After sixteen games of deceit, Bill Cowher morphed back into the Marty clone he is, as quickly as Marty did himself this postseason.
It can be said that both Cowher and his mentor did a fabulous job of speaking and acting as though they had changed this season. But when the going gets tough, losers play scared, coach scared and then spout brainless rhetortic afterward.
This is what we have in Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh is a great town filled with incredible people, the best people in the world. Things that have long since stopped mattering elsewhere still have weight in Pittsburgh; family, tradition and loyalty among them.
Unlike most cities, losing football doesn't mean a drop in attendance. Steeler fans treat their team like family. There's no penalty for failure, they're still gonna love you. But however much the family criticizes you, god help an outsider who does the same.
This also what we have in Pittsburgh.
Chuck Noll was often reviled for statements like "Franco who" and "Terry might want to start thinking about his life's work". (And by the way, Harris was way overdue for retirement, and Bradshaw wasn't telling the Steelers the truth about his arm injury.)
But then again, loyalty to players was not Chuck Noll's passion. Loyalty to ideals was. After all, he did cut the guy (Glen Edwards) who made the game ending pick in SB X for holding out the next Summer.
Just like Cowher was taken from Marty's rib, Noll was taken from Paul Brown. Both Cleveland Brown coaches. The difference, Brown's Browns won 7 championships in 10 seasons. Marty won nothing.
Noll's teams were defined by one game, the SB. Cowher's teams are defined by heart breaking losses at home.
Its no surprise that Cowher wouldn't want himself or his losing teams to be defined by failure. But you don't get to choose what fans remember. You don't get to blither away the sick feeling in their stomachs with loser rhetoric.
Cowher may act like he's trying to build up his players, but the reality is he's just denying his legacy.
It wasn't this way with Noll. He started his Steeler career with this statement.
"Respectability? Who wants to be respectable? That's spoken like a true loser. We're aiming for a championship now. We're not aiming for respectability or any other such words. The only true respectability in this game is winning the championship."
- Chuck Noll, 1969
Chuck Noll shaped the Steelers into the best team in football history. They are defined by one game, the SB.
I remember so many Steeler games but the one I think most stands out is SB XIV. We were losing. The run game wasn't working (but then again it hadn't worked in a SB since SB IX) the defense was on its last legs, and Bradshaw struggling (like he always did) already three picks in with the Rams.
Down 19-17, Bradshaw came to the sidelines and asked Noll if he could try to go downfield. Noll said, well we aren't beating them with high percentage passes. Bradshaw called 60 Prevent, Slot Hook and go (twice), and the game was history. It seemed daring enough, in light of the three interceptions already on the board. But consider too that the Steelers had just installed the play for the game and hadn't been able to complete it all week in practice.
That was what defined the Steelers though, choices and change. You couldn't take away one dimension because they didn't have confidence in the other or weren't prepared to shift gears. When they couldn't get DL pressure they blitzed. When they could run they passed. If one player wasn't getting it done, another player stepped up or stepped in. The only thing that mattered was winning. Not playing hard, not trying hard, and not talking about it.
Early on in Noll's career, when the Steelers played the Raiders in the playoffs, the Raiders motto, Pride and Poise came up. It was mentioned over and over because it was plastered everywhere in Raider facility, even on the stationery.
Noll was asked if the Steelers had "Pride and Poise". He replied, grinning, "not on our stationery".
It was never about talk with Noll.
Bill Cowher doesn't want to be defined by one game, because he can't win it. Chuck Noll only wanted to be defined by one game, so he won it four times.
That's what you get folks. Chuck Noll kept his mouth shut and won football games. Bill Cowher loses again and again but always has a cliche handy. And Pittsburgh will forgive him every season, which makes the nightmare possible.
Noll's Steelers, Walsh's 49'ers, Shula's Dolphins, Johnson's Cowboys and Belichick's Patriots all have something in common.
Thanks anyway Bill, but I'd much rather be defined by one game.