By Craig Ellenport | Jan. 30, 2019
Bill Cowher was 48 years old when he coached the Pittsburgh Steelers to an NFL title in Super Bowl XL. That’s a year younger than Bill Belichick was when he coached the New England Patriots to their first title in Super bowl XXXVI; it’s 15 years older than the current age of Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay, who is making his first appearance in the Super Bowl this week.
Cowher, who is in Atlanta this week as part of CBS Sports’ Super Bowl Today pregame show, has great respect for both head coaches in Super Bowl LIII. Of course, he’s gone head to head against Belichick five times (going 1-4, including losses in two AFC Championship games).
Cowher might not even know this, but he has faced off once against McVay. In 2006, Cowher’s last season as Steelers head coach, a 20-year-old McVay was in his first season as an NFL coach, the assistant receivers coach for the Buccaneers. McVay’s offensive genius was yet to show at that time; the Steelers won, 20-3.
With the Super Bowl LIII focus on the matchup between Belichick’s experience and McVay’s youth, Cowher said he thinks McVay’s Super Bowl inexperience is actually a good thing.
“What Sean has done in his two years, he’s changed the whole culture in L.A.,” Cowher said Tuesday during a CBS Sports conference call. “A lot of times getting to this game, it just becomes that — it’s a game. Sometimes when you get there early in your career, it’s almost like it’s not a big deal to you. You’re almost naïve enough to know that, ‘Well, we’re here. We should be here.’ But the longer you’re in the game, the more you realize how special this game is. So I think (he’s) almost young enough that you have this brashness about you.”
As for what to expect in the game, Cowher isn’t concerned that either of these coaches might get conservative.
“I think both these coaches have proven their ability to be very aggressive in their coaching,” Cowher said. “We saw the fake punt (in the NFC Championship Game) that kind of propelled the Rams to their comeback. We know Bill Belichick will not hold anything back. I think what makes both of these coaches very special is the fact that they are very aggressive in thinking.”
McVay finished the 2018 season tied for second in Head Coach Ranking with an overall grade of 7.9; Belichick finished sixth at 7.6. Both coaches finished in the top five when it comes to in-game adjustments – a factor that Cowher sees as vital heading into Sunday.
“They will adapt, they’re able to adjust,” said Cowher. “I think that’s why this will be a great chess match with the young coach and the old coach. Because the young coach, Sean McVay, has a lot of great attributes and his players respond to him. Just like they do with Bill … Two coaches that have a way of pushing the right buttons with their respective teams.”