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Is Mike Tomlin this era’s Barry Switzer? NFL Unfiltered Week 13


From a national perspective, some NFL head coaches are easy to criticize.  Photo: Peter Diana/Post Gazette

Rex Ryan has his fetishes and entertaining press conferences, while anyone working for Jerry Jones is a natural joke, whether they do a good job or not. 

However, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin’s shortcomings are largely ignored by big media.  Maybe it’s because he won Super Bowl XLIII, or maybe folks just like his stern chin and steely glaze. But Tomlin is the Barry Switzer of his generation, and he cannot change that with death stares and tough talk.

Throughout his NFL career, Switzer is seen as a buffoon, the jolly uncle who makes a mess of himself eating turkey legs every Thanksgiving. The one who talks much louder than necessary and often doesn’t understand personal space.  

But critics forget, Switzer is one of only two men in the history of the gridiron to win a NCAA FBS championship and a Super Bowl.  The other is Jimmy Johnson.  And while Tomlin is far more serious than Switzer was, they have many similarities.  

Tomlin’s regular season winning percentage is .630 to Switzer’s .625. Both men have five playoff wins, and of course, a Super Bowl championship.

Like Switzer, Tomlin took over a team full of young, battle-tested stars—including a top-tier quarterback—already acquainted with the concept of winning.  His goal was to maintain the status quo, which is a feat in itself.  

Still, when you watch the Steelers play, one indelible question bears answering.  What is his impact on his team?  He is now 13-16 in his last 29 games and the last time we saw the Steelers in the playoffs, Tim Tebow threw for 316 passing yards because of Tomlin’s unwillingness to adjust.  

The truth is, Tomlin is a defensive coordinator in a head coach’s office.  He is no different from Ryan and proof of that is in the identity of his offense. Because for all the hard, Ray Rhodes-like talk, the Steelers do not impose their will on anyone.  

Yet, most mention Tomlin as one of the NFL’s best coaches and if you’re not paying much attention, the tendency is to believe that.     

It is comparable to actor Ryan Gosling.  When you watch his films, you never leave the theater thinking he doesn’t belong, and he certainly looks like he’s acting. But there is nothing about Gosling’s performances that ever seem to stand out.  

That is not meant to demean Gosling or Tomlin.  Any consistently employed actor deserves respect because acting for a living is a difficult gig, just like an NFL head coach. But Tomlin simply hasn’t distinguished himself beyond a caricature of how we think a coach should behave.  

In fairness, the Steelers’ player personnel department betrayed Tomlin with poor choices the last several drafts.  And the Steelers sustained several injuries to their offensive line, which are difficult to overcome.  

Nevertheless, Tomlin contributes to his own struggles by managing games like former Jets and Chief’s head coach Herman Edwards. And whether accidental or by design, Tomlin’s interfering stunt on Thanksgiving night speaks volumes.  

Either way, Mike Tomlin’s tenure as Steelers head coach mirrors that of Barry Switzer’s time in Dallas.  

Only Tomlin isn’t nearly as entertaining.  

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-Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is easy to criticize, but he is doing a very good job with the Cowboys this season.  He’s turned Tony Romo into a game manager, not that anybody notices.

-The Eagles proved me wrong with their 7th win, but I still think they have an opening at quarterback.

-Being 7-5 means nobody at the NovaCare complex has to discuss the 4th quarter scoring problems.  

-Once you steal a Super Bowl by videotaping the opponent like the Patriots did, you no longer receive the benefit of the doubt. It doesn’t matter that the Texans are 2-10.

-Some quarterbacks are just unfortunate. Alex Smith made four or five excellent throws that could have altered the course of the Broncos/Chiefs game.  His receivers just didn’t make the catches.  

-The Bengals continue to plod along, but you know quarterback Andy Dalton gives them a lower ceiling than other AFC contenders.

-Instead of a call to change the rules, maybe Vernon Davis ought to consider wearing a protective cup.  

-There is no question Seattle is a difficult place to play, but the year before Russell Wilson’s arrival, the Seahawks were 4-4 at home. Crowd noise is nice, good quarterback play is better.

It’s sheer arrogance for the Saints to think they would do what they normally do offensively in Seattle. Yet, they kept trying until they were down 17-0. That’s bad coaching.      

The Saints aren’t on the same level as the Seahawks, Panthers or 49ers because of their inability to run the football.  It doesn’t matter what their final record is. 

Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area. He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention. His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.


Contact Earl at emyersiii@gmail.com  and follow him on Twitter @EMyersIII


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Mike Tomlin photo: Peter Diana/Post-Gazette