JuJu Smith-Schuster is making his debut in the AFC Championship with the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday afternoon, and as such has made the rounds through the media in preparation for the game. Having spent five years in Pittsburgh with one future Hall of Fame coach in Mike Tomlin before playing the 2022 season with another in Andy Reid, Smith-Schuster was asked about the similarities between his current and former head coaches by Rich Eisen on his show.
“I would say the biggest thing that I would take away is that, you know, they’re always for the players,” Smith-Schuster said. “The feeling that I get with Andy Reid and Coach Tomlin is that I don’t want to be a disappointment to them. You know when you get in trouble and it’s like I don’t want my grandmother mad because she’s my favorite grandmother and she takes care of me. It’s like I go out there and mess up on a play or something, it’s more so you get upset with yourself in making him disappointed. That’s how I felt with both of them.
They’re for the players. and that’s why the players, we go hard every single day just so we can make everyone around us even better.”
Throughout the tenured and celebrated resumes for Tomlin and Reid, both have been given the moniker of “players’ coaches.” Early in Reid’s career with the Eagles it wasn’t always seen as a positive as a Super Bowl championship never accompanied his efforts in Philadelphia. Now, in some Steelers fans’ eyes, the inverse has begun for Tomlin as a five-year playoff-win drought continues.
Ultimately though, a player’s opinion of a coach holds so much more weight than the groaning of fans, especially for a player like Smith-Schuster. One with a bubbly personality, that has fun with the game but still displays toughness on the field, he’s the kind of player that “players’ coaches” enjoy having around.
The toughness aspect is important though because as Smith-Schuster later explains, football is still the job at the end of the day. Eisen asked if the coaches had similar looks of disapproval are made. The receiver hesitated before caving and saying they had that look that “you just kind of know and they don’t say anything boom, they fix it right then and there.”
Football is a game, but at the professional level, it is a serious one. As he’s grown up in the league, Smith-Schuster has matured. His social media antics have cooled over the years, though so has some of his on-field success. At the end of the day though, there’s no denying that having great coaches, yes even “players’ coaches”, like Reid and Tomlin have helped him and many other players throughout their careers.