Saturday, January 11, 2020

A Swing and a Miss—Bill Cowher the First of Two Coaches of Centennial Class Chosen

By John Turney
A few weeks ago we praised the Hall of Blue Ribbon Committee for their selections for the finalists for the 2002 Centennial Class for the Hall of Fame. They earned that praise we think.

Today, on the NFL Today, the CBS pre-game show Hall  President and Executive Director David Baker showed up and announced Bill Cowher is now a Hall of Famer.

The eight finalists were—
Don Coryell - 1973-77 St. Louis Cardinals, 1978-1986 San Diego Chargers
Bill Cowher - 1992-2006 Pittsburgh Steelers
Tom Flores - 1979-1987 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-94 Seattle Seahawks
Mike Holmgren - 1992-98 Green Bay Packers, 1999-2008 Seattle Seahawks
Jimmy Johnson - 1989-1993 Dallas Cowboys, 1996-99 Miami Dolphins
Buddy Parker - 1949 Chicago Cardinals, 1951-56 Detroit Lions, 1957-1964 Pittsburgh Steelers
Dan Reeves - 1981-1992 Denver Broncos, 1993-96 New York Giants, 1997-2003 Atlanta Falcons
Dick Vermeil - 1976-1982 Philadelphia Eagles, 1997-99 St. Louis Rams, 2001-05 Kansas City Chiefs

Flores, Johnson, and Parker have two titles.

Vermeil, Holmgren, and Cowher have one Super Bowl ring each. Coryell, Parker, Johnson, Flores, and Holmgren have some claim to "innovation" if you will.

It's hard to see how Cowher leapfrogged the "Two title" coaches and the "innovators". Cowher is not known for any kind of innovation or did anything to advance the game that we are aware of. Now he was a great coach and if someone asked if he's Hall of Fame worthy, we'd say "sure". It's the jump to the front of the line that is the "swing and miss", not questioning his great career.

Yes, there are other coaches with just one title (or none) in the Hall of Fame but in general, they brought more to the table than the one title. We are not saying Cowher is unworthy, just that he didn't have the credentials that some of the others on the list had. Coaches are judged by winning and others won more. Also, coaches are praised for breaking new ground, doing something different (think Coryell), creative or innovation. Cowher didn't.

It's just odd, that's all, that he'd leapfrog the ones who had been on Final 15s previously and were losing out to players (which is a tough thing for a coach to do—to beat out a player for one of five HOF slots each year).

The Centennial Class was to ease the logjams at certain positions, to feature players, administrators, and coaches that had been overlooked for some reason had been passed over and when the finalists list was released it seemed like that was going to be accomplished.

Now we are not so sure but will remain open-minded until we see the remaining 14 selections (one more coach, three contributors, and ten players). Based on today we think Jimmy Johnson may get the pregame show announcement and we'd bet money that Paul Tagliabue is one of the three contributors. We will see.


  1. Might be tough for Parker, Coryell to get in now. Pulling for Flores, Johnson or Parker.

    Still cant believe Shanahan, Shaughnessy, and Seifert were shunned by the BRP

  2. Wow, color me surprised, coach Troup...

    #1 criteria for a HC to get into the HoF - How much did they win

    As a Steelers' fan, some of those AFCCG losses were infuriating, but bottom line is over 15 seasons Cowher won 62% of his games overall, led the team to the one SB win, one other SB appearance, 6 AFCCG appearances, 8 division titles and 9 playoff appearances. He had his flaws, but so does everyone else on the list. Looking at some of them-

    Coryell: Very innovative, very impressive coaching tree. Very commendable that he turned the Cardinals and Chargers into contenders, but the 3-6 playoff record with 0 SB appearances sticks out like a sore thumb.

    Johnson: Took the Cowboys from 1-15 to two SB wins before he and Jerry could no longer co-exist. How many more would he and the team have won if he stayed in Dallas? We'll never know and can't give points based on hypotheticals. Bottom line is he was only in Dallas six seasons, took a year off and then had an okay but far cry from his first one second act in Miami. His and Dan Marino's career's ended following the second most lopsided loss in post-season history.

    Flores: Very up and down time as Raiders' HC. Of course, the two SB wins but no post-season victories outside those two seasons including early exits as a #1 seed twice. Missed the playoffs the other four seasons. Came back with Seattle for a very unsuccessful second act in which he finished with a 14-34 record over three seasons.

    Parker: Led the Lions to three NFLCGs, including two wins. Made a very wise move to bring in Tobin Rote before abruptly quitting a few weeks before the 1957 season. Then went to Pittsburgh where he did better than any Steelers' HC pre-Noll. Once again, however, had a bad exit. He'd have my vote, though I do wonder if he wouldn't already be in if he'd retired after 1963

    Reeves: 200 wins. 4 SB appearances overall and took two different teams there. Also lead the Giants to the post-season. Fair or not, has been hurt by the preception that he was kind of carried to those SBs with Denver by Elway and Joe Collier's defense. Probably also hurt by the fact that all three of those games ended up being lopsided losses.

  3. Good points...

    Thats what hurts Flores, is that he only had five playoff seasons, without doing anything in Seattle. I still like him for being a coach or head coach on every Raiders champion.

    Johnson may get in today despite only five playoff seasons, but by building a talented, champion in Dallas, as well as his drafting and GM prowess, he may be announced before the GB/Seattle game ?

  4. Couple corrections from my earlier post -

    Flores did have one playoff win outside of the two SB seasons. It was in the first round of the 'SB tournament' playoffs from the strike-shortened '82 season. The Raiders beat the 4-5 Browns 27-10.

    Johnson was in Dallas for five seasons (1989-93), not six

    1. Yes, but I meant six playoff seasons...three with Dallas 91-93, three with Miami 97-99

  5. recency bias? Buddy Parker got screwed.

    1. Absolutely right...

      Racism, Drunkenness, distrust of owners, what is keeping Parker out ?

  6. The only complaint I have with Johnson in Miami, was that he let go of Irving Fryar.

    I thought letting go of Fryar and bringing in Fred Barnett was a mistake.
    He also couldnt develop the running game like he wanted. Though he drafted well, especially on defence, most of his offensive picks didnt work.

  7. The NFL prefers HOF newbies who are visible and marketable, and Cowher no doubt benefitted from that in his broadcast career. Let's also not forget that, unlike almost every one else on the list, he had no better than above-average QBs in his tenure (O'Donnell, Stewart, Tomczak, Maddox, inexperienced Big Ben). Or that Bill and the Belicheats stole at least one Super Bowl appearance/championship from his teams.