Andy Reid vs. Mike Tomlin: Which Coach Is Under Most Pressure to Make Playoffs?

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Andy Reid vs. Mike Tomlin: Which Coach Is Under Most Pressure to Make Playoffs?
Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE
Andy Reid and Mike Tomlin frequently meet during the preseason, but they'll match wits for real on Sunday.

When Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles visit Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday at Heinz Field, Tomlin might feel more immediate pressure.

The Steelers (1-2) need to win Sunday to avoid a 1-3 start, which would make their path to the playoffs about as easy as walking up the Duquesne Incline.

However, Reid is under more pressure to make the playoffs.

The Eagles (3-1) lead the NFC East. Their 2012 season is starting to look like a magic carpet ride, with their three wins coming by a combined  four points. Even if they lose to the Steelers Sunday, they'll at least retain a share of the division lead.

While the Eagles are in a better position than the Steelers to make the playoffs at this early stage of the season, Tomlin is in a better position than Reid to keep his job, whether the Steelers make the playoffs or not.

Making the playoffs might be a requirement for Reid to come back next year for his 15th season at the Eagles helm.

If the Steelers miss the playoffs, Tomlin might hear a few more directives from Steelers president Art Rooney II. Then he'll keep preparing for the 2013 draft working under a contract that runs through the 2016 season.

Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Tomlin's contract was extended before the 2012 season, according to ESPN.com. Meanwhile, Reid's contract runs only through the 2013 season, and Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie will take a wait-and-see approach before deciding whether or not to offer Reid an extension after the season, according to ESPN.com.

The fact that Lurie's comments came after Reid lost his son this summer underscore how much the NFL really is a business. The tragedy doesn't give Reid any more amnesty than other NFL coaches.

Reid's status as the NFL's most tenured coach doesn't seem to help his job security, either. He's 129-82-1 as Eagles coach and 10-9 in the playoffs.

Unfortunately for Reid, most people in Philadelphia don't remember those records. Instead, Reid wears 8-8 like a scarlet letter. That's the record of last season's supposed "Dream Team."

The Eagles tried to buy a championship in 2011 by signing high-profile free agents such as cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins and defensive end Jason Babin. They also traded for cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

The Dream Team turned into a nightmare. The Eagles were 4-8 at one point before winning their last four games to finish 8-8.

Philadelphia seems to be picking up on that momentum this year. But if it doesn't continue and the Eagles fall short of the playoffs, Reid might have to polish his resume.

Tomlin can survive a season that ends before January, just like Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher before him.

Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Chuck Noll

Tomlin is just the third Steelers head coach since 1969. Noll coached for 23 years, winning four Super Bowls. Cowher coached for 15 years, with a 1-1 record in Super Bowls. Tomlin is in his sixth season and already has matched Cowher's Super Bowl record.

The Rooney family, which has owned the Steelers since the franchise was founded in 1933, doesn't subscribe to the prevalent pro sports culture of firing coaches as a magic bullet to cure a team's ills. They have been patient with their coaches through rough spots.

Coaches don't sit in hot seats in Pittsburgh, only players do, and those are the heated benches used in cold weather.

In the nine years after the Steelers won their fourth Super Bowl, Noll was 69-71. The Steelers stuck with him, and he pulled off perhaps his finest coaching feat in 1989 when he led the Steelers to the playoffs after they lost their season opener 51-0 and their second game 42-10.

Cowher led the Steelers to the playoffs in his first six seasons. Then he survived a 22-26 stretch from 1998 to 2000 before taking the Steelers to the playoffs in four of his final six seasons and bringing the franchise its long-awaited One for the Thumb in 2005.

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Tomlin already has built a cache similar to Cowher's by leading the Steelers to their sixth championship and the 2010 AFC championship.

Unlike Reid, Tomlin's hurdle isn't getting into the playoffs. It's getting there every year. Tomlin has yet to string together three straight playoff appearances. If the Steelers make the playoffs this year, it will be the first time they've made it three years in a row since 1997.

If the Steelers don't make the playoffs, they'll try to get back there in 2013 by evaluating their roster and turning their attention to the draft, not by building a dream team and not by firing Tomlin.

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