In 2001, Tony Dungy hired Cincinnati Bearcats defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin to serve in the same position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A year later, the Bucs fired Dungy, but Tomlin was retained by Jon Gruden, who led the team to the 2002 Super Bowl.
Nearly 20 years later, Tomlin and Gruden will be facing off as head coaches for the first time since 2018. The Pittsburgh Steelers host the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday afternoon. Both teams are 1-0 to start the season.
Tomlin spent four seasons on Gruden’s staff, before taking over as the Minnesota Vikings’ defensive coordinator in 2006. A year later, he was named the head coach of the Steelers. It makes sense that Gruden was a big influence on his development as a head coach
“Gru has no fear,” Tomlin said, when asked about what he’s learned from his former boss, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He doesn’t. He looks at a problem and sees it as an opportunity. You can’t fake that. It’s every day for him.”
— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) September 14, 2021
Tomlin indicates that he and Gruden are wired that same way. He does think that his time in Tampa helped him “hone” that energy as a coach.
“I probably already had that mentality, but he helped me hone it as a vocation, as a coach. His can-do approach, the positive energy he consistently brings to whatever challenge the job presents helped me and helped me in a big way as a coach when I worked for him as a young guy.”
As a head coach, Mike Tomlin is 0-1 against Jon Gruden, with the Steelers falling to the then-Oakland Raiders 24-21 late in the 2018 season. Ben Roethlisberger was a near-perfect 25-for-29 for 282 yards and two scores, both to JuJu Smith-Schuster, who had eight catches for 130 yards. The team couldn’t get anything going on the ground though, and Derek Carr threw for 322 yards and two scores, leading Gruden’s team to a tight win.