They were calling us and saying we were dishonest. Our integrity means more than anything to us. It means more than anything.
Did you offer Russ the job?
No. Talk to Art. He'll be out here in a minute.
What do you like about this guy that you hired?
I think he's terrific. He's a good man. He's able to handle things. He has a lot of enthusiasm. I think he'll do a fine job.
You've never worried about a young guy being in over his head.
No. Hey, the last two guys, one of them had really just turned 35 and Bill Cowher had just turned 34.
How important was it to find a guy who could bring in his own style while respecting what you guys have and the infrastructure that is already here?
I think he answered that question. They'll work it out. We have personnel here, so you just can't come in and change everything right off the bat. I think that's what he said.
Can you win the Super Bowl next year with this guy?
He said we could.
But what are your feelings?
I hope we do. We always look for that. He's right on that. Every year when we go to camp we figure we're going to go for the Super Bowl. We're going to try to win our division first.
With respect to his age and his perceived lack of experience, people around the NFL feel he must have bowled you over in the interview process?
He was very good. He was very good. I don't use words like bowl over.
There's a perception too that the Rooney Rule played a part in this. Did you get any pressure from the commissioner's office?
Not at all. We were choosing the best guy available. The Rooney Rule is very good. You have two guys in the Super Bowl right now. I'm not saying that either one of them is only there because of the Rooney Rule, but the Rooney Rule's intention is to get people with ability interviews.
Word leaked out on this Saturday before this was done, did that put any pressure on you?
No. We said all along that we were going to follow a process and the process was what was going to come.
We tried to put together candidates who fit the mold of the kind of coach we were looking for. Obviously you put that list together early and talk about different guys and see how they might fit. You talk to them. The first interview was very impressive to the point that you want to take another look at him, which we did. Then we made a decision that he was going to be the guy.
Did you have to go through a lot of people that had worked with him?
You try to research as much as you can. You try to do your own reading, but you also want to contact people who have been in contact with or worked with him in the past. We interviewed a lot of people, Mr. Rooney and myself, that had been in contact with him. We got a lot of recommendations that were good.
How flexible is your roster to do things different than how you've been doing them?
Like coach said in the interview, I don't think he's locked into doing one thing right now. He's going to look at the players we have and see how they fit into what they're doing currently, and how he and his coaches want to progress. And then we'll see how we can add to it with current personnel or maybe future personnel through free agency and the draft.
What the concern with Roethlisberger? He's had the same coach, QB coach, coordinator in his first three years. Two of those guys are already gone. It will be a change in his environment. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
I think that all remains to be seen. A new coach with a fresh start, he'll form his own opinions going forward.
How difficult was it to make a decision between him and Russ?
I think, again, we want to talk about Mike today. It was obvious when we made the choice that we were all very comfortable and we're happy he's here.
Do you think you need some continuity with the coaching staff?
That's obviously the coach's decision. He has the freedom to do with his staff whatever he feels the need be. It makes some sense to have some continuity, but again, that's his discretion.
Does your job change at all with what you do with a new coach?
No, I'm going to approach it the same way. We talked about how we do things and our approach to it. Mike's comfortable with that. Of course, as we go through it and learn what we like and what we need to do, I'm open. I'm open to ideas. We all have to learn and grow. I think, again, the core values are there. We have the same values. It's just a matter of going through the process one year and figuring out what we like and what we don't like and what's going to best serve us in the future.
ART ROONEY II
Is there a concern that his philosophies clash with the talent in place?
Style I don't think was ever an issue. We were comfortable with his style. If the question is about his 4-3 defense, I think we had a lot of discussion about that. We did not put any condition on ‘we don't want you do come here if you're not going to play a 3-4.' We did talk about the difficulty or challenge of converting from 3-4 to 4-3 and how quickly that can be done, if we were going to do it. So we had those kinds of discussions but we didn't put any conditions on him playing a certain kind of defense when he comes here. I think we were satisfied that he'll be able to figure out what kind of defense we should play and that'll be his decision.
