Pro Football Focus has certainly evolved and expanded over the years—and learned how to bring attention to itself. Sometimes it’s when they rank two head coaches who are almost universally regarded as among the best in the game as sitting outside of the top 10 in the league.
That’s what they did recently in a ranking of current NFL head coaches, placing defending Super Bowl champion Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams and Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers 11th and 13th, respectively. We covered that, already, but recently, Steve Palazzolo jumped on 93.7 The Fan with Andrew Filipponi and Chris Mueller—to essentially distance himself from that ranking.
“It was a lot easier when PFF was like, six of us”, he told his Pittsburgh-based hosts. “People go rogue, do whatever they want. They can interpret the data differently”. The author in question was Conor McQuiston, and Palazzolo believes he should get the praise or blame for his own work—in this case, blame. “I think it’s time to start blaming Conor”, he said, the way ESPN personalities are covered individually rather than through the outlet.
Of course, in this case, the problem is that nobody knows who the hell Conor McQuiston is, so the blame has to fall on the site for giving him the platform. Nevertheless, Palazzolo basically insists that he’s not on board with McQuiston’s ranking.
“Tomlin’s good, man. Obviously he’s been good, and done well in lesser situations”, he said. “He’s done well in every situation. I don’t know what the criteria was. I will say, I do think there’s something with the, we’ll call it the ‘nerd faction’ on Twitter, those who are really deep in the analytics, who seem to focus a lot on fourth-down decisions, and maybe only the things you can see”.
And PFF is the one hiring these contributors from the nerd faction who are populating these visions of the game of football that don’t jive with conventional wisdom. It used to be PFF’s bread and butter, when it actually made sense, but few were able to stomach at least McVay being ranked outside the top 10.
“Sometimes it is as simple as wins and losses, and if you win more games, you’re probably a good coach, so obviously Tomlin lands in the ‘good coach’ bucket”, Palazzolo said. And Tomlin has certainly won a lot of games over the past 15 years.
But he’s entering an almost entirely new phase of his career with Ben Roethlisberger gone at quarterback and Kevin Colbert stepping down as general manager. He’s got an offensive coordinator going into his second season and a defensive coordinator going into his first.
Lots of change. He is one of the very few variables that can boast of any type of consistency. Will he still be able to bring his Steelers to a winning record, and a postseason appearance, under this new paradigm? Of course, the goal is to better his recent success—such as, say, claiming his first postseason victory since 2016.