Taylor Blitz Times Coach of the Year: Mike Tomlin

No coach in the 2019 season has earned the tip of the cap for their coaching performance than Mike Tomlin. One interesting aspect was the respect earned once the season was underway with his former malcontent Antonio Brown. Believe it or not Brown deserves some of the credit.

Once AB’s antics tore at the fabric of the Oakland Raiders during the preseason, The Chancellor’s first thoughts were “What antics did Tomlin quell in the Steelers locker room over the last 5 years?”

We heard some of the rumblings and antics as his tenure was coming to an end there but nothing like his month long Oakland stay. Nor his few weeks in New England. Social media outbursts and squabbles with the collective front offices in less than 2 months. By October Brown was out of football.

Respect for Tomlin started to accrue then, even on the heels of public sentiment among many in Steeler nation who have called for his head. Even Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw chimed in late in 2016 on FS1’s Speak for Yourself:

Keep in mind this comes before his 1-4 start this year after losing potential Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the season. Ben was to be the stabilizing on field leader to aid a rebuilding team from a tumultuous 2018 season. All World RB LeVeon Bell sat out and the aforementioned Brown’s leaving the team. The Steelers were even 0-2 when Ben was lost…. so Tomlin led a team missing these three skilled players who had a combined 16 Pro Bowls between them without a dedicated succession in place.

While the Stillers sit at 8-5 and may not catch the AFC North leading Ravens, his team is 7-2 after a 1-3 start since their last loss to Baltimore. Tomlin has kept his team hitting hard and having belief they can win any game. He’s won all 8 games with Devlin “Duck” Hodges (3-0) and Mason Rudolph (5-3) as starting quarterbacks making their first starts.

The Steelers have lost another 3 games to injury to stand in receiver Ju Ju Shuster and 5 more for fill in running back James Conner. Yet they have plugged in low round draft picks at RB, QB, and WR and haven’t skipped a beat. He has had to take some risks like today’s fake punt in Arizona but he has turned back the clock here in the NFL’s 100th season to a tried and true approach… lean on your defense.

Tomlin’s Stillers defensive ranks:

For all the talk of the Packers pass rush of “The Jones Bros” in Green Bay, TJ Watt (12.5 sacks) and Bud Dupree (9.5) have been more of a hurricane with 9 forced fumbles compared to the Packers duo with only 2. They only have 1 more sack combined 23 to 21 yet influenced their team’s outcome more over the last 2 months.

Dare we say they have revived the force coming off the edge reminiscent of Kevin Greene & Greg Lloyd??

One of the benefactors is midseason acquisition Minkah Fitzpatrick whose 5 interceptions and stellar play has solidified the back end of the defense. He has had an All Pro season and the voting should reflect it at the end of the season.

Ironically in a Facebook Steelers group when this team was 1-4 I joked how the Steelers saw this in 1976 when they had a defensive performance for the ages. Well Tomlin has taken his team back in time and has his team winning with brute force while infusing belief into a series of rookies on offense. This team will finish with an 11-5 record and no one will want any of this team as wildcard weekend approaches.

Next to Tom Flores taking the Oakland Raiders to the Super Bowl XV championship, Tomlin’s performance is one of the greatest single season coaching jobs in NFL history. To find a season remotely close to this you have to return to the 1991 Philadelphia Eagles when they lost Randall Cunningham in week 1 and fought to a 10-6 record. That season saw history’s last #1 defense against the run, #1 against the pass, and #1 overall… the trifecta while winning games with their 2nd, 3rd, & 4th string QBs.

Much like Tomlin has…

Will Pittsburgh win in a championship this year?? Time will tell but The Chancellor of Football has Mike Tomlin as Taylor Blitz Times Coach of the Year for 2019. In this historian’s eyes, Tomlin’s performance along with his Super Bowl XLIII season anoint him into the pantheon of great coaches no matter what Uncle Terry says.

