Tim Benz: Even Mike Tomlin’s critics should find this ranking unjust
I’m not one who has a reputation for taking it easy on Mike Tomlin.
But even a critic like me can’t agree with this opinion of the Pittsburgh Steelers coach from Elliot Harrison at NFL.com.
He published a list ranking the 32 head coaches. And he has Tomlin ninth.
That’s too low.
This was Harrison’s rationale:
“Tomlin is one of the more difficult coaches to rate. He won a title, lost a Super Bowl in a close game, and has led his team to the playoffs far more often than not.
Last year was a “not” for Tomlin’s group, as it seemed internal feuding distracted the Steelers just enough to have them in the unusual position of sitting at home in January. It’s not hard to understand how the late-season implosion took place, given the considerable ego of Antonio Brown, as well as the personality of the team’s QB1.
Then again, each are great players, and in previous years, Tomlin handled both en route to a Super Bowl appearance and multiple postseason entries. Maybe some fans would like to see Tomlin be more of a strict disciplinarian or an X’s-and-O’s wonk.
Although, no one associated the latter with either Chuck Noll or Bill Cowher. Tomlin has reached two Super Bowls, like his predecessor, and while he hasn’t approached Noll’s success, it’s not like the legendary coach didn’t endure his down seasons.”
I know your complaints about Tomlin. I have them, too.
• Doesn’t win enough in the playoffs
• Can’t control the locker room
• Loses to bad teams too often
• Underachieves with superior talent
• Poor timeout and clock strategy
• Plays favorites too often
I agree on all fronts. But that doesn’t mean some of the guys ranked higher on that list actually are better than him.
One playoff season from Anthony Lynn with the Los Angeles Chargers shouldn’t vault him to a spot in front Tomlin.
Seventh is the Ravens’ John Harbaugh, who got to Baltimore just one year after Tomlin signed on with the Steelers. While he does have a better playoff record (10-6) than Tomlin (8-7), Tomlin has beaten Harbaugh twice in three postseason tries. Tomlin has a better regular-season winning percentage (.654) than his AFC North rival (.591). And he’s won the conference championship twice as opposed to just once for Harbaugh.
Also, Tomlin has won the AFC North six times, twice as often as Harbaugh.
Andy Reid in Kansas City is fourth? C’mon. If Tomlin’s postseason failures are going to be held against him, what about Reid’s? He’s 12-14 in the playoffs. His last year with multiple playoff victories was 2008.
Reid has been to just one Super Bowl, and he lost it. Reid is also renowned as a clock-managing clown.
Sean Payton is rated third. I don’t have a problem with that. But his playoff record is a similar 8-6. He’s won a Super Bowl, just like Tomlin and Harbaugh. But he hasn’t been to a second one like Tomlin has.
Furthermore, he’s missed the playoffs five times with a future Hall of Fame quarterback — Drew Brees. Tomlin has missed the playoffs four times with Ben Roethlisberger, and he has seven more regular-season wins than Payton in the same amount of games coached (192).
Philadelphia’s Doug Pederson and Sean McVay of the Rams are also placed in front of Tomlin. That can’t be argued based on recent results. But if lasting power is part of the equation as it appears to be for the others in the top 10 — with Bill Belichick first and Pete Carroll second — that’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.
I’d have Tomlin at least three spots higher, in front of Lynn, Harbaugh, and Reid. So, he’d be in my top 6 if Pederson and McVay count despite their brief tenures.
So, why should the Steelers ever consider firing a top-6 coach? Well, maybe he’s no longer the right guy for what remains of that roster. We’ll find out now that Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell are gone.
And just because there aren’t a lot of other great options currently coaching in the NFL, that doesn’t mean you hold onto a guy out of habit.
After all, Tomlin needed his first shot. So did Bill Cowher and Chuck Noll. All three won titles in Pittsburgh.
The same could be said for McVay, Pederson, Lynn, and Harbaugh.
There aren’t many current head coaches better than Tomlin.
That’s a different statement than “He should’ve done better here in recent seasons.” And it’s a completely different argument from whether the Steelers can do better with someone else.
If Tomlin doesn’t make a deep playoff run again before the Roethlisberger era is over, we may have a resolution to that argument sooner than what Tomlin would like.
However, this ranking is unjust.