Terry Bradshaw, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Hall of Fame quarterback and Fox analyst, hasn’t warmed to Mike Tomlin since calling the coach “a great cheerleader guy” two seasons ago.
That comment set off a spicy little give-and-take between the two men, and now, if anything, Bradshaw feels stronger, his criticism buoyed by the Steelers’ loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in an AFC semifinal last January.
“I played for a tough sucker, and I was afraid of him, and we played our [butts] off for him because we feared him,” Bradshaw said in an interview on Pittsburgh’s 97.3 The Fan, referring to Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll. “I don’t see that with this guy. He’s chest bumping and all that. I’m the head of the corporation, I’m the CEO, I’m the chairman of the board, I’m talking to the stockholders telling them here’s how we’re gonna do at the end of the quarter. I’m selling this thing, and I’m not delivering the goods, which is championships. You’ve got to face the criticism.
“I’m sorry, but he’s not my kind of coach,” Bradshaw said. “I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again.”
The issue for Bradshaw comes down to Super Bowls. Tomlin has been to two in 11 years as the team’s coach, winning once.
“Mike Tomlin is winning football games, but at the same time, Super Bowls are disappearing, and that’s my criticism,” Bradshaw said. “How can you have this great offense and you being a defensive guy, and I think that football team should have been in another Super Bowl or two. How could they not be? And to lose at home to Jacksonville? I don’t care how good of a run Jacksonville is on. I don’t care how Jacksonville played New England in the championship game. You don’t lose 45-42. Are you kidding me? In a championship game?”
That’s a theme Bradshaw sounded late in the 2016 season in an interview with Fox Sports 1’s “Speak for Yourself.”
“I don’t think he’s a great coach at all. He’s a nice coach,” said Bradshaw, who won four Super Bowls under Noll in the 1970s and ’80s. “To me, I’ve said this, he’s really a great cheerleader guy. I don’t know what he does. I don’t think he is a great coach at all. His name never even pops in my mind when we think about great coaches in the NFL.”
Bradshaw’s ideal coach isn’t Noll, for whom he admitted respect if not affection. It’s Bill Cowher, who took the Steelers to two Super Bowls, winning one.
“I have more identity with Cowher than I do Tomlin,” Bradshaw said. “His teams were tough. Tomlin came in from Minnesota [where he had been a defensive coordinator] and I didn’t know anything about him, so maybe it’s unfair for me to make the comparison.”
Tomlin in 2016 became the eighth NFL coach to win at least 100 games in his first 10 years on the job, and he didn’t let that past criticism slide, responding with a sly dig about an old comment about Bradshaw.
He said the adjective “great” should be reserved for elite coaches like Bill Belichick and Gregg Popovich. “The rest of us are just working stiffs, to be quite honest with you,” Tomlin said at the time. “That being said, terms like ‘cheerleader guy,’ to me, maybe fall outside the bounds of critique or criticism. They probably fall more to the area of disrespect or unprofessional, but what do I know? I grew up a Dallas fan. Particularly a Hollywood Henderson fan.”
That would be the same Hollywood Henderson who, in one of the all-time great sports spats, famously said that Bradshaw was so dumb “he couldn’t spell ‘cat’ if you spotted him the ‘c’ and the ‘a.’”
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