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Thursday, April 16, 2009
Thought of the Day finale

By James Walker
ESPN.com

 
  Getty Images
  Which Steelers coach came out on top in a debate of AFC North readers: Bill Cowher or Mike Tomlin?

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

We had a lot of passionate thoughts and opinions from ESPN.com readers in our latest version of "Thought of the Day" in the AFC North.

This week's topic examined the merits of comparing former longtime Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher to second-year Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. John from Johnstown, Pa. believes Tomlin, in his second year and with one Super Bowl ring, has already surpassed his predecessor in Cowher, who had one title in 15 years in Pittsburgh.

Here are the last batch of comments, which includes another response from John in Johnstown, along with a final verdict on this intriguing topic:

John from Johnstown, PA writes: Hey James, to all the people hating on me about this, I would like to point some things out. I have nothing particularly against Cowher as a coach. I pointed out that he was fantastic at player development, I gave him the edge there. I see alot of people saying "you can't compare them, come talk to me in 10 years." I am not questioning that Cowher has had the better career. Yes, he has to this point, that much is OBVIOUS. What I am saying is, if you give me an NFL football team, any random team, and ask me which one I would rather have coach that team. I would say Tomlin and I would not hesitate. I knew Cowher would be vigorously defended. After all, he is a hometown boy. I am glad I made some people furious, it is better than no reaction at all. Still I must say, as a Steelers fan, there were many times during his tenure, where I felt he handicapped the Steelers. Especially against the better game coaches like Belichick. I do not feel that way with Tomlin. My opinion is that he is the better coach, not that he has had the better career. Sorry if I did not explain this thoroughly in my previous letter. Go Steelers!

Frank from Bronx writes: I think Tomlin is a solid coach. Better than Cowher? No way. Its been only been 2 years. And the guy won the super bowl with a majority of the players developed by Cowher!!! Lets revisit the "better than Cowher" debate in 6 years when Tomlin has to build a team of his own.

Bob James from New London, OH writes: I agree with the earlier letter. I think Mike Tomlin is a better football coach than Bill Cowher. Cowher is a brilliant football manager and surrounds himself with brilliant assistant coaches. Smart leaders surround themselves with smart men. I think Tomlin will be able to coach the team better than Cowher and relate to the players better than Cowher. Am I ready to anoint him to the HOF? Absolutely not, but if he continues on the same path he is on now, he could end up being the best Steeler coach of all time.

Chris writes: For John in Johnstown who thinks Tomlin is a better coach than Cowher......you're nuts. Yea Tomlin won the super bowl in his second season but that is still Cowher's team. Go position by position and tell me where it is tomlin's team. You're dead wrong. Woodley is the only starter on the Steelers who Cowher didnt draft. You're crazy.

Tom from Chicago writes: James, Love your work. I wanted to comment on who is the better coach Cowher or Tomlin. As any Steeler fan would say we certainly appreciate both coaches for what they did/have done during their tenure with the Steelers. Its really an easy choice between the two. Tomlin has exceeded expectations in both seasons with the club and Cowher left us disappointed more times than I care to remember. Cowher was a great motivator but is simply not an elite coach when it comes down to X's and O's and in game adjustments (see Steelers Patriots anytime between 1996 and 2005). People may say that Tomlin is now winning with Cowher's roster or something to that effect but they were 6-10 with those same guys in 2006. Tomlin also did something Cowher could never seem to do, make the Secondary a strength of the defense. Anytime you can make a Dick Lebeau defense better you are doing something.

Casey from the Burgh writes: It pains me to have to retaliate to another Stillers fan's comment, but I feel I must. It is erroneous to call Mike Tomlin a better coach than The Chin in all facets of the game aside from player development. Exactly how many starters on the '08 roster were drafted by the Tomlin regime? Woodley is the only one. Not to cheapen Tomlin's staff's obvious achievement (both head coordinators are carry-overs from Cowher's mind you), but that squad was inherited. To say Tomlin is a better motivator is also a moot point. Motivating veterans is difficult at a young age but the Steelers were obviously self-motivated en route to our sixth Lombardi. This argument should have not even been an issue, James. Cowher is a legendary coach and Tomlin has the makings of one, I love his integrity and his grit, but it is obvious to me The Chin deserves at least partial credit for bringing the Rooneys a sixth championship. Johnstown is apparently flooding once again, this time with unbridled pomposity. We owe CBS's best commentator a bit more than some other fans would like to admit.

