Hall of Fame Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw has generated plenty of attention for his criticism of current Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. Steelers players didn’t like it, and Tomlin said that Bradshaw’s reference to the Super Bowl-winning coach as a “cheerleader guy . . . probably fall more toward the area of disrespect and unprofessional.”
Bradshaw, on one hand, is entitled to have an opinion and to deliver it in frank and candid fashion. Others are likewise entitled to have an opinion about Bradshaw’s opinion.
And I’m entitled to broaden the lens a bit and ask this question: When is the last time in the past 15 years that Bradshaw has said anything remotely insightful about the NFL? He rarely if ever articulates theories or ideas that provoke thought or serve as the launching point for a meaningful discussion.
That’s not really his role. He’s a personality. A storyteller. Gregarious, funny, affable, entertaining, and (typically) non-threatening. He’s that kooky, unfiltered uncle who can’t get a sentence out without tripping over his tongue and who routinely blurts out all sorts of incomprehensible nonsense when trying to read highlights.
And he’s fine with that. Bradshaw knows his role, and he gladly embraces the profit potential of being football’s version of Sonny Bono — a lovable, unpolished rube who can mask substantive deficiencies, absence of preparation, and lack of attention to detail with an “aw shucks” and a belly laugh.
That’s what makes his biting criticism of Tomlin even more bizarre. It’s not like Bradshaw to take aim with that kind of over-the-top specificity. Because he so rarely does it, it seems mean and personal on those rare occasions when it happens.
As many have pointed out since Bradshaw’s assault emerged four days ago, Tomlin’s track record speaks for itself. While in this day and age there always will be someone who will agree with any theory no matter how inaccurate it may be, there hasn’t been a groundswell of voices yelling “second” in response to Bradshaw’s assessment.
That serves only to underscore how strange the situation was and still is. Whatever the reasoning and motivation, Bradshaw swung and missed so badly on this one that it has prompted a long-overdue assessment of what he actually brings to the table, beyond comic relief.