Bill Belichick is having himself another phenomenal year on the sidelines as the head coach of the New England Patriots. They sit 10-3 with a overload of injured All-Pros, yet they are in line for an unprecedented first-round bye for the fourth year in a row. The case could be made for Belichick to win his fourth-ever NFL Coach of the Year award, but there are other candidates whom he is chasing in 2013.
A few first-year NFC coaches are having solid debut seasons. Chip Kelly of the Philadelphia Eagles has brought his Oregon-style hurry-up offense to the NFL and has seen instant success. At the moment, the Eagles are 8-5 and are emerging at just the right time, winners of five in a row. In those five wins, the offense, behind Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy, have averaged 31.6 while the defense has held opposing offenses to 18.0 points a game.
As awful as the NFC East had been early in 2013, Kelly’s Eagles have materialized as a squad teams will not want to face in January.
Bruce Arians, the 2012 NFL Coach of the Year, was coming into a usual rough setting with the Arizona Cardinals. The thing that was different about Arians’ job was he had something of a quarterback in Carson Palmer. Former coach Ken Whisenhunt was run out of Arizona because of his lack of signal-callers, but Arians, Palmer and a stellar defense have put the 8-5 Cardinals into NFL playoff picture despite playing in the grueling NFC West.
Another team fighting the Cardinals for and NFC Wild Card berth is Ron Rivera’s Carolina Panthers. “Riverboat” Ron — as Rivera has become to be known due to his knack for going for it on fourth down — has improved his record each year and now has made the Carolina defense one of the most feared in the league. Rivera’s bunch has allowed a league-low 14.5 points per game, and has the second-best defense in terms of yards per game at 296.2.
The consensus front-runner has to be Andy Reid. He has taken the Kansas City Chiefs from the worst team in the NFL to one which currently has a 10-3 record. Despite having six Pro Bowlers on last year’s 2-14 team (Eric Berry, Jamaal Charles, Dustin Colquitt, Tamba Hali, Justin Houston and Derrick Johnson), Reid has transformed the team on both sides of the ball in his first year in Kansas City, making him the leading candidate for Coach of the Year.
Bill Belichick and the Patriots may have a boatload’s worth of injuries, but Belichick has one thing that his four competitors do not: a quarterback with the pedigree and postseason experience in Tom Brady. If the Patriots were 10-3 with a quarterback not named, I am sure the voters would side will Belichick.
Except Brady and Belichick have each other, which will give him a heads-up on the January competition, easing the trip towards a Super Bowl XLVIII victory. I am sure Belichick will take a Super Bowl ring over being named Coach of the Year anyway.