ART ROONEY II
Good afternoon. First I just want to say thanks to Bill for 15 great years. I certainly have enjoyed working with him. We've had a lot of success. It's been a great ride. I also want to say thanks to Bill and Kaye for having their family be part of ours. We really enjoyed having their children grow up with us and my children. It's been a great ride on that front as well. It's really been wonderful. We wish Bill all the best as he moves on and moves forward. And, now, my dad would like to say a few words and make a presentation.
Art's really took everything I was going to say. Bill was the first coach that we hired that was younger than me, so that's really something. But 15 years has really been good. I don't know if you remember this, but when we had this press conference to announce he was going to be the coach, they were talking about Coach Noll being here for 20 years or so and they asked how long he was going to be here. I said he's going to be here 13 years, so he beat me by two. But it really has been special and I want to thank Bill for his contribution to the Steelers. It really has made it special. And as Art said, I really have enjoyed his family, Kaye, and seeing his daughters grow up to be fine young ladies. His youngest daughter Lindsay was just a baby when he came. Now she's a high school girl and really is doing well. But Bill, what I want to say is after the Super Bowl you gave me the trophy; I wish you would accept this trophy from us for the great contributions that you gave to us.
It feels like a Tuesday. Not really. Art and Dan, thank you for having this. I want to thank you guys for being here. After careful and deliberate consideration, I've decided to re-, resign today. I've given it a lot of thought and I believe it is in the best interest of our family and myself at this time, and I'm proud of all we've accomplished here in the 15 years that I've been able to be the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. And I was born and raised here. My parents live here. My brothers live here. And more importantly for my parents, they've been able to watch our three children grow up. That's special. Coaching in the National Football League and winning the Super Bowl have been lifelong dreams of mine. And to be able to do that, and realize that, in the city that I was born and raised in, this Crafton boy lived a dream, and you don't know how special that is for me.
There are a lot of people that I need to thank, and I'm going to do that. First, to Marty Schottenheimer. I played for Marty and he was the only guy that I was ever an assistant coach under. He opened the door for me, and for that I will always be grateful. Who's to say when you see a player whether he can coach? There are no guarantees in this profession. Marty believed in me and for that I will always remember and be very grateful. And to Dan Rooney, for taking a chance on me 15 years ago. The gratitude, respect and complete admiration, I cannot express in words. He's a very special man. Thank you. And I want to thank all the players and the coaches, who have contributed to the success we have enjoyed over the 15 years. There've been so many of them. I had an opportunity this year to sit with the players, talk with the coaches. And there've been so many down through the years that I want to thank. And to the support staff. My secretary Mia has been with me for 12 years like a right-hand man. To the doctors, Jim Bradley and Tony Yates. To the trainers, John Norwig and his staff. This truly is not accomplished, what we've done, without the work of a lot of people pulling in the same direction, and I've been so fortunate and blessed to have those type of people a part of this team. And to Kevin Colbert, who officially today becomes the No. 1 ranked racquetball player in this building, even though the class has gone down. But Kevin, you gave me a second wind. And your support and friendship will always mean a lot to me. And to the fans, to the fans in Pittsburgh and to the fans around this country, second to none. I want to thank you for your passion and your support. I've said this before, and I'm a part of you, you can take the people out of Pittsburgh but you'll never take the Pittsburgh out of people. I'm one of you. Y'inz know what I mean. And last, to my wife and three daughters. You know, I was asked a long time ago: How have I lasted in this business so long? There's no doubt in my mind it's the balance that I've been able to live. My three daughters, to be a part of their lives will always be my main objective in life. If there's a legacy that I'd like to leave, it's my three daughters to say, you know what, my dad was a good dad. That's important to me. And to my wife, my soulmate and my friend. The sacrifices she's made and the love and support that she has given me through the years, she's been my backbone. And so today I sit here and I say to you, that while I wish the Pittsburgh Steelers nothing but the best, I've given a lot of thought to this decision, and it is right now the best thing for me and my family at this time. And I've got to be honest with you, I'm looking forward to it. Now, my wife may not be able to say the same thing after being around me for a couple weeks, but I really am looking forward to spending time with my family. So I will open this up to your questions.
You said you weren't burned out, was family the motivating factor in this decision?
