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The Jaw of Life

With NFL hot seats heating up, an old Steelers savior stands out as the most likely to succeed

As the NFL season nears its midpoint, a rite of autumn gears up: the coaching rumor mill. And with the recent news that Jon Gruden, a Super Bowl winner in 2003, has taken himself off the market, the No. 1 candidate for job openings this winter will be former Steelers coach and current CBS analyst Bill Cowher. A source close to Cowher said over the weekend that the Super Bowl XL winner might be interested in listening to offers but only from franchises he's certain can contend in the near term. Money, the source said, would not be the deciding factor. It's thought that Cowher banked at least $30 million from his NFL career, and if he goes back to coaching, he'll want it to be with a team that has a solid front office and a quarterback who gives him a chance to win.

Could that team be Miami? Perhaps. Owner Stephen Ross is agonizing over his perennially losing Dolphins, and last year he looked into hiring then Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh before sticking with Tony Sparano. With the team in the midst of another miserable season (0--6), it's almost certain that Ross will be coach shopping come January. Several top-tier quarterbacks, led by Stanford's Andrew Luck, are likely to enter the 2012 draft, and Ross could be in a position to offer Cowher what he wants: a team with a passable defense and a top young passer. Of course, Ross and other owners will need to perform due diligence on Cowher. The 54-year-old is in his fifth season out of coaching. Will he have the hunger for a rebuilding job? Everyone always answers yes to that question, but sports are socioeconomic. Hungry coaches are usually better coaches.

Other teams that might investigate Cowher: Jacksonville, Indianapolis and St. Louis. There could be more. December losing streaks usually bring January job openings.



BILL OF GOODS One of just two NFL coaches to have made the playoffs in each of his first six seasons, Cowher could be 0--6 Miami's quick fix.