Mike Tomlin's New Title

Mike Tomlin deserves a new title (and new business cards, too!)

There can be little doubt that the Steelers were handed a humiliating defeat yesterday by the Browns.  Charlie Batch notwithstanding, 8 fumbles is an embarrassing performance in any coach's book. Yet, despite the raw shame that Pittsburgh fans feel at the thought of losing to the Cleveland Browns, we should all take heart and find great strength in the person of Mike Tomlin.

Not many are qualified to truly evaluate his skills as a football coach.  As fans we like to think we have what it takes to do his job (or at least to tell him what he's doing wrong), but the truth is that only a select group of individuals gets the title of "Head Coach" in the NFL.  The best we can do is second guess his decisions and then share our "wisdom" with the outraged fans screaming at the sports talk programs.

Yet Mike Tomlin the man is a far more valuable example of leadership and accountability.  His comments after the game reveal an individual who understands the burden of leaders, which is ownership of the actions of others whom they cannot control.  He does not look for scapegoats nor does he engage in the art of finding fault with specific players.  Phrases like "We own it" and "It is what it is" are far more than just a cagey strategy for answering uncomfortable questions.  Coach Tomlin's language--both spoken and unspoken--reflects a highly developed sense of accountability for himself and his coaches and players.  To be fair, he seems to have always been that sort of guy; I think I wasn't paying enough attention until now.

So I propose that we change Coach Tomlin's job title to CAO -- Chief Accountability Officer, and then, during the off-season, send him out to schools and youth organizations across Western PA (and, indeed, the whole country) to deliver a very simple message: Accountability, while sometimes unpleasant, is the greatest reward of leadership and an enduring source of respect.

So how about it Mr. Rooney?  Could you spring for a new set of business cards for Coach Mike?