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Enough With Joe Buck & Troy Aikman Announcing All These Games

America is suffering from Joe Buck and Troy Aikman announcing fatigue. Do they really have to ruin both Thursday Night and games on Sunday with these two?

Nothing is better than the break fans get when Joe Buck is off to announce the World Series and takes his non football sensibilities with him. He takes his hero worship with him and we get a week break from how great he thinks Tom Brady or Drew Brees are. Yet he talks down to and refers to the rank and file player with a disdain that grates people the wrong way.

It does with The Chancellor of Football and I know it does with a series of former players.

Joe Buck is the worst play by play announcer in NFL history and made it there due to nepotism. His father was legendary St Louis Cardinals announcer Jack Buck. Yet you can hear his elitist privlege ooze out of him as he drones on during a game. You can tell he’s never been in the fray playing sports or being in the heat of a battle to see both sides. He’s ultra conservative and shapes every narrative that way and it leads Aikman’s commentary down that path.

It has become so negative and off putting that Seattle Seahawk fans petitioned to have them removed from broadcasting their games. This was followed by Green Bay fans that became so popular Aikman addressed it in the Dallas Morning News. CBS Sports even ran a story covering it as Packer fans sought 15,000 signatures and wound up with a whopping 29,597. That is actual signatures of fans who believe Buck and Aikman were biased against their team.

I believe their bias doesnt stop there as Buck often shapes the nation’s narrative and can villify a player in the court of purlic opinion before millions.

Case and point this last Thursday Night when the brawl broke out between the Browns and Steelers with :05 left in the game. He reacted with utter disgust at Miles Garrett when he swung Mason Rudolph’s helmet striking him in the head. He completely villified Garrett while completely omitting Rudolph’s involvement starting the fight, trying to yank off Garrett’s helmet off first, and kicking Garrett in the unmentionables.

Not once did Buck even try to describe what happened from Garrett’s point as to why or how he overreacted. He turned Rudolph into some innocent man who was assaulted when clearly he was the aggressor even after his helmet had been taken off.

From that moment on the rest of the NFL Network commentary followed Buck’s suggestion of Garrett being thrown out the rest of the year. Finally from within the studio Willie McGinnest and James Jones restored sense there were two sides to this incident. Scott Hansen was adding to the narrative of Buck’s overreaction when he noticed how upset his studio mate Jones was and offered him the chance to express what he was feeling:

Those biases seemed to come out and crystalize down racial lines when it came from Buck’s point of view. Inside the studio this commentary touched off the firestorm that has become of this incident. Now it’s being talked about on every sports outlet as suspensions have come down now and ironically Garrett is suspended indefinitely while Rudolph is only subjected to an undisclosed fine. You can’t tell me Buck’s reaction and commentary didn’t help shape this from the very outset.

Listen to the round robin commentary from the Fox Sports commentary of Terry Bradshaw, Jimmy Johnson, Howie Long, Curt Menifee, and Michael Strahan who admits he hit a former teammate Scott Gragg with a helmet himself:

Amazing how once former players and not a preppy announcer talked about what they experienced and saw, all of their commentary was more understanding and empathetic to all parties involved. Or as Michael Strahan concluded his comment “…but if you haven’t been in that situation you don’t understand.” And that is what I’m saying about Joe Buck and his commentary in a nutshell which painted with a broad brush to the viewing audience that made Rudolph seem like an innocent victim and not a culpable antagonist.

Glad Jimmy Johnson addressed this…

To remove myself from Buck’s prejudices and biases during playoff games I’ll switch to Spanish audio. It would be great if Fox offered some of the Thursday Night games to other sets of announcers. How about a 2nd set of announcers for us to switch to that is more pro player in their commentary??

This isn’t new as Buck’s commentary was referenced against the great play by play commentary by the late Charlie Jones in a playoff retrospective on a 1989 playoff between Buffalo and Cleveland. This was one penned nearly 8 years ago.  It’s time to quit the love affair with the preppy commentator following in his father’s footsteps. It’s like a cruel practical joke as we have to hear commentary from someone most of us would last choose to talk football with. He ruins games for several teams and has shaped opinion negatively on many players over the years.

