STEELERS HEAD COACH MIKE TOMLIN
I don’t care what professional sport a professional athlete or coach pursues, they generally must sign a contract with that team and/or renegotiate to extend that agreement or sign a new one once the original agreement expires. Usually, a coach or player is rewarded if their services provide an overall winning or productive performance.
When the coin is flipped, and their efforts fail to produce positive results, their continued employment by that team is usually jeopardized.
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Alex Highsmith was recently awarded a multi-year, lucrative contract extension based on his productive performance during the 2022 season. One of the deciding factors of that new contract was that his fellow “backer” T.J. Watt missed multiple games in 2022 due to an injury. Highsmith was then required to increase his productivity and he did. He recorded 14.5 sacks, helping the defense of the Black and Gold to at least remain respectable; kudos to Highsmith for stepping up his play, and kudos to the Steelers management for financially awarding him because of it.
As far as coaches are concerned, let’s look back at a few of the career points of ex-Raiders, ex-Buccaneers, and again ex-Raiders head coach, Jon Gruden. After compiling a 40–28 win–loss record (including playoffs) in four seasons with the Raiders, Gruden replaced the fired Tony Dungy as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002, via a high-stakes trade that included Tampa Bay’s 2002 and 2003 first-round draft picks, 2002 and 2004 second-round draft picks, and $8 million in cash.
Who was Jon Gruden, the second-coming of the Nostradamus of NFL coaches? Why didn’t they just rename the team the “Tampa Bay Grudens?”
Also, many of us asked this next question. Was it because of an obsession by the Buccaneers to hire a “young, studious” Jon Gruden, that Tony Dungy was unnecessarily and unjustifiably fired just to open the door to hire Gruden? A few years later, Jon Gruden took a “sabbatical” to enter the broadcast booth and that absence only increased his market value as far as being an NFL head coach was concerned. So, when the time and market value were “ripe,” and with pomp and circumstance, Gruden exited the broadcast booth and re-entered the coaching profession. The Raiders signed Gruden to a 10-year deal when he was hired by the franchise back in 2018 for a deal reportedly worth over $100 million. Since the salaries of coaches do not affect the salary caps of teams, coaches can be paid an unlimited amount of money without any negative effect on the “cap.”
Among football writers, there were many, “ha has”, “he hes,” and slaps on the back and “way to go, Jon” moments when Gruden weaseled $100 million out of the Raiders’ management. However, when folks discuss the lack of a contract extension of one Michael Pettaway Tomlin, there is a different set of values and virtues applied. There is a sort of wait-and-see consensus when it comes to the continued employment of Mike Tomlin. Regarding the media-manufactured issue of his contract extension or the lack of one, Mike Tomlin responded this way: “Wow, I hadn’t even thought about it. I’m in a stage of my career I don’t care about contracts to be honest with you, man. I acknowledge I’ve seen more days than I’m going to see. You know, that’s just the nature of this thing.”
Tomlin continued: “I’m appreciative of the opportunity. I’m singularly-focused. I’m thankful that I’m at a stage in life and my career where that’s a non-issue for me.”
Well, in my opinion, the only ones that have made it into an issue are the people that have absolutely no input in the hiring and firing process of Mike Tomlin or any other NFL head coach. Many of these writers have only one goal. That is to create dissonance and nurture dissent within the Steeler nation to make sure that they will never be satisfied with the coaching results or the effort of Mike Tomlin.
Although T.J. Watt is a defensive star, the luminescence of any star cannot shine brightly from the sideline or the trainers’ room. Stars must produce, or they will often reduce the productivity of their “supporting” cast.
Let’s hit rewind for a moment. Mike Tomlin is a piece of fruit that hangs and continues to ripen on the coaching tree of Tony Dungy. Dungy was fired to make room for the hiring of Jon Gruden. Jon Gruden has won one Super Bowl as a head coach. He led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to victory in Super Bowl XXXVII. His defensive backfield coach in that Super Bowl victory was Mike Tomlin. Tomlin coached the DBs of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers well enough to intercept Raiders QB Rich Gannon five times and return three for touchdowns. As a head coach Tomlin would have won a minimum of two Lombardi trophies. Tomlin and the Steelers lost Super Bowl XLV to the Green Bay Packers by the score of 31-25.
The Steelers’ “future NFL HOF Quarterback” Ben Roethlisberger threw two interceptions that were the deciding factor in the Steelers’ defeat. Mike Tomlin helped Jon Gruden, the man that replaced his fired mentor and head coach, Tony Dungy, to win a Super Bowl.
But for Mike Tomlin to earn a contract extension, he still must prove himself, it seems.
By the way, Coach Tomlin, I’m getting married soon and I have a five-gallon container of Perrier water that I need you to turn into wine.