Ranking the possible landing spots for Bill Cowher

Bill Cowher has a problem. By waiting to get serious about getting back into the NFL, Cowher has few choices, now that he’s finally ready to return.

Bill Cowher began his NFL coaching career as a coordinator for the Browns in 1985.
Bill Cowher began his NFL coaching career as a coordinator for the Browns in 1985.

Several factors have combined to complicate Cowher’s circumstances. For a variety of reasons (not the least of which is a looming lockout in 2011), head coaches aren’t being fired with the same fervor as in past years. And with Mike Shanahan soon earning north of $10 million to coach the Redskins (not to mention $3.5 million in each of the next two years to not coach the Broncos), Cowher will want at least that much. He also will want full control over the football operations.

So with teams not lining up for the man who won a Super Bowl in 2005, his 14th season with the Steelers, let’s take a look at his for options from 2010, from worst to best.

6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Multiple reports have emerged linking Cowher to the Buccaneers. But the team reportedly wasn’t interested in paying him more than $6 million per year, and on Tuesday night the team angrily denied Cowher was a candidate for the job.

Though Cowher surely would have received full control over the roster and the draft, the team’s recent unwillingness to break the bank for players would have made it much harder to put together a competitive team, especially in an uncapped year.

So if there were talks, they fell apart quickly — and the Buccaneers decided to love the one they’re with.

5. Tennessee Titans

Despite the absence of any strong indication that owner Bud Adams is ready to make a change, some believe the time possibly has come for the team and coach Jeff Fisher to part ways.

And that could give Cowher a viable option in the AFC South.

But money and control again would be an issue. Adams would have to fire or neuter GM Mike Reinfeldt, and also would have to pay Cowher that $10 million salary.

Then there’s the fact that anyone who coaches the Titans will have to accept Vince Young as his quarterback.

So while the Titans might end up looking for a head coach, Cowher likely wouldn’t get the money and the power he wants.

4. Buffalo Bills

It’s clear the Bills would love to have Cowher. But the thinking is he doesn’t want to go there. The presence of a 91-year-old owner and an unsettled succession plan likely are significant factors.

Then there’s the money. It would be difficult if not impossible for the team to cough up eight figures per year, at a time when the Bills are languishing in a market that’s having a tough time properly supporting an NFL franchise.

3. Chicago Bears

This one would have been an option — and possibly still could be — if Cowher were willing to let GM Jerry Angelo run the show. But with Cowher wanting control, the Bears would be forced to eat coach Lovie Smith’s contract, and Angelo’s.

2. Carolina Panthers

Amid reports that coach John Fox will be retained for the final year of his contract but not offered an extension, it’s possible Fox and the Panthers will come to an agreement that creates a vacancy not far from Cowher’s current home.

If that happens, Cowher likely would move to the top of the list. GM Marty Hurney currently is under contract through June, which would make it easy — and cheap — to give Cowher the keys.

Money could be a sticking point, but even if Cowher has to take a little less, the proximity to his residence makes it the best option — if the job becomes available.

1. Wait a year

If the Carolina job remains filled for 2010, Cowher’s best bet will be to return to CBS for one more year. With Lovie Smith, Fox, and Giants coach Tom Coughlin surely on the hot seat next year, one or more of those jobs could end up being available.

The possibility of a lockout could complicate Cowher’s return, but teams will need to have head coaches in place in the event a new labor deal is negotiated. And Cowher could have a much easier time getting the money and the power he wants by waiting one more year.

But he can’t wait too much longer. With each passing season, the memory of his accomplishments is fading. Though there always will be a team that is interested in his services, he might have a hard time creating the kind of tug-of-war in which the Chiefs and the Browns would have engaged in 2009, if Cowher had been ready to get back into the game at that time.

Mike Florio writes and edits ProFootballTalk.com and is a regular contributor to Sporting News. Check out PFT for up-to-the minute NFL news.

Bill Cowher has a problem. By waiting to get serious about getting back into the NFL, Cowher has few choices, now that he’s finally ready to return.

Bill Cowher began his NFL coaching career as a coordinator for the Browns in 1985.
Bill Cowher began his NFL coaching career as a coordinator for the Browns in 1985.

Several factors have combined to complicate Cowher’s circumstances. For a variety of reasons (not the least of which is a looming lockout in 2011), head coaches aren’t being fired with the same fervor as in past years. And with Mike Shanahan soon earning north of $10 million to coach the Redskins (not to mention $3.5 million in each of the next two years to not coach the Broncos), Cowher will want at least that much. He also will want full control over the football operations.

So with teams not lining up for the man who won a Super Bowl in 2005, his 14th season with the Steelers, let’s take a look at his for options from 2010, from worst to best.

6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Multiple reports have emerged linking Cowher to the Buccaneers. But the team reportedly wasn’t interested in paying him more than $6 million per year, and on Tuesday night the team angrily denied Cowher was a candidate for the job.

Though Cowher surely would have received full control over the roster and the draft, the team’s recent unwillingness to break the bank for players would have made it much harder to put together a competitive team, especially in an uncapped year.

So if there were talks, they fell apart quickly — and the Buccaneers decided to love the one they’re with.

5. Tennessee Titans

Despite the absence of any strong indication that owner Bud Adams is ready to make a change, some believe the time possibly has come for the team and coach Jeff Fisher to part ways.

And that could give Cowher a viable option in the AFC South.

But money and control again would be an issue. Adams would have to fire or neuter GM Mike Reinfeldt, and also would have to pay Cowher that $10 million salary.

Then there’s the fact that anyone who coaches the Titans will have to accept Vince Young as his quarterback.

So while the Titans might end up looking for a head coach, Cowher likely wouldn’t get the money and the power he wants.

4. Buffalo Bills

It’s clear the Bills would love to have Cowher. But the thinking is he doesn’t want to go there. The presence of a 91-year-old owner and an unsettled succession plan likely are significant factors.

Then there’s the money. It would be difficult if not impossible for the team to cough up eight figures per year, at a time when the Bills are languishing in a market that’s having a tough time properly supporting an NFL franchise.

3. Chicago Bears

This one would have been an option — and possibly still could be — if Cowher were willing to let GM Jerry Angelo run the show. But with Cowher wanting control, the Bears would be forced to eat coach Lovie Smith’s contract, and Angelo’s.

2. Carolina Panthers

Amid reports that coach John Fox will be retained for the final year of his contract but not offered an extension, it’s possible Fox and the Panthers will come to an agreement that creates a vacancy not far from Cowher’s current home.

If that happens, Cowher likely would move to the top of the list. GM Marty Hurney currently is under contract through June, which would make it easy — and cheap — to give Cowher the keys.

Money could be a sticking point, but even if Cowher has to take a little less, the proximity to his residence makes it the best option — if the job becomes available.

1. Wait a year

If the Carolina job remains filled for 2010, Cowher’s best bet will be to return to CBS for one more year. With Lovie Smith, Fox, and Giants coach Tom Coughlin surely on the hot seat next year, one or more of those jobs could end up being available.

The possibility of a lockout could complicate Cowher’s return, but teams will need to have head coaches in place in the event a new labor deal is negotiated. And Cowher could have a much easier time getting the money and the power he wants by waiting one more year.

But he can’t wait too much longer. With each passing season, the memory of his accomplishments is fading. Though there always will be a team that is interested in his services, he might have a hard time creating the kind of tug-of-war in which the Chiefs and the Browns would have engaged in 2009, if Cowher had been ready to get back into the game at that time.

Mike Florio writes and edits ProFootballTalk.com and is a regular contributor to Sporting News. Check out PFT for up-to-the minute NFL news.

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