I'm not burned out. I just think there comes a time in your life. I'm healthy, I'm happy, I've been fortunate. You've got to prioritize things. They've made a lot of sacrifices for me, and for me to sit back and be able to be there for them, while they're where they are in their life, it's a pretty small one for them. I'm looking forward to it. I really am. It's the right time.
Do you foresee yourself coaching next year?
Right now I can foresee myself spending time with my family and working on a golf game that needs a lot of work, so, no.
Did you consider retiring after the Super Bowl?
I don't think so. Not really. Things happen too fast. You don't have enough time. After the Super Bowl I think we came in and we had a meeting the next day talking about free agency, so I don't think so. I think you think about it. My wife and I talked about it, but it wasn't nothing serious. You don't have enough time to think about it. And I've tried to be very open with Art in our conversations and Mr. Rooney. I'm here today, to be honest with you, because my feelings haven't changed the last couple of days and I know the process that exists today, and I know that this weekend would allow them an opportunity to talk to some candidates, and if I wait till Monday they've lost a weekend. And I've got too much respect and appreciation for what they've done for myself to not be honest with them, to be honest with myself. Like I said, it's just the right thing to do for me and my family at this time.
Did winning the Super Bowl put that in perspective?
Yeah, it's been a heck of a journey now. You've always heard me talk about it: It's not about the destination, it's about the journey. And I wouldn't change anything. A lot of disappointment; a lot of joy; a lot of relationships and memories that I will cherish for a lifetime, and as I walk out this door those are things that people can never take away from me. The National Football League has been a privilege to be a part of. It's a privilege for everyone to be a part of. And there will be people that will come after you; there were people that were there before you. I think people have to respect that. I know that I have. The National Football League has been good to the Cowher family.
Will you get back into coaching? If so, how long do you think you'll be out?
There is no timetable put on that. The only thing I'm looking forward to is spending time with my family, and I am really looking forward to that. Being in a world that's so regimented and scheduled, where you're looking at four months, five months out of the year and you have every day scheduled for you, to have the ability to sit back at my age and be able to spend time with family and be a part of their lives, a big part of their lives, again, it really excites me.
Did any of your players try to talk you out of it?
I don't think anyone really tried to talk me out of it. I think when I explained to them what I was thinking and where I was leaning, I think they understood it. It's hard not to understand it. I'm just very appreciative of the sacrifices the players have made, the sacrifices that the assistant coaches have made, and their families. It's a fishbowl we live in and I don't think people understand that unless you live it.
What's the toughest thing about leaving?
The city. The organization. The players. I love the game. I'll be a great fan of the game. Love to compete on Sundays. Love the challenges that come with putting a football team together and getting guys to buy into unselfishness. That's not always easy to do. But, I think while you miss that, I have a great appreciation for that. I don't think that I'm going to miss it as much as some people think I'm going to. I'll watch it. I'm a fan. I'm a big fan now. And at the same time I'm a fan with my family.
Did you seek the advice of another coach who's been in your circumstance, who left and came back?
No, I really haven't. I talked a lot with my wife through the course of this and she has been tremendously supportive. As far as this past year it was not a distraction. We have a very strong relationship and it was totally my choice, but it's a choice that it's time. It's time to spend, for me at this point, with her, with my family. There's no one who can tell you what you can do with your life, and I'm very respectful of other people's decisions and choices they have to make because I think every one is subjective. I just think it's an individual choice and I'm very respectful of individual choices.
You had an emotional week. How would you characterize your emotions right now?
I'm an emotional guy, I'm never going to lose that. I get mad when I lose an 18-hole match. If I lose to Kevin, which is once a year, that bothers me. I've got a passion for life. Sometimes in life you have to prioritize and re-prioritize unfortunately. This wasn't just done by me, it was done from hard work by a lot of people, players, the organization, staff, the support of my wife, the kids. They've given me the balance. I still remember in 1994, the first AFC Championship game we lost, Meghan was at the game, Lauren was at the game. We came home and Lindsay came to the door and she had the hula skirt on. She was just so happy that we lost the AFC Championship and we get to go to Hawaii. She didn't want to go to Miami or the Super Bowl, she wanted to go to Hawaii, she'd never been there. That's perspective. That's balance. That's what this job has given me. I've never brought this job home and I've never brought my home to this job. The only way you can do that is if you've got a pretty good partner and I've got a pretty good partner here.
