Friday, January 11, 2008

Tomlin Speaks

I don't know what's going on but I'm having uncontrollable fits of inspiration. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the nine-month-old is over his cold and he's finally back on a semi-normal schedule (there is nothing sadder than watching your son cough and wheeze like he's been smoking Reds for 30 years), or that the Steelers season is done, or that I've started doing blow and I now sleep 15 minutes a day.

Whatever the reason, you guys win. And by win, I mean, you get to be subjected to more inane ramblings than you're used to. So in that sense I guess you lose. Somehow seems fitting.

Mike Tomlin held his first end-of-season presser yesterday, and although we've all moved on, he spent chunks of time talking about the two-point conversion from the 12, and The Play. I cavalierly mentioned yesterday that I didn't care so much about the world's longest two-point conversion and unsurprisingly, people disagreed. I'm fine with that; I mean, it's not like NFL teams are lining up to go for two points after a penalty. There's a reason you have kickers on the roster. I still stand by my original statement: the failed conversion wasn't why the Steelers lost. But we're past this.

Except that Tomlin offered this:
Q: Would you go for it from the 12 again?

A: I’d do it again.

Q: Go for two again?

A: Yes. I throw caution to the wind. I play to win, babe.
Who knows if that's hubris talking or if Tomlin's working on his standup routine. Either way, there is certain to be plenty of eye-rolling amongst the tormented. Despite my half-assed support for the call above, I'm pretty sure I'd be in favor of Skippy Reed converting the one-pointer the next time this comes up. You can count on me like that.

If you're looking for a bright spot to all of this: Tomlin is risk-seeking. That's a good thing. Obviously, too much of anything is a problem -- Herm Edwards and Marty Schottenheimer at one end of the risk spectrum, Mike Martz at the other -- but if given the choice, I'd prefer a head coach willing to take chances as opposed to one who doesn't. Like, say, Brian Billick.

The counterargument is that the coaches I cited above have all had success -- and two have Super Bowl rings. Fair enough, but I don't think anybody will dispute that the 2000 Ravens defense won the Super Bowl, and Martz had the best offensive players in the league on his roster. That simplifies things. Both Billick and Martz are extreme cases, and therefore exceptions. Everybody else is closer to the average.

The easiest counterexample to the counterargument, and this was pointed out in the comments yesterday, is Bill Cowher. It took him 14 years to win a Super Bowl and I think some of that had to do with radically altering the game plan once the Steelers got to the postseason. Ken Whisenhunt didn't go Martzian on the play-calling, but he did take chances. Ultimately, it proved to be the difference.

This doesn't guarantee anything as far as Tomlin's concerned, but the bottom line is this: all things being equal, I'd rather have a coach take risks than stand on the sidelines with his thumb up his ass. That said, the next time Tomlin is faced with a 12-yard two-pointer, let's hope he kicks it.

For a topic nobody supposedly gives a crap about, I'm sure spending a lot of time defending it. Moving on...

Tomlin also talked about what the Steelers need to do better -- shockingly it involves making the special teams not suck and praying to the god of pass protection that the offensive line can keep the quarterback from getting killed. He also mentioned that both lines need depth, which is clearly a point nobody missed after Aaron Smith went down.

Yesterday, I asked in hindsight if the Steelers should've given some thought to trading up for Adam Carriker. Henigin made a great point: trade up for Carriker and there's no Timmons or Woodley, in all probability. While a large subset of Steeler Nation is down on Juan (I think everybody here is on board, even if nobody was on draft day), I'm excited to see what he looks like after a full off-season in the system. Tomlin agrees:
Q: What are your expectations for Lawrence Timmons?

He’s got to get better. This entire draft class has got to get better. ... [T]hey’ve got to keep moving upward and onward. This offseason is big. One season does not define a career. In terms of evaluating this draft, it’ll be years down the line, in terms of me being willing to do that. In the short term it’s my desire to drive these men, to push these men to be the best that they can be. Should their roles evolve and increase? They better, because we’re bringing in a new cast. That’s just the nature of this thing. But it doesn’t define him, it won’t define him. Whether they had great success or great failure they’ve got to be men on the rise. They’ve got to be poster boys for this offseason program. Those are some of the things that I talked to those guys about when I met with them.
So it ends like it begins: with a great Tomlin press conference. I give the guy credit, he makes me feel better about the Steelers' future. I'll feel a lot better when Pittsburgh finds a center and locates some dudes who can actually play on special teams. Plenty of time for that, though. Right now we need to get our Jaguar Game Faces on.