Sports Magazine

Steelreign : Why Bill Cowher Should Replace Kevin Colbert

By Kipper @pghsportsforum
I've been thinking about this one for awhile now because as time has continued to pass since Cowher's departure, and as more of the players that Cowher drafted retire or get released, Colbert looks less and less competent at his job. Heading into this offseason, Kevin Colbert declared that going into next season with the same roster that finished this season at 8-8 and expecting improvement would not make sense, that there would be changes to the roster. What doesn't make sense is the decisions that Colbert has made to this point. I was with him when he cut James Harrison and I was in total agreement when he released Willie Colon, but he has lost me with his other decisions thus far. The Steelers are a team that needs to get younger and this process should have started after the Denver debacle in the 2011 playoffs, but it didn't and still doesn't look like it's going to happen this year either.
When Bill Cowher took over as Head Coach in 1992, he inherited a team that was 7-9 the year before and finished in second place. It was a young team with an average age of 25.8 that included Greg Lloyd, Carnell Lake, Hardy Nickerson, Rod Woodson and Dermontti Dawson. Cowher valued a young roster and had no problems parting with players who were still productive once they hit the wrong side of 30. His feelings on this seemed to be, better to get rid of a player a year or two early than a year too late. Rod Woodson, Carnell Lake, Greg Lloyd, Jason Gildon, Joey Porter and Alan Faneca are examples of this line of thinking. He didn't believe that players 30+ years of age were worth sinking big money into when there were younger players around who could step into those roles and produce at near the same level. As time went on, Bill Cowher wanted more control over the team and player acquisitions which led to a power struggle with the GM at the time, Tom Donahoe, and ultimately Cowher won, and in 2000, Donahoe was replaced with Kevin Colbert.
Even though Colbert was the GM, it always seemed like he was more of the paperwork guy while Cowher called the shots regarding the roster, and based on what has transpired so far this offseason, there is a good reason for that. The fact that Colbert never approached Keenan Lewis with a long term deal and chose to go with a 33 year old, declining Cornerback who is coming off of a broken ankle is inexcusable, especially when the player he let walk is 27 and just entering his prime and led the NFL in passes defended. Colbert's mismanagement has put the Steelers in a position where they can't afford to keep the young talent that they have managed to develop. Where Colbert hangs on to aging vets with large contracts, Cowher instead opted not to pay them the big bucks and let them go and replaced them with cheaper, younger talent that he was not afraid to take a chance on. Why is Kevin Colbert afraid to take a chance on young talent? If he had the cap space I still wonder if he lets Wallace and Lewis walk. How many players drafted in the 3rd round or lower, since Cowher left, have gotten a second contract under Colbert? Unless I'm wrong, not one player has. That isn't how you maintain the Super Bowl teams that Cowher mainly built. Speaking of which, Tomlin doesn't get much credit in some circles for leading "Cowher's Team" to a win in Super Bowl XLIII, but Colbert does? Tomlin is certainly going to get a majority of the blame though for how Colbert is currently tearing this team down. Colbert, for a long time has been riding the coattails of Cowher and the team he built and I believe maybe it's time to bring Bill Cowher back to help rebuild the team he took back to win a Super Bowl.
Since Cowher has retired, he has had many opportunities to get back into coaching and has been linked to a few good openings. The fact that he hasn't come back in 7 years makes me believe his heart isn't into returning to the NFL in that capacity, but I believe he still has a desire to compete and enough of an ego to return to a role of GM, especially with the franchise he loves, for the opportunity to rebuild it. This would be the perfect marriage between Ownership, GM and Head Coach. Mike Tomlin would not feel threatened in any way by having to work for the man he once replaced. He is a professional and doesn't lack the confidence to do the job he was hired to do. It would in fact be easier knowing he would be supplied with the talent he needs to win Championships, which he has already done with the talent Cowher left him. Cowher, who has been in Tomlin's position, also understands that he didn't want to be interfered with when coaching his team, isn't gonna meddle and tell Tomlin how to do his job either. The fact that these two have had success coaching the Steelers would only enhance the working relationship and get this franchise back to where it needs to be.
The road that the organization is on now is the beginning of the same road that the San Francisco 49ers went down in the 90's and they did it for the same reason that the Steelers did, for one more Super Bowl run with a team that got old all at once and it took them 7 years to get out from under that cap mess. Last season, when it became obvious that the window was closed for the Steelers, the decision to start rebuilding should have been made, but it wasn't and the team was kept largely in tact for this past season. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. Colbert is guilty of this by repeatedly signing older players to expensive long term deals, restructuring them to get under the salary cap and losing younger players in the process because they can't afford to resign them. With no depth from a lack of success in the draft, the need to hold on to the vets continues. Bill Cowher can change this and would. He was good at drafting talent and as adept at signing the rookie free agents that slipped through the cracks to regularly restock the team with talent. I know that Kevin Colbert is not considered to be on the hot seat just yet, but I truly believe that when he does finally get relieved of his duties, that Bill Cowher could step in and get things back to the way they should be.
Bill Cowher understands how things should be done to build a winning team and sustain success. Although he has never held the title of General Manager, he did in fact handle the personnel decisions from 2000 until he retired after the 2006 season and during that time the Steelers went to three AFC Championship games and won Super Bowl XL. He does not accept mediocrity and he demands accountability from everyone, without exception. One of the things you want from a GM, is the ability to understand the impact of each decision not only in the present, but the future as well, which is a trait Kevin Colbert is clearly showing he is lacking this offseason by allowing fifty percent of the main talent from the 2009 and 2010 draft classes to leave, with no clear plan to replace them.
The seven years prior to Cowher arriving were mired in mediocrity, which is where the Steelers are headed for once again. The difference this time is that they have a franchise Quarterback running a relatively young offense with some young potential talent on defense. With a guy like Bill Cowher running the franchise, I would feel very confident that within the next three drafts that he would be able to restock the roster and take advantage of the time left in Ben Roethlisberger's career to make another run at a Super Bowl. As long as Colbert and this current group of scouts are in place, the return to the pre-Cowher mediocrity is inevitable.
The time to make a change at the General Manager's level is now and Bill Cowher is the man for the job. He not only understands the importance of the draft, but he is good at it. He has a feel for when it's time to replace players and he's not afraid to go with the young guy.The more I think about it the more it makes sense, Bill Cowher should replace Kevin Colbert as GM of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He knows the organization, he appeciates the tradition and the history of the franchise and most important, he put together a roster that was the foundation for the last two Super Bowl victories. Winning championships is what it's all about, and Bill Cowher is a proven winner.

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