Maybe it is all of the success of the last 50 years has blinded us to what the rest of the NFL already knows. Mike Tomlin is a damn fine coach and we are lucky to have him. You may not know it from reading some of the comments here on BTSC, and other Steelers fan sites though. It defies reason how many "fans" deride Tomlin's coaching acumen and are constantly calling for his head on a platter.
My warning to those fans is simple: Be careful what you wish for because you may find out that you will rue the day that Tomlin decides to coach his last game for the Steelers.
So why exactly do some fans think Tomlin should be fired? Lets have a look at some of the extremist's positions:
1. He has done nothing but benefit from inheriting a great team and foundation that Coach Cowher left him. OK maybe the first year or two he took over, but guys it is going on 10 years already. At this point, the team has taken on the image of its coach. While they have not won a Super Bowl, they are a talented bunch of players who never seem to give up.
2. His teams come out flat, he doesn't motivate them. Really? I don't know - I see him firing up players on the sidelines all the time. In fact I sometimes think he gets a little too cheerleading and excited. But there is little doubt that he is a player's coach that is almost universally liked and respected by players not only on the Steelers but around the league (well maybe Baltimore and Cincinnati would disagree).
3. His clock and field management is severely lacking. OK, I will grant you that sometimes he doesn't manage the clock at the end of games and half as well as he could. But as a coach myself (not at that level obviously) I know how hard it is to perform this task with everything else going on at the same time. In fact, many teams have an assistant coach who is responsible for watching and advising on clock related moves. So, I am not even sure it is Tomlin's fault if he is getting bad info. There are coaches who may do a better job in this regard, namely Harbaugh in Baltimore and Belichick. But you can't be the best in everything and if this is the biggest reason you have for getting rid of a coach of this caliber, you better think again.
4. He makes moves going with his gut that blow up in his face. As Tomlin himself says, "you can't live in your fears." Show me a coach who is afraid to make an unorthodox move occasionally, who is not willing to take a risk and I will show you a coach who doesn't win often enough.
5. He sticks with his favorites for too long. Again this is a pretty common complaint with coaches. Me personally, I couldn't understand this year why the Steelers kept Blake in so much and didn't play Boykin more. But that is his prerogative as a coach. He makes the moves when he feels it is right. We don't know enough about what is going into these decisions to really know why they are made.
OK so those are some of the things fans don't like about Coach Tomlin, what are some of the things to like? Well, first would be his record:
From Wikipedia, here is Tomlin's record over the last 9 seasons:
|Team||Year||Regular Season||Post Season|
|Won||Lost||Ties||Win %||Finish||Won||Lost||Win %||Result|
|PIT||2007||10||6||0||.625||1st in AFC North||0||1||.000||Lost to Jacksonville Jaguars in AFC Wild Card Game|
|PIT||2008||12||4||0||.750||1st in AFC North||3||0||1.000||Super Bowl XLIII Champions|
|PIT||2009||9||7||0||.533||3rd in AFC North||–||–||–||–|
|PIT||2010||12||4||0||.750||1st in AFC North||2||1||.667||Lost to Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV|
|PIT||2011||12||4||0||.750||2nd in AFC North||0||1||.000||Lost to Denver Broncos in AFC Wild Card Game|
|PIT||2012||8||8||0||.500||3rd in AFC North||–||–||–||–|
|PIT||2013||8||8||0||.500||2nd in AFC North||–||–||–||–|
|PIT||2014||11||5||0||.688||1st in AFC North||0||1||.000||Lost to Baltimore Ravens in AFC Wild Card Game|
|PIT||2015||10||6||0||.625||2nd in AFC North||1||1||0.500||Lost to Denver Broncos in AFC Divisional Game|
So how does this rank versus his peers? Well his .639 winning percentage compares favorably to both of his predecessors. Bill Cowher had a .623 percentage and Chuck Noll .566. Beyond Steelers coaches though, Tomlin compares well with Sean Payton, John Harbaugh and Andy Reid. Also higher than Pete Carroll, Bill Parcells and even Tom Landry and Bill Walsh.
But I know some of you will say that winning percentage isn't everything. After all look at all of the Super Bowls that Walsh won. Tomlin is 1-1 in Super Bowls and just 6-5 in the playoffs. Would we all like to see that be better? Of course. But in terms of who is out there today, can we really think we are going to do better?
Steelers fans are spoiled. For most of us we have had only 2-3 coaches in our lifetime. There is no guarantee that the next coach of the Steelers will be up to the lofty levels that we have grown used to. In fact, the odds are that we won't pick 4 great coaches in a row.
I think that this season may in fact have been Tomlin's greatest. Yes, we still managed to lose some games to teams we should have beaten, but with two All-Pro players out most of the year, an undermanned and deficient defense and tons of other injuries he managed to lead this team to the playoffs and two games from another Super Bowl.
Yes talent helps, but at this point it is Tomlin and Colbert who have brought that talent here. Also, it is Tomlin and his staff (and a great staff it is) who have developed this talent into one of the top offenses, and up and coming defenses, in the league. So much so that they are a favorite to get back to the Super Bowl next year.
One thing I haven't addressed because I think we have moved past this is the fact that Tomlin is an African-American. The Steelers pioneered the 'Rooney Rule' and Mike Tomlin is a shining example of how the system should work. We talk about him being a Steelers coach, not a white coach or a black coach. For that, I am proud.
But finally my fellow Steelers fans, let me just remind you to take a look around at places like Miami and Tampa Bay here in Florida where I live. These teams are perennial mid to bottom players because they don't see it through with their coaches and weren't lucky enough to pick a man like Mike Tomlin to coach them. Be careful what you ask for because these very well might be the good times.