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Take A Trip Down Memory Lane With Mike Tomlin

Posted Jan 27, 2011 by Anwar S. Richardson

Updated Jan 27, 2011 at 11:36 AM

As most of us are preparing to watch Green Bay vs. Pittsburgh in next week’s Super Bowl, I thought it would be interesting to turn back the clock for a moment.

Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin is arguably the NFL’s best coach, regardless of age. Since taking over for Bill Cowher in 2007, Tomlin is 43-21 in the regular season, advancing to the Super Bowl twice in three years. He already has one Super Bowl championship on his resume.

Below is what was first written about Tomlin when Tampa Bay hired him as a defensive back coach in 2001. Who knew he would be this good back then?

Thursday, February 8, 2001

Bucs dip into colleges to add 3 assistants to staff
of The Tampa Tribune

TAMPA — In keeping with tradition, the Bucs have taken their three newest assistant coaches from the college ranks.

When the Bucs finally pull back the curtain and officially reveal the identities of their new assistant coaches today, their fans could be alarmed at how young some of them are and the group’s lack of significant NFL coaching experience.

New secondary coach and former University of Cincinnati assistant Mike Tomlin, 29, is the same age as Bucs safety John Lynch. And new linebackers coach Joe Barry, 30, is six years younger than starting left guard Randall McDaniel.

The senior member of the incoming assistants is Jim Caldwell, 47, who replaces new offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen as quarterbacks coach.

Caldwell and Tomlin haven’t coached in the NFL, and Barry has one year in the league as defensive quality control coach for the 49ers.

But NFL experience isn’t something Bucs coach Tony Dungy has ever required from his assistants. Caldwell and Barry are each replacing assistants (Christensen and Lovie Smith, respectively) with no previous NFL experience when Dungy hired them five years ago.

“You look at Tony’s track record and you’ll see where he’s hired a lot of coaches right out of college,” said New York Jets head coach Herman Edwards, who was replaced by Tomlin. “There’s a lot of good young coaches in the college ranks. And with so many players nowadays coming out of college and playing right away, you want to have guys that have coached them, guys that can relate to them. That’s a big part of it.”

Another reason Dungy hires a lot of young coaches is because they usually are more willing and able to adjust to his unique system.

Edwards said many veteran coaches “are set in their ways” and may not adapt easily to Dungy’s philosophy, which requires coaches to spend a majority of their time honing fundamentals.

“Tony’s a teacher and a lot of times college coaches are better teachers,” said Smith, the St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator who was replaced by Barry. “Tony’s very big on teaching technique and making sure the players are fundamentally sound.

“When I was there people always asked us, for example, why we tackled so well. And it was because we would teach tackling. We practiced it. All the time. Teaching fundamentals was what it was all about, and that’s what Tony wants in his coaches. He wants guys who are teachers.”

Dungy’s desire to have a staff of teachers may not be the only reason he hires coaches with little or no NFL experience. A rival NFL coach who did not interview for a job with the Bucs either last year or this year said Tampa Bay is notorious for low coaching pay.

“It’s pretty much known around the league that if you go to Tampa Bay you’re not going to make a lot of money,” he said. “That’s why you don’t see them hiring a lot of experienced coaches. They don’t want to pay them.”

That may have been the case in the past, but perhaps not anymore. Monte Kiffin, who recently signed a new contract that will pay him more than the $345,000 average paid to defensive coordinators, is among the highest paid defensive coordinators in the league, according to figures on file with the NFL Coaches Association.

And former Bucs offensive coordinator Les Steckel made approximately $355,000 during his first and only season with the team. He’s still being paid, too. The Bucs have retained Steckel, who will earn his $355,000 in 2001 while serving as a team consultant.

What Christensen will make as the Bucs’ new offensive coordinator could not be determined. All other Bucs assistants are making at least $100,000 per season, and according to the NFLCA the league average of $181,000 includes high-paid coordinators. No average figure for non-coordinators was available.

A Bucs spokesman said club officials will not comment on salary figures for their coaches. Dungy did not respond to interview requests for this story.

The Bucs’ new assistants, who will be introduced at a news conference today, are believed to have received two-year contracts. Barry became familiar with the Bucs while coaching at Northern Arizona and Nevada-Las Vegas.

“Joe Barry has been around there a lot the last couple years,” Smith said. “He’s been there working with us in the off-season a bit and he already knows the system. Believe me, he’s a good coach. He just doesn’t have a lot of NFL experience yet.”