If the Pittsburgh Steelers win the Super Bowl next Sunday, Mike Tomlin will be all over the record books. He would be the youngest coach to win two Super Bowls, and he would have two Super Bowls in his first four seasons as a head coach, another record.
When Tomlin got hired as the Steelers head coach in 2007, there was plenty of skepticism.
Some suggested that he got the job because of the "Rooney Rule", which is a rule that makes it mandatory for teams to interview minorities for vacant head coaching positions. A lot of Steelers' fans were upset that local and former Steelers' offensive line coach Russ Grim didn't get the job.
Tomlin went 10-6 in his first season and won the Super Bowl in his second season. Still, a lot of people didn't give him the credit he may have deserved. A lot of people just said that he won the Super Bowl with Bill Cowher's players.
That may be true, but I think most Steelers' fans can agree that Cowher had plenty of good chances to win more than one Super Bowl. The Steelers hosted five AFC Championship games under Cowher. They only won one of those games. That's called underachieving. I'm a huge Cowher fan, but he had plenty of chances to win more than one Super Bowl.
Tomlin certainly inherited a talented team, but that shouldn't devalue what he's accomplished. The players really seem to love playing for Tomlin, making him a players coach. The color of his skin and the fact that he replaced Cowher should have nothing to do with how he's judged as a coach.
Who's a better head coach?
Cowher coached 15 years, and his record is a very impressive 149-90-1. Cowher made the playoffs in each of his first six seasons, and was 43-21 in his first four seasons. Cowher is also 12-9 in the playoffs for his career, and was 3-4 in the playoffs in his first four seasons.
Tomlin has made the playoffs in three out of his first four seasons, with a record of 43-21. Tomlin is now 5-1 in the playoffs and could be 6-1 with two Super Bowls after this Sunday.
What I think separates Tomlin and Cowher is his aggressiveness in the playoffs. Cowher was all about the run game, but that often hurt them in the playoffs.
The Steelers were one-dimensional under Cowher.
That's not the same with Tomlin.
Take this year's AFC Championship game against the Jets for example. The Steelers had the lead with over two minutes left.
Instead of just running the ball and trying to run the clock out, Tomlin and the Steelers went for the win. Ben Roethlisberger completed a 14-yard pass to Antonio Brown that sealed up the win for the Steelers.
No way Cowher calls a pass play there. Cowher runs the ball. Cowher plays that safe.
The only thing that can be used against Tomlin when comparing him to Cowher is the quarterback position. The Steelers did not have a quarterback anywhere near the caliber of Roethlisberger when Cowher was hear. Cowher had Roethlisberger for his last three seasons. He went 15-1 and to an AFC Championship game and won the Super Bowl the next season.
What if Cowher had Roethlisberger on those teams in the 90's? We'll never know.
I do know that Tomlin is a great coach. He's only 38-years-old and could have a second Super Bowl on his resume.
In four years, he's grown so much as a coach. What he did this year was incredible. The Steelers didn't have Roethlisberger for the first four games, yet they went 3-1. Tomlin now has to be in the same conversation as Bill Belichick when talking about the best coaches in the NFL.
Is he a better head coach than Cowher was? I say yes.