View Full Version : John Dudley: Tomlin on verge of joining elite coaching group

01-09-2011, 08:32 AM
Published: January 09. 2011 1:15AM
John Dudley: Tomlin on verge of joining elite coaching group

Sit through a few Mike Tomlin news conferences and you will quickly realize that the Steelers' coach has little interest in discussing his own accomplishments. Tomlin is, and has been since his arrival nearly four years ago, all about the team all the time.

But depending on how the next month plays out, he could find it more difficult to brush those questions aside.

The Steelers are three wins from making Tomlin the first coach in the Super Bowl era to win two championships in his first four seasons as an NFL head coach. If that's not amazing enough, Tomlin's .672 winning percentage already ranks 10th all-time among those who have coached at least 50 NFL games, according to profootballreference.com.

Here is the list of coaches who have won two or more Super Bowls: Chuck Noll (4), Bill Belichick (3), Joe Gibbs (3), Bill Walsh (3), Tom Flores (2), Jimmy Johnson (2), Tom Landry (2), Vince Lombardi (2), Bill Parcells (2), George Seifert (2), Mike Shanahan (2) and Don Shula (2).

Of those men, only Seifert (.813), Lombardi (.750), Gibbs (.719) and Shula (.696) have a higher winning percentage than Tomlin (.672) in their first four seasons.

You might be wondering what point I'm trying to make, especially since all of this assumes that Tomlin will join the multiple-Super Bowl-winning coaches club at some point, if not this season.

Here's the point:

Partly because of his team-first, me-last approach, and partly because of what I suspect is the widespread belief that he inherited a seasoned, championship-ready roster from Bill Cowher, Tomlin's success so far has been, at least among a segment of Steelers fans in particular and the football-watching public in general, taken for granted.

Two years ago, after Tomlin decided to play quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in a meaningless Week 17 game against the Browns, and after Roethlisberger subsequently suffered a concussion that threatened the Steelers' playoff hopes, I received e-mails from readers who said the decision was an unforgivable mistake that proved Tomlin wasn't equipped to coach in the NFL and didn't deserve the job.

A month later, after the Steelers won their second Super Bowl in four seasons, the anti-Tomlin venom slowed to a trickle.

But every once in a while I hear from someone who remains convinced that Tomlin has simply ridden the coattails of Cowher and general manager Kevin Colbert. To which I respond, get a clue.

Let's start with what I consider to be four reliable measures of a successful NFL coach: his ability to improve the team he inherits, his ability to draft, his ability to deal with controversy, and his ability to deal with the media and the public. Tomlin has proven himself on all counts.

- 1. Improving what he inherited: After Cowher left, Tomlin took over a team one year removed from a Super Bowl title that had been a massive underachiever, finishing 8-8 after losing six of its first eight games. Roethlisberger's confidence was battered coming off of a 23-interception season in which he posted a 75.4 passer rating after compiling ratings of 98.1 and 98.6 in his first two seasons. Running back Willie Parker looked tired after rushing for more than 1,400 yards, and the defense was beginning to show its age, especially at linebacker, where Joey Porter (29) and Clark Haggans (29) had begun to decline.

One of Tomlin's first moves after taking over in 2007 was to jettison Porter (more on that later) and install James Harrison as a starter, and Harrison immediately became one of the league's most feared defenders. The Steelers responded by finishing 10-6 and losing a first-round playoff game. Roethlisberger enjoyed a career year, posting a 104.1 passer rating, and Tomlin managed to juggle the declining Parker and Najeh Davenport at running back effectively enough to win. He followed that season by winning the Super Bowl the next year.

- 2. Drafting: There was plenty of head-scratching when the Steelers made Florida State linebacker Lawrence Timmons the first draft choice of the Tomlin era. The Steelers had other needs, especially in the secondary and along the offensive line. The grumbling got louder when Timmons took almost three full seasons to get up to speed. Now Timmons is one of the AFC's rising defenders. He led the team in tackles during the regular season and added three sacks and two interceptions. And at 24, he's only going to get better. Tomlin followed the Timmons pick by drafting Michigan linebacker LaMarr Woodley, Illinois running back Rashard Mendenhall, Mississippi wide receiver Mike Wallace and Florida State offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey, and then converting Pouncey into a Pro Bowl-caliber center as a rookie despite some conventional thinking that Pouncey would have to play guard. Timmons, Woodley, Mendenhall, Wallace and Pouncey all have become starters who are arguably among the best in the league at their positions. That, folks, is great drafting.

- 3. Handling controversy: Starting with his decision to cut ties with Porter, a popular but disruptive veteran who had been one of Cowher's pet players, Tomlin has proven to be mostly unflappable in the face of turmoil. Make no mistake that he was behind the decision to trade wide receiver Santonio Holmes after Holmes' off-field problems threatened to distract the rest of the team. Tomlin refused to allow Roethlisberger's womanizing and subsequent league suspension to derail this season, and the Steelers' 3-1 record during Roethlisberger's absence at the beginning of the season will go down as one of the all-time great crisis-management feats by a coach in NFL history.