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Mike Jones November 26, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Mike Tomlin wasn't very accountable when he didn't list Byron Leftwich on the injury list after the Ravens game and merely said they were normal football injuries. Some in the NFL will call that gamesmanship. I call it lying. I'm not really sure what you were expecting him to say after eight turnovers and numerous holding penalties cost them a shot at the Division.
Jeff Canter November 26, 2012 at 06:00 PM
I suppose it remains "in the eye of the beholder". As for whether Tomlin lied about Leftwich, I can offer nothing more, except to say that I agree completely that intentional deception is not accountable behavior. What I expected of him is the same as I expect from anyone held up as a leader--nothing more or less. My point remains unchanged: He took ownership of the team's performance using language that indicates he, in fact, gets it. Contrast that to any recent communique from our political leaders, for whom dodging accountability has been elevated to a science. The message I'm endorsing is that living in a posture of accountability was, is and will always be for me the best measure of an individual's character.
scott Stilwell November 26, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Very good article.
Robert A. Shoaf November 26, 2012 at 07:08 PM
I must respectfully disagree with your view of Mike Tomlin, while agreeing that he is not apt to throw specific players "under the bus", as many other coaches are wont to do. That said, I am tired of his cliches that are repeated ad nauseum, along with just dumb comments such as "unleash hell" a few seasons back. They didn't even unleash heck after that . My main concern with Tomlin is his inabilty to prepare the team well, especially against "weak" opponents, which result in debacles such as the Oakland game this year. It's the player's who play, and Tomlin's not on the field, but the lack of consistent effort is worrisome, and I believe Tomlin places too much emphasis on being a "players' coach", and the resulting lack of discipline. He is also poor in game and clock management. There are too many out of shape and overweight players on the Steelers, resulting from a lack of conditioning and lax training that is seemingly accepted by the coaching staff. Thus, we see a rash of injuries that continues each game. "We own it.", " The standard is the standard", etc. are just two of his oft-repeated, meaningless cliches, and they defintely do NOT resonate as accountability to me. Just platitudes, that's all. Tomlin is one of the last persons I would consider as a prime example of accountability. To use a few cliches, he's a mile wide, and an inch deep, and much more sizzle than steak.
Mike Jones November 26, 2012 at 07:25 PM
My thoughts exactly. Tomlin is truly accountable to only the Rooneys and to the season ticket holders. But the reporters that cover the team are an extension of the fans. By not answering their questions with these evasive and tiresome sports cliches, he is distancing his team from the fans. Cowher wasn't exactly an open book when it came to press conferences, but he at least gave some insight into what was happening with the team and why he made certain decisions. Maybe the reason every single running back fumbled was because they are being implemented poorly with this RB-by-committee nonsense. Dwyer has been by far the best runner this year, but he wasn't used enough against the Ravens. He didn't even start against the Browns. Tomlin should own up to that decision-making. Instead, he merely says "we didn't make enough plays to win." Whatever.
Jeff Canter November 26, 2012 at 08:52 PM
I respect all of your well-voiced divergent opinions. Civil discourse is best when it is, well, civilized. I think the winner of this dialogue is accountability itself, mainly because we've all been thinking about what it means to each of us and have telegraphed our expectations on the subject--in this case Mike Tomlin. We can respectfully disagree in our interpretations, but having the conversation at all is what encourages me.
Mike Jones November 26, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Good conversation so far. Thank you for prodding it.
John Linko November 26, 2012 at 10:14 PM
I have the utmost respect for Mike Tomlin. He gives you the impression that he lives the principles he verbalizes and advocates, which is admittedly a difficult thing for some of us. In that context, his answers may sound repetitive and not as flamboyant as say, Bill Cowher. It does remind me of someone else, though - some guy named Noll - and that's good enough for me.
Ed M November 27, 2012 at 12:11 PM
I like Coach Tomlin. I do think he gets out-coached too much. Charlie Batch should have never been in the position to win or lose that game.
Conrad November 27, 2012 at 01:31 PM
That debaucle wasn't just on Charlie Batch. That was a total team effort.
Roger November 27, 2012 at 02:05 PM
The past couple of weeks have exposed a severe weakness in strategy by Colbert, Tomlin, or whoever makes personnel decisions. Starting the season with a top QB (#10), and two others (#2, #3 in ranking) was not a good strategy. Other teams doing well have at least two QBs, that ranked #8 or better (e.g. Bears, Niners). The Steelers left themselves wide open for disaster. They relied upon a QB that hadn't played in two seasons and a history of injury, and another that is 37(?) years old. I like Charlie Batch very much. He is an antithesis of the most pro players, does great work in the community, and comes across as a very genuine person. But, time has taken a toll on his football skills. I hated to see him put in this position. As for Tomlin, and his cliches, yes, they grow old and are tired. Most of us could sit at the Tuesday news conference and answer the questions. However, having said that, I often wonder if there is a basket outside the door to the room, a basket for the reporters to check their brains. I don't know the setup (never been there), but most of the questions are just plain stupid. For the huge amount of money involved in pro football, these events are the lowest dregs of the barrel (read: big money does not mean intelligence).
Mike OBrien November 27, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Mike OBrien November 27, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Jeff and Others, The bottom line is that Tomlin was hired to produce wins not attempt to speak well. All of the non sense that he speaks should not out value the teams record. He inherited a structurally sound Cower team and fell into a super bowl. The further away this team gets from the Cower era the more down hill it is going. I think in the coming years we will see that the Rooney's made a poor decision to hire an individual with an outrageously low experience level. I can care less about his personal values or the way he speaks. Ben is on the back end of his career, Troy has a year left, no key running back in place (becasue he treats them all a children). We will see if he is a good as you think. By the way, can you explain why he looses 90% of his challenges? Tough times for the Steelers ahead. We will revist the 80's under the great leadership of Mike Tomlin. As far as not having Ben at the moment - Bill Cower did not have a quarterback for the 1st 10 years and he did pretty good.
B November 27, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Your arguments are so full of holes but lets just shoot down a few of them. 'Inherited a Cowher team'... you mean the team that went 8-8 following it's Superbowl run and didn't even make the playoffs? 'Bill Cower did not have a quarterback for the 1st 10 years and he did pretty good.'... and by 'pretty good' you mean never won a Superbowl which is all that matters in the NFL. ' I think in the coming years we will see that the Rooney's made a poor decision to hire an individual with an outrageously low experience level.' Cowher had 1 more year experience.... oh yeah and they were the same age... " Ben is on the back end of his career" barring major injury (and Haley's system keeps Ben from getting hit as much) Ben should play till 36-40 years old. That is another 6-10 seasons. I would expect we would see Ben retire around ~38 or so.
Jeff Canter November 27, 2012 at 05:54 PM
All of your comments reveal that Coach Tomlin is a far more polarizing figure than I would have guessed when I made my initial comments about accountability. Still, regardless of his talent or skills (neither of which I am qualified to judge), I lift up the spirit in which, I believe, his statements of accountability were made. In fact, despite our assumptions about his motives, he will be held to account for the team's performance (and his own). The Rooneys are notoriously loyal people, but they have also shown that they understand the "business" side of the NFL -- that you have to win to have a successful franchise (notwithstanding the seeming global appeal reflected by Steeler Nation). While we the fans maintain our right to have high expectations for the Steelers, we cannot lose sight of the fact that Coach Tomlin serves at the pleasure of the Rooney family. If his performance is inadequate, he will forfeit his very lucrative position. Should the owners fail to act to correct a bad situation, they will bear the consequences through bad press, outraged fans and, ultimately, lower market value for the team (admittedly, I can't imagine this to be of significant impact in the short term). My initial assertion is the same -- through his willingness to "own" the outcome of any given game, Mike Tomlin provides a positive example of the burden of leadership. It's impossible for any of us to accurately measure his degree of sincerity. The best evidence of that lies ahead.
Jon Wain November 27, 2012 at 07:28 PM
lets face it . a player can screw up royally several times in a game and not fear the coach dogging him on the sideline. tomlin remains calm even when the same player gets called for holding 4 times in a game. we miss cower
Ed M November 27, 2012 at 10:57 PM
Gotta agree with ya Bryan.
Mike Jones December 09, 2012 at 10:43 PM
This might be opening an old wound, but Tomlin's explanation about not going for 2 and leaving Ben in the game when it was obviously over were less than truthful, logical or accountable. He is being rightfully hammered by the media for the lack of judgment and his team's pathetic preparation against another subpar opponent. The Steelers are now 7-6 this year with four of those losses coming against losing teams. Tomlin should be held accountable for his inability to prepare his team for "gimme" wins.


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