You had a spectacular start to your career, you had some tough times in the late ‘90s, they signed you to a new contract under some pretty intense criticism after that?
I just told Art and I was laughing the other day, my last two extensions have come off of non-playoff years. The one year when we win the Super Bowl and I don't sign the extension. But you know what? It hasn't been about money for me. It has been about working for good people and I have been very blessed and I know that these are good people. The relationship I have with Dan Rooney, we've talked every day and 75 percent of the time, it's non-football. He's been like a friend, a father. He's a very special man. I never got to know the Chief, but like I said, the apple doesn't fall very far from the tree.
You mentioned money, there's been a lot of speculation that it's exactly what it might be. Is that just speculation?
I really don't want to get into the details of the process. I'm here today to say that this decision is what's right for my family at this time. I am so appreciative of the time I've had here and the people I've had the opportunity to work with.
When you're not spending time with your family and golfing, do you think you'll be doing anything else to make a living, like TV, for instance?
I know we're getting a dog this spring. My wife informed me of that. I don't know how that will change the dynamics of the house. I really don't know at this time. I don't have any preconceived thoughts and there's something refreshing about that. I really can't answer that right now. I say that sincerely and with excitement.
Looking back at 1992, everybody looked different and you were here in a business suit. Now you're here in a sweater, more casual. I remember you saying you wanted to do this your way. Did you do it the way you thought you would?
I was a little arrogant in that first press conference, to be honest with you. I was telling Kaye that the other night. People were probably saying, ‘Who the heck does this guy think he is?' I've learned a lot. I've grown a lot, as a person, as a father, as a husband and as a coach. The one thing I will say is that you never stop growing. Don't ever take yourself too seriously and disrespect the game. I think the humility starts at the top of the organization and it's made me a better person because of it. I came here 15 years ago and as I leave here today, I leave as a better person. For that I owe a lot of gratitude.
Do you remember a lot from your first game?
The Houston game? Yeah. The fake punt, the reverse on third down. I guess you always remember your first and your last. So I remember both. They both were wins, which is a good thing.
How soon before you leave for North Carolina and how often will you return here?
Let me just say this. Pittsburgh is a place where my wife introduced me to an organization called Family Resources. How long has it been Hun? Ten years, maybe longer. We're going to have some dedications this spring for some fields. The Pitt girls basketball team with Agnes Berenato is going to help us with the basketball clinic. I'm going to be in charge of the football clinic, so I'm going to be looking for some coaches. I was told that is my responsibility. But Family Resources is a big part of Pittsburgh for us. My parents live here. My brothers live here. This is home. I don't know what the time frames are going to be in and out. What the consists of. The memories and the roots that we have here will live forever.
How daunting was it to replace a legend in Chuck Noll and how much interaction did you two have?
I always said before that when I had the opportunity to follow Chuck Noll that I knew I was getting a team that knew how to work, knew how to prepare and how to win. I thought it was a good thing. I didn't even come close to doing the things he did. No one will. He was one of a kind. You don't even put yourself in that kind of shadow. I was fortunate to walk into that. We didn't have a lot of interaction and I'll tell you what, I think it was good. I think it's important to step into that chair, you have to do it your way, you have to be yourself. There's no blue print to being a head coach. There's no manual that says, OK, problem three: A player is selfish, he doesn't like his contract, what do I do? You've got to be yourself. Every player is different. Coaches are very perceptive. You've got to be honest and try to do things the right way. Respect the game. Respect that everybody is not going to be like you.
Other than the Super Bowl, what are you most proud of?
Home playoff games. I don't think anyone had more playoff games than we did in our 15 years here. I say that having kids who experienced black and gold days. Seeing them dressed up on Friday. They were like, ‘Daddy, can you get me a Hines Ward shirt? Or can you get me a Jerome Bettis shirt?' They asked me, ‘Do you think they're going to be here for a long time?' Because they didn't want to get a shirt for a guy who was gone the next year. I probably remember the home playoff games because of what it does to a city. We've had some disappointments and I feel bad about that. We have some disappointments in AFC Championship games when you get so close. I can honestly say that was the fuel that brought me back and made me appreciate things. What that does to a city and how proud people had to be when they saw the support, the passion. And then you go around the country and see it in every city you go into. Pittsburgh is a special place and I'm proud to be from here. When you have a home playoff game and you get to bring the nation into your city, that's special.
