Mike Tomlin's stoicism has served him well over the last seven years. It was his vulnerability on Tuesday, however, that stole the show.
The Pittsburgh Steelers coach came under fire for stepping toward the playing field while Baltimore Ravens kick returner Jacoby Jones was running down the sideline. Tomlin moved away from the field, but Jones clearly altered his direction, and Tomlin's position has been under fire ever since. Rumors of a hefty fine and potential loss of draft assets anchor the load of criticism that Tomlin has endured.
Tomlin certainly warrants such criticism and any penalty that might come his way. The NFL has measures in place to ensure that everyone remains a safe distance from the playing field -- both among a team's coaching staff as well as with the officials. The Ravens-Steelers game showcased a breakdown of all of those facets, and Tomlin has taken his licks because of it.
Even more important than the error were the potential intentions behind it. Did Tomlin purposefully move toward the field? Was he trying to alter the play?
On Tuesday, Tomlin spoke directly to the accusations with the breadth and depth needed in instances like these. Whether or not you believe Pittsburgh's coach, it's impossible to deny that Tomlin's mea culpa serves as an exemplar of how to deal with PR nightmares.
The coach, it seems, was well-coached.
One quick look across the AFC shows how devastating it can be for a team to improperly handle a public relations disaster. The Miami Dolphins have fumbled the ball at every turn regarding Jonathan Martin's exit from the team. The team's record tumbled as the drama escalated, and it's possible that execs and coaches could lose their jobs in the offseason. It's not surprising that the investigation is still ongoing. After all, the Dolphins have been content to say the fire is under control while smoke rolls under the door.
It's a night-and-day difference from the way Mike Tomlin handled himself. Not only did the head coach speak directly to any and all accusations, he also said he would remain for any and all questions that media members might have about the situation. In addition, Tomlin said he had already spoken with numerous league officials including Commissioner Roger Goodell, NFL Senior VP Ray Anderson and NFL Vice President of Operations Merton Hanks.
In other words, Tomlin immediately made himself available to the powers-that-be and then provided an equal amount of transparency and accessibility to the public. It was the right order, the right approach and the right attitude.
None of this changes what happened. It doesn't even mean that Tomlin is innocent of any wrongdoing. It's possible to listen to Tomlin's press conference and still have questions on the matter. But if questions remain unanswered, it's not because Tomlin wasn't willing to answer them.