Spade from Victorville, Ca. writes: tomlin I think will end up being better, i think cowher let the players get away with too much (kordell steward, big ben, eric green, etc.) , tomlin seems more in control of the team and I believe won't let get anyone get out of hand or get un-motivated.

Cliff from Baltimore writes: Enough from just Steelers fans. As an AFC North fan, the idea that Mike Tomlin is a better coach than Bill Cowher is almost offensive. Brian Billick won a Super Bowl with the Ravens in 2000 in just his second year, and no one, not even Ravens fans, were calling him a future H.O.F. head coach. Tomlin won last year's Super Bowl with the team Cowher built, just like John Gruden won the Super Bowl in 2002 with the team Tony Dungy built. Tomlin no doubt helps make the AFC North a better division because he knows what works and how to get the most out of what he has, and is a classy guy, which is why I like him. But like others have argued, those who think he's already better than Cowher are just riding the high from last year. Success over a long period merits comparison to other great coaches, which is why the Ravens, Dolphins, and Falcons fans aren't claiming their new head coaches, successful as they were last year, are the next new wave of great H.O.F. coaches. Time always tells.

Jim from Zanesville, OH writes: James- I will always have a special place for Bill Cowher in my Steelers heart. But like his mentor, Marty Schottenheimer had trouble getting it done in the post-season. So have some other great coaches (Tony Dungy), but to me that puts Tomlin's rising start on a much higher trajectory. That's not to say something could go askew. Cowher's reputation is established, Tomlin's is still baking. But Tomlin looks pretty good now.

Mike from Chicago writes: This is a reply to the thought of the day from John in Johnstown. I have been a Steelers fan for over 20 years and h
ad the opportunity to watch almost every game that Cowher coached. I believe it is entirely too early to say that Tomlin is the better coach. It is easy to fall in love with a coach who brings home a Superbowl victory in only his second year coaching, but let's not forget what Cowher did for the Steelers and the city of Pittsburgh. 15 seasons of coaching, 10 playoff berths, 8 division titles, 6 AFC championships, 2 Superbowl appearances, and 1 Superbowl victory. I, personally, really like Mike Tomlin. I think he encompasses the hardnosed attitude and work ethic that Steelers fans and players have become accustom to. So please, before we start comparing which coach is "better" let's give Mike Tomlin a couple more years to build his own legacy and just be grateful to be blessed with another great, stable coaching staff.

Leem from Pittsburgh/Va writes: Hey James, another great discussion/debate. Personally, I'd say this is similar to the annual NBA/NFL MVP debate ....is the MVP the best player...the best player on the best team...the player a team could least afford to lose, etc.??? Since most everyone will have his or her own determining factors, I'll pose this hypothetical question to make determination.... All things being equal, & knowing what you know(& seen)from both Tomlin and Cowher, if you were able to choose one or the other to coach your team ....whom would you choose? Nothing but respect for Coach Cowher, but I'd take Tomlin without a second thought.


RJ from Virginia Beach writes: During Bill Cowher's tenure as a head coach, no team won more games than the Steelers. Maybe some fans are too quick to judge him because he took 13 years to win a Super Bowl, but he was a symbol of toughness and consistency in Pittsburgh for all those years. Personally, I miss watching his sideline rage. Mike Tomlin won a Super Bowl faster than Cowher or even Noll, but that doesn't make him better. He is a great coach, though, and that is clear after two years. I'm not even sure what compels us to judge these coaches against each other. Cowher had his era; Tomlin has his. Both have been successful. The Steelers wouldn't have six trophies without both of them.

AFC North Final Say

James Walker: Bill Cowher has already put together Hall of Fame credentials throughout his 15-season stint in Pittsburgh. And although Tomlin has the same amount of titles as Cowher (one), longevity and consistency are two very important parts to the equation when it comes to legacies. Many players and coaches had one or two brilliant years in the NFL. Tomlin appears well on his way. But he must win at least one more championship and add a long string of playoff appearances to his resumé before considering him superior to his predecessor.

If you have a future "Thought of the Day" idea, we'd love to hear it. Send your thoughts here to our AFC North inbox.