Monday, December 15, 2008

Is Mike Tomlin Just Another Crappy Coach?

It seems to me that Steelers head coach (and former Bearcat assistant) Mike Tomlin is generally regarded as one of the better coaches in the NFL, and I kind of have a problem with that.

He choked in his biggest game to date, the Steelers' Wild Card loss to the Jags this past January, and made an unfathomable decision late in their win Sunday over the Ravens, which might rank as the second biggest game of his young career.

Mike Tomlin blew last year's playoff game by taking his foot of the gas after a furious comeback. He tried to grind out the clock too soon and ignored Ben Roethlisberger, who was playing the best football of his career. It was stupid and conservative and frustrating, and I would have felt the same way had the Steelers won that night.

As for Sunday's game against division rival Baltimore, Tomlin channeled Marvin Lewis with a classic panic move. In the final minutes the Steelers, trailing 9-6, slapped together a classic Roethlisberger "ugly, but effective" drive and found themselves at the 4-yard line with 0:53 remaining. Oh yeah, they had one timeout. I repeat: THEY HAD ONE TIMEOUT!

With 53 seconds and one timeout, you have more than enough time to calmly run the three plays that give you the best shot at getting six (and winning!). Hell, you can even run the ball on 1st down if you like. Now, if you don't score, you'd have to call your last timeout and predictably throw the ball on 2nd and 3rd down...but at least you'd have two more shots to only achieve a few yards.

So what did Tomlin elect to do? He ordered his team to rush to the line and spike the ball, 1980's style. Forget the fact that spiking the ball is more often than not a lousy idea, and focus on this particular instance, when Mike Tomlin made one of the bigger bonehead moves in recent memory.

When are coaches going to figure out how to manage a clock? When are they going to figure out that 50-plus seconds - even without a timeout - is more than enough time to move a measly four yards? To waste a golden opportunity in a game that essentially wrapped up the AFC North - a game they'd only managed to score six points in 59 minutes - is truly unbelievable. And if I'm a Steelers fan, truly unforgiveable.

I've seen maybe half of the thirty or so games Tomlin has coached, and haven't analyzed him the way I analyze a coach for one of my teams, but I'm guessing he's screwed up this egregiously more than just the two times I've documented.

I'd like to hear from Steelers fans on this one. Do you have faith in Mike Tomlin with the playoffs approaching? Is he far more flawed than the common football fan realizes? I can't imagine I have many Steelers fans who regularly read this site, so I'm asking all of you to forward this along to people you know who root for the Black and Gold. Or, if you want, you could just call Alan Cutler tomorrow and have him settle it; he lived in the Steel City about twenty years ago, which makes him the authority on all-things Pittsburgh.

-Brad Spieser (


Daniel Phillips said...

Tomlin does get more credit than he deserves. I do think that he has done a good job so far. They have little running game to speak of, and a qb that holds the ball too long. The time management and the Jags game last season, i agree with you 100%. I don't think they will win in the playoffs, but I don't think it's because of him. That offensive line is a huge problem, and they can't win 3 or 4 games by staying close and putting together a game winning drive in the fourth quarter. To me he is a little better than average. As a Cowboys fan, I hope Hines Ward fumbles and loses the playoff game for them.