Mike Tomlin talked to reporters Tuesday night after his second interview for the Pittsburgh Steelersí head coaching position. Tomlin met with Steelers brass for three and a half hours Tuesday.
Mike Tomlin became the NFLís youngest defensive coordinator last season when he took the reigns of the Minnesota Vikings. Heíd coached defensive backs at Tampa Bay from 2001 to 2005. The Bucs won the Super Bowl following the 2002 season and the defensive backs had five interceptions and returned three for touchdowns. Tomlin got his start coaching wide receivers at Virginia Military Institute (1995). He was a three-year starting wide receiver at William & Mary (1992-94), where he caught 101 passes for 2,046 yards with a school-record 20 touchdown catches. Hereís Tomlinís interview Tuesday:
Let me start by saying itís an honor to be back. Itís been a positive experience in every way, and just continue on with the process and Iíll answer any questions that you might have at this time.
Usually, the longer the better for the interviewee, right?
I guess thatís a way of looking at it. Whatever it takes for them to get to know what I stand for as a coach, Iím willing to do.
Would you call yourself a coaching disciple of Tony Dungy?
Whatís the short version of that?
Iím a fundamentalist as opposed to scheme. I think that football is a tough manís game. Itís an attrition game. You win by stopping the run and being able to run the ball effectively, and doing the thing that winners do: Being a detail-oriented football team, playing with great passion, and executing.
Did being part of a winner [at Tampa Bay] change you either personally or philosophically?
I think it always does. You donít know until youíre a part of it. Once you do, you realize what it takes to be special. People can tell you, but until youíre a part of it you donít know. I think I was changed forever.
Are you a devotee of Tonyís Cover-2?
Yes, but I also believe that part of coaching is being able to do what your guys do and do well. I think that you have to be flexible in that regard and Iíve always taken that approach.
At 34, youíre young, but Bill Cowher was hired at 34. Do you take solace in that?
Those that support me make sure that I understand that. But theyíre looking for a football coach. Thatís what I consider myself. My age is my age. They donít put an asterisk by the wins and losses on Sunday. You go out and play to win.
If you were to get the job over the in-house candidate, who stands for continuity, would you take it as a mandate to come in and do it your way and make a lot of changes as you saw fit?
I think regardless of who they hire to be the head coach, they expect them to lead, and part of leading is being prepared to do things that you feel strongly about. So Iím no different than anyone else in that regard.
Coach, youíre deeper into the process. Whatís it mean now?
Again, itís humbling. These are great football people. Iíve got a great deal of respect for what they do and what theyíve done. Itís just a very humbling experience to be involved in, but at the same time professional football is what I do and Iím a competitor like everyone else.
Mike, theyíve run the 3-4 here a long time. Would you want to change it?
I think itíd be premature for me to comment specifically on personnel and personnel issues. Iíd like to get the job first.
You started as an offensive guy. Howíd you make the transfer over to the defensive side of the ball?
I think that any coach likes to have the opinion that he can evaluate the game from a 22 [player] standpoint. Offense was my comfort zone as a player. I think itís lent itself for me to be effective in a lot of ways defensively, so Iím very comfortable from a coachís standpoint on the defensive side of the ball.
Do you appreciate the fact that Tonyís defense came from his days with the Pittsburgh Steelers?
Absolutely, and if you listen to Coach Dungy heíll remind you of that. A lot of people refer to it as Tampa 2, and heís always one to cite his sources, so he reminds you of that.
What have you learned most from him?
Not necessarily what you do, from an Xís and Oís standpoint, but how you do it: What playing winning football is about, not only inside the white lines but outside the white lines; you know, playing the game with honor and integrity.
How prepared are you for the off-the-field coaching duties?
Coaches in a lot of ways -- whether youíre a head coach, a coordinator, a position coach -- youíre somewhat of a life coach. You have to be prepared to do the things that come with the job. If youíre going to instruct men inside the white lines, youíve got to understand how what outside the white lines affects what they do. Youíve got to be willing to wear different hats. Thatís just part of the profession and I understand that as a head coach youíll be dealing with more people, but the reality is thatís what we do.
Are you comfortable in this setting of talking to the media?
Have you done a lot of media at your other stops?
I have. Iíve been blessed to work for coaches that challenge assistants in that way and took a lot of personal pride in our growth and development from that standpoint. I owe that to Coach [Jon] Gruden and Coach Dungy. They gave you opportunities to speak to people.
Whatís the difference between this interview and the first one with the Steelers?
Itís more of the same. Iím sure that they have questions in regards to me and what Iím about, and Iím just continuing to gather information about what theyíre about.
Tim Yotter, of VikingsUpdate.com, on Mike Tomlin:
Mike Tomlin is well-versed in the Tampa-2 defense and did very nice job installing it quickly in Minnesota. It was a completely new defense for all the players involved and they all adapted quickly. He turned the 21st-ranked defense into the eighth-ranked defense in his first year here. That included the anomaly of having the top-ranked rushing defense in the league to go with a pass defense that was tied for 32nd in the league. They really lacked a pass rush, which killed the pass stats, along with the fact that teams mostly declined to try running against them in the second half of the season and threw the ball 40-50 times per game.
Tomlin is a very energetic guy who knows how to inspire his players and get them to play for him. He's got a good personality to go with the players and interviewing would be a big strength of his. The only two downfalls I see to him is that he was viewed as slow to adjust since teams were obviously committed to passing on them and he is pretty young, which didn't stop Pittsburgh with Cowher. However, with only one year as a coordinator, he might need another for seasoning. That said, I'm convinced he'll be a head coach in the next three years, if not this year. He just has a very magnetic personality.
By Jim Wexell
Posted Jan 16, 2007