Bill Cowher would love nothing more than to see the Pittsburgh Steelers return to the Super Bowl. Still, Sunday's matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers is a close second.
Cowher spent three seasons in Kansas City as defensive coordinator before becoming a Hall of Fame coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers. For Tampa Bay, Bruce Arians is the second former Cowher assistant to lead a team to a Super Bowl.
“These are the two teams still standing and, ironically, they’re probably the two teams playing the best football all year long,” said Cowher, who is part of the CBS coverage on “The Super Bowl Today” pregame show for the fifth time,
“I mean, when it’s all said and done and the murkiness of what we went through this year due to COVID, these two teams surface to the top because they had two good leaders leading them: Andy (Reid) and BA. They are not afraid to take chances. Both are great teachers, communicators and motivators."
Arians and Cowher first met in Kansas City in 1989, when Arians got his first NFL assistant's job on Marty Schottenheimer's staff coaching running backs. The two would later reunite in Pittsburgh in 2004, when Cowher hired Arians to coach wide receivers. Arians was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2007, when Mike Tomlin came in after Cowher retired, and the two have remained close.
Following stints in Indianapolis and as the head coach in Arizona — winning NFL Coach of the Year honors in 2012 and 2014 — Arians worked for CBS as an analyst in 2018. He continued having frequent conversations with Cowher, especially when Arians considered going to Tampa Bay. The two discuss some of that during a feature that will air on Sunday.
“Coach (Bear) Bryant was a big influence on him during his time at Alabama. Bruce is a guy that he just loves to compete," Cowher said. "He calls people out but also loves him, too. He’s a special guy.”
Cowher, who went to two Super Bowls with the Steelers, including their win over Seattle in the 2006 game, has also known Chiefs coach Reid for many years and has plenty of admiration for Kansas City making a repeat trip.
“He keeps things fresh. They continue to look forward without dwelling on the past,” he said. “These guys don’t blink in the face of pressure and it’s just a reflection of Andy. They’re going to feel like they’re not going to get caught up in in anything. They’re gonna stay focused on what they have to do.”
As for preparing for Sunday's game, it is far from a routine Super Bowl week. Both teams are training at their complexes, and Kansas City isn't scheduled to arrive in Tampa until Saturday evening. In many respects, it almost feels as if they are preparing for their Week 12 matchup.
In terms of analyzing what might happen Sunday, Cowher said the biggest thing he will watch early is if Tampa Bay’s defense has adjusted in attacking the Chiefs. He pointed out that the Buccaneers played lots of man-to-man coverage in the first quarter before going to zone the final three quarters in a better attempt to counter the Chiefs’ speed. Kansas City took a 17-0 first-quarter lead on Nov. 29 before holding on for a 27-24 victory.
“Maybe there’s some thought about doing a three-man rush, putting Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul outside,” he said. “You’re going to consume inside. And now put another guy into coverage, and maybe spy that guy with a Devin White, but also take away some of the intermediate routes.”
With only 22,000 tickets available and no functions to attend after practices, the true magnitude of the game won't hit players and coaches until they step on the field.
“Probably from a coach’s perspective, there’s less potential distractions than ever,” Cowher said. "When you think about the two weeks (leading up to the game), you put in like 75% of your game plan in that first week. You want to leave something for the next week to keep the players engaged. You want to keep things in its normal routine, the things that got you to where you are right now. You want to also allow them to enjoy the process because you know if you work so hard to get to the Super Bowl it should not be a negative experience.
“We all know what the magnitude of the game is. It is the Super Bowl. You will feel it on Sunday. But it’s certainly the lead-up to it that makes it a lot easier to stay focused on the game, and not really the event.”
Follow Joe Reedy at http://twitter.com/joereedy
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL