INDIANAPOLIS -- While the coach he beat in Super Bowl XLIII just received a new contract that doubled his income, Mike Tomlin is still without a new deal from the Steelers.
Like Tomlin, Arizona's Ken Whisenhunt had led the Cardinals to two playoff appearances and a Super Bowl berth in his first three seasons as coach. And, like Tomlin, he had a year plus an option remaining on the original contract he signed in 2007.
But, Thursday, the Cardinals surprised Whisenhunt with a new four-year contract with a fifth-year option that will pay him between $5.5 million and $6 million annually and give him more control over roster and staff decisions.
And Tomlin, who has a 34-19 career record and an all-important Super Bowl trophy, still waits.
"It wasn't an issue with me," Whisenhunt was saying Saturday in the hallway at Lucas Oil Stadium, taking a break from the NFL Scouting Combine. "It never has been. I was very honored that they would consider that. Obviously, it's something you want because it does, on a level, serve as recognition of doing a good job, and for that I'm very grateful. Who wouldn't want a new contract?"
Historically, the Steelers have always extended the contract of their coach when he had two years remaining on the deal. But history also has shown that the extension has typically come in the spring or summer months leading up to training camp.
It is not known if the Steelers have discussed a new deal with Tomlin, who declined Saturday to talk about the subject. Team president Art Rooney II also will not comment on the matter.
Nonetheless, the new deal given to Whisenhunt, a former Steelers assistant who was bypassed for Tomlin as Bill Cowher's replacement, points up the salary climate for head coaches in the National Football League. Especially for those who have had success just three years after taking over their new team.
"Ken has done a magnificent job for us and, in many respects, that is as an understatement," Cardinals general manager Rod Graves said inside Lucas Oil Stadium. "He's a pleasure to work with. We've had a chance to know him in ways others don't. We respect the leadership qualities, we respect the type of program and infrastructure he's worked hard to put in place with our team and [team president] Michael Bidwell understood that.
"We knew that it was important to maintain the stability and continuity in our program, and Ken has been a tremendous part of that."
Indeed, Whisenhunt took over one of the worst franchises in NFL history -- the Cardinals had not won a playoff game since 1947 and had not been in the postseason since 1998 -- and changed their culture quicker than anyone imagined anybody could.
In his second year, the Cardinals won the NFC West, posted two surprising road victories and took the franchise to its first Super Bowl, where they lost to the Steelers on Santonio Holmes' touchdown catch with 35 seconds remaining.
This year, unlike the Steelers, he was able to repeat as division champ and win a playoff game before being ousted in the postseason by the New Orleans Saints.
"If you look at an organization like Pittsburgh, where you lose a Bill Cowher and the next coach comes in and a lot of elements were in place that allowed it to continue and be successful, certainly that would be attractive to a head coach," Whisenhunt said. "And they went on and won a Super Bowl. There were a lot of questions about Arizona that have been answered, with the new stadium, could they win if they had a plan. And I think we've showed that to a degree."
He has the new contract to prove it.
Gerry Dulac: firstname.lastname@example.org . First Published February 28, 2010 5:00 AM