Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin

Mike Tomlin Ranked #4 in Sporting News Coaches Rankings

The Sporting News is once again beginning their yearly power lists of all things NFL, and on Thursday they released their NFL Head Coach Rankings.  Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was ranked #4 on this years list, behind Tom Coughlin of the NY Giants, Bill Belichick of the Patriots, and Mike McCarthy of the Packers.  Tomlin was ranked just ahead of both Harbaugh brothers, with John at #5 and Jim at #6 (after ONE season as a head coach).  Obviously, any ranking system put out by a national sports media company is going to have tons of bias, and this list is no different.

A quick review of Mike Tomlin’s tenure as head coach of the most prolific franchise in the National Football League:

- Hired in 2007 by the Steelers to take over a team that was one season removed from their fifth Super Bowl victory.  Immediately took the Steelers back to the AFC Playoffs by winning the AFC North, despite a season where he lost many key players to injuries and the team hobbled into the postseason.  The Steelers lost to Jacksonville 31-29 in a disappointing first-round playoff game at Heinz Field.

-  In 2008, Tomlin guided the Steelers to their sixth Lombardi Trophy by once again winning the AFC North and defeating the Baltimore Ravens for the third time that season in the AFC Championship Game, then defeating the very game Arizona Cardinals in possibly the best Super Bowl ever played, Super Bowl XLIII.

-  In 2009, the Steelers hit a stumbling block and fell to 9-7.  The team missed the playoffs for the first time in the Tomlin Era and was essentially declared dead by the national media.  Despite a five-game losing streak late in the season, the team found itself in the playoff hunt all the way to Week 17 before being eliminated.  The Steelers rallied from that five-game streak to win their final three games against the Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens, and finally at Miami in Week 17.  If anything, the 2009 season proved that a Tomlin-led team could spur adversity and that Coach Tomlin was respected by his veteran roster.

-  The 2010 season saw the Steelers back in the AFC Championship Game, beating the New York Jets at Heinz Field to advance to Super Bowl XLV.  The team won their third AFC North title under Mike Tomlin.  This was Tomlin’s second AFC Championship and his second time coaching in the Super Bowl at age 38.  The Steelers lost the game to Green Bay, 31-25.

-  Once again the Steelers were a force in the AFC North, finishing 12-4 but losing out in the AFC North to Baltimore by virtue of head to head record.  The Steelers had to go on the road to play in the Wild Card round of the AFC Playoffs, and ended up being upset by the Denver Broncos.

In five seasons as head coach in Pittsburgh, Tomlin has amassed three AFC North titles, two AFC Championships, one Super Bowl Championship, four playoff appearances, and a 55-25 record.

He has been partly responsible for the drafting of key players LB LaMarr Woodley, LB Lawrence Timmons, RB Rashard Mendenhall, DE Ziggy Hood, WR Mike Wallace, WR Antonio Brown, WR Emmanuel Sanders, C Maurkice Pouncey, and masterminded another top-ranked draft this past April.

My Analysis

First off, there is no way Tomlin should be ranked underneath Mike McCarthy.  While McCarthy has been a great coach for the Packers, he has lost two NFC Championship Games in his six-year tenure.  He has missed the playoffs twice.  He presided over perhaps the greatest failure in Green Bay football history when his 2011 Packers (15-1 regular season) lost in the Divisional Round of the playoffs to the New York Giants at Lambeau Field.  McCarthy should be fourth on this list, behind Mike Tomlin.

I can’t disagree with the #1 or #2 choices, as both Coughlin and Belichick have multiple Super Bowl rings and over 100+ wins as an NFL Head Coach.  Granted, both have coached much longer than Tomlin, so things could even out in the coming years.  For now, these two are the cream of the crop, without question.

Having Jim Harbaugh listed at #6 is a slap in the face to many of the coaches below him on this list.  For example:  John Fox, Andy Reid, Jeff Fisher, and even Mike Shanahan (two Super Bowl titles that seem like they happened 100 years ago).  All of those coaches have a long-term success rate in the NFL, and all should be ranked higher than a coach who had ONE good year in the league.  If San Fransisco continues their rebirth under Harbaugh and wins consistently for a few years, we can talk about elevating him, but for now he should be no higher than #12 or even lower.

Marvin Lewis of the Bengals is ranked #11 despite zero playoff wins.  Cleveland Browns head coach Pat Shurmur is ranked #26, basically last if you don’t count new hire coaches, intern coaches, or Leslie Frazier.

Former Steelers Offensive Guru Ken Whisenhunt is ranked #14, pretty high for a guy who has not been able to win since his Hall of Fame QB retired.

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