Win, lose, or draw, one thing that we can always count on hearing before every game, after every game, and during every game is the desperate plea of delusional Pittsburgh Steelers fans to “Fire Mike Tomlin”, just the team’s third head coach since 1969, who has been here for 11 years and holds the franchise’s best winning percentage.
In fact, according to Dom Rinelli, he has the opportunity this season to accomplish something rather remarkable, although it certainly would not be easy. Following the 10-2 start to his 11th season as a head coach, Tomlin now has 113 career wins under his belt in the regular season.
Mike Tomlin has 113 regular-season wins in his first 11 years as an NFL head coach – all with the #Steelers – the sixth-most wins by an NFL head coach in their first 11 seasons:
Don Shula 117
Joe Gibbs 115
Tony Dungy 114
Mike McCarthy 114
George Seifert 114
Mike Tomlin 113
— Dom Rinelli (@drinelli) December 6, 2017
The record for the most wins in a coach’s first 11 seasons just so happens to be 117, and should the Steelers win out during their final four games, they would allow Tomlin to reach 117 wins.
There will as always be caveats, of course, and it will always be pointed out that you can’t compare across eras. For example, the record is owned by Don Shula, but he spent the first 15 years of his coaching career navigating 14-game seasons, so he will have played 22 fewer games. Shula posted a winning percentage of .750 or better in seven of his first 11 seasons, while Tomlin has done it three times, with a fourth pending if he wins two more games.
Of course, Shula coaches in the early days of the modern NFL, when far less parity existed, so that is certainly another argument to be had. But there are so many equivocations that can be broached that it’s really best to quit while we’re already behind.
At 113 wins, Tomlin already stands sixth all-time in wins during a coach’s first 11 seasons, and should he prevail over the Ravens at home on Sunday, that will tie him for third all-time with Tony Dungy, George Seifert, and current Packers coach Mike McCarthy, the two of whom have shared similar career paths.
Joe Gibbs’s 115 wins stands as the second-most all-time, and while he did coach exclusively in the era of the 16-game season, it is worth noting that he coached through the strike-shortened 1982 season, going 8-1 that year. He also won three Super Bowls and went to four, so there is that.
Much as some might be loathe to admit it, Tomlin’s bona fides as time wears on are adding up. His career wining percentage of .657 stands as the 15th-best in NFL history, or the 11th among coaches with 100 games under their belt. It is also the eighth-best mark among coaches with 100 or more wins.
He will, of course, as all coaches ultimately are, be judged upon how he performs in the postseason. If the Steelers do manage to reach the Super Bowl this year, he will be just the 13th head coach to make it there three times. He could also become the 14th to win it twice. But we still have a long way to go for that.