America loves a juicy coaching rumor, and the combination of both USC and LSU opening up at the same time has certainly sent those rumors into overdrive.
There were the standard candidates at USC. Then at LSU. Then the next wave, as names like Mel Tucker, Dave Aranda and Luke Fickell started to pick up steam. Even a little Dabo Swinney rumor that got thrown out over the last couple days.
Still, there is a new name that is starting to pick up steam in recent days that would, quite possibly, break the coaching carousel as we know it: Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.
The news first started to make its rounds late last week, as former NFL GM Doug Whaley suggested the possibility that Tomlin could consider the college football ranks.
“Six letters for Steelers fans to be very concerned about…LSU, USC. Think about that. Both institutions can out-pay the Rooney’s. Their alumni base has enough money to give Mike Tomlin whatever he wants,” Whaley said this week on “The Fan Morning Show”.
Naturally, everyone in the media scoffed at the idea that anyone would ever leave the big, bad NFL for little old college football, but now, a second, more credible source has come out and added fuel to the fire: USC Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Carson Palmer.
First off, there's a reason we call coaching carousel season "Silly Season" so obviously all this news should be taken with a grain of salt.
At the same time, it does feel like the second report does give this rumor a bit of increased credibility.
It's not that Whaley isn't credible (he's a former NFL GM after all) but one, it feels like he kind of mentioned Tomlin's name off-hand in his comments. Palmer is asked a specific question and answers with a very specific response that includes the college route by Tomlin.
Beyond that, Palmer isn't some random media member, making the comment, but instead, a respected alum of USC. You think he isn't plugged in, at least somewhat, to the coaching search? And you think he came up with that name out of thin air? Or did he hear it, at least peripherally, from someone who is probably in the know?
Finally, there is the Tomlin angle of this, and again, NFL fans and media, will continue to argue that one of the league's most well-respected NFL coaches, isn't leaving one of the most stable franchises in pros for college.
Still, have you paid attention to the NFL this year? The AFC North is a quickly ascending division, one that includes two of the most dynamic young quarterbacks in the league (Lamar Jackson and Joe Burrow) and one of the most talented rosters in football overall in Cleveland. Pittsburgh meanwhile looks old and slow, and Ben Roethlisberger is clearly on his last legs.
Does anyone truly believe that Tomlin will be in college next year?
But if there's one thing we've learned with coaching rumors, everything gets out for a reason - and with a reported salary of around $8 million from the Steelers, it's doubtful he's looking for a raise.
Again, just keep your eyes peeled.
Where there's smoke, there's usually fire - and there's definitely smoke here.