The flaws in Mike Tomlin’s hostages/volunteers shtick

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Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has coined a phrase that he has publicly used at least twice regarding players who no longer wanted to play in Pittsburgh.

“We can’t do this with hostages, man. We need volunteers,” Tomlin said in the most recent iteration of a saying he used in early November 2018 regarding the then-lingering holdout of running back Le'Veon Bell. Tuesday, the hostage/volunteer shtick emerged in connection with the departure of Bell via free agent and receiver Antonio Brown via trade.

It’s catchy, that’s for sure. But it has two huge flaws of logic.

First, as an executive with another team pointed out almost immediately after Tomlin used the hostages/volunteers line on Tuesday, does this mean the Steelers will no longer be drafting players? While NFL rookies are treated much better than hostages, they definitely aren’t volunteers. They don’t get to choose where the play, and their choices consist of playing for the team that drafted them or sit the year out.

Second, literal application of Tomlin’s comments means that any player under contract to the Steelers can escape his obligations merely by making it clear that he no longer is willing to volunteer. Which would mean that the Steelers did indeed set a dangerous precedent when giving Brown what he so clearly wanted.

The reality is that the Steelers won’t stop drafting rookies and they won’t start cutting veterans who no longer want to play for the team. Which makes Tomlin’s new catchphrase meaningless. Which means he probably needs a new catchphrase.

29 responses to “The flaws in Mike Tomlin’s hostages/volunteers shtick

  1. If the NFLPA was led by Donald Fehr, we would see all incoming rookies receiving max 3 year contracts, fully gaurunteed and no tags of any kind. De Smith is a joke.

  2. Rookies aren’t hostages; that’s a ridiculous claim. They VOLUNTEER to join the National Football League, at which point their skills are allocated according to the rules of the league. Likewise, when a man or woman volunteers to join the military, they are also ASSIGNED roles/positions beyond their precise choosing. DO TELL ME WHAT THE DIFFERENCE IS.

  3. This is nitpicking. Tomlin’s point is obvious. You can’t win with people who aren’t emotionally invested in the team. It has nothing to do with the draft.

  4. Yes, drafted players volunteer to be drafted.

    Otherwise, they could sit out the Draft and try the NFL as a walk on.

    No player HAS to enter the Draft, assuming they are happy earning Undrafted Free Agent salary for the first contract.

  5. They also need a coach with a brain and some stones and who can control a team and not lose to some of the worst teams in the league.

  6. No NFL rookie is a “hostage” in any way. Their foot isn’t held to the fire nor are they made to play for the team drafting them. Eli Manning, John Elway and Bo Jackson to name a few didn’t want to play for their drafting team and they didn’t.

  7. It was just a figure of speech. Like the quote ” can’t have the inmates running the jail” it’s just comparing. I’m sure he didn’t actually mean Hostage.

  8. NFL players aren’t hostages OR volunteers, they’re employees who sign contracts to do a job for money out of their own free will.

  9. Likewise, when a man or woman volunteers to join the military, they are also assigned roles/positions beyond their precise choosing…

    – – – – – –

    Men and women in the military often don’t get to choose WHERE they go, but often do choose their specific job/skill set/role in the mission. There are some that join the military “open general”, and allow the military branches to determine their role/AFSC/MOS….but they’re generally not the brightest lot and are rolling the dice. My point, people joining the military almost always have a pretty good idea what their role is going to be once they’ve picked a MOS/AFSC prior to signing their contract. They most often come in with their specialty lined up.

  10. While it is true that one should expect members of a team to “buy in” to the team and how it runs. It is also true that the best managers tend to have an ability to successfully drive talent to “buy in” to the direction and culture of a team.

    Tomlin’s comments correctly point out that players have a role, to have the right attitude, in buying in to the team. The comments do not address whether the organization is doing as good of a job as they could be in driving good “buy in”. Both the talent and those managing the talent have roles to play in building that kind of culture.

    Whichever side the issue is on in the Steeler’s case, it is going to unnerve some fans to see multiple top players apparently pushing their way off the team.

  11. C’mon man.

    MT clearly meant that the Steelers can’t do this with volunteers who think they are or have become hostages to the team.

    Truth is you can, but you just can’t do it with the likes of LBell, and especially the likes of AB. AB took this crap to a whole ‘nother level previously not seen, making a catch phrase to mark the occasion appropriate.

