Cook: Even Steelers need luck
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If we said it once, we said it thousands of times after Bill Cowher decided the Steelers' salary offer wasn't enough to make him continue coaching.
Cowher will be tough to replace, but the Rooneys will find the right man. They always do......
We said it again last week after Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt took the head job with the Arizona Cardinals.
It would have been nice to see Whiz keep working with Big Ben, but the team will be fine. The Rooneys must have let Whisenhunt get away for a good reason. They know what they're doing.
I said it.
In retrospect, though, why?
Why is the belief around here almost unanimous that the Rooneys can't miss with their coaching hire?
Is it because the Steelers struck gold when they hired Cowher after the 1991 season? He was a marvelous choice, averaging 10 wins a year for 15 years and winning eight division titles and a Super Bowl. But it's hard to say the Rooneys would have picked Cowher over Dave Wannstedt if not for a big recommendation from Tom Donahoe, then the Steelers' director of football operations. That's why Cowher was so classless in his farewell news conference when he failed to thank Donahoe -- later a bitter enemy after the two had major problems working together -- for his role in his career.
Or do we have so much faith in the Rooneys because they uncovered Hall of Famer Chuck Noll after the 1968 season? Everyone knows he lasted 23 years and won four Super Bowls. But how many know he wasn't the Steelers' first choice? To this day, Joe Paterno teases Dan Rooney that Rooney owes him a big thank you for turning down the Steelers' job. Who knows? Paterno, who stayed at Penn State and became the greatest college football coach of all time, might have been just as successful in the pros. Or, maybe not.
The Steelers should be so lucky with their next coaching hire.
Of course, it's true what they say, that good, hard-working people make their own luck. The Steelers have come a long way since their early days as a franchise when owner Art Rooney Sr. hired his pals to coach. They've even come a long way since their hire before Noll. They picked Bill Austin in 1966 strictly on the recommendation of another coach, a fellow named Lombardi. Austin's teams went 11-28-3 in three miserable seasons.
There's no doubt Dan Rooney and his son, Art II, have done thorough background checks on their three finalists. Russ Grimm was easy; he's the Steelers' assistant head coach and has been a team employee for six seasons. The Rooneys talked extensively with Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid, among others, about Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera.
It's believed they also talked to Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy about Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin. Neither Rivera nor Tomlin would figure to come with secrets.
But don't underestimate the luck factor.
There's a reason NFL teams have hired 107 head coaches since the Steelers hired Cowher.
This hiring business isn't an exact science.
Ask Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. He won two Super Bowls with Jimmy Johnson as his coach and another with Barry Switzer, but has struggled to get it right since with Chan Gailey, Dave Campo and Bill Parcells.
Ask Miami Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga. He was smart enough to hire Jim Leyland to manage his Florida Marlins baseball team and won a World Series because of it, but he hasn't been nearly so successful with his football coaches. Since Don Shula retired after the 1995 season, Johnson, Dave Wannstedt and Nick Saban tried and often failed to get the job done. Maybe Huizenga got it right this time with Cam Cameron.
The list of unproductive coaches, working for respectable NFL franchises with solid owners, goes on and on.
The Washington Redskins have employed Norv Turner, Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier and Joe Gibbs since Dan Snyder bought the team in 1999.
The New York Giants have tried Ray Handley, Dan Reeves, Jim Fassel and Tom Coughlin since Parcells left after winning the Super Bowl after the 1990 season.
The San Francisco 49ers have struggled with Steve Mariucci, Dennis Erickson and Mike Nolan since winning their most recent Super Bowl under George Seifert.
Are you getting an idea how dicey this coaching search stuff is?
Do you still think it's an absolute lock the Steelers will end up with the next Cowher?
The next Noll?
Can the Rooneys really be that good?
First Published January 21, 2007 12:00 am