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This Mike Tomlin quote is so bad, and makes so little sense that it’s art

What does this even mean?

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Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Browns and Steelers face off in Week 6 in a game that’s going to be way more competitive than anyone anticipated before the start of the season. Both teams are 3-1, the AFC North is arguably the toughest division in football, and Mike Tomlin summed it up with one of the most beautifully nonsensical football quotes of all time.

Football coaches say a lot of dumb stuff, but this is right up there with the best nonsensical phrases. Initially it feels like a variation on famous Harry Truman quote “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” but with a couple of small tweaks that make this memorable.

Firstly, the quote from where this takes inspiration: Truman was right. My only experience in a professional kitchen was when I interned at a French bistro in Sydney, Australia in the middle of summer. My job was boiling and breaking down leftover chicken parts to make stocks and terrines. At any given time I had 2-3 giant stock pots to manage, in a kitchen the size of my closet, with no air conditioning. It was easily over 120 degrees in there, and I could not take the heat — so I got out of the kitchen, leaving a week after starting. I learned I was too delicate to be a chef that day.

Now, Tomlin takes it a step further. Is the NFC North indeed the kitchen? I have to say it is not. Cleveland, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati all have some proud food traditions, but I don’t think anyone would confuse them as culinary capitals of the United States. These are the self-professed signature dishes of each city:

  • Baltimore: The crab cake is the dish here. I know native Baltimoreons will bristle at something so passe, but you gotta just accept that people know you for crab cakes. Crab cakes are good, but objectively the worst way to eat crab.
  • Cincinnati: Their weird chili slop on spaghetti. We can move on.
  • Cleveland: Somewhat up for debate, but aside from the legendary Slyman’s corned beef sandwich it’s generally accepted that Polish food is the go-to here. Sausages, pierogi, all good, all delicious. I’d give this a solid nod, but then I ran across this comment from 2018 on Quora and it scared me.
  • Pittsburgh: The culinary hallmark of Pittsburgh is putting french fries on everything. The Primanti Bros sandwich? Fries. A “Pittsburgh Salad”? Fries. There’s nothing wrong with fries. I love fries, but one cannot live on fries alone.

All these foods are delicious in their own right (except that Froot Loops hot dog thing), but far from earning the distinguished title of “kitchen” of the NFL. Honestly, I’d probably have to go with the AFC West here. You’ve got Kansas City BBQ, Los Angeles street tacos, the entire ludicrous Vegas food scene, and Denver, which is quickly becoming an iconic food spot.

So on first pass we can definitively say that the AFC North is not “the kitchen.” So we move into Tomlins’ next assertion, that it’s “hot in the north.” No, no it is not — Mike Tomlin. Don’t take my word for it though.

For ease of this exercise let’s say the football season runs September-January. Now let’s look at the median temperatures for AFC North cities over this time period.

Average AFC North Temperatures

City September October November December January
City September October November December January
Baltimore 79/65 69/54 52/39 44/31 43/30
Cincinnati 77/56 68/48 49/33 41/28 39/24
Cleveland 72/59 62/50 44/33 39/28 34/22
Pittsburgh 74/57 65/48 46/33 39/27 37/23
76/59 66/50 48/35 41/29 38/25

This gives us an average, five-month temperature of all AFC North cities of 52. This is decidedly cold, balmy at best. It is absolutely not hot in the North, and Mike Tomlin is wrong.

So, with these data points in mind, what would a more apt quote for Tomlin have been?

“We love being in the walk-in fridge. And the North ball is the fridge. It’s chilly in the North.”

There, much better.