Steelers fans rejoiced the other night when they saw their former coach Bill Cowher get a visit from David Baker and the Pro Football Hall of Fame on national television. Cowher’s impending induction in August is due to his coaching record (including postseason play) of 161-99-1 and a winning percentage of .618. Cowher and (his Waterboy costar) Jimmy Johnson seized the only two slots for coaches in the NFL’s Centennial class. The two legendary coaches are bound for Canton over Marty Schottenheimer, Don Coryell, Mike Holmgren, Buddy Parker, Tom Flores and Dick Vermeil. The voters have spoken and, whether you agree or not, the decisions are about to be set in bronze. But the Cowher decision pretty much opens the door for the man who followed him in Pittsburgh...Mike Tomlin.
Now it is no secret Mike Tomlin is a polarizing figure in Pittsburgh. Some fans want him gone every single time the Steelers lose, and even sometimes when they win. They pine for the glory days of Cowher. But some fans have very short memories and forget about the years between 1998 and 2000. That’s when fans were calling for Cowher’s head set and pining for Chuck Noll to unretire, or for another discarded coach to ride into town and be a savior. But the fact of the matter is this: Mike Tomlin has the same number of Super Bowl wins as Cowher. He has never had a losing season and is currently three spots (and 16 wins) behind “the Chin” for 20th place on the all-time wins list. Including games played in the postseason, Tomlin sports a record of 141-80-1 and a .637 winning percentage. That win/loss percentage is 19th in the history of the league. Cowher sits at 23, four spaces behind.
Tomlin is not yet 50 years of age, so it is conceivable that he has many years of coaching left in him. That is, if he so desires. Going just .500 in the next two seasons, he has an identical record to Cowher, a man that will be enshrined in August. There won’t be a special vote like there was this season, but you would think he’d be included down the road.
Of the current NFL Head Coaches, there are about six others that could warrant inclusion in this particular conversation. Bill Belichick is a given, unless he somehow gets banned from the game. The others on that list right now include Andy Reid of Philadelphia and Kansas City, Jon Gruden of Oakland and Tampa Bay, Saints’ Head Man Sean Payton, John Harbaugh of Baltimore and Pete Carroll of Seattle, New England, the New York Jets.
If Tomlin coaches ten more years in the league, he’ll have most likely eclipsed 200 wins and would find himself in the top ten in history in victories. Should that come to be, we would be talking about Tomlin many years from now regarding his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.