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Savran: Should winning decide tenure?

Saturday, December 01, 2001

Mama don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys. Or coaches. I knew Dennis Green and Bill Cowher are tied for the longest tenure (10 years) with the same team, but it's still a stark reminder that when accepting a coaching position, renting a home might be a more prudent option than buying one.

I don't know how it is in the outside world. Is longevity common in your workplace?

It certainly isn't in pro sports.

That 10-year mark is the longest anywhere in any of the four major sports. In Pittsburgh alone the past 14 months, we've seen Gene Lamont and Ivan Hlinka relieved of their duties. And more than one talk-show caller growled for the same fate to befall Cowher.

The common denominator in determining a good coaching job is winning. But the better the record doesn't always mean the better the coaching.

For example, is Mike Martz doing a better job in St. Louis than Marty Schottenheimer has done in Washington?

I don't necessarily subscribe to the theory that you discount what a Martz or Jon Gruden has done because of the presumed talent assembled.

Sometimes an abundance of talent is more difficult to coach than a sparse supply.

But record shouldn't be the only determinant when voting for a coach of the year.

Before the Redskins did it this year, no team had lost their first five games, and then won their next five.

They were mutinous team in total disarray, making the Detroit Lions look like Lombardi's Packers.

But somewhere along the way, the rigid Schottenheimer (at least that's the perception) capitulated a bit after a meeting with his players, loosened the reins, and the five consecutive wins are the result.

With Tony Banks and Kent Graham as the quarterbacks, no less.

What of the job done by the always affable Bill Belichick?

The New England Patriots are 6-5? Without Drew Bledsoe?

Maybe they're over .500 because they're without Bledsoe. But they're also without what one might consider a top running back.

And their top receiver, Terry Glenn, detracts more than he adds. Pretty good coaching job by smilin' Billy.

Another of the have-nots who have are the Atlanta Falcons.

Dan Reeves has quietly taken this collection of we-don't-even-know-the-names-of-your-no-names and cobbled them into a 6-4 playoff contender.

How did that happen?

Reeves and Belichick have done better jobs than Andy Reid or Mike Shanahan with corresponding records.

Herman Edwards' 7-3 mark with the Jets is his best work since he returned that Joe Pisarcik fumble.

And Cleveland's 6-4 record might indicate a better coaching performance by Butch Davis than anybody's 8-2. He inherited what is still an expansion team, a team with perhaps less talent than the one he left in Coral Gables, Fla. Maybe it's the recent arrests that made him feel like he never left.

All of the aforementioned should be candidates for the honor. They weren't supposed to win.

Neither were Dick Jauron, Steve Mariucci and Cowher.

The Bears have been so bad for so long, if Mike Ditka weren't on television every Sunday, you would hardly be able to remember when they weren't. And Jauron, you may recall, took the job after just about everybody but Amos Alonzo Stagg and Pop Warner turned them down. That told you about the state of their organization.

Mariucci had no such concerns in San Francisco. He's protected by chief operating officer Bill Walsh, who was a genius when Brian Billick was still a public relations hack.

But Mariucci, who was forced to endure salary cap hell after years of the 49ers abusing system, has turned a losing, albeit entertaining 6-10 team, into one that easily should make the playoffs. With a defense that does little more than give its offense some rest.

And then there is Cowher.

Anyone out there predict 8-2, on the way to a plausible 13-3 or 12-4?

Nevada odds-makers listed the over-under on Steelers victories this season at 7 1/2. Enjoy your winnings, risk-takers. You've already won. No need to sweat another game, unless you're willing to take a 5-1 shot on them making the Super Bowl, down from 200-1 in August.

Coach of the year?

There are plenty of good choices. Only don't make the mistake of wagering that this year's eventual winner will repeat. Maybe the best thing for a coach to do is investigate renting with an option to buy.

Stan Savran is the co-host of SportsBeat at 6:30 p.m. weekdays on Fox Sports Pittsburgh.

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