  12. redsoxu571 says:
    March 27, 2019 at 10:40 pm
    Rookies aren’t hostages; that’s a ridiculous claim. They VOLUNTEER to join the National Football League, at which point their skills are allocated according to the rules of the league. Likewise, when a man or woman volunteers to join the military, they are also ASSIGNED roles/positions beyond their precise choosing. DO TELL ME WHAT THE DIFFERENCE IS.
    —-
    The difference is they don’t volunteer to play for the team that drafts them. And in context if this story that us the volunteering that’s referred to. So are you too advocating that the NFL do away with its draft for its “volunteers”?

    When men and women join the military, which is an all volunteer military by the way they get to choose the branch of the military they want to join. NFL players do not get to choose what branch (franchise) of the NFL to join. When men and women join the military they are assigned a role that suits their aptitude. However that’s no different than NFL teams assigning players a role (position) that suits their aptitude. If the player was an athletic QB in college that can’t throw well maybe their new role is now wide receiver. In any case Florio is correct. If a player wants to play in the NFL he will be subject to a draft and be placed with one of the 32 branches of the NFL who will then assign them their role. If a person wants to join the military that person will CHOOSE the branch they want to join and then will be assigned their role.

  13. Which team sport with a national following that pays well doesn’t have a draft?
    Individual sport, like tennis, aren’t team sports.
    NBA, MLB, NHL, NFL – all have drafts. You enter the draft, play for a while then can go free agent.
    Team sports wouldn’t work without a draft.

  14. All Coach Cliché was trying to say is that you can’t field a team of people who don’t want to play for you and feel like hostages. Eli held the chargers hostage when he refused to play for them. You definitely have the option of NOT being drafted. If you don’t want to volunteer to play for the NFL, don’t, nobody can stop you. Many players retire early when they realize it isn’t for them.

  15. therealraider says:
    March 27, 2019 at 10:35 pm
    If the NFLPA was led by Donald Fehr, we would see all incoming rookies receiving max 3 year contracts, fully gaurunteed and no tags of any kind. De Smith is a joke.

    26 31 Rate This

    ————————

    no, you wouldn’t

    the nfl is littered with moron kids who blow through their money, leaving the union with no leverage

    fehr inherited leverage by the players who helped build mlb, starting with curt flood

  16. Antonio Brown changed over time and the Steelers got rid of him just in time. You lose production, yes, but is it worth the headache week after week no. Let is be the raiders problem. Give it time and Brown will be causing distractions there. As far as bell, he’s all about money. Need team players not guys who are worried about guaranteed money. I blame Tomlin for not keeping these guys under control.

  17. The Steelers offered LeVeon Bell a fair contract and he wanted more, so the team used the tool granted through the CBA – the franchise Tag – to pay Bell a fair (and high) salary. Bell was not mis treated.

  18. This is what happens whenever you evaluate what Tomlin says. You realize it’s a meaningless slogan with no depth and little value. But it sounds cool and makes a good soundbite.

    That sums up his coaching career.

  19. The flaws in the attempting to analyze the flaws in a so-called shtick:
    1. Rookies are hostages: you can poke holes in any statement when you taken it out of context. Context is 2 players who failed to show up for work.
    2. Literal interpretations are for the courts, not for interviews. When you labeled it a shtick, did you literally mean his comedy routine, special talent, or interview style?

  20. Tomlin is trying to rationalize the awful mess he allowed to happen when he chose Little Ben over everyone else. This QB is a tragedy that will bring the Steelers to ruin. They guy has had one disappointing season after another and things are only getting worse. Is there any other QB in the league who is so disliked by his teammates that star RBs and WRs won’t even play for him? No. He’s a disaster. They ought to fire him for that deliberate fumble anyway. He’s a traitor.

  21. Mike Tomlin has the most wins in the NFL in the last six years except for Belichick. That’s second out of 32 teams. Give the guy some respect.

  22. Unsurprisingly, context and nuance are foreign concepts to some PFT scribes..

    They do however, never fail to jump on an opportunity to take a smug, veiled snipe
    at the Steelers coach. A veteran coach who has been a bit too successful,
    and too bright for the liking of some of his many detractors.

  23. Or a more colorful way of saying ‘we want guys who want to be here and don’t want guys who want to leave/escape.’

  24. I am perplexed by the supposed confusion surrounding this… Tomlin means the team needs to operate with players that want to be in pittsburgh and help the team win, not players who want to leave and are sitting out/forcing themselves off the team.

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