Thank goodness for NFL redzone and CBS football coverage….

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2018 AFC Predictions

It seems that we have been predicting the demise of the New England Patriots unsuccessfully for the last 7 years. This season the Patriots will miss this player or this player. Yet here we are again with the 2 time defending AFC Champions ready to battle off conference contenders who appeared to have closed the gap.

3d illustration of an NFL logo behind a transparent silver American football on top of a green football field

Yet here we are with a great number of marquee players returning from serious injury. How quickly can DeShaun Watson, Andrew Luck, and JJ Watt return to form?? Can the Steelers offense find a rhythm once they get LeVeon Bell to report to the team??

There is this team out in Los Angeles no one wants. Not only do they return with the NFL’s 4th ranked offense featuring Melvin Gordon (1,105 yds 8 TDs rushing / 58 rec. 476 yds 4 TDs) & Phillip Rivers (4,515 yds 28 TDs and only 10 ints) on a team that went 9-3 to finish the season.  It took the Chargers 4 weeks to get used to Coach Anthony Lynn’s staff and a new home as they started 0-4.

2018 AFC Predictions:

AFC Wast Champs: LA Chargers 12-4*

AFC East Champs: New England Patriots 11-5

AFC North Champs: Pittsburgh Steelers 10-6

AFC South Champs: Houston Texans 9-7

Wild Card: New York Jets 10-6

Wild Card: Kansas City Chiefs 9-7

AFC Champions: LA Chargers

Yes the city of Los Angeles will have a team in Super Bowl LIII but not the team that everyone is anointing.

The Chargers best pass rush since the mid 80’s.

Keep in mind the Chargers defense was middle of the road ranked 15th and should improve as Joey Bosa returns from a foot injury. However a closer look shows this team gave up 319 yards per game in the last 8 games. Good enough to make the top ten. Fellow DE Melvin Engram III came on with 10.5 sacks to combine with Bosa’s 12.5 which anchored the NFL’s 3rd ranked defense against the pass. This team is ready to make a move.

A lot of pundits want to anoint Andrew Luck as back however The Chancellor sees nothing but rust, rust, rust. He hasn’t played football in over 600 days and Colts fans will wince everytime he hits the ground. Keep in mind he has 4 games against Sacksonville (55 sacks) and Tennessee (43 sacks) which finished in the top 5 in QB take downs. Oh…and 3 time NFL Defensive Player of the year JJ Watt also returns. Sorry Calvin Ladd the Colts will be losing a lot of games. Did you just see that Redzone interception??

Can Forunette stay healthy this season? Has a tendency to get nicked up.

The AFC South will have 3 even teams beating up on each other as no one will take command until the final week. The Titans and Jaguars play several close to the vest affairs. One bounce of the ball one way or the other spells win or loss in at least 6 of their games. Its going to come down to which QB can make plays beyond the X’s and O’s and DeShaun Watson edges Marcus Mariota and Blake Bortles in that regard.

The Steelers and Patriots rule the AFC North and East respectively largely on Hall of Fame QBs. The underappreciated Ben Roethlisberger (4,251 yds 28TDs 14 ints) will have to keep the offense going in Bell’s absence. Pittsburgh is still the class of their division although this could be the last year on that perch. This situation with LeVeon Bell will linger all season. The back and forth between Pro Bowl C Maurkice Pouncey could prove disruptive to team chemistry once Bell joins the team.

This is how The Chancellor of Football’s crystal ball shapes up for 2018. It will be the L.A. Chargers traveling to Atlanta to play for this trophy:

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2017 AFC Predictions

Well we’re off and another NFL season is under way where we have to place predictions and previews into what Taylor Blitz Times crystal ball offers. For the most part the 2017 season has shaped up based upon watching players grow into their roles and there are a few draft picks that will make an impact.

