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Monday, April 11, 2011
Catching up on McCarthy vs. Tomlin

By Kevin Seifert

A few of you are curious about my reasoning for last week's ESPN.com's Power Rankings, which rated the top 10 coaches in the NFL. In the internet world, that's ancient history -- our linebacker ratings will be revealed in the next 24 hours or so -- but please allow me a moment to reflect.

McCarthy and Tomlin
Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy, right, and Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin, left, both have a 5-2 record in the postseason and a Super Bowl win.
As you probably noted, I placed Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy third on my list, behind Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots and Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers. McCarthy finished No. 4 overall.

I thought lead2victory's mailbag objection was worth examining:
I'm curious why you put Tomlin ahead of McCarthy. I think that the argument for MM ahead of Tomlin is quite strong considering three points: 1) Navigating [Brett] Favre drama; 2) Developing [Aaron] Rodgers; 3) Prevailing admits adversity of injuries.

Furthermore, both coaches stepped into stable franchises (debatable with Packers because of Favre), and both have had great success. Yeah, Tomlin has been to two Super Bowls, but McCarthy has had to rebuild with a new QB. Tomlin is good, I just don't see the logic... enlighten me.

Most important, L2V, is I don't think "yeah" goes in front of "Tomlin has been to two Super Bowls." That's an incredible achievement in the first four years of a coaching regime, stable franchise or otherwise. It was the only factor I considered when slotting Tomlin at No. 2. McCarthy has been to one Super Bowl and won it, which is why I placed him ahead of the Philadelphia Eagles' Andy Reid (who finished No. 3 overall).

As to your points, I think you're selling Tomlin short on the adversities he has faced and navigated. In Pittsburgh, the continuing Ben Roethlisberger saga has been comparable to the issues McCarthy faced with Favre. In some ways it is more difficult, because the Steelers didn't have a ready-made replacement available to replace him. Tomlin has had no choice but to make it work with Roethlisberger.

And while McCarthy had more injuries to deal with in 2010, Tomlin had to work his share of personnel magic as well. Not only did he have to start backup quarterbacks for the first four games of last season, but he also had to reconfigure his offensive line and wound up playing the season with veteran left tackle Flozell Adams at right tackle. Meanwhile, don't forget that safety Troy Polamalu missed a couple games because of a sore left Achilles.

Both men have a 5-2 postseason ranking, but Tomlin's regular season winning percentage (.672) is even higher than McCarthy's (.600).

There's no shame in a No. 3 ranking among 32 NFL head coaches. Other than the fact that McCarthy beat Tomlin in Super Bowl XLV, I couldn't think of an empirical reason to place him higher in our power rankings.