When Bill Cowher stepped away from coaching after the 2006 season, many in the sports world viewed it as a sabbatical instead of a retirement. But Cowher never returned to an NFL sideline, instead keeping his job as a CBS Sports analyst. His decision not to return to coaching had nothing to do with opportunity. There were plenty of those. To hear Cowher tell it on Ben Roethlisberger’s latest Footbahlin podcast, of which Cowher was this week’s guest, he just didn’t want to coach anyone else but the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I couldn’t come up to the grips of coaching another team,” Cowher said. “This was like, ‘This was my team.’ So it never really got to the point [of returning to coaching].”
Hired in 1992, Cowher was the youngest coach in the league. With big shoes to follow replacing Chuck Noll, he posted a career 140-90-1 record, winning eight division titles, two conference championships, and one Super Bowl.
Cowher told the show he did have conversations with some NFL owners around the league who were trying to lure him out of the broadcast world and back into coaching. It sounds like the closest he came to coaching again was with the New York Jets. Cowher lived in the area with his second wife – a big Jets fan – which was where the CBS Sunday studio was located. The most likely timing of that would’ve been following the 2008 season when Eric Mangini was canned.
But in a big city like New York, Cowher liked being a pretty regular guy and not the Pittsburgh celebrity he was back home where it was difficult to even leave his house. Becoming the head coach of the Jets would’ve changed all that and amplified his celebrity status ten-fold.
“All of a sudden I’m loving New York City because of the anonymity up there,” he said. “No one knows who you are. You can go to Central Park…there was a chance to be like normality was coming back, you know? And I think I lost a little normality in Pittsburgh.”
Still, the Jets rumors persisted for over a decade. Literally. Even in 2020, Cowher’s name was suggested to replace the outgoing Adam Gase. Cowher quickly dispelled the story and the Jets hired Robert Saleh instead.
Now 65 years old, rumors of Cowher returning to coach are over and done with. But it was still a great coaching career, one that won a Super Bowl and ended in Canton, Ohio.
You can catch the entire episode by clicking below.