“Since The Day I Left Here”

August 15th, 2023

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When the Bucs tabbed Mike Tomlin to oversee their secondary in 2001, he had no idea he’d be working with two future Hall of Famers.

The head coach of the Steelers returned to Raymond James Stadium Friday evening, a week after celebrating Rondé Barber’s enshrinement weekend. It was Tomlin who gleefully draped a gold jacket across Barber’s shoulders on a stage at the Canton Civic Center as a crowd of more than 4,000 roared in approval.

Mike Tomlin talks to Ira.

John Lynch was also on hand for the Gold Jacket dinner as Tomlin sat proudly at a table with Barber’s family. It takes a lot for Tomlin to excuse himself from Pittsburgh’s training camp, but he wasn’t about to miss this opportunity.

Not a chance.

I sought Tomlin out after the preseason game and asked him what it was like seeing Barber and Lynch enter the Hall within the past three Canton classes.

“I don’t know that I can put into words what Rondé means to me,” he said. “We came together at an awesome age and we’re probably grateful for each other. I know I enjoyed the challenge of coaching somebody as smart and competitive and productive as him. I never wanted to let him down, I never wanted to let Lynch down. Together, we ate and fed our families and had a good time.”

Tomlin was only 28 when Tony Dungy hired him to replace Herm Edwards, who had just been named head coach of the Jets. Barber was 24 while Lynch was six months older than Tomlin. B

arber welcomed Tomlin to One Buc Place by promptly tying for the league lead with 10 interceptions.

It all came together the next season as the Bucs featured one of the most suffocating pass defenses in NFL history en route to a championship. Tampa Bay boasted a Top 10 scoring defense for all five of Tomlin’s years as secondary coach, but when he left to become Minnesota’s defensive coordinator in 2006, the Bucs plunged from 11-5 to 4-12 and dropped from No. 8 to No. 21 in points allowed.

It didn’t take long for Tomlin to recognize he was coaching star quality in Tampa. Tomlin has such ultimate respect for Lynch and Barber that he utilizes their techniques, instincts and smarts as teaching examples for his current Steelers.

“Would I ever talk to my guys about them? Continually, since the day I left here,” he says. “And it has less to do about talent and more to do about approach. The mindset of those guys, the preparation, the process they went through, what they were willing to do — that’s the story to tell. That translates in all circumstances.”

Led by four Hall of Famers, the Bucs had a very stout defense before Tomlin arrived. He helped take that unit to another level, leaning on Barber and Lynch to serve as models for the rest of Tampa Bay’s defensive backs.

Watching Tomlin’s emotional response on stage with Barber, the deep bond between teacher and pupil was evident.

To have Lynch in the house made it even more gratifying.

Who knows? If Tomlin can lead the Steelers to a second championship, he may be fitted for a gold jacket himself one day. And should Tomlin join them in the Hall, you can bet Barber and Lynch will be in Canton to honor a former position coach who demanded greatness from two driven disciples.

“They’re the product, we’re the source,” says Tomlin. “As coaches, it’s our job to serve them. I take pride in that and I’m honored to be associated with those special people.”

16 Responses to ““Since The Day I Left Here””

  1. Jack Burton Mercer Says:

    Great coach. Wish we had gotten him back somewhere along the way.

  2. Allen Lofton Says:

    Better yet, we should never have let him leave Tampa.

  3. D-Rok Says:

    I have always admired Coach Tomlin from afar. He’s a class act and has been for decades.

  4. Joseph C Simmons Says:

    I think Tomlin is a shoo-in for the HOF. Maybe not first ballot, but he’ll definitely get in.

  5. zzbuc Says:

    Great coach, great person……Nothing but the best to M Tomlin, except when they play de Bucs…

    Great article Sage…

  6. SufferingSince76 Says:

    What is it about Pittsburgh that they only hire quality head coaches?

  7. rrsrq Says:

    I am sure the Bucs wanted to keep Tomlin, but Monte Kiffin was not going anywhere, but when he did, that is why the tabbed Raheem, because I think he was Tomlin’s understudy, but to young to take on a HC position without really going through the process as a DC, though he worked wonders that second year. Coach T, is a guy that I have really silently rooted for

  8. SlyPirate Says:

    rrsrq … you nailed it.

    Tomlin is the reason they made Raheem HC but it was too early for him. Raheem should get another shot as HC. Comparing his stint to the next three HC, Raheem did really well with the Bucs. They gave up a little too soon.

  9. kyle Says:

    d-rok^^^ 100% agree

  10. buccanstopit Says:

    Raheem’s biggest downfall was he wanted to be one of the guys and hang out with players outside of being their head coach.

  11. Destinjohnny Says:

    Steelers have always drafted well and given him great players
    But with that he is a hof coach

  12. buccs99 Says:

    buccanstopit Says:
    August 15th, 2023 at 12:42 pm
    Raheem’s biggest downfall was he wanted to be one of the guys and hang out with players outside of being their head coach.

    Agreed. Caring guy, loves the game and is smart as hell…but i spent a lot of time around him during his tenure at spots around tampa bay. Outgoing, friendly, and liked to enjoy life too. I dont think the demand of a head coach was in him. Might be why he hasnt had another shot at it. takes a certain kind of person.

  13. unbelievable Says:

    Interesting… so Mike Tomlin, a super bowl winning coach (was the youngest at the time), who has also NEVER had a losing season record in over 15 years as a head coach, still talks to his players about the greatness of guys like Ronde and John Lynch.

    But Todd Bowles says nah, players can’t relate cuz they’d have to google them…

    Gee, I wonder which coach probably knows best?

  14. TF Says:

    Mike Tomlin is one of the greatest coaches ever. Think about it, he has coached 16 years and NEVER has had a losing season. He is a HOFer RIGHT NOW off that stat alone and you throw in a Lombardi to boot.

  15. Just Saying Says:

    @ Unbelievable, I had the exact same thought.

  16. garro Says:

    Good one Ira.

    Makes me wonder if Tomlin would ever consider a return to Tampa.

    Go Bucs!