Chalk it up as yet another Minnesota Vikings mistake of which the people in Pittsburgh get to reap the benefits. Now, just a few years after coming to Pittsburgh, it seems like this is where Tomlin was always meant to be. I love Mike Tomlin. It’s fun to watch him coach and it’s always fun to listen to him speak to the media. Most importantly though, the players love Tomlin, and they love to play for him.
I’ll riddle you with a few stats to back up my claims, but I think you already know all about Mike Tomlin. You’ve lived it. Just like I have. In the 2008 season, Mike Tomlin became only the 3rd African American coach in history to coach a team in the Super Bowl joining Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy. After beating the Cardinals, he kept that winning tradition alive by becoming only the second African American coach in history to win a Super Bowl, and more impressively, the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl ever. That’s right. Black, yellow, white, green…he’s the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl ever. Now that’s something.
It just goes to show you how great the people at the top of our organization are. For starters, Dan Rooney has been on the board of the NFL Diversity Committee since it’s inception, and has implemented The Rooney Rule, requiring that teams interview minority candidates for open positions. Said rule is often referred to as the reason for Tomlin’s hiring, but Dan Rooney cited that he interviewed other minority coaches before interviewing Tomlin. Tomlin got the job because he was the best man to do it.
And that’s saying something considering that to everyone else in the world, it seemed that Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt had all but gotten the job upon Cowher’s resignation. Instead, the Rooney’s took a risk on a young man who obviously blew them away in their interviews and went with an assistant coach from the MN Vikings.
Tomlin came in to Pittsburgh, and unlike previous Pittsburgh head coaches, he kept around most of the staff who worked for Bill Cowher, including Defensive Coordinator Dick Lebeau, despite their differences in defensive philosophy. Coming in just one year removed from a Super Bowl victory, it was clear to Tomlin that not much needed changing over in Pittsburgh. All they needed was a steady hand to guide them, and a coach that they could trust.
Tomlin turned out to be just that. After just 4 seasons with the team, Tomlin has amassed a 71% win percentage going 43-21 over all. Making him the winning-est coach in Steelers history according to win percentage. Keep in mind, we could say the same thing about our man behind center, Big Ben, who’s been with Coach Tomlin all along.
Tomlin is just the 3rd Steelers head coach in 4 decades. It’s hard to say whether he knew what he was getting himself into, but he sure is showing us that he’s ready for just about anything. His achievements thus far have been remarkable, and his age just makes it scary. He will only get wiser, and I hope that the Steelers reap the benefits of that wisdom for many years to come.
I am proud to say that Mike Tomlin is my coach, and being from MN, it’s fun to hear all the Vikings fans gripe about it. Your loss is our gain, fellas. I’m also proud of our owners for having the wisdom to look beyond race to find the coach that was best suited for the job. Dan Rooney is no spring chicken, and he could just as easily be a racist old white guy, but he’s not, and it’s one of the many things that has made the Rooney family such upstanding citizens and owners since the very beginning.
Tomlin will have his challenges moving forward as every coach does. We will likely go through slumps just like Bill Cowher did, and Chuck Noll before him. It is the consistency of leadership that is important, and the singularity of mind. Get to the Super Bowl and win championships. That is always the goal. As Mike Tomlin says “The standard is the standard,” I doubt he’ll ever settle for anything less as long as he is head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Here’s to many more years with Tomlin at the helm.