Russ Grimm took his second turn yesterday to convince the Steelers he can be their next coach, and, if longevity is what they are looking for, they got it yesterday.
Grimm's interview lasted about six hours, counting a brief break for lunch, a day after Mike Tomlin's second interview ran 31/2 hours.
"I'm excited about the opportunity," said Grimm, the Steelers' assistant head coach and offensive line coach. "I think it's a point in time in my career where I'm ready to make that next move."
The next move is up to club president Art Rooney and his father Dan, the team's chairman. Those two, along with football operations director Kevin Colbert, have interviewed all the candidates. A third finalist remains for a second interview, but his availability won't be known until Sunday.
If defensive coordinator Ron Rivera's Chicago Bears lose in the NFC championship, they can talk to him soon thereafter. If they win, the Steelers must decide if they will wait two more weeks for Rivera or choose between Grimm and Tomlin.
They also will choose from two different directions when they pick their head coach. Grimm, 47, and a finalist for the Hall of Fame as an all-1980s NFL guard with the three-time Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins, represents continuity to a team that won the Super Bowl 11 months ago. Tomlin, 34, played at William & Mary but not in the NFL. He would represent radical change as a proponent of the 4-3, Cover 2 defense. Rivera, 45, also coaches a 4-3 with the Bears.
"It's a big decision," Grimm reasoned about his lengthy second interview yesterday. "I know if I was on the other end of the table, I'm not going to make a decision until I'm comfortable with somebody. As an assistant coach, I'm not making a decision or calling a play until I'm comfortable with it."
If the Steelers hire Grimm, he would join Tennessee's Jeff Fisher as the only current head coaches in the league promoted from within.
The two new coaches hired since the end of this past regular season in Arizona and Atlanta came from outside those organizations. The next coach of the Miami Dolphins also will come from outside.
Grimm coached the Redskins' tight ends and offensive line from 1992-2000. He joined the Steelers as line coach in 2001.
"It's not like you can say this was my record when I was a head coach here or something or when I was a head coach there," Grimm noted. "I'm confident in my ability to run this football team."
It's unusual for a team to promote from within because if there's a coaching vacancy it usually occurs because the coach was fired, the record was poor and the team wants nothing to do with anyone on his staff.
Two other examples of assistant coaches moving to the top job on his team occurred when: Current Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau succeeded Bruce Coslett as Cincinnati's coach during the 2000 season and remained through '02; and current Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt moved up to replace Jimmy Johnson in 2000 with the Miami Dolphins.
A more apt example occurred in St. Louis, after the Rams won the Super Bowl in January 2000. Dick Vermeil, like Bill Cowher, "retired" shortly after they won the NFL title, and the Rams turned toward their offensive coordinator, Mike Martz, to replace him. Under Martz, the Rams reached the Super Bowl again two years later.
"You'd like to think there's a good nucleus on this football team, there's enough ability on this football team," Grimm said. "It's just a matter of getting things in place, making sure that chemistry is there from year to year."
It's also rare when someone moves directly from coaching the offensive line to head coach. The usual progression is to be promoted from a coordinator's job. One of Grimm's mentors as line coach of the Redskins, Joe Bugel, who was not a coordinator before he made the leap to head coach of the Arizona Cardinals and Oakland Raiders. Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid also made that leap.
Grimm has been involved in the game plan on offense and made the halftime adjustments for the Steelers.
"I feel confident as far as when to use timeouts, when to throw the flag, when to run, when to pass, when to punt, when to go for it," Grimm said. "Those are decisions, sometimes, that are gut feelings. Sometimes, everybody in the stands feel one way and you feel the other.
"Am I saying I'm not going to make any mistakes? No. I imagine the longer you coach, the more you see and those things come up and you learn from them. I don't know if I need more on the resume or whatever.
"It's flattering to have the chance to get [the job], and it's kind of exciting once you go through the process and see all that's involved."
Russ Grimm, now the Steelers offensive line coach, talks to the media after he met with team officials yesterday about the head coach job.
Click photo for larger image.
Ed Bouchette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .