Buffalo Bills Head Coach Search: Exploring Bill Cowher vs. Brian Billick
Today is the first day of the offseason for the majority of NFL teams. Rumors are flying all over the NFL about which coaches will be fired, retained, or are still on the bubble until they have that fateful meeting where they sit down with the team owner.
Washington has already pulled the trigger today and released Jim Zorn from his job. That is not a shocking development, as the writing was on the wall for some time in that situation.
For the Buffalo Bills, the rumor mill continues to churn out material, some of which is exaggerated, some factual, and some of which should be retracted, because they simply are cases where somebody trying to get a scoop or put something out there that had no business seeing the light of day.
An initial report came out from multiple sources that all the Bills coaching staff was fired in a huge house-cleaning move by Ralph Wilson. That is not the case.
What did happen, was that Wilson informed his coaches that they have fulfilled their contractual obligation, and that they are free to look at other opportunities if they so desire.
They will be met in person by the new head coach, when he is identified, and some of them may be asked to stay on board in Buffalo. This is an example of what I was referring to earlier, some reports are just not all that factual or true.
What we are confident in talking about now is the following: The Bills will be talking to Perry Fewell, Bill Cowher, and Brian Billick this week. Fewell deserved the right to be interviewed based on the job he did as the interim head coach. In addition, he satisfies the Rooney Rule, which dictates that the Bills consider minority candidates for jobs such as head coach.
New GM Buddy Nix revealed in his press conference last week that past head coaching experience is something that he will place a premium on. The fact that Cowher and Billick have led their teams to the playoffs and won a Super Bowl is something that makes their candidacy head and shoulders above the vast majority of rumored possibilities.
So, let's delve in to a closer look at these two Super Bowl winning coaches and explore their similarities and differences and how their potential hire could impact the Bills' future.
Similarities of Cowher and Billick
Both coaches have only been the head coach for one team in their career, Cowher with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Billick with the Baltimore Ravens. Both coaches have won one Super Bowl, Cowher having won in 2005 and Billick winning it in 2000.
Both coaches had a fairly long run with their team, which is atypical, as most teams tend to churn and burn their head coaches on a regular basis. See the Buffalo Bills as an example: four head coaches in the past 10 years. Cowher led the Steelers for 15 years, while Billick led the Ravens for nine years.
Both coaches saw their teams shift from the AFC Central to the AFC North. Both coaches had their teams in the playoffs numerous times, and failed to make the playoffs numerous times.
Each coach has a wealth of strong coaching relationships that should allow them to have an impressive array of names to bring forward for an interview when trying to assemble their coaching staff. Consider the following:
People that have coached before under Cowher: Chan Gailey, Mike Mularkey, Dick LeBeau, Dom Capers, Jim Haslett, Ken Whisenhunt, and Marvin Lewis.
People that have coached under Billick: Jack Del Rio, Mike Nolan, Mike Singletary, Marvin Lewis, Rex Ryan, and Mike Smith.
Where Cowher and Billick Differ
Cowher is a Pennsylvania guy. Grew up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. "The Chin," as he is commonly referred to, is a defensive-minded coach and is a no-nonsense type of guy. Played in college at N.C. State.
He is 53 years old. Resigned from the Steelers job after his Super Bowl champion team of 2005 fell to 8-8 the following year.
Cowher led the Steelers to the playoffs 10 times in the 15 years at the helm. His overall playoff record was 12-9, and his overall regular season record was 149-90-1, which is a winning percentage of .623.
In 1992, the first year with the Steelers, Cowher led the team to the playoffs but they were eliminated fittingly enough by the Bills, who would advance to one of their four consecutive Super Bowl appearances.
Eight different times Cowher's team won their division. Hard to beat that kind of consistent production and long track record of proven success.
Billick on the other hand is a Southern California guy. 56 years old, and comes from an offensive coaching background. Served many years under Dennis Green and led the Vikings offense to a high powered unit, something that hasn't occurred in Buffalo for a very long time.
Billick played in college at both Air Force Academy and at BYU. Was a tight end and coached many years at the tight end position as he worked his way up the coaching ladder. Billick was fired by the Ravens in 2007 after the team finished with a 5-11 record.
Curiously though, Billick's offenses at Baltimore were not that great. Given an unbelievably strong defensive unit that would generate turnovers and good field position, Billick was not able to put together a consistently strong offensive team.
Out of his nine years running the Ravens, they failed to reach the playoffs five times. In the four years they did qualify for the playoffs, his overall playoff record was 5-3. His overall regular season record was 80-64, which is a winning percentage of 556.
So, What Direction Should The Bills Go?
For my money, I want to see a much stronger offense for the Bills in 2010. I have the confidence that Bill Cowher will be able to put together a staff that can make that happen. I don't have the same confidence right now in Brian Billick that he can do the same, based off of the results of his teams in Baltimore.
Cowher will bring instant credibility to the Bills organization and will make any player entering free agency consider the Bills as a much more viable option.
Don't get me wrong, Billick would be a strong coach and is a definite upgrade over Dick Jauron. I just simply wanted to state for the record that I prefer Cowher over Billick.
The rest of the week will be interesting to see who gets the job, and which of the Bills assistant coaches, if any, are actually retained by the new head guy.
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