Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Hey, look at that. Two days, two posts. A couple of things to keep the ball rolling ...

First, I'm surprised that HSS PFT correspondent, Eric, didn't break this story earlier:
A source with knowledge of the intentions of the Steelers organization regarding the salary of its head coach has indicated to us that the team won't increase Bill Cowher's salary to the range of $7 million per year.

The bar was set at that level when Microsoft gazillionaire Paul Allen signed Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren to a two-year extension worth a reported $7.5 million to $8.5 million per year.


Complicating matters are indications that Cowher might retire after either the 2006 or the 2007 season. Some league insiders believe that Cowher's current year-to-year stance coupled with the relocation of his wife to a $2.5 million home in North Carolina is part of an elaborate leverage play by the veteran coach. Others think he's laying the foundation for a graceful exit, which won't create the appearance that he's making a run for the big money. After all, hard-core blue-collar Steeler fans don't quite comprehend the difference between $4 million and $7 million per year.

On the other hand, we're all "worth" precisely that which someone will pay us, and if a high-revenue team like the Redskins is willing to throw $8 million, $9 million, $10 million or more at Cowher come 2008, it'd be hard to fault him for securing his family's future.
Yeah, I think people (read: fans) get a little carried away when they cry disloyalty because a player or coach wants more money. You know, the same thing most of us want when we change jobs.

... In totally unrelated news, this is why I like Willy Buns so much (from his Washington Post chat yesterday):

Philly, Pa.: I know Ozzie Guillen obviously shouldn't have used a slur about homosexuals, but does he really owe Jay Mariotti an apology? Mariotti,both on television and in print, comes off as abrasive and at times mean spirited. It seems like sometimes some members (certainly not all) of the media cannot take the same type of criticism they routinely dish out, and the media should be held to the same type of criticism they hold what they cover. Also, if it's true (and obviously I wouldn't know) that Jay was writing about the White Sox without regularly attending games or speaking to members of the team, isn't that a perfectly legitimate complaint, even if it wasn't expressed in a professional manner?

Michael Wilbon: I've avoided this topic publicly, but no more.

Ozzie shouldn't have said what he said. He knows better. And I'm glad Kenny Williams, the White Sox GM, has said if he can't clean up his act he'll be fired.

But Ozzie owes no apology to Jay, my friend for 16-plus years and someone I like very much. Jay can say all he wants that he's not welcome in the White Sox clubhouse...Really? He writes hyper-critical pieces and doesn't go in the clubhouse for years, then thinks he won't be resented years later?

Anybody who reads my column knows I write critically about athletes and coaches. It's my job. But I learned from Tony, Dave Kindred, Ken Denlinger, my longtime sports editor George Solomon, and of course, the late Shirley Povich, that if you're going to throw punches, you'd better be able to take punches. You show up the next day so that the player/coach/manager can take a shot back at you...even if it means a physical confrontation...And I've never had one of those because a player can walk right up to me and say, "I think you're full of .....!" Or whatever. If you know the player/coach/manager/GM and it's a local situation, it shouldn't even be a surprise. I've called people I know and said, "Listen, I've got to light you up for this in the paper." Sometimes they say nothing. Sometimes they say, "Hold on, let me give you my side." Sometimes they say, "I respect you for telling me."

There are all sorts of ways to deal with this, but not showing up in the clubhouse isn't one of them. It's inexcusable.

When you write tough, critical pieces you show up the next day.

I've switched off days to go to a locker room or practice the day after. I once drove out to Redskins Park on Thanksgiving morning to simply be there if Norv Turner wanted to go off on me...which he did...then we ate lunch and laughed about it. Had I not gone, how high might the resentment have risen? And how long might it have lasted?

This isn't debatable, it's no optional. It's mandatory. Go to the locker room, period. And Jay doesn't live by the code. And now, understandably, the White Sox are on his butt.

I once asked Rod Strickland why in the world he was chatting amicably with a writer who had ripped him that morning. And Rod said, "Oh man, Jack (fictional name)is cool with me. He's always there where I can find him. The guys I don't talk to are the ones who write stuff good or bad and don't show. I'm always cool with Jack."

I never forgot that conversation, which took place more than 10 years ago. And Rod's sentiment is the sentiment of 90 percent of the guys I've covered. Athletes respect people who are right there, available and accountable. And if you aren't, you get what you deserve.
And this is also why I hate guys like Mariotti, Bayless, Stephen A., and the rest of those steaming piles.

... Finally, today's Random Steelers Question is actually brought to you by Randy Steele:
Do you really think Ben will recover quickly and completely from his injuries and be ready to launch by the season's opener? He may be relatively healthy by September, but will he be in "football shape?"

Frankly, I'm skeptical. Right now he's missing the training he needs to physically handle a full season in the NFL. Shouldn't we avoid the temptation to rush him back onto the field?
Personally, I'd be fine with Ben easing back into the regular season, although he probably could stand to drop a few lbs., or at the very least, use this time to tone up those flarms he's been sporting lately. Of course, he's something like 24-5 in two seasons, so maybe he knows what he's doing. All that said, I think he'll be ready -- and more than capable -- on September 7. Think about it this way: Remember when Ben came back from the knee injury to play in the MNF Colts game? He looked pretty rusty, but wasn't he still an upgrade over Charlie Batch (and I like Batch)?