Mike Tomlin’s name doesn’t often come up in national conversation. When it has, it’s usually attached with some vague question of “if he’s lost the locker room” after the drama of Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, and whatever you want to call the Myles Garrett situation, one of the few times Tomlin thrusted himself into the media spotlight.
But Tomlin’s name came up on Wednesday’s edition of The Pat McAfee Show. To McAfee’s credit, he’s often called Tomlin the most underrated and overlooked coach in the league. He brought on Tony Dungy, who hired Tomlin to be Tampa Bay’s DB coach in 2001, for first-hand insight.
“Mike Tomlin is an excellent coach,” Dungy told the show. “He was 29 years old, Pat, when I interviewed him. It took me 15 minutes to figure out this young man has something special. He’s been that way. I’m not sure why he doesn’t get a little more credit.”
Tomlin and Dungy worked together for just the 2001 season before Dungy was fired and took the job with the Colts. Tomlin stayed with the Bucs until 2005, winning a Super Bowl with Jon Gruden and boasting a fantastic secondary. In their win over the Raiders in Super Bowl 37, DB Dexter Jackson was named MVP after picking off a pair of passes. Tampa intercepted Rich Gannon five times that night.
While Tomlin’s generally regarded as a “players coach” and doesn’t exclusively call plays like some other coaches, Dungy made focused in on how smart of a football coach Tomlin’s proven to be.”
“He’s into [watching tape]. He loves it. And he loves his players. And they feel that. They feed off that. Those guys want to play for him. When you have that, you’re going to be successful. And Pittsburgh has a culture. They’ve got a culture where they aren’t going to panic. They’re going to work on things in-house. They’re going to get things solved. They had a couple guys who were problematic. Le’Veon Bell was problematic when he was there. Antonio Brown was problematic. As good of players as they are, they aren’t there anymore. And sometimes you have to do that.”
As has become one of the most popular and well-known stats, the Steelers have had just three head coaches – Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher, and Tomlin – since 1969. Tomlin’s had his low moments, including recent ones, missing the playoffs the last two seasons and absorbing an upset loss to Jacksonville in the 2017 playoffs. Some teams would’ve moved on. Pittsburgh, as they always have, stayed the course, and are squarely on track to get back to the postseason in 2020.
Check out the full clip below.