Is there one particular memory or one particular call that stands out?
No. Probably the fake punt in the first game. What people don't realize that John Guy was our special teams coach and we knew that Jerry Glanville was the coach and any time you were inside the 50, he was going to rush the punter. It was third-down-and-seven. Neil (O'Donnell) got sacked for like a 15-yard loss. I was wondering who in the heck, what happened on the protection, where'd the guy come from? I looked over at John and said ‘You're not running that fake punt.' He said, ‘Well you told me to run it.' I said, ‘Oh my God.' Then I said, ‘No, at this point, just let it go.' It was like 21-0. If I had time to think about it today, I probably wouldn't have run it. I think about the specifics of that call and the Super Bowl games and the championship games, I remember them all very vividly. Probably the biggest thing is the relationships we've had with all the players who have come through here, the coaches. They're the guys you live with, you work with. You spend more time with them than your family during the season. The sacrifices that these people have made. Nobody understands the hours that you put into this. No one wants to get it done right more than us. It's our life and the people that live with us. I think people will hopefully appreciate that.
How hard will it be for you to stand on the sidelines with the Steelers on the other side?
I couldn't even think about that right now to be honest with you. The only sidelines I'm going to be sitting on is watching my kids play basketball for the next couple of years. I'm looking forward to that.
You were known as a player's coach and everybody talked about how hard guys played for you. Why do you think that was?
It's a game. All you ask people to do is go out there and have a passion for it. You go out there sometimes and things are going to happen that are hard to explain. But the one thing you can control is how you respond to those things. That becomes more defining than any circumstances. To a large degree this year this team did that. At 2-6 with that ring on their finger, what motivates them? It was the pride. It's the character. It's a good football team. Somebody is going to get a chance to coach a bunch of good players. That doesn't guarantee wins or that there won't be some bumps along that way, that's going to happen. But there's a lot of stability that is here now and will always be here. It's a special place and it's going to be a great opportunity for somebody.
Along those lines, you always talked about keeping things in perspective. And one of the keys was that players always knew where they stood. Was that something you had all the time or was that something that evolved?
It evolved over time. Ask my wife. She would tell me when there were things she thought I needed to do a better job of doing. And I needed that. She was right. Like I said before, I've grown. I've grown as a person - at least I'd like to think so - and I've grown as a coach. Sometimes it's through experiences and things you would have done differently. I think it does take time. It's being honest with players and letting them know. That's the one thing that from the very beginning when players are coming in to see you. If you're asking the hard question, expect a hard answer. Jim Leyland told me that at one time. And I've learned a lot over the years. I tried to tell players where they stood whether they wanted to hear it or not. They want structure. They want pushed, contrary to what some people may believe. When they're out there playing, they're not thinking about how much money they're making. They're very proud and they're doing things that they did when they were kids. I don't think you should lose sight of that. We all want structure. We all want to be pushed and pulled aside. We all need sometimes to be kicked in the butt. I think that's the thing I've tried to do. I'll be the first one to tell you when you did something wrong and I'll be the first one there to tell you when you've done something right. I thought that was always an important approach to take.
Do you have any advice for the coach who replaces you?
It's not about me. It's about them and doing it their way. There's no blueprint, there's no manual. There's a lot of really good coaches out there. I've been fortunate and blessed. I've benefited from a lot of hard work from the support staff, the assistant coaches and the players. There's a lot of good coaches out there and they'll get a good one here.
Will you give them a recommendation if they ask about someone on your staff?
I'm going to be here next week, so I'm open. I've never been one to lack an opinion. Yeah. Like I said, there's a lot of good candidates and these guys, they know what they're doing. Certainly I'll help any way I can.
You never mentioned the word retirement. Is that on purpose?
There's an age thing there. It makes you sound old. I'm resigning and I'm excited about the future. I think it's the right thing for my family and me at this time and I'm excited about that.
Will you meet with the players?
I met with the players already and I'm not asking them to come back again. We had good talks on Monday.