Earlier this week, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin fell victim to what has become media oversaturation in our sports landscape. It led to some colorful dialogue.
With the USC and LSU football coaching jobs vacant, Tomlin’s name was floated as a possibility by former Bengals quarterback and USC alum Carson Palmer, and by former Bills general manager Doug Whaley, who spent 10 years in the Steelers front office.
The Palmer speculation came rather innocently when he appeared as a guest on “The Dan Patrick Show.” Palmer was merely throwing out the names of coaches he believed to be a good fit for his alma mater. Palmer, who’s out of the NFL, wasn’t presenting himself as some sort of insider.
Yet his comments sparked a frenzy of attention, with questions immediately posed to Tomlin about his interest in a college job. Tomlin then proceeded to conduct a clinic in rumor squashing with an animated and angry response to inquiring reporters.
Tomlin left nothing vague about his intentions — as many coaches often do to cover their derrieres in case they change their mind.
Tomlin stoned it.
“Never say never, but never,” Tomlin said. “There’s not a booster with a big enough blank check.’’
I loved that response. What I wasn’t crazy about was what came next from Tomlin when he said, “Anyone asking Sean Payton about that? Anybody asking Andy Reid stuff about that?’’
Tomlin sounded as if he thought he was being treated differently than other top NFL coaches, as if there is a double-standard. But neither Payton, the Saints coach, nor Reid, the Chiefs coach, was mentioned as possible candidates for the USC or LSU jobs. Tomlin was — albeit in a casual manner.
That is one of the many problems with media spinning out of control, producing wild, unsubstantiated rumors. Tomlin merely fell victim to that trend. And his strong and direct response was perfect.
He’s staring at a critical division game Sunday at rival Cleveland and has no time for outside distractions. The Steelers (3-3) are in last place in the AFC North.
Tomlin, with his patented intensity, always looks and sounds as if he’s in the midst of a street fight regardless of where his team is in the standings. And the last thing he wanted or needed this week while trying to prepare the Steelers for a tough game against the Browns was to deal with flimsy rumors about where he might be coaching next season.
Tomlin, who has been with the Steelers since 2007, has the third-longest tenure among NFL head coaches, behind just the Patriots’ Bill Belichick (2000) and Payton (2006). Tomlin became the youngest head coach to win a title at age 36 when the Steelers beat the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII, has a 154-87-1 record and has never had a losing season since taking the job with the Steelers in 2007.
“Hey, guys, I don’t have time for that speculation,” Tomlin said Tuesday in that theatrical press conference. “I mean, that’s a joke to me. I got one of the best jobs in all of professional sport. Why would I have any interest in coaching college football? That will be the last time I address it. Not only today, but moving forward.’’