For Now, the NFL’s Longest-Tenured Head Coach Is Mike Tomlin

With the Steelers in the playoffs, rumors are swirling about the 51-year-old's future with Pittsburgh

Mike Tomlin of the Steelers walks off the field against the Colts.
Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season in 17 NFL campaigns.
Justin Casterline/Getty

As Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick found out on consecutive days earlier this week, Robert Frost (and Ponyboy of The Outsiders) was correct in his assessment that nothing gold can stay. Despite having won seven Super Bowls and a NCAA BCS championship between them, golden coaches Carroll, 72, and Belichick, 71, were relieved of their duties running the Seahawks and Patriots, respectively, ending the reigns of two of the longest-tenured coaches in the NFL.

Belichick, who has already been replaced as head coach of the Patriots by his former linebacker/assistant coach Jerod Mayo, was hired in New England in January of 2000 and enjoyed two decades of success running the franchise. The past four seasons (all of which were played without Tom Brady) were a bit of a slog, and after a 4-13 finish to the 2023-24 campaign, team owner Robert Kraft, 82, decided it was time to move on from the six-time Super Bowl winner after 24 years.

Carroll, who immediately preceded Belichick as the coach of the Patriots, had been Seattle’s head coach for 14 seasons and led the team to 10 postseason appearances and a win in Super Bowl XLVIII. But management decided that back-to-back 9-8 seasons were not good enough and asked him to swap his coaching duties for an advisory role. For now at least, Carroll has accepted that transition.

With those moves, along with the firing of Mike Vrabel by the Tennessee Titans, the coaching landscape in the NFL feels as if it’s shifted dramatically and, similar to what has happened at the quarterback position in the league, things just ain’t like they used to be.

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Mike Tomlin — who is hoping to lead the Steelers to an upset win over the Bills in frigid conditions in Buffalo this weekend during the first round of NFL playoffs — is now the longest-tenured head coach in the NFL. Hired by Pittsburgh in 2007 at the age of 34, Tomlin became only the third head coach hired by the Steelers since 1969. Already approaching the top 10 on the league’s all-time wins list since taking over as the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ head coach in 2007, Tomlin has never had a losing record and led the Steelers to a win in Super Bowl XLIII.

Tomlin also hasn’t won a playoff game in almost a decade (2016 season), and there is plenty of speculation that his days in Pittsburgh might be numbered — despite taking a mediocre Steelers team (10-7) that lost stud linebacker T.J. Watt to injury to the postseason. However, unlike with Belichick, Carroll and Vrabel, the choice would be Tomlin’s.

“They’re not firing Mike Tomlin. But here’s the thing that’s interesting. He’s got a year left on his contract. And there’s some people around the league who believe that Mike Tomlin could decide eventually to take some time off, like Sean Payton did,” according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. “Maybe take a year off. We’ll see if that’s something that’s on his mind. We’re leaning safe, but Mike Tomlin gets to dictate what happens here, not the Pittsburgh Steelers. They’re not firing him. He’s staying on. But he’s staying on if he wants to. If he decides that he’d like to walk, well that’s a different subject.”

Could the longest-tenured head coach in the NFL actually end his own tenure at the ripe old age of 51? It seems hard to fathom. But, then again, nothing gold can stay. If Tomlin calls it quits and bolts the Steel City, the longest-tenured head coach in the NFL will be John Harbaugh (16 seasons in Baltimore), followed by Andy Reid (11 seasons in Kansas City), Sean McDermott (seven seasons in Buffalo), Sean McVay (seven seasons in Los Angeles) and Kyle Shanahan (seven seasons in San Francisco).

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