Familiar Face Headed Back to Dome

The Vikings had only one season with Mike Tomlin as their defensive coordinator, but he made a quick impression. See what Tomlin, E.J Henderson and others had to say about his time in Minnesota, as the former defensive coordinator prepares to head back to Minnesota for Saturday's game.

Mike Tomlin's stay in Minnesota was about as brief as it gets for NFL coaches. In his case, that was a good thing – a quick ascension up the NFL ranks, going from a young position coach to a young head coach in the span of three years.

On Saturday, Tomlin will enter the Metrodome as head coach of the Steelers and stare across the field at his old team. The Vikings were Tomlin's middle step up the ladder, their defensive coordinator in 2006, but he quickly made an impact, personally and professionally.

"Mike T. was a good dude, man. More like an uncle than a defensive coordinator," linebacker E.J. Henderson said. "He taught me a lot about football, just how to approach football, Xs and Os. My little bit of career that I've had, he was definitely a big influence."

With two new linebackers – Napoleon Harris in the middle and Ben Leber on the strong side – during Tomlin's one-year stint as defensive coordinator in 2006, he installed the Tampa-2 defensive scheme he brought with him from the Buccaneers when he was their defensive backs coach.

"The first year was tough, but after that it was pretty much just terminology," Henderson said. "Les (Frazier, the Vikings' current defensive coordinator) came in here and runs pretty much the same thing."

Brad Childress was in his first year as a head a coach in 2006 when he hired Tomlin, and it didn't take long to see how Tomlin could impress during an interview for the job.

"I just thought he was obviously a good football coach but (also) a very good communicator. I thought he had a good way about him," Childress said. "He was bright-eyed. He had a great sense of humor, a good laugh. He wasn't stiff. He was a guy that you knew related well to his players."

Tomlin made an immediate impression. The intensity level in practice turned up dramatically. He had players sprinting from sideline to sideline on every practice snap of the ball, and his motto was that his defenders should "play with their hair of fire," a favorite Tomlin saying.

One year after making a quick exit from the Vikings and becoming the surprise hire to head up the Pittsburgh Steelers' coaching staff, Tomlin is preparing to return to the Metrodome on Saturday to match wits with Childress, the man who hired the relatively unknown commodity outside of the NFL coaching fraternity in 2006.

"It's an exciting trip for me because I have some good friends there," Tomlin said of his return. "Although I wasn't there a great deal of time, it felt good to be a part of what we were building there. Thought it was going to be potentially special. I root for those guys who are close personal friends of mine. There's professionalism on Saturday night, of course, but it will be great to see them all, players and coaches and front office people."

Tomlin took over a defense that ranked 19th against the rush in 2005, giving up an average of 115 yards rushing per game, and turned it into the top run-stopping team in the league, giving up an average of 62 yards a game in 2006.

The flip side of that was that the Vikings went from 22nd in pass defense in 2005 (giving up 208 yards per game) to tied for last in 2006 (238 ypg). But if stopping the run really is the first job of a defense, Tomlin's philosophy made an immediate impact.

Henderson said Tomlin's eye for defensive detail allowed the coach to be successful in making the transition to Pittsburgh without changing their 3-4 defense.

"I think Mike T. has an awesome football mind, especially defensively. Once he gets that book in his hands, he can see the Xs and Os. He can put that together," Henderson said. "I didn't think it would be too hard for him to pick that up. With the type of system that they have and the success that they were having, I didn't think he would go out there and try to change it into a Tampa-2 defense and he didn't do that. More power to him and I think their defense played pretty well last year."

The coaches Tomlin worked with while in Minnesota said they quickly saw his potential.

"You could tell that his leadership qualities were outstanding. He was a first-class leader with the defense and everybody else respected him greatly. It's just the way he handled himself and the way he led our defense," said special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro.

Childress said Tomlin showed he could be an effective leader during his time working with the secondary in Tampa Bay before making the jump to defensive coordinator with the Vikings.

"I think any time you come in – and you know the history with him replacing Herm Edwards, with John Lynch and Ronde Barber – any time you put a young coach in a situation with kind of grizzled veterans, that's a difficult situation. You have to earn your stripes. You have to earn respect," Childress said. "You're not just a young wet-behind-the-ear rookie from Cincinnati, and I think he did that in pretty quick order and actually improved those guys. Those guys had outstanding years when he was coaching them."

That trend continued last year in Pittsburgh. The Steelers finished the 2007 season with the No. 1 overall defense with 266 yards yielded per game, including third in passing yards at 177 per game.

