Tomlin Better Win

January 24, 2007

It didn’t take long for one fan’s real feeling about the hiring of Mike Tomlin to be heard.

I received an email tonight, which stated the following. “The Steelers don’t need a n#$!%r for head coach.” “That’s all the Steelers like is n#$!%s.”

Well, I’d love to tell you that I’m surprised, but I’m not. Tomlin’s hiring sparked more reaction than any major sports story I’ve been a part of in my six years at WTAE.

Again, it doesn’t surprise me. Tomlin beat out two popular assistant head coaches in Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm. Both coached on last year’s Super Bowl team. Both coaches are white.

Look, Pittsburgh is a great town. I’ve truly enjoyed living and working here for the last several years. But, Pittsburghers are, shall we say, traditional and resistant to change. And Tomlin’s hiring represents a major change for the Steelers, the city of Pittsburgh, and the National Football League. And you can expect more emails like the one I read if Tomlin gets off to a bad start next fall.

That’s why I say to Mike Tomlin: Win Now and Win Often. It’s the only way to get the respect of the fans and end any speculation that his hiring was merely a result of the so-called “Rooney Rule.”

I like Mike Tomlin. I like the way he carries himself and the way he seems to be prepared for whatever situation comes his way. Of course, I’m happy to see him get the job for personal reasons as well.

As a lifelong NFL fan, this is a great time for me. We have two African American head coaches in the Super Bowl. The team I grew up following, the New York Giants, just hired an African American general manager. And now the team I cover, the Pittsburgh Steelers, have an African American head coach.

All that being said, it’s one thing to have your foot in the door. It’s quite another to succeed once you get there. The scrutiny is more intense. You’re being watched more than most. Believe me, I can relate.

While I wish Mike Tomlin the very best as head coach of the Steelers, and have all the confidence in the world that he’ll do a fine job, he better win! Go get ’em, Mike!

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Penn State University likes to use a stat when trying to put Joe Paterno’s longevity in perspective. Since Paterno became the head coach at Penn State, there have been 792 coaching changes at other division I schools. It’s amazing, but there are also about 4 times more division I teams than NFL teams.

So here’s one to put the head coaching job of the Steelers in perspective. Since Chuck Noll was hired in 1969, there have been 292 coaching changes with the rest of the NFL teams. The Colts themselves, where Noll worked when the Steelers hired him, have made 15 coaching changes in two different cities. The Steelers opening is as plum of a job as there is in the fickle world of profession football coaching.

Mike Tomlin knows that. Although he strikes you as a guy who would be thankful at any head coaching chance, he realizes what an opportunity this is here. The Rooney family showed patience with Bill Cowher when he missed the playoffs for three straight seasons and they were rewarded with a fifth Vince Lombardi Trophy for their case. Cowher got off to a quick start though, winning his first game against then archrival Houston, mainly due to a surprise fake punt. He also led the Steelers to the playoffs in his first season after they had made it only once in Chuck Noll’s final seven seasons. That bought him instant credibility.

Tomlin takes over a team with much greater expectations. Less than 12 months ago they won the Super Bowl. Most everyone agrees they had a lot more talent than their 8-8 record showed this past season. He will face immediate pressure to produce. What does he say about that? “I embrace it.” A good response for a guy hoping to continue the Steelers legacy of head coaching longevity.

If we’ve learned anything from history, chances are he will be working his job, longer than you or I will be working ours. Although not as long as Joe Paterno.

Thoughts on Dr. King

January 15, 2007

Today we celebrate one of the truly great men in our history. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior was a man who help pioneer the civil rights movement and he did it his way. Dr. King preached non-violence as a way to resolve issues and, for the most part, his legacy still holds up to this day. However, it breaks my heart that there is still violence among our young people. Witness what happened to Denver Broncos defensive back Darrent Williams. The 24 year old was shot and killed in a drive by shooting in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day. Senseless violence like this is not what Dr. King preached. I truly hope that those who were involved in the shooting are found and brought to justice. They had no right to take someone’s life like that, especially someone who was in the prime of his life like Darrent Williams. To all the young kids out there, just remember: Carrying a gun doesn’t make you a man, being able to solve your differences in like cival and decent manner does. Let’s honor
Dr. King by putting the guns down and making a better effort to get along with each other.

Peace!

Bill Cowher is only 49 years old. Even after 15 years coaching the Steelers, he’s still a pup as far as football coaches go. Mark my words, he won’t be “retired” for too long.

Why? Cowher is as competitive as anyone you will ever meet.

Sure, he’ll take a year off, get to know the wife and kids again. But, those competitive juices will soon start to flow again. He’ll want to prove he can be just as successful a coach for another team and another owner.

Cowher is a proud man. He believes in his ability to inspire and encourage young men.

This season was a prime example. At 2-6, the Steelers could have easily folded the tent. But they didn’t. The went 6-2 in the last half of the season. A big reason for that is coaching. Cowher’s players will run through walls for him and win or lose, under Cowher the Steelers always play hard and physical. The only reason they couldn’t beat the Baltimore Ravens was because, well, they’re just not as good as they are, at least not for this year.

Cowher may be leaving Pittsburgh, but he WILL be back in the NFL, he’ll make a ton of money, and don’t be surprised if he wins another Super Bowl.