A good slap in the face

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Bill Cowher made an intriguing statement recently. Cowher said the Steelers weren't the best team in the league last season.

That's a heckuva statement to make about a bunch of guys who only a few months ago did something no other team in NFL history had ever done. Fifty years from now, the 2005 Steelers may still be the only team in NFL history to win the Super Bowl by winning three playoff games on the road.

Cowher made his point, though, beginning with this: The Steelers didn't even win their division.

His comments weren't lost on his players. In fact, they were intended for them.

How can he get away with that kind of harsh talk? Well, first of all, Cowher is the longest-tenured coach in the NFL and rank does have its privilege. Secondly, he firmly believes what he said to be true and so do a lot of other people; maybe even some of his own players.

Cowher made his remark for all of the right reasons. He didn't say what he said to belittle his players or to take the shine off their Vince Lombardi Trophy. He said what he said because he wanted his players to understand why they won all those postseason games and what it'll take to win a championship this season. He told them they won because they were a desperate and focused team.

That's how 2006 begins for the Steelers, with a big dose of humility and reality. You wanna win? Well, it'll take a focused effort.

Shouldn't all teams take that approach? What purpose does it serve to spend all of the offseason patting yourself on the back for what you did last season?

This could apply to the Jaguars and their fans. We've spent a lot of time this offseason feeling good about 12-4. We've spent a lot of energy defending the quality of that record against criticism for a soft second-half schedule. The obsession for respect continues as we thump our chests about this and about that.

What purpose does it serve? Pride is a nice thing but what happened last year won't help this year's team one bit. I like the Cowher approach. There's nothing wrong with a good slap in the face. I don't think they were the best team in the league, either. Why lie to yourself?

The '06 season has started. Physical preparations have begun. The feel-good time is over.

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