On luck, the benefits of adversity, rules
Throughout the 2009 NFL season, Coach Mike Tomlin will provide his insight and observations to Steelers.com on a variety of topics pertaining to the team and the National Football League.
Q. As the head coach, can you ever acknowledge the role that luck plays in winning games in the National Football League?
A. I'm not a luck guy, and I've never been a luck guy. I think hard work and opportunity meet and produce favorable outcomes. I truly believe that. I believe that the fortunate ones are fortunate because opportunities present themselves and they are prepared to take advantage of it.
Q. So on a play like the one in Chicago, where James Harrison hustles and pops the ball out and it bounces directly to Greg Olsen, you don't look at that as luck?
A. I don't. I can't. When you're in a position of leadership, you have to be accountability oriented, you have to be preparation oriented. The acknowledgement of the existence of something like luck or a lucky bounce is not conducive to doing what I need to be doing or being in the mind-set I need to be in.
Q. When the coaching staff puts in a plan for a particular opponent, how much is based on what your team can do vs. how much is based on what the particular opponent wants to do?
A. I couldn't necessarily put a concrete percentage on it on a weekly basis, but I will say that both are legitimate factors, and in some weeks what we're capable of doing, of course, is paramount. In those cases, usually it's due to our limitations. In other weeks, what teams are capable of is more significant if the other team is capable of doing legitimate damage.
Q. Is it part of the natural growing process for every team to go through a period when the coaches are learning what the players can do and adapting to that?
A. It absolutely is, but that's something all 32 teams go through. From that standpoint, the playing field is level. The trick is to make discoveries quickly and to win in the process.
Q. How much can you care about individual players, in terms of nurturing them or incorporating things into the game plan to help them be successful, or is it more a situation where everyone is asked to fit into a unit and make it successful?
A. I think that caring about players individually is a big part of it for me, but it does not supercede the good of the whole. So, I do everything in my power to accommodate, to nurture, to help individuals grow within what we're trying to do. But when it's going in conflict in terms of the betterment or the good of the group, then of course the group is going to win.
Q. Based on the position alone, the quarterback obviously would be someone to whom you would be more willing to cater?
A. Absolutely, because he's a guy who touches the football on every offensive snap, and that's conducive to winning.
Q. So then, you evaluate the individual and the position he plays before determining to what degree you're willing to accommodate an individual?
Q. Is it possible for a group of players who make up a team to need some adversity before they can come together and play to their capabilities?
A. As much as we hate to acknowledge it, I think that adversity is absolutely necessary for success. My perception of adversity might be different than other people's perception of adversity. Adversity is not always losing. Adversity is just that – we need to be faced with obstacles along this journey, particularly when you're talking about the collaborative work of 53 men and a coaching staff. That's the way you get to know one another, that's the way you get to establish roles, that's the way you get to step up and deliver for one another. All of that is a big part of developing a championship mentality.
Q. Recently, Jacksonville Coach Jack Del Rio made his quarterback, David Garrard, cancel his Friday night radio show because he felt it wasn't contributing to winning. Do you believe in rules for guys when they are away from this facility, besides those for basic conduct?
A. I do, but I don't base those rules or opinions on winning or losing.
Q. What is the point of having those kinds of rules?
A. The point is to do things that are conducive to winning, and it's not necessarily what you do that's directly related to winning or losing, but sometimes things you do might create a distraction, which is not conducive to winning. It's not necessarily the act. It might just be the atmosphere that the act creates.