Pro Football Weekly released their current ranking of coaches in the NFL at the end of last week. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin landed in the top 5 ranking 4th among 32 coaches.
The ranking of just about anything in sports can be a bit of a sticky wicket. The context in which the rankings take place is important, and I don’t think there’s ever a poll where there’s some huge dispute among the results. The PFW poll is rough around the edges and tends to phone in where they came up with some of their numbers. Tomlin falls victim to that kind of analysis, and I cringed a bit after reading this section.
"“Sure, there’s a tepid level of pressure brewing with the Steelers, whose fans can get a bit snippy if four or five years pass between Super Bowl titles. Losing to the Ravens multiple times also makes for a grumpy Steeltown. But Tomlin coaches for perhaps the most historically bedrock franchise in NFL history in the Steelers, who have had three head coaches since 1969. Chances are, they will be stuck on three for many years to come. Tomlin has gained rock-star status in Pittsburgh and is beloved by the Rooney family.What Tomlin needs to do to keep his job in 2013: There’s no way the Steelers go 0-16, but if they did and Tomlin mulled taking the Browns’ head-coaching vacancy at the end of the year, then maybe the NFL’s first family in Pittsburgh might reassess its position on coaching changes.”"
Really? This is what makes Tomlin 4th? At first I thought this was one of those ‘phone in’ analyses. But then I thought, ‘Well what does anyone really have to go off of with Tomlin? Sure he can lead one hell of a talented team to two Super Bowls and numerous playoff runs, but for years this team was the product of numerous years of Bill Cowher’s development. Where’s the ‘Tomlin is straight up a bad ass coach,’ ‘Tomlin is one of the great leaders of his time’, ‘Tomlin is a genius when figuring out his competition’ or ‘Tomlin intimidates his opposition week in and week out’? This lukewarm analysis from PFW sheds light on what is potentially a disturbing quality to Tomlin – is Tomlin hiding behind his team’s overall talent?
If you thought there was any truth in that, then you are mistaking Bruce Arians with Mike Tomlin. Arians was a coach that hid behind the talent of his players. What? You thought that Arians coached Big Ben to scramble his way to a Super Bowl win against the Arizona Cardinals? Well, it’s not like Tomlin had any direct influence on Roethlisberger connecting time and again with Santonio Holmes on that game winning drive. But what correctly places Tomlin in the top 5 of a list like this, but fails to get pointed out by PFW is Tomlin’s awesome ability to manage egotistical maniacs week in and week out in order to get them ready to play a football game. Seriously.
Tomlin is masterful in his weekly preparation when he is on his game. He knows when to push. He knows when to punish and sit a player out for lack of preparation for the week. He keeps his players in check all week long. Don’t forget these are multi-million dollar dudes who are constantly under the microscope of the media as well as men who feel they need to brand themselves in a way that rakes in the fans. It’s a tough room, and Tomlin is true to his word when he tells the press ‘The standard is the standard.’ His no B.S. straight talk yet classy and intelligent demeanor makes anyone in Steeler Nation puff out their chest a bit more and say, ‘That’s our coach.’
So yeah, the Steelers franchise has a history of hiring great coaches who tend to stick around for a decade or three. But that doesn’t automatically make Tomlin a top 5 coach. And PFW, should have done better in pointing that out. What truly burns my rear about this poll is that they took a one year coach who took a bunch of misfits, got them to the NFC Title game, only to get their bubble burst and rank that guy ahead of Tomlin and 28 other coaches in the league. That’s right. Jim Harbaugh came in at #3. (And of course You Know Who came in at #1 – Mr. Spygate himself.)
This poll is a little bunk at times, but it’s a fun read. For a full list, check it out here. Then tell Eric Edholm what for!