Mike Tomlin has one response and one response only when asked what the status is of receiver Mike Wallace. That response has been a steady, “I will talk to Mike Wallace when he gets here”. Oh, sure there are a couple of little variations in the response but the focus and intent has been the same every time the Steelers head coach has been probed about the missing wide out. All seventeen million times that Tomlin has been asked by the media about what his plans are for Wallace, he responds that he will talk to, or deal with, him when he reports. The press has not worn Tomlin down through constant badgering. The badgering continued yesterday as 93.7 FM The Fan, aired most of the Mike Tomlin Press Conference. After four, count ‘em, four reporters posed the almost exact question to the coach about Wallace, Tomlin responded that he wouldn’t take any more questions about Mike Wallace and if more questions were going to be asked they would have to be about people who were presently on the team. Mike Tomlin didn’t turn into a raging idiot and conjure his inner Ditka or Parcells. He was firm, direct, and succinct, but not mean, or loud, or argumentative.
Seibel, Starkey, and Miller, The Fan’s afternoon team, then commented that Mike Tomlin used to be an affable, approachable coach but now turned surly with the media. Josh Miller said Tomlin was now as bad as Bill Belichick when it came to handling the press. Really, Josh? Does this sound like Belichick: Less than a minute after Mike Tomlin moved the reporters away from the Wallace Situation, he was asked if first round pick, David DeCastro, was upbeat following his injury? Tomlin chuckled broadly and quipped that DeCastro was upbeat “for Decastro”, in reference to the guard’s dower personality. It sure sounded like everyone around Tomlin got a good long laugh out of the remark. Tomlin then went into depth about the schedule of the team’s activities for the short week leading up to this Thursday’s final pre season game and addressed some questions on who may or may not see playing time this week. I’ve seen how Bill Belichick can suck the oxygen out of a room when he gets pissy with the press. This was nowhere near that level of consternation. Josh Miller should know better, shouldn’t he? Hell, he played for The Hoodie for a few seasons.
Press conferences are high profile events for the press but a pain in the butt for the head coaches. Media outlets from all over the country, and globally once the season heats up, descend upon NFL press rooms weekly. Reporters yell over each other, never listening to the questions that were asked before theirs, and end up barking the same question over and over at a football coach. Coaches are result driven people. If they have to repeat themselves regularly at their primary job (coaching football) it means people are screwing up.
27 year beat writer for the Steelers, Ed Bouchette (the dean of pro football writers in Pittsburgh) has said it didn’t used to be that way. In the Chuck Noll era, Bouchette reports, six or eight beat writers from local media outlets would sit around a table and actually talk to Chuck Noll. No shouting. No questions repeatedly repeated. And here’s the kicker: If one of these reporters asked a question that was deemed sensitive by Noll, like an injury or a brush with the law, Chuck would ask them to turn off their recorders or put down their pads and then he’d tell them about it. It was understood that those comments were off the record and if the information leaked, Noll would know, within a reasonable doubt, where the leak came from. Do you think a coach/press relationship like that is possible in today’s tabloid driven society? Are we, as consumers of the NFL product, entitled to know every detail of every minute of the operation of the teams we follow? There are eleven herbs and spices in a piece of KFC (mmmmmm……KFC), we don’t really know what they are but we blindly eat up tons of the stuff daily. My point being that we can enjoy the product without knowing the minutia behind the preparation. NFL coaches are not public relations professionals. The coaches are available to the press immediately following a game and for a weekly pressor because the NFL demands that they be. They don’t volunteer to meet the press and then treat them poorly for their own amusement.
Well, maybe Parcells did…