Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Mike Tomlin Is A Really Good Coach

Welcome to the first post in my new series, “Hills I’m Willing To Die On.” The idea behind these posts are me sharing my opinions that will be impossible (or nearly impossible) to convince me otherwise. 

When it comes to active NFL coaches, Bill Belichick with six Super Bowl rings with the New England Patriots is clearly considered the best. I think many people would rank Andy Reid next though it took him having Patrick Mahomes as quarterback to win his first Super Bowl. After that, I'm not sure if there is a significant difference between the 3rd best and around the 10th best coach. And I would include Mike Tomlin in this group as a top tier NFL coach.

There are many people who criticize Tomlin. Some of it is fair. Some of it isn't. The idea that Tomlin only won a Super Bowl with Bill Cowher's players is still absurd to me. You know who didn't win with Cowher's players? Bill Cowher. The team followed its 2005 championship by going 8-8 with Ben Roethlisberger starting 15 games, Willie Parker rushing for nearly 1,500 yards, and having Hines Ward, Heath Miller, Alan Faneca, Troy Polamalu, James Harrision, Ike Taylor, and more. You know, Cowher's players! Meanwhile, I have yet to hear any Pittsburgh sports fans criticize Mike Sullivan for winning the Stanley Cup with Mike Johnston's players. Sullivan took over part-way through the 2015-2016 season and led the Penguins to titles that season and in the 2016-2017 seasons. He hasn't won since, so clearly he only won with Johnston's players, right?

The next criticism I hear is that Tomlin should have won more since he had Big Ben as well as arguably the best running back and wide receiver in football with Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. Thanks to injuries, the three of them rarely played together in the playoffs. Plus, having the best players in the game doesn't mean you're going to win. I know that I’m bringing up different sports, but Mike Trout has played in one playoff series with the Angels during his 11-year career. Connor McDavid has made it beyond the first round with the Edmonton Oilers once in his 6-year career. I think most people consider James Harden one of the best players in the NBA. He's only made it to the finals once and that was very early in his career.

Back to football, Aaron Donald may go down as one of the greatest players in NFL history. He lost in his only Super Bowl appearance. Just because you have possibly the best player in the league in 1-2 positions (no one considers Roethlisberger to be better than Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Drew Brees) clearly doesn't mean you're going to win a Super Bowl. Football of all sports requires more than 2 or 3 elite players. Just look at the Super Bowl last season. You have a future Hall of Fame coach in Reid and the best quarterback in Mahomes, but with an offensive line decimated  by injuries, Kansas City lost big to Tampa Bay.

I’m getting off subject which happens quite often. Now Tomlin's recent playoff record definitely does deserve criticism. He hasn't done well with challenges over the years either. You can definitely complain about his choices in hiring offensive and defensive coordinators including the puzzling “retirement” by Bruce Arians. Still, look at how Tomlin has fared compared to his contemporaries (courtesy of Ian of @thesteelersnat). 

Although Tomlin has the best regular season winning percentage of this group and the worst playoff record, this really seems like a lot of this.

Plus, Tomlin seems truly respected by his players. Have you ever heard a current or former Steeler say bad things about Tomlin? Take a look at the interviews Ron of Steelers Takeaways has done, and the players all seem to admire and respect him.

I'm not suggesting that Tomlin is the best coach in the NFL. He needs to win more playoff games which might be tough this season with an improved division and Ben at the end of his career. However, my hill to die on is that Tomlin is a top tier coach in the NFL and nearly every other team would love to have him. He’s also going to Canton and deserves to be there and not just for the Hall of Fame game in a few weeks.

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