As the season concluded last February, the world was treated to the 1st overtime in Super Bowl history. However it placed salve over an open wound as the Raiders had to enter the playoffs without Derek Carr, and the Titans losing their last 3 without Marcus Mariota. It gave a feeling of inevitability to the Steelers and Patriots meeting for the right to go to Super Bowl LI.

2017 AFC Predictions:

AFC East Champs: New England Patriots 12-4**

AFC West Champs: Oakland Raiders 12-4

AFC North Champs: Pittsburgh Steelers 11-5

AFC South Champs: Houston Texans 9-7

Widcards: Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens

AFC Champions: The Oakland Raiders

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One of the biggest acquisitions this year was the signing of Marshawn Lynch to ignite the offense and bring toughness to the team. His punishing running style and spirit will merge with reigning TBT Offensive Player of the Year David Carr to carry the Raiders through the west and beyond. Last year the Raiders were 6-1 on the road with David Carr with 4th quarter comebacks in 4 of those games. Had Carr been healthy for the playoffs they could have won in New England.

 

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Responding to Terry Bradshaw’s Criticism of Steeler Coach Mike Tomlin

If there is one thing I have come to know and understand over the last few years covering the NFL is its a brotherhood. Sure some former players have issues with others who had been with rival teams but normally there is a public face masking any contempt. That has been blurred in recent years when former colleagues have become a part of the media covering the league.

tomlinNow come on Terry…keep it above board. In all honesty we should have seen this coming from Bradshaw. He was critiqued very harshly as a QB in a time where you didn’t have the 24 hour scrutiny we have now. Not tabloid garbage mind you. People forget he was called dumb by the media. “‘Lil Abner in cleats”…etc… etc Millions upon millions of people reading you’re dumb for years. He’s never recovered from it.

How do we know this?

Consider the fact Terry Bradshaw left the Steeler organization following the 1983 season yet didn’t return to Pittsburgh until 2002 for an onfield tribute. He didn’t attend the funeral of former Coach Chuck Noll in 2014 and had a strained relationship with the organization and the fans of Pittsburgh for decades. Not only has time not healed all wounds but the preferential treatment afforded many high profile quarterbacks such as John Elway and Peyton Manning have drawn the Hall of Famers ire.

bradshawDo you remember following Peyton Manning’s loss in Super Bowl XLVIII to Seattle he scoffed “If you like winning good during the season and losing Super Bowls, that’s your guy?”

Do you remember right before Super Bowl XXIV when Bradshaw was quoted “John’s problem is he’s been babied. You know, babied by the city until this year and babied by the coach (Dan Reeves) a little bit. It’s just too easy. And you know what I went through in Pittsburgh a little bit. There’s nothing worse than just getting hammered. You fight that stuff. I think John’s got to get tougher.”  National pundits, who treated Elway as a media darling, shot back their criticism of Bradshaw’s comments and were silenced by his next bombshell.

The weekend of Super Bowl XXIV, Bradshaw as a part of CBS coverage, sat in a round table discussion on the game. When it came time to give their predictions Terry offered “I don’t see how Denver can win this game. This sucker could get as bad as 55-3.” Not backing from his criticisms of Elway.  What was the final score? Try 55-10! How off was he??

Let’s face it Terry Bradshaw is the opinionated uncle you pre-warn guests coming to your family’s Thanksgiving Dinner about. Yet his Hall of Fame status and career achievement winning 4 Super Bowl titles lend him that license. What he had to endure at the hands of the press and even NFL Films before their triumph in Super Bowl X, has left him scarred. If he had to overcome harsh criticism why can’t others?? Therefore he subjects others to it even though he still rails against his treatment in Pittsburgh.

Even filming Chuck Noll- A Football Life Bradshaw said on camera he wished Noll had dealt him away and didn’t like playing for him. So now he says Mike Tomlin is a cheerleader as a coach which begs to question which is it? Should the coach be driving and demanding like Chuck Noll as he had instead?? The same coach he didn’t attend his funeral and still speaks ill of their professional time together?? Does he feel as though Tomlin isn’t authoritative enough as a disciplinarian in his tenure in Pittsburgh? What fuels the criticism??

