There are a total of five active head coaches who have been in their position for more than a decade. Including those who have coached in multiple places, there are eight total head coaches with that level of accrued coaching experience at the top of the profession.
Two of them have personified arguably the most significant modern rivalry in the NFL, the head coaches of the AFC Norths’ Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. Mike Tomlin was hired by the Steelers in 2007. John Harbaugh was hired by the Ravens in 2008. Bill Cowher and Brian Billick had their own rivalry, but Tomlin and Harbaugh, and their teams, have forged a mutual respect, something both of them talked about heading into Sunday’s regular-season finale.
“The culture that he builds and has maintained for 14 years, that is no small task”, Tomlin said of Harbaugh. Players come and go over the years….yet Steelers and Ravens remain. And it remains because of the culture that has not only been built but continually cultivated. That is not an easy task”.
“I’ve got a ton of respect for Coach Harbaugh and what he’s able to do with his group year in and year out, and the way that he challenges us when we step in a competitive environment against them, no doubt”, he added.
Both Tomlin and Harbaugh have been among the most successful head coaches in the NFL since entering the league—which of course has played role in their keeping their jobs as long as they have. Each has a Super Bowl title. Harbaugh actually has three more playoff wins. Tomlin is .642 in the regular season at 153-85-2, and Harbaugh is .612 with a 137-87 record.
The two have had a very competitive rivalry, but the Steelers have won the last three games, and tipped the scales back in favor of Tomlin. Harbaugh is looking to reverse that pattern again and get a win on Sunday, but that doesn’t change the “tremendous amount of respect” he told reporters yesterday he had for Tomlin.
“Even though he’s younger, we ended up as head coaches kind of just a year apart also. He beat me to the punch, and it was well-deserved”, Harbaugh said of his rival. “He’s really one of the great coaches in football”.
“It’s a great organization, but the culture is his. He’s the guy that organizes the building. He organizes the approach. He organizes the interactions”, he continued. “He puts it all together, and he’s responsible for it all. I think his imprint is on that team; it has been, and it will continue to be. It’s a big challenge going against a great coach like that. I admire him, respect him, like him personally”.
Comparatively, the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals are the new blood, with Kevin Stefanski and Zach Taylor in their second and third seasons, respectively. Stefanski won a playoff game in his first season, however. Taylor’s first two years were awful, but he has locked up the division this year, and will be looking to lead the Bengals to their first postseason victory since exactly 31 years ago today.