The newest media rage is to ask whether Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden should be the Colts’ next head coach.
I believe both would be terrible choices.
Two things have to be understood before we begin:
1. Jim Caldwell isn’t going anywhere. Any speculation that he was shows a painful ignorance of the way the Colts do business. At no time did I think he was getting fired, and certainly not after Irsay backed him.
2. This isn’t an article supporting Caldwell. He has his flaws. I would be fine if the Colts upgraded at head coach, but only if the right man took over. I’m not arguing that Caldwell is a great coach, just that Cowher and Gruden would be worse. As for who the right man would be, I have no idea. I don’t see any coach out there who would be better, so I’m backing Caldwell. For all his flaws, if Hank Baskett or Pierre Garcon hang on to balls in the Super Bowl, he’s probably a champion. That’s about all the more resume that Gruden and Cowher have.
Jon Gruden’s record is spotty at best. He’s 95-81 for his career. He coached just four 10 win teams in 11 seasons. His career playoff record is 5-4. His only Super Bowl win game after taking over Dungy’s Bucs teams. In doing so, he did very little to improve the Bucs offense. They averaged just a point a game better with him than without, while the defense had an incredible season and carried the team to the Super Bowl.
Gruden then systematically destroyed the Bucs. Under Dungy, the Bucs made the playoffs in 4 of 5 seasons. After the first year Super Bowl run, the Bucs made the playoffs just twice in six years.
His rep as an offensive guru is vastly overrated. After three strong years in Oakland, he never managed to get Tampa’s offense higher than 18th in the NFL despite seven years of trying.
He wasn’t good in close playoff games (0-2). He finished “one and done” in two of his five playoff trips, losing at home both times. Three of his four playoff losses game in home games.
He’s abrasive and doesn’t get results. While we can debate the merits of the “Colts need a strong leader” meme, one thing is for sure, they don’t need an overbearing know it all with a violent temper to coach the team. We already have that guy in the front office. We already know that Gruden’s skill as a team builder is non-existent. He’s only proven he can destroy a team, not build one.
More to the point, he’s the wrong mind for Manning’s skills. Gruden’s best success came with Rich Gannon. He was a mobile QB playing a West Coast offense.
There is literally no way in which Gruden fits in Indy, nor is there any evidence that he would help the Colts succeed in the post season.
Few coaches have ever had their entire legacy redefined by quitting at the right moment than Bill Cowher.
As a regular season head coach, Cowher is vastly superior to Gruden. So much so there is almost no comparison. He was 149-90 as a head coach, and posted 9 ten win seasons in 15 years.The Steelers had only 3 losing seasons under Cowher. He would be capable of fixing what is wrong with the Colts: the defense. The Steelers finished in the top ten in scoring defense 10 times. Compared with Gruden, Cowher would be an incredible coach.
But as we all know, the thing everyone wants to complain about is the post season. In that respect, there’s no evidence Cowher is a good coach.
I believe the postseason is mostly luck. If you agree with me, you probably aren’t worried about the Colts as much as most people. If you disagree with me, you definitely don’t want Bill Cowher.
Going into his final playoff run, Cowher’s record as a head coach in the playoffs was 9-9. Had Nick Harper not gotten stabbed or Vanderjagt hit his kick, his record would likely have finished at 9-10. Sound familiar?
Cowher was famous in Pittsburgh for great regular season teams that underperformed in the playoffs. Cowher’s teams lost four times in the AFC Championship game at home. He was 5-5 in one score games in the playoffs. That’s about what I’d expect (since I believe that such games are a coin flip), but certainly it’s not evidence that he was some kind of incredible postseason coach. Despite playing 14 of his first 17 playoff games at HOME, his playoff record stood at 8-9 before the miracle run in 2005.
Can you imagine that? The Steelers under Cowher DOMINATED the regular season and played tons of home games, but made just two Super Bowls. The one time they did win, it was as a six seed.
Do you want a big game coach? A guy who can ’tilt the field’ in the playoffs and pull out tight wins? Do you want a guy who won’t be overly conservative and stare in horror at another blown lead?
Then you don’t want Bill Cowher in Indianapolis.