Dunlap: Tomlin Is Second Best In The NFL

PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — I don’t have any scientific data and I haven’t consulted Quinnipiac, but it sure feels like Mike Tomlin has a higher approval rating outside western Pennsylvania than he does in these parts.

I don’t get that.

Never will.

Or, maybe for some reason, we are just tougher on our own than we probably should be. Who knows?

Nonetheless, I will make this firm, steadfast statement: Mike Tomlin is the second-best coach in the National Football League right now behind Bill Belichick. Yep, there you have it. He is the man after the man.

If that is something that you raise an eyebrow over or go so far as to vehemently disagree with, I ask you this: Who do you want over Tomlin?

Yeah, that’s your litmus test – who would you take over Tomlin, a man who has won a Super Bowl, been to another, has a 103-57 regular season record, has never had a losing season and is coming off a three-season stretch where the Steelers won 11, 10 and 11 games?

Really this isn’t a study in finding Tomlin’s warts because, believe me, I can pick them out as well. The guy has been deficient at times with his clock management, he loses far too many games to bad teams, some say his buddy-buddy-relationship with players is a bit too close, he can’t beat the New England Patriots in a meaningful game and on and on.

Then there is the whole “he only won with Bill Cowher’s players” narrative which is blown out of the water to me because, you know, Bill Cowher didn’t win at the end of his career with Bill Cowher’s players.

There is the whole thing about Tomlin only succeeding because he gets to coach standout quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. To that I say show me a truly great coach in NFL history who didn’t have a great quarterback.

Anyhow, I get it. I understand it. Tomlin has shortcomings. Then again, which coach doesn’t?

Which gets us back to the fundamental point: Who would you rather have coaching your team not named Bill Belichick? I say no one currently employed by an NFL franchise.

I could maybe listen to a case for Greenfield’s Mike McCarthy who coaches the Green Bay Packers. But, what’s he done since winning a Super Bowl and remind me again how much better his defense has ever gotten.

You want to tell me about Andy Reid? No. Sorry.

Pete Carroll? People want to really mention Pete Carroll? If he was such a brilliant football mind perhaps in one of the biggest moments of his career he would have handed the football to his most potent short-yardage guy at the damn 1 yard line instead of putting it in the air.

And Sean Payton, John Harbaugh or Bruce Arians? No, not better than Mike Tomlin. They just are not.

So as the Steelers as set to get going in a couple of weeks, there will be people who are ready to pounce on Tomlin, people in Pittsburgh ready to pick at all his ugly lumps.

For me — and I wasn’t always the biggest Mike Tomlin fan — I have warmed to really understand how good of a football coach he is. I have come to understand there’s just one guy — Belichick — currently doing it in the NFL who is better.

Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at colin.dunlap@cbsradio.com. Check out his bio here.

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