The Pittsburgh Steelers once again have drawn on their Cleveland pipeline to find their latest head coach. Well, kind of.
If something has worked for 38 years, why change, right?
Chuck Noll was a native Clevelander and messenger guard for Paul Brown in the 1950s. He coached the Steelers 23 years and won four Super Bowls. Bill Cowher was a Browns backup linebacker and assistant coach in the 1980s. He coached the Steelers 15 years and won one Super Bowl.
It turns out that new Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has a Browns connection, also.
Tomlin served a coaching internship with the Browns in the 2000 training camp.(damn,not much experience)
He was a defensive backs coach at the University of Cincinnati at the time. (talk about keeping it in the family;oh i met division.)
"It was a great experience," Tomlin said at the NFL owners meetings this week. "They treated me great. I watched the interaction with the players. It was my first exposure to the professional game. It let me know quickly that [the NFL] was where I wanted to be."
Defensive coaching interns reported to the team's coordinator, who was current Browns coach Romeo Crennel at the time.
"I had him do reports," Crennel said. "He did a report for me, studied a division opponent. Wrote up their tendencies, wrote up their personnel. I assigned him that when he came in. He gave it to me when he left, and you could tell that he was a pretty sharp guy as a result of that report."
Tomlin broke into the NFL the following season as defensive backs coach with Tampa Bay. He intensely studied the "Tampa 2" defensive scheme popularized by Tony Dungy and now used extensively by Dungy disciples Lovie Smith, Herm Edwards and Rod Marinelli.
Tomlin spent last season as defensive coordinator for the Vikings. His hiring by the Steelers was a major surprise.
At 35, Tomlin is the league's second-youngest coach behind Oakland's Lane Kiffin, 31.
But youth wasn't what made the selection a surprise. The Steelers hired Noll at age 38 and Cowher at 37.
"We think youth is good, to get an enthusiastic guy in there," Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney said.
The surprise was that the Steelers would pass over in-house candidates Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm for a coach with no connection to the team, or the city, who espouses a defensive philosophy starkly different from the "Blitzburgh" 3-4 scheme that has served as the Steelers' identity for 15 years.
Tomlin this week conceded he will use the scheme created by longtime defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau - at least as long as it fits the Steelers' personnel. (who's the coach here)
"There's no question now we have great 3-4 personnel," Tomlin said. "I have what I believe to be a legendary, great football coach in Dick LeBeau. I'm excited about working with him. That's going to be our personality."
But many believe Tomlin will transition the team in short time to the "Tampa 2" scheme, which features a four-man defensive front, few blitz schemes and lots of zone pass coverage.
"I'm kind of enjoying the questions about what we're going to be," Tomlin said. "That's a winning edge for us. Everybody in the division is looking at Pittsburgh tape and Minnesota tape, and trying to figure out what we're going to be."
If Tomlin does eventually run the "Tampa 2" defense in Pittsburgh, it would be appropriate. In fact, the defense was invented by former Steelers coordinator Bud Carson in the 1970s and served as the foundation of those four Super Bowl titles.
In a roundabout way, then, Tomlin is a product of the Steel Curtain.
There might not be a more candid and astute coach in assessing offensive talent than Tampa Bay's Jon Gruden.
For instance, he is not afraid to point out that the only valid comparisons between LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell and Daunte Culpepper are that "they're both black and big."
"I compare JaMarcus more to [Ben] Roethlisberger than I do to Culpepper because of the way they play the game," Gruden said at last week's NFL meetings.
Gruden also attacks the widespread contention that Notre Dame's Brady Quinn is more prepared to play in the NFL because of his development under former NFL offensive guru Charlie Weis.
"Everybody talks about Notre Dame and Charlie . . . he's a helluva coach," Gruden said. "But Jimbo [Fisher] did a great job with LSU football, too."
Fisher was offensive coordinator at LSU.
"They have a nice offense. They open up formations, run a lot of different things. They know how to throw the ball, too."
Gruden likes Quinn a lot, too.
"Both these guys are pretty wired guys in terms of understanding the game. It's a tough call for somebody [to choose between them]," Gruden said.
The next greatest:
Gruden also had this to say about Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson, who is high on the Browns' list of possible selections with the No. 3 pick in the draft.
"I personally think this running back from Oklahoma might be the best back I've ever seen coming out of college," Gruden said. "He's a punishing guy. Go back and watch him as a freshman. In nine games, this man has 1,800 yards. He doesn't try to go out of bounds. Every time he carries the ball, he tries to hurt you. Bad. And he's fast. He's mean, he's tough. This guy is something else."
Here and there:
Former Browns quarterback Kelly Holcomb was a throw-in by Buffalo in a trade of linebacker Takeo Spikes to Philadelphia. Eagles coach Andy Reid said here that he expects A.J. Feeley to hold down the No. 2 job behind recuperating starter Donovan McNabb. . . . Baltimore coach Brian Billick said he expected franchise left tackle Jonathan Ogden to return to the team for another year, but he admitted retirement is a possibility. That would create a big need for the team in the draft. . . . Houston coach Gary Kubiak, on the difference between former quarterback David Carr and newly acquired Matt Schaub: "I'm not going to compare Matt to David. Matt brings confidence and leadership. He's got an air about him, like, 'I'm ready to lead a team. I want to be one of the top quarterbacks in the league.' "