've had to football, I think those kinds of things will be factored in.

Will you look at college coaches?

We're not eliminating anybody based on college. I think that NFL experience is certainly a criterion, but we haven't eliminated college coaches per se.

Your forefathers have a bit of a tradition here in hiring coaches. Do you feel any pressure to live up to that tradition?

The only pressure I feel, and I think we all feel, is just to find the best coach we can find for this organization at this point in time. It's probably no different than any other time we've had to go through this.

We may not be aware of the candidate you might be most impressed with.

That could be true, yes.

I mean, no one's eliminated is I guess the question I'm asking. And you will interview candidates other people wouldn't.

That's right. We're not trying to identify someone who's a household name obviously. There are a lot of good coaches in the National Football League and we'll try and find the ones that we think it's their time and a good fit for our organization.

After Bill sits out the year, and comes back to coach again, would you seek compensation?

No, not after 2007.

How much does the next coach have to have an appreciation for how this organization operates?

Some appreciation and just a general fit with the organization is important. We may talk to people who aren't that familiar with the organization, so it's not incumbent on them to have an appreciation in the sense of knowledge of the organization, but I think someone who let's say shares similar philosophies to the approach to the game of football, I think those kinds of things are important.

Do Whisenhunt and Grimm have an advantage because they know all that, they know your players, have been here, and you also know them?

Certainly I think our existing coaches, and I think the fact that we feel we have a good staff, I think those are things that could be considered positives in their regard.

Will their candidacies in other places change or expedite your process?

At this point I would say no, but that could change. But as I stand here today I'd say we've got to go through our process. If something happens that we can't move that quickly then we'd just have to live with that, but I think as time goes on that may become more relevant.

Did Miami get permission to talk to Whisenhunt?


How do you identify the guys you might want to talk to? Do you feel you have a knack for it?

It's hard to say. We've only done this a couple times in the last 40 years or so, so it's hard to say we have a knack for it.

Do you guys keep a list of who the hotshot assistants are?

It's hard to say. Certainly there are some names that everyone talks about. By the same token, there are probably some names that I don't know where they are on other people's lists. It's hard to say other than we will pay attention to our own information first rather that what other people are thinking?

Is NFL experience as a player important at all?

It's something you look at. I think NFL experience as a coach is more important. NFL experience as a coach with a lot of coaches has proven to be an advantage. It's just a factor I would say.

When did you start getting a list together?

Let's just say that recently we started to look at some lists.

Are you going to ask Bill Cowher for his thoughts on any of these candidates?

Sure. We'll ask Bill for some of his thoughts for people he knows around the league.

If Bill moves on and compensation is required, is that something you frown on?

You mean if Bill goes somewhere in 2007? I don't think that's a factor at this point. It's not something we've given any thought to. Certainly Bill does not sound like that where he's going. That's not something we'll spend a lot of time thinking about at this point.

Is that compensation up to the teams or would the league work that out?

No, that's something that is up to the teams as I understand it.

So the Dolphins haven't called?


You've had some coaches on your staff here who went on to be head coaches and are now assistants again. Will you look at any of those guys?

I wouldn't necessarily discount somebody who fits that description.

Is there a certain personality profile you're looking for?

I think that you want a personality who, No. 1 is somebody who can deal with the players and get the players' attention. There's sort of a proven track record in that regard as an important personality trait.

When they hired Coach Noll, what was your involvement with the team and judging by the crowd here today, what does that say about Pittsburgh fans and how they care who coaches this football team?

I was a ballboy when Coach Noll was hired and I did not have a lot of input in the process. I did prepare a list. Things have changed obviously. The attention to NFL football has grown tremendously and things are a little different. On the other side of it, some of the qualities and characteristics that we would have been looking for at the time we hired Chuck and Bill remain things that we would look for today.

Do you remember who was on your list?

They were all college coaches. The only information I had was research on college coaches. Ara Parseghian was probably one.

Bill was fiery at the start and it was pointed out over and over again that had changed over the years. I assume you have a preference?

I don't think Bill changed that much over the years, I'll start with that. I think Dick Hoak the other day made a comment. He was asked to compare Chuck and Bill and saw that there were differences. He made the comment that there were different ways to get it done. That's true. The No. 1 thing the person has to be is they have to be themselves. I think for that person, that will be important.

How much leeway will you give the new coach with assistant coaches? Will he have certain guys that he has to keep?

We don't think you just bring somebody in and say, ‘Here's your assistant coaches.' I think whoever comes in has to have the ability to put their staff together. Obviously, having said that, we think we have good people on this staff and would recommend that they consider people on the staff. The bottom line I think is that the person who comes in has to be able to put their staff together.

What's the word on one of your guys going elsewhere? Do they have to get a promotion?

Yes. We would not have to give permission for somebody to make a lateral move, so to speak.

They are all under contract?

They are all under contract, yes.

Does the title assistant head coach come into play about whether a coach is allowed to make that move?

I don't think they are treated differently than a coordinator at this point.

Is there a certain number of minority candidates you'd like to interview?

Not a certain number, but we're required, as you know, to include at least a minority candidate. I think that somebody said, have things changed? One thing that has changed over the years is the number of quality of minority candidates that are in the pool of candidates has grown. From that standpoint, I think that's a positive. It's not difficult to find people who are coordinators with the kind of experience that you want in these positions.

Steel City Insider Top Stories