Bill Cowher must maintain his objectivity as an analyst on CBS’ “The NFL Today,” but his wife, Veronica — a musician known professionally as Queen V — has no such restrictions and is, as Cowher put it, “a big-time Jets fan.”
Hence Cowher has more than a merely professional interest in how the Jets fare this year.
“Listen, my wife is a Jets fan, so I have to hear it; I go through her agony every year,” Cowher said on Wednesday in Manhattan during a break in shooting promotional videos for the show. “I have a personal stake here, too. C’mon, Todd! Help the culture in my household!”
Cowher was kidding, sort of. But seriously, he believes the first step for coach Todd Bowles is changing the culture of the Jets, of whom little is expected this season.
“The biggest challenge for Todd is to create a culture of winning,” he said, “because I think until you win the close games, until you win back-to-back, there’s constantly going to be that one point in the game where you say, ‘Oh boy, here we go again.’
“I think that’s what happens when you’re trying to change a culture. You have to somehow get over that hump. A lot of times it takes one or two players to make plays and to win a close game and then validating that back-to-back where it’s not just one big win. They need validation.
“A couple of years ago there was that high expectation, but confidence is very fragile in the National Football League. So I think Todd’s challenge is to create that culture again, where you’re expecting to win, not hoping to win.”
Cowher, who coached the Steelers for 15 seasons and won Super Bowl XL, said he believes Bowles has what it takes to succeed as a coach long term.
“I think he has to be hands on, on both sides of the ball,” he said. “I think he’s going to have to make some tough decisions, more so than he just made. Yes, there’s a sense of rebuilding, but I would call it more ‘re-establishing.’ I would not use rebuild, I’d say re-establish. Re-establish a culture of winning. That’s his goal.
“You do need talent, but sometimes you have to take the talent you have and create offensively and defensively what accentuates what that talent can do and don’t beat yourself. They have a good defense. Play to the strength of that defense.
“Not everyone has a franchise quarterback. Trust me, in Pittsburgh we had good quarterbacks but never had great ones until we got Ben [Roethlisberger, in 2004]. We knew what our strengths were. You knew what you could play to and you knew what your weaknesses were as well, and you found ways to hide that.
“That’s what coaching is, making sure that you’re able to create an atmosphere that’s conducive to challenges and changing the culture and being creative in what you do in terms of accentuating the strengths.”
Being married to a Jets supporter is not Cowher’s only way of relating to New York sports fans. He lives in Manhattan and spends about 90 percent of his time there. Cowher’s first wife, Kaye, died in 2010. He married Veronica in 2014.
“I’m pretty much a New Yorker and have been the last seven years,” said Cowher, who grew up in the Pittsburgh area. “When people ask me where I’m from, I say I’m from New York. If you had asked me that about 10 years ago I’d have said there’s no way that’s going to happen.
“But I’ve grown to really kind of fall in love with the city . . . I just love the vibrancy of New York City. I’ve come to really also recognize the passion of the sports fans. From afar you see the media blitz, but I think when you get into the city this place reminds me a lot – on a much larger scale – of Pittsburgh.
“Very knowledgeable sports fans who are very passionate. They love you when you win and they’re the biggest critics when you’re losing. You know what? I’d much rather have that than a fan who doesn’t care.”