Defending Mike Tomlin

Yes We Can!

I was often disappointed this week, but not surprised, by the range of comments fellow Steelers fans were leaving on an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by Gerry Dulac quoting Mike Tomlin’s statement to critics of the team’s off-season roster management, “That’s March talk,” Tomlin said. “I’ll see you at stadiums in the fall.” I loved it.  I thought it was pure Mike Tomlin.  No nonsense, not panicked, pretty bold in light of everything, but you know he believes it.  So, if he believes it, I believe it.  A lot of fans agreed with me, but the boo-birds were out in force.

We’re not shy in Pittsburgh. It’s one of the things that took some getting used to, but I’ve learned to live by the creed, “When in Rome…” and now I opine with the best of them. So, while I find it sad that I have to make a case about why Mike Tomlin is the right coach for the Steelers, it would seem that I do, so here goes…

– Since taking the job in 2007, Mike Tomlin has taken the team to two Super Bowls and won one of them.
– He was the youngest head coach to hoist a Lombardi trophy.
– While the team has missed the playoffs twice under his tenure, they also have won the division three times. Compare that to the hapless Browns, who have not been in the playoffs since 2002.

Actually, that should be enough right there. But, unfortunately, the fall out from being a fan of a highly successful franchise is that the inevitable downturns any professional franchise takes are not tolerated well here. I get that to an extent. I am not particularly happy about an 8-8 season either. I worry that the lightning fast Mike Wallace will be jetting down the field for someone else this season. I hate the fact that James Harrison won’t be dressing in black and gold. It’s definitely an unsettling time. But, the question is: do we have the right person at the helm to see the team through it? To my mind, that’s yes.

Keep in mind that after missing the playoffs in 2009, the team went to the Super Bowl the next year. I’m not looking for that kind of bounce back this time just honestly, but the precedent has been set that the team can recover from adversity. Then take a look around at what other franchises have done when they rotate head coaches like I change shoes:

Dallas: Since beating the Steelers in Super Bowl XXX, they have had six head coaches. They have won exactly two playoff games in that time.

Cleveland: After their return as a franchise, they have seen 7 men try and take the helm. As noted above, the team has not had a playoff appearance since 2002.

Kansas City: Probably the best illustration of my particular point, the Chiefs will be welcoming in their sixth coach since Marty Schottenheimer left after the 1998 season. And that list touts some highly familiar names: Dick Vermeil, Romeo Crennel, Herm Edwards, and Todd Haley (along with Gunther Cunningham, but I don’t think of him as a particularly familiar name). Of those men, only Vermeil coached the team to a record above .500 (his average was .550), and they have made three playoff appearances under three different coaches and lost every one.

Point being: revolving door coaching changes don’t work. So, Steelers fans, you want to return to winning football? Sit tight. Our best chance is to keep the proven successful coach we have.


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