After a winless start to the season, the Washington Redskins fired head coach Jay Gruden. Assistant head coach and offensive line coach Bill Callahan will temporarily lead the team but, with little else to look forward to in Washington, all eyes are turning towards the team’s coaching search.
Over the past couple of days, a list of candidates has emerged, with one name standing out: Mike Tomlin. But would the Pittsburgh Steelers coach really throw in the towel and to move to Washington, D.C.?
The Washington Redskins’ recent struggles
Despite their success in the 1970s and 1980s, the Washington Redskins have struggled since in the 21st Century. Since the year 2000, they’ve only made the playoffs four times; three of those appearances ended in the Wild Card game, and one lasted into the Divisional round.
Jay Gruden took over the head coaching role in 2014 but didn’t turn things around. He did lead Washington into the postseason in 2015, but even that appearance has become a sour memory. The successful Redskins offense was led by Sean McVay, who would depart for a head coaching job with the Los Angeles Rams.
All in all, Gruden finished his time in Washington with a 35-49-1record. While he didn’t lift the team to the next level, the entire franchise’s flaws shouldn’t fall on his shoulders.
Mike Tomlin’s time with the Pittsburg Steelers
After a few seasons as the defensive coordinator for the Tampa Buccaneers and Minnesota Vikings, Mike Tomlin became the sixteenth head coach in Pittsburgh Steelers history. While his inexperience—along with the fact that he was replacing Bill Cowher—raised some eyebrows, Tomlin quickly silenced the critics.
After leading the Steelers to the Wild Card game during his first season in charge, Tomlin lifted the Lombardi Trophy during his second year on the job; he was also named the 2008 NFL Coach of the Year. He would return to the Super Bowl and lose two years later. Playoff success would continue, albeit more sporadically.
After his second Super Bowl appearance, Tomlin has made the playoffs in five out of nine seasons. His Steelers have lost in the Wild Card game twice, the Divisional Round twice, and the AFC Championship game once. Performances have fallen off in the past two seasons, however, suggesting that the coach’s message may be turning stale.
Could Tomlin be traded to Washington?
Since Tomlin’s contract with the Steelers runs through 2021, with an option for one additional season, the head coach would have to be traded to the Washington Redskins. Pittsburgh would presumably ask for a hefty haul in return. In 2002, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sent the Oakland Raiders four draft picks and $8 million for head coach John Gruden, so there’s some precedent for the deal.
Pittsburgh would presumably demand a massive overpayment, however. The franchise famously values stability; they’re unlikely to simply flip their head coach if there’s any other way to turn their season around. Tomlin may have struggled in recent years, but it’s hard to imagine the Rooney family running him out of town on a rail, especially during a season blighted by quarterback injuries.
Given the state of the Redskins, it’s unlikely any marquee candidate will be beating down the door to FedEx Field to demand the job. But, in the NFL, stranger things have definitely happened.