When Tomlin fired back “But what do I know? I grew up a Dallas fan. Particularly a ‘Hollywood’ Henderson fan.” A complete dig at Bradshaw in a tongue in cheek way. You’ll remember right before Super Bowl XIII Henderson was quoted “Bradshaw is so dumb he couldn’t spell cat if you spotted him the “c” and the “a”… prompting a funny response from Henderson: hollywood

The entire episode really illustrates what is before Coach Tomlin. I agree with Bradshaw in the fact that he is not a great head coach at this point. However 1 more Super Bowl appearance and he’ll become the 13th coach to have his team play for it all 3 times dating back to 1950. A 2nd Super Bowl win and he’ll become the 11th coach in the last 50 years to do so. Seven of which are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Bill Belichick will be the instant he is eligible. Not to mention the first black coach to do so.

Much like Bradshaw in his day he needs that 2nd championship to make the sporting press and critics cite him as great. His teams have evolved from the run first, defensive stalwart he inherited from Bill Cowher to a team that relies on its flamboyant passing attack with dynamic receivers and timely defense.

Hmmmm… isn’t that what happened with Bradshaw’s first two championship teams which leaned on Franco Harris & Rocky Bleier and one of the greatest defenses ever?? Bradshaw matured & had 300 yard passing games as the Steelers won Super Bowls XIII & XIV?? He ironically was the NFL’s MVP in ’78 and MVP of both those Super Bowls. Yet he emerged from being the Trent Dilfer of his day when he stood in and threw the 64 yard clinching score to Lynn Swann cementing his 2nd championship back in Super Bowl X.

The more you study the situation there is more to parallel their marches than meets the eye. Is a Super Bowl between Pittsburgh and Dallas looming in a little over a month?? Coach Mike Tomlin, the playoffs start in 2 weeks…. your mission should you choose to accept it…

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2016 AFC Predictions

As the 2016 NFL season is about to kickoff we need to gaze into the crystal ball and see who will make it to Super Bowl LI. The very first impulse is to look in on the defending champions. However when you’re replacing a retired legend at quarterback there has to be a void in the leadership and make-up of the Denver Broncos. Its one of the reasons Taylor Blitz picked the Oakland Raiders to win the AFC West.

For the 1st time in more than a decade true optimism has hit the AFC East with Tom Brady’s 4 game suspension. Will he come back rested or rusty as he can’t practice with the team either?? The league will get a brief view of what life will be like without Brady as Jimmy Garoppolo heads under center. He has a Sunday Night opening date on the road in Arizona, then 3 home games as Belichick will dial back the game plan to keep his reads manageable.

Brady should return to guide the Patriots to an AFC East championship with a 10-6 record. The last division title for the Bill Belichick / Tom Brady era.

NFL: Preseason-Green Bay Packers at Pittsburgh SteelersAFC North Champs: Pittsburgh Steelers 11-5**

AFC South Champs: Houston Texans 10-6

AFC East Champs: New England Patriots 10-6

AFC West Champs: Oakland Raiders 10-6

Wildcards – Cincinnati Bengals, Jacksonville Jaguars

The team to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LI in Houston Texas?? The Pittsburgh Steelers

Head Coach Mike Tomlin has the most explosive player at WR in Antonio Brown and RB with LeVeon Bell. Ben Roethlisberger will make his 4th trip to the Super Bowl this February and his grit will see Pittsburgh through the first 3 games while Bell serves a suspension.

One of the hallmarks of the Steelers will have to return to make the trip to Houston, and that’s defense. They don’t have to be Blitzburgh or The Steel Curtain II. If they can rise from the NFL’s 22nd ranked unit to a top 15 defense that can come up with timely stops, they will be in Houston.

The Chancellor & Super Bowl LI Trophy at the Hall of Fame.

The Chancellor & Super Bowl LI Trophy at the Hall of Fame.

Who do you have in the AFC??

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