On Saturday, Tomlin will get a chance to see if the student can outwit the professor, even if it was just a one-year crash course with the Vikings.



Viking Update Top Stories

\r\n\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"Mike Tomlin's stay in Minnesota was about as brief as it gets for NFL coaches. In his case, that was a good thing – a quick ascension up the NFL ranks, going from a young position coach to a young head coach in the span of three years.

On Saturday, Tomlin will enter the Metrodome as head coach of the Steelers and stare across the field at his old team. The Vikings were Tomlin's middle step up the ladder, their defensive coordinator in 2006, but he quickly made an impact, personally and professionally.

\"Mike T. was a good dude, man. More like an uncle than a defensive coordinator,\" linebacker E.J. Henderson said. \"He taught me a lot about football, just how to approach football, Xs and Os. My little bit of career that I've had, he was definitely a big influence.\"

With two new linebackers – Napoleon Harris in the middle and Ben Leber on the strong side – during Tomlin's one-year stint as defensive coordinator in 2006, he installed the Tampa-2 defensive scheme he brought with him from the Buccaneers when he was their defensive backs coach.

\"The first year was tough, but after that it was pretty much just terminology,\" Henderson said. \"Les (Frazier, the Vikings' current defensive coordinator) came in here and runs pretty much the same thing.\"

Brad Childress was in his first year as a head a coach in 2006 when he hired Tomlin, and it didn't take long to see how Tomlin could impress during an interview for the job.

\"I just thought he was obviously a good football coach but (also) a very good communicator. I thought he had a good way about him,\" Childress said. \"He was bright-eyed. He had a great sense of humor, a good laugh. He wasn't stiff. He was a guy that you knew related well to his players.\"

Tomlin made an immediate impression. The intensity level in practice turned up dramatically. He had players sprinting from sideline to sideline on every practice snap of the ball, and his motto was that his defenders should \"play with their hair of fire,\" a favorite Tomlin saying.

One year after making a quick exit from the Vikings and becoming the surprise hire to head up the Pittsburgh Steelers' coaching staff, Tomlin is preparing to return to the Metrodome on Saturday to match wits with Childress, the man who hired the relatively unknown commodity outside of the NFL coaching fraternity in 2006.

\"It's an exciting trip for me because I have some good friends there,\" Tomlin said of his return. \"Although I wasn't there a great deal of time, it felt good to be a part of what we were building there. Thought it was going to be potentially special. I root for those guys who are close personal friends of mine. There's professionalism on Saturday night, of course, but it will be great to see them all, players and coaches and front office people.\"

Tomlin took over a defense that ranked 19th against the rush in 2005, giving up an average of 115 yards rushing per game, and turned it into the top run-stopping team in the league, giving up an average of 62 yards a game in 2006.

The flip side of that was that the Vikings went from 22nd in pass defense in 2005 (giving up 208 yards per game) to tied for last in 2006 (238 ypg). But if stopping the run really is the first job of a defense, Tomlin's philosophy made an immediate impact.

Henderson said Tomlin's eye for defensive detail allowed the coach to be successful in making the transition to Pittsburgh without changing their 3-4 defense.

\"I think Mike T. has an awesome football mind, especially defensively. Once he gets that book in his hands, he can see the Xs and Os. He can put that together,\" Henderson said. \"I didn't think it would be too hard for him to pick that up. With the type of system that they have and the success that they were having, I didn't think he would go out there and try to change it into a Tampa-2 defense and he didn't do that. More power to him and I think their defense played pretty well last year.\"

The coaches Tomlin worked with while in Minnesota said they quickly saw his potential.

\"You could tell that his leadership qualities were outstanding. He was a first-class leader with the defense and everybody else respected him greatly. It's just the way he handled himself and the way he led our defense,\" said special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro.

Childress said Tomlin showed he could be an effective leader during his time working with the secondary in Tampa Bay before making the jump to defensive coordinator with the Vikings.

\"I think any time you come in – and you know the history with him replacing Herm Edwards, with John Lynch and Ronde Barber – any time you put a young coach in a situation with kind of grizzled veterans, that's a difficult situation. You have to earn your stripes. You have to earn respect,\" Childress said. \"You're not just a young wet-behind-the-ear rookie from Cincinnati, and I think he did that in pretty quick order and actually improved those guys. Those guys had outstanding years when he was coaching them.\"

That trend continued last year in Pittsburgh. The Steelers finished the 2007 season with the No. 1 overall defense with 266 yards yielded per game, including third in passing yards at 177 per game.

On Saturday, Tomlin will get a chance to see if the student can outwit the professor, even if it was just a one-year crash course with the Vikings.


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