Tomlin’s authenticity a breath of fresh air

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin takes questions during the post-game news conference after the Sunday night NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

We want people to be authentic, so why is it that when they are, we often criticize them for it?

Enter Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who came under fire for his recent comments, aired Sunday night on NBC’s ‘Football Night in America,’ about the New England Patriots.

Tony Dungy brought up the subject of the Dec. 17 matchup against the Patriots, one that many fans are already looking forward to with both teams running away with the AFC at 9-2. The game in all likelihood will determine home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, where many, myself included, expect them to meet again in the conference title game.

Far from shying away from the subject, Tomlin had this to say: “Man, I’m going to embrace the elephant in the room. It’s going to be fireworks. It’s probably going to be part one, and that’s going to be a big game. But probably, if we’re both doing what we’re supposed to do, the second one is really going to be big. And what happens in the first is going to set up the second one, and it’s going to determine the location of the second one.”

Tomlin was roundly criticized for doing what almost every coach in America at any level refuses to do – take it one game at a time.

But is that fair?

The Steelers can still be focused on their next game, which is Monday night in Cincinnati, and also be aware of what lies ahead.

And let’s be honest, how can they not?

Even the Patriots and Bill Belichick, who wouldn’t be caught dead saying anything like this publicly, realize the situation as well.

And speaking of elephants in the room, which Tomlin brought up, let’s look at another one. A large number of old school Steeler fans don’t like Tomlin because he’s brash, he’s emotional and he let’s his players talk.

It certainly can’t be because of his record.

‘He’s not Bill Cowher,’ is a phrase I’ve heard a lot during the Tomlin era. And you know something, he’s not. He’s actually better in the only stat that matters, wins and losses. Tomlin has a higher winning percentage than Cowher – .655 to .623. The two also have the same number of Super Bowl wins – 1.

Listen, I’m not all in on everything Tomlin does, but I do think he is judged in a different manner because of how he acts.

Again, it certainly can’t be because of his record, because only Belichick has a better winning percentage among active coaches. And among those who have coached in at least 100 games, Tomlin ranks 11th all-time in that category ranking behind the likes of John Madden, Vince Lombardi, George Allen, George Halas, Don Shula, Paul Brown and the aforementioned Belichick and Dungy.

And don’t get me wrong, Tomlin is far from being above criticism, especially in a town where championships are expected.

I’ve been in this business long enough to know when a coach is just giving me coach-speak and when they are actually being real and honest.

Which is why I found Tomlin’s comments, unlike most, to be a breath of fresh air.