- 4. Dealing with the media and the public: Whether or not you appreciate Tomlin's catch-phrases and canned responses -- "Another piece of hardware along the way," he said of the team's latest AFC North title, and, "The standard remains the standard," which is his stock response to any question about injuries -- his message is consistent and unwavering. Unlike some coaches, even successful coaches like Shanahan, Johnson, Parcells and others, Tomlin keeps his emotions in check at all times when he is in public and doesn't coach his team through the media. His players appreciate that and respect him for it, and it shows in the effort he gets from his team on a weekly basis. The Steelers are one of only a handful of teams in the NFL that really almost never has a complete meltdown game. In the past four seasons under Tomlin, the Steelers have suffered double-digit losses only three times. Compare that with three other teams that are considered model franchises -- the Ravens (10 double-digit losses since 2007), the Eagles (7) and the Patriots (6).

If the Steelers manage to win three more games this season and earn a second Super Bowl title in the four years since Cowher left for the comfort of CBS' studios, a case can be made that Tomlin will have, in that short span, already cemented his place among the best coaches of the Super Bowl era.

JOHN DUDLEY can be reached at 870-1677 or john.dudley@timesnews.com.

01-09-2011, 09:07 AM
He has done a great job this year!

01-09-2011, 10:07 AM
He is a tremendous coach and his leadership style is among the best I have ever seen in a head coach. He has a way of rallying the team to a common goal and they always seem focused and prepared! As Steelers fans we are very lucky to have Coach Tomlin leading this team!

01-09-2011, 10:09 AM
He is a tremendous coach and his leadership style is among the best I have ever seen in a head coach. He has a way of rallying the team to a common goal and they always seem focused and prepared! As Steelers fans we are very lucky to have Coach Tomlin leading this team!

Always? That's a bit much considering the game against the Cheats this year.

01-09-2011, 10:13 AM
Like the article states... they are seldom blown out! The Cheats are a world class team and I still say our zone scheme (play off 10 yards coverage) does not work against a quick release QB like Brady! When it is all said and done, I will take Tomlin's game day preparation over just about any coach in the league!

Atlanta Dan
01-09-2011, 10:23 AM
Always? That's a bit much considering the game against the Cheats this year.

Or not having the foresight to verify the NBC feed of the game was on in the coaches booth in New Orleans and being unable to challenge some sketchy calls in the Saints game since the Saints would not put the replays up on the Jumbotron

Tomlin is a good coach but after the 2009 collapse with losses to the Chiefs, Raiders, and Browns he is hardly about to join the Lombardi, Shula, Noll, Landry, Walsh, Gibbs (IMO a very underrated coach since he won 3 times with Joe Theisman, Doug Williams, & Mark Rypien as his QBs) and Belichick pantheon

When you look at some of the names on that list (Tom Flores, George Seifert and Mike Shanahan) it obviously takes more than multiple rings to be a great coach

01-09-2011, 10:35 AM
He's doing great...and he's not going anywhere for a loooooong time

01-09-2011, 10:49 AM
The 2009 collapse has so far been quickly rectified with the 2010 resurgence and a #2 seed with an opportunity to get our 7th Lombardi! Why bring up last year when Coach Tomlin has corrected many of the problems from last season and set us up for years to come with excellent draft selections... Wallace, Sanders, Brown, Pouncey, Timmons to name a few.

Every team loses games they should win at some point.. how do you think Saints fans feel today after being booted by a 7-9 Seahawks club? Is Sean Payton a bust since he could not beat Seattle? Tomlin lost to some bad teams last year and came back stronger because of it... another sign of a great coach in the making!


01-09-2011, 11:07 AM
To all you guys who complained last year we had the wrong guy...well in your face.

01-09-2011, 11:09 AM
Tomlin's the man ! But that NE game could have been a blessing in disguise.

01-09-2011, 11:32 AM
Steeler Empire I agree! Tomlin and LeBeau now have lots of film to study and will hopefully figure out how to attack the 2 yard dink and dunk offense of NE! The only thing that bothers me is an interview I heard earlier in the year from Ryan Clark. He said flat out that the scheme they use is a zone scheme and he kind of admitted that our personnel is not really designed to play man bump and run coverage which I think you need to slow down Brady!

01-09-2011, 11:34 AM
I am thankful for the NE loss during the season to prepare for the playoffs. I don't think we will have the same defensive game plan should we meet again in two weeks. We need to play the same aggressive style defense that has gotten us to this point, if we should loose than atleast we go down swinging. As I sat at the NE game I had to keep leaving my seat for it was not the team executing what style I have loved for 40 years. We get back to 100mph defense we are accustomed to and I believe victory awaites. That style of defense and Ben just has to protect the ball. To many drives of 80 yards have died by interception, fumble, or only yielding 3 points. Play D, control the ball and finish drives with 6 points and we can beat anyone.:tt04: