There aren't many strong indications that Bill Cowher will return to the sidelines in 2013, but there are several teams that would greatly benefit from at least giving him a shot.
The former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach has a wonderful reputation that precedes him. He is a Super Bowl winner and a long-tenured coach of one of the most successful franchises in professional sports, much less the NFL.
Here are a few teams that should seriously consider reaching out to Cowher, and would be ideal fits for the coach to orchestrate an instant turnaround.
With a long-term commitment to Ryan Fitzpatrick—who isn't exactly a consensus, championship-caliber quarterback—the Bills haven't really been circling the wagons lately.
Buffalo's passing game is occasionally explosive, but is frequently undone by Fitzpatrick's erratic decision-making and zealousness for throwing the ball into tight windows despite very average arm strength.
The game plan should center around running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, who form arguably the best one-two punch in the league when healthy. Cowher was heavily reliant on the run in his Pittsburgh days, and a return to that smashmouth sort of style would be a welcome change in Buffalo.
There is also plenty of talent on defense for Cowher to work with. The secondary is solid with play-making free safety Jairus Byrd, veteran strong safety George Wilson and 2012 first-round pick Stephon Gilmore.
Despite a terrifying defensive front on paper, the Bills finished 31st against the run. That is another area where Cowher's expertise would serve the team well. A more exotic, aggressive scheme than the frequently vanilla sets implemented by this year's coordinator Dave Wannstedt could turn this team around quickly.
Mario Williams, who was largely disappointing in the first year of his $100 million contract, has experience playing at 3-4 linebacker with the Houston Texans, which would make him a great asset in a Cowher-centric alignment.
It remains to be seen which direction the Bills go in their coaching search, but bringing in a proven winner like Cowher wouldn't be a bad way to go.
Despite a 10-6 record this season, longtime coach Love Smith was given the pink slip.
To be fair, the Bears did blow a chance at making the playoffs after a 7-1 start, but that was at least partially due to key injuries at inopportune times.
There isn't much to fix for the Bears, and the personnel in place actually suits Cowher nicely. There is plenty of talent on defense, and the unit played well even in the absence of future Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher down the stretch.
Should Bill Cowher return to coaching in 2013?
The versatility of defensive end Julius Peppers, makes a transition to a 3-4 defensive scheme not out of the question. That is Cowher's traditionally preferred alignment.
The need to protect quarterback Jay Cutler should also be a top priority. Part of that can be addressed through fortifying the offensive line, but Chicago must rely more heavily on its rushing attack. A backfield consisting of Matt Forte and Michael Bush should be much more heavily utilized.
Cutler is already going to be saddled with his fourth offensive coordinator in five years, and Cowher could draw in a smart play-caller that will protect him and cater to his ground-and-pound style.
It's a good fit for Cowher in Chicago if both sides want it, but again, no known link has been established between the two sides.
San Diego Chargers
More of a power rushing attack would benefit the Chargers greatly, and that's what Cowher's philosophy would bring to the offense.
After all, the team did spend a first-round pick on Ryan Mathews back in 2010. Unfortunately, Mathews hasn't been able to stay on the field consistently.
On the other side of the ball, San Diego already has a 3-4 scheme, and last year's draft picks Melvin Ingram and Kendall Reyes have plenty of upside.
Some may argue that the Bolts are in need of an offensive genius to salvage the seemingly sinking career of quarterback Philip Rivers. But the organization seems interested in simply recruiting a proven winner, as evidenced in their interest in Lovie Smith (h/t NFL.com). Smith isn't known for his offensive prowess, either.
Cowher is another option in the same vein of Smith that the Chargers should really look at. In a division that figures to be dominated by the Denver Broncos for the foreseeable future, San Diego needs to make an immediate improvement to become competitive.
This talented franchise and roster have been stuck in neutral, missing the playoffs in the last three seasons. The leadership of recently fired head coach Norv Turner was heavily criticized in that context.
An impassioned motivator like Cowher could be just the breath of fresh air the Bolts need to reignite into a contender.