FPS: Mike Tomlin isn't talking to you, but he's letting you listen in. And what you hear may be a pisser!

There's been a lot of reaction to Mike Tomlin's comment that Jaylen Warren didn't urinate down his pants leg during Sunday's game. Homer, who covered thousands of press conference and media briefings in a three decade career in network broadcast news, has a take on this that is likely different from yours.

Folks here seem to think they - and the media - are Tomlin's primary audience. They could not be more mistaken. His most important audience is in the clubhouse. You should view his comments based what his players hear - and what they take from it.

His comment about Jaylen Warren - which was a Tiktok reference - was not unlike the Black Air Force 1 remark. The players understood - and loved - where that was coming from. And Warren - who is bursting onto the scene because game films don't lie - is now part of the pack and his teammates will start ribbing their little bro. The comment was funny, in jest, and it took some of the pressure off the rookie. Welcome to the varsity, young man. Glad you didn't piss your pants like others have. You have earned your playing time and we can rag on you.

His comment about Devin Bush was his way of publicly saying to a guy who has struggled terribly but showed real improvement that we think you are better than those people out there think you are and we have been expecting a higher level of play than those people do. The "narrative" part of his comment was telling Bush publicly that Mike Tomlin sets the standard, and not the naysayers in the media.

There was a lot of praise for his players -- everything he said in 22 minutes was about team building. He knows they listen to every word. And, like every briefing, it was also letting the assembled media know that he's the boss and in charge of messaging.

When Michael P. Tomlin, then a little known assistant coach, came in to interview for his first head coaching job, he knocked the socks off Daniel M. Rooney by showing that he was - by far - the best prepared and most intelligent of all the candidates. Dan no doubt saw the qualities that Tomlin has that make him an exceptional leader of men.

Tomlin has since become respected - and both feared and revered - by the media. His "never say never, but never" news conference put the reporters in their place and crystallized the idea that Mike Tomlin is the smartest guy in the media room and he has the right to respond to your question in the manner of his choosing. PRO TIP: It's not a good idea to piss off the smartest guy in the room with a stupid question. Thank you.

After his hiring of Coach Flo, there's been a bit of "us versus them" attitude that has been completely positive. And a bonding that seems especially emotional among Black players, who are personally invested in how Flores becomes a key part of the organization, and who revel in how the occasional Af/Am reference or youth reference might fly over the heads of older, whiter reporters until it becomes part of the culture of Steeler nation.

Nobody in the media gives a damn when your average NFL Coach holds a weekly media briefing, except when it's Mike Tomlin. Then, it's must watch TV. Because Tomlin. And Tomlinisms.

Homer takes a keen interest in Tomlin's media briefings because he spent his career covering such events.

Homer spent more than three decades in network news here in DC, and has met and covered every President since Nixon with one exception. In fact, he first met and spoke with three future Presidents when they were still in college. He covered thousands of news conferences, and has learned and marveled at how the best and brightest politicians are able to speak to multiple audiences and deliver multiple messages at the same time.

He first noticed this when a virtually unknown peanut farmer started using church language and phrases that resonated with born again folks to go from 1% in the polls to surge to the top in a very crowded field in 1976 for the Democratic nomination and win the Presidency. Jimmy Carter connected with Evangelicals and with thousands of folks who may have previously avoided politics, because he was one of them and he spoke their language at a time when the MSM had little or no idea of Carter's cultural references or his targeted audience.

In 1992, it was another son of the South, Bill Clinton, who slipped the occasional reference to his own childhood poverty and other cultural references into his message, allowing his to stand out in another very crowded primary field, and chart a path to the Presidency.

In 2000, George W. Bush was an absolute master of speaking to the media while speaking directly to what he called "the faith community," dropping in short Biblical phrases into his speeches and answers. Reporters didn't pick up on it, but the church ladies did. And they voted for him.

Homer was at ABC News during all this and had a good number of desk assistants and production assistants. These kids were the cream of the academic crop. Graduates of the most prestigious universities, often at or near the top of their class, and this was often their first job after graduating.

In a discussion with one, Homer dropped the phrase, "O, ye of little faith."

"Where's that come from," she asked, her face curled up into a question mark.

Ivy League. Top grades. WASP name. She had no idea it's from the Book of Matthew.

From that point on, with other young people, Homer would drop an occasional phrase, just to see if the newest desk assistant had a working knowledge of the book that was a keystone of W's speechmaking and the foundation of Western civilization. Many did, but often the white, northern kids were, as Scripture says, were "the least of these." Again, a phrase many did not recognize.

The point of this is not to decry the lack of Biblical literacy, but to point out that some things that fly over the heads of some people go right to the heart of others.

Mike Tomlin's media briefings are a textbook example of that. His comments fulfill the stated purpose of briefing the media and giving them "something they can use" in writing their stories and doing their jobs. But, more importantly, he is speaking to multiple audiences, and he clearly prepares what he says to speak to his most important audience: his players, and his organization.

He's doing it in a format to answer media questions, so it's not like he's in the locker room, lecturing his guys. Actually, he is talking to them, lecturing them. He's just using the media to send the message, and letting the rest of us listen in.

And that's why reporters and bloggers of a certain age are regularly checking Urban Dictionary after briefings to make sure they didn't miss anything. And why you hear Steeler players, in speaking to reporters, using the exact phrases Coach uses. Because he's talking to them.

He's a leader of men. He prepares the message. He sets the standard. The standard is the standard, and his standard in dealing with the media is unmatched in the NFL.


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