I dare you to ask Mike Tomlin about the USC job

Mike Tomlin doesn’t like stupid questions, and rightfully so.

Mike Tomlin doesn’t like stupid questions, and rightfully so.
Image: Getty Images

On Monday, former USC quarterback Carson Palmer appeared on the Dan Patrick Show. At the end of the interview, Patrick threw in a question about Palmer’s role in USC’s coaching search and it turned into the highlight of the interview. He said that USC is looking at several coaches, and mentioned a name that no one would’ve expected, Mike Tomlin.

Yes, the second-longest tenured coach in the NFL, the coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, a franchise with a total of three coaches since 1969. After Palmer finishes his response to the question Patrick said, “That’s pretty spicy with Mike Tomlin there.”


Palmer then asked Patrick if that’s the first he’s heard of USC possibly wanting Tomlin as coach. Patrick answered yes and at that moment Palmer realized that he might have made a mistake. His next words were “uh oh,” and “oops,” as Patrick and the Danettes roared with laughter.

Tomlin had to be asked about that at his press conference and the question might have ruined his entire Tuesday. He began his 40-second response with a typical Tomlin statement, “I don’t have time for that type of speculation,” but he grew increasingly agitated as he continued to talk. He concluded with, “Is anybody asking Sean Payton about that? Is anybody asking Andy Reid about stuff like that,” and he then stormed out of the press conference.

There was nothing wrong with the question and, at first glance, Tomlin’s irritation appears a bit unwarranted, unless he felt like his intelligence was being insulted because of how stupid of a decision it would be for him to leave the Steelers for USC. If that’s how he internalized the question, then yes I totally understand his prickly response.

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In his answer, Tomlin said that he has one of the best jobs in professional sports, and that is very true. He has been the Steelers’ coach since 2007 and has never had a losing season. In a league with a hard salary cap like the NFL, there’s only one way to be that successful: competent and supportive management. They don’t make rash decisions and evaluate talent well at every position.

In 2017 the Steelers had one of the best teams in the NFL when, near the end of the season, their best defensive player, Ryan Shazier, had his career ended with a neck injury at 25 years old. The next season, All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell holds out, doesn’t play in a single game, and All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown’s public meltdown begins with him not showing up for practice the week leading into a must-win game to advance to the playoffs. He ends up not playing in the game. The Steelers move on from both talents, and two years later begin a season 11-0.


If Tomlin was coaching at USC and had those kinds of setbacks, he might’ve been fired after 2018. That’s the kind of hot seat most coaches are on, especially those in college sports who aren’t household names. Tomlin is supposed to leave a place that allows him to navigate rough patches for a place that’s had five coaches since he started in Pittsburgh, is desperate to be relevant again, and he’d have to recruit.

Tomlin might be on USC’s list, and he might be at the top of Palmer’s, but leaving the Steelers for any job in football, especially a college job, would be the most asinine decision a coach ever made. Judging from Tuesday’s press conference, Tomlin agrees with me.

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