Some time around the year 1999, I took a job at Big Boulder ski resort in the Poconos as a snowboarding instructor. It didn't pay very well, but it came with a season pass that was good at both Big Boulder and Jack Frost mountains. During my time as an instructor, I found myself repeating some advice that was offered to me early in my snowboarding "career": "Don't look at the trees, look where you want to go." It was often said that your body would naturally tend to go in the direction where you are looking. If you looked at the trees, you were going to hit the trees. Over years of watching many people learn to ride, I found this to be universally accurate.
I generally consider myself a Mike Tomlin supporter. I am not one of these people who goes around claiming that Tomlin won with Bill Cowher's team. I think that's totally dismissive of all of the talented players who came in during Tomlin's era. Players such as Lamarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons who were around to see Tomlin's Lombardi. it's also dismissive of the fact that James Harrison was a non-factor under Cowher and flourished under Tomlin. There were obviously other factors involved, but the fact that someone so well known for being "uncoachable" early in his career played so well under a certain coach can't be ignored. Anyone who knows Harrison's personality or has watched this year's "Hard Knocks" should understand that it takes a special type of person to be able to work well with Harrison in the same way it takes a special type of person to be able to get a top fuel dragster to track straight at 300+ mph.
There is one thing about Tomlin that irks me a bit, however. In my opinion, he's a bit too quick to dole out punishment. How often have we seen a guy fumble and then immediately be sent to the bench? How often do we see a guy drop a pass and then not see another play for the rest of the game, if not longer? Perhaps someone like Limas Sweed was completely incurable of his mental lapses, but it sure doesn't help to move a guy past it when you make him stew on the bench for a couple of games afterward. Watching training camp this year, I was beginning to think we had the makings of a very dangerous kick returner in Reggie Dunn. Then came the safety. At this point I'm certain he's going to be cut, and likely would have regardless of his prior performances. I was never a huge supporter of David Gilreath, but I think it was a travesty to kill the guy's chances because of one mistake. It was a big one, for sure, but it was one mistake. Sure, there could have been other issues that contributed that the causal fan was not aware of, but if there weren't, is one mistake worth cutting a guy that you deemed worthy enough just a season prior?
It's detrimental to put too much emphasis on not making mistakes. If you want to see the results of being too quick to dish out punishment, you only need to look at last season. Perhaps it was mere coincidence, but as soon as harsh punishments started to be dished out for fumbling, it seemed to spread like a disease. Nobody seemed to be immune. Tomlin promised to address the issue, and he did exactly that. Tomlin, and by extension the entire team spent the rest of the season focusing on curing their fumbling problem. They spent the rest of the season looking at the trees.