Mike Tomlin More than Maintaining Standard of Expectation at Helm of NFL's Most Decorated and Consistently Successful Franchise

CANTON OH - AUGUST 7: Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin (right) and president Arthur J. Rooney II look on as Dick LeBeau speaks during the 2010 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Field at Fawcett Stadium on August 7 2010 in Canton Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

No need to summarize the story of Mike Tomlin's arrival in Pittsburgh, or his teams' performances each year since he arrived in 2007. Still just 38 years of age, Tomlin is the third youngest head coach in any of the four major professional North American sports leagues. And I don't need to remind you that he became the youngest coach in NFL history to lead his team to Super Bowl glory.

Tomlin's accomplishments have been remarkable already, and if the Steelers' organization continues its historical trend of patience and commitment to stability in the coaching ranks once a capable leader has been identified and employed, Tomlin's really just getting started.

What's exciting to me is that Tomlin is only going to get better with age. You can't 'teach' world-class people management skills; you can only marginally improve your ability to communicate masterfully regardless of the setting; and men and women were born with the ability to motivate and teach. You can improve your understanding of different offensive and defensive schemes, and you can become a better in-game decision maker. Just like in any other profession, experience matters. I'm sure Tomlin would be the first to tell you that he's got plenty to learn about not just being a head coach in the NFL, but about the actual game of football itself.  Hell, Bill Belichick has been an assistant or head coach in the NFL for 36 years. Mike Tomlin was in diapers when Belichik was getting his start in the mid-1970s.

Where was I. Ah yes, the Steelers, as you're all well aware, are 8-3 heading into their Week 13 tilt with the Baltimore.  With just one more win, be it this weekend, or in any of the four proceeding games reamining on the Steelers' 2010 regular season schedule, Tomlin can become only the seventh head coach since 1970 to win at least nine games in each of his first four season.

The head coaches to win at least nine games in each of their first four seasons since 1970:

 

HEAD COACH

TEAM(S)

CONSECUTIVE SEASONS

George Seifert

49ers

8

Mike Holmgren

Packers, Seahawks

8

Bill Cowher

Steelers

6

Chuck Knox

Los Angeles Rams

5

Mike Sherman

Packers

5

John Robinson

Los Angeles Rams

4

 

A nice list. A very impressive club to join, in fact, minus Mike Sherman who I might classify as a very good, but hardly great coach.

Of course, when you take over as head coach of an NFL team, it's typically because the preceding coach failed to deliver enough wins. New hires rarely walk into great situations like Tomlin did. In that way, it's not too surprising or quite as impressive that Tomlin was able to lead the Steelers to the playoffs in his first season. But we're nearly four seasons into the Tomlin era, and the standard of expectation has not changed one bit. Steeler Nation was rightfully frustrated by the five-game losing streak in the middle part of last season that cost the Steelers' a chance at returning to the playoffs to defend their title. Still, despite under-achieving for much of the '09 season, Tomlin's team resiliently bounced back down the stretch to again finish above .500 at 9-7. Quite simply, when 9-7 equates to a 'bad' year, you're doing something right.

While we're at it, I suppose we should extend the congratulations and thanks to the entire Steelers organization for continuing to spoil us fans with a winning team to cheer on. There have been down years during the second half of the Steelers' franchise history -  the 'Gold' years as they're called in the title of Tim Gleason's (aka maryrose) exceptional and highly-acclaimed book published this past summer. There have been years without playoff berths, shortcomings in the Super Bowl or Conference Championship Games, and even years when you could count the win total on one hand. However, no team has had less exposure to the unwelcoming, corrosive, and lingering taste of mediocrity and defeat than have the Steelers.

Credit the Rooneys for hitting not one, not two, but three homeruns with their head coaching hires in the past four decades, without a single mulligan thrown in there. Remarkable. 

Feel free to just wrap up that winning record this weekend Coach. Like our mothers always said when we were younger:  just get it out of the way now so you can have fun later over the Holidays hanging with family and friend, in the precious few moments you're not hard at work leading the Steelers to a home field playoff game at Heinz in January, and a potential run at No. 7. 

Go Steelers!

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