How do you make the switch? Free agency, the draft, down the road?
I think if you look at some of the defensive packages that we've played over the years, we've played with four down linemen in a lot of games for a lot of plays. If you made a decision to convert to it on a permanent basis then you'd probably have to spend two years re-doing your personnel. But there's something to be said for the fact we've played four down linemen on a lof of plays, and doing more of that is probably something he'll look at.
Did you suggest that he keep Dick LeBeau?
We told Mike that the staff was his decision. We told him he had to have that final decision. We think that's the way it should be, but we also told him that we think it's a good staff and we would recommend that he consider everybody on the staff. Certainly Dick LeBeau was somebody we felt he should strongly consider. He never had any doubt that he did want to consider Dick strongly, so that one was almost automatic from day one.
What are your expectations going to be compared to what you might've been looking at in past hires?
I'll say this much: Thinking about when Bill [Cowher] took over, we felt like we had the nucleus of a good football team. We said that to Bill and I think Bill agreed that it was not a reconstruction project. And as we know Bill came in and won right away. I think we feel we're in a similar situation. We have a good core group of players and we're only a year away from winning a Super Bowl, and really if you look at the last few years this team's won a lot of football games. We think we have a team that can win immediately and I think Mike agrees with that.
Are you concerned about his lack of experience?
It's something we thought about and talked about. When Bill Cowher was 34 years old you had those kinds of questions, but the bottom line is you satisfy yourself that this is somebody that can come in and be successful right away as well as be successful in the long haul, and I think Mike had all of those pieces that we were comfortable with.
What set him apart?
One of the things that set him apart was his character, his personality. The more we talked to him the more comfortable we got with him. I think you just think, is this a person that can get up in front of a team and get his message across. We felt good about that.
Did you feel pressured from anyone to follow through on the Rooney Rule?
No, there was absolutely no pressure like that. We knew we were going to comply with the Rooney Rule from Day One, in terms of our initial list and it was just a question at that point of picking who we thought would be the best coach.
Did he surprise you that he came out of nowhere and blew everybody else away?
I hate to make comparisons again to Bill, but there were some similarities. I remember looking at the first list when we were starting the search when Bill became our coach, and it's fair to say when we looked at the guy who was 34 years old, we said, well, this guy's down the list. I think it's fair to say Mike was probably in that category in terms of our initial discussions. He probably was a long shot when we began our discussions.
Why didn't you wait to interview Ron Rivera?
After we had done the second interviews this past week, we felt like we were comfortable going ahead and picking one of those two guys [Tomlin and Russ Grimm] and we pretty much felt like we were not going to wait. It was going to be difficult to wait that long. Once we sort of got comfortable that those two were going to be the finalists, we decided we were going to move ahead and make a decision.
Had the Bears lost, would you have talked to Rivera?
No. We really decided that we were going to hire somebody this weekend is what it came down to.
With the age and being down the list, did Cowher and Tomlin both become the guy in any similar ways?
No, I don't think so. The similarity is kind of where they started. It was a different process as things moved on.
How did Tomlin jump from long shot to the first interview?
Well, he's a very impressive young guy. I mean, when you get in the room and spend two or three hours with Mike, I think you come away feeling like this is a special person. As I said before, the main thing to think about is when this guy's standing up in front of your team, is he going to be able to get his message across? That more than any one thing maybe is what sort of convinced us that this was the guy.
Doesn't it have to be a feel thing?
You go through all the other things obviously. I mean, Tony Dungy giving you a high recommendation counts a lot; Brad Childress giving you a high recommendation counts a lot. It's all of those things, but in the end you have to have a feel that this is the right guy for your team.
Have you talked to any of the players since you made your decision?
I've only talked to a couple this morning. They were downstairs working out and they all seemed to be kind of excited about it.
Did you consider how this would affect Ben Roethlisberger?
When you have what you think is a franchise quarterback, you think about it. We thought about other positions on the team and how a defensive coach would handle the offense, so, yeah, we talked about all those things and obviously we got comfortable that Mike would be able to handle all of those situations.