Mehno: Harrison merely stated the obvious
PITTSBURGH — Wait a minute … James Harrison said Bill Belichick is a better coach than Mike Tomlin?
That’s not exactly breaking news, not even by the TV standards, which apply that tag to a flat tire at rush hour.
Belichick’s teams have won five Super Bowls. Tomlin’s Steelers have won one. Belichick’s New England Patriots have also lost three, but that’s still a better Super Bowl winning percentage than Tomlin’s 1-1.
Of course Belichick is better. He’s better than every other coach working in the NFL.
To those who argue he couldn’t win anything with Tom Brady, Chuck Noll didn’t win anything without Terry Bradshaw. No coach wins without talented players.
Harrison was on a TV show last week when he was asked to compare Tomlin and Belichick.
It was a loaded question, no matter how he answered it. Harrison spent almost 10 full seasons playing for Tomlin. He spent six weeks on Belichick’s team, and most of that time was devoted to the postseason, when things are especially intense and focused.
Harrison has no idea how Belichick runs a training camp or the preseason. He only knows what he experienced, and he didn’t experience much with the Patriots.
His assessment undoubtedly pleased the legion of Tomlin’s detractors. Tomlin’s been around for 11 seasons, and we’ve seen his flaws in clock management and crunch time strategic decisions.
Belichick was practically born into the business, the son of a coach. When other teens were developing social skills, Bill was in a dark room, breaking down film. It shows, both in his distant personality and his football smarts.
Of Tomlin, Harrison said, “I think he needs to be a little bit more disciplined. … The big thing with Belichick is he’s regimented. He’s disciplined. Everyone is going to be on the same page. It’s not going to be anything as far as someone doing their own thing.”
In other words, Belichick probably wouldn’t have put up with the way Harrison pouted in Pittsburgh last year when his playing time diminished. Although he was banking $2.2 million, he couldn’t be bothered to stay awake through meetings or attend games when he wasn’t playing.
The Steelers basically carried him last season while getting very little return on their investment.
By the way, when the Steelers cut LeGarrette Blount for leaving the sideline before a game ended, who was there to sign him? Belichick’s Patriots.
That tight ship in New England had its most famous leak when Aaron Hernandez, the team’s tight end from 2010-12, wound up charged with first degree murder.
But he wasn’t late for team meetings when he was with the Patriots because Belichick would never stand for that.
The record speaks for itself when comparing the coaches. But Harrison’s evaluation of the two doesn’t stand up considering the limited time he spent with the Patriots.
Some coaches understand there’s a world out there bigger than their sport.
Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors comes to mind.
Then there are those who choose to live in a bunker of their own construction, blissfully and voluntarily ignorant of the world outside their sport.
Larry Fedora, head football coach at the University of North Carolina is the example of that mentality.
He said last week that football is “under attack” by those who have drawn a link from the sport to long-term brain damage.
Furthermore, Fedora said, “I fear the game will be pushed so far to one extreme that you won’t recognize the game 10 years from now. And I do believe if it gets to that point, that our country goes down, too.”
That’s quite a leap of logic in a limited timeframe– less violent football leads to the end of democracy.
Doesn’t seem to make much sense, but it probably seems perfectly logical in Larry Fedora’s bunker.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org