Former Steelers HC Bill Cowher Pardons Belichick for ‘Spygate’


Jan 29, 2013, New Orleans, LA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers former coach Bill Cowher at CBS sports Super Bowl XLVII press conference at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve already expressed my displeasure with the interview former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher did with New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick last weekend on NFL Today on CBS. Cowher did a whole lot of butt kissing in that interview, eventually telling Belichick to his face that in his opinion, Belichick will end up as the greatest coach of all time in the NFL. In the interview, which ran before the AFC Divisional Playoffs, Cowher never brought up the subject of “Spygate” the signal-stealing, walk-thru taping, controversy Belichick and the Patriots were accused of and caught doing and the one reason why in most people’s minds there will always be a blemish on Belichick’s coaching record. Cowher did take the time to address that subject in an interview on 93.7 The Fan on Wednesday morning.

Cowher said that he doesn’t blame Belichick or the Patriots for the spying saying that if they were guilty of anything it was being arrogant and using cameras to enhance their spying as well as continuing the practice after being warned against it by the league. Cowher said that stealing opposing teams’ signals was commonplace in the league during that time and downplayed the significance of the degree the Patriots took that commonplace activity to. He even got to the point where he said that he doesn’t hold it against the Patriots for the Steelers’ loss in the 2004 AFC Championship game.

"“We didn’t lose the game because of any Spygate, because of them having any additional things. I think if they’re guilty of anything, they’re guilty of arrogance, because they were told not to do something. But it was something that everybody does. The only thing they got caught [was] doing it with a camera. We had people that always tried to steal signals. Stealing someone’s signals was a part of the game, and everybody attempted to do that.” – Bill Cowher"

I can’t help but remember the words of players like Hines Ward and Joey Porter following that disappointing loss to New England saying things like “it’s like they knew what we were going to do before we did it…” and “they were almost calling our plays before we called them.” But Spygate didn’t play a part, Cowher? So now it’s that the Patriots just simply outplayed the Steelers that day, or possibly that Belichick out-coached Cowher.

"“Part of the things we had [were] wristbands that we were using to do it. It’s not even an element anymore because of the communications that take place on the field to the quarterback, to the linebacker. So it’s an element of the game that doesn’t exist, and really, what happened when we lost that game is they outplayed us, and it has nothing to do with stealing signals, or cheating, or anything else. They were a better football team on that day.” – Bill Cowher"

Of course, every team was doing a certain degree of spying, so it’s no big deal that the Patriots took it to the level of taping not only the opposing teams’ signals during the games, but also their pre-game walk-throughs and anything else they saw fit to use that the NFL then saw fit to destroy when they decided the rest of the league and fans never needed to know just how much cheating was going on. It was such a non-issue that couldn’t have possibly determined the outcome of the AFC Championship game and God knows how many other championship games the Patriots were involved in during that time that immediately following the Spygate scandal, the league completely changed the in-game communication process teams have, all but eliminating even the need to attempt to steal signals. Sure, no big deal at all.

I realize that some of us just need to get over the whole Spygate thing. I think that grudge-holding is just a characteristic of Western Pennsylvanians just like our accents and propensity to always have a cookie table set up at family functions. I think that Cowher speaking out about this at this time speaks only to his position now as a talking-head analyst and that he’s lost whatever competitive nature he once had as a coach. While I agree that there’s no point in constantly rehashing the Spygate arguments and getting repeatedly upset over the whole thing and playing the “What if” game, I don’t think for one second that it’s an accurate statement to say that the Patriots never gained any true or real advantage that didn’t affect the outcome of the games they played it. There’s no way to definitively know that either way. I’m going by the way they played against teams they met multiple times during that period and the league’s reaction to the whole scandal to know that there was something going on that was wrong.

In the interview he also spoke about how little the chances that he’d ever return to coaching are, that he doesn’t get any urges to return to coaching when teams inquire about him.

"“It’s not a question of waiting for any job. It’s a question of whether you want to jump back into doing that specific job and doing everything that it entails, and that thought has not even crossed my mind.” – Bill Cowher"

Steeler Nation what are your thoughts on Cowher’s comments about Spygate, the 2004 AFC Championship, and his chances of returning to coaching?

You can listen to his entire interview here.

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