Ranking The NFL’s Top Coach Of The Year Candidates

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Ranking The NFL's Top Coach Of The Year Candidates

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Every year the NFL hands out an award to the best head coach in the league, and this season we have more qualified candidates than usual. Typically, there are just a few true contenders for the Coach of the Year crown by this late point in the year, but this season we have several coaches who have done an extraordinary job guiding their teams to victory.

Most years the award goes to the coach whose team most exceeds their summertime expectations. The general theory here is sound; if a team that was supposed to contend for the top pick in the draft is fighting for a playoff spot, the difference must be the coach. The players usually deserve more credit than they get when their team surprises everyone, but that is the easiest way for a head coach to walk away with the award


Most of the other contenders will be from the teams that are at the top of the standings, but they usually don’t stand a chance to take home the title. Not this year, though; this year the head coaches of the top teams aren’t just substitute teachers keeping the players in line -- they’re orchestra conductors leading a symphony.

The thing is head coaches in the NFL have more say in wins and losses than coaches in any other sport. They not only put together lineups and dish out playing time, but they have a direct effect on the in-game strategy in a way that coaches in other, more free-flowing, sports can’t have. While the Coach of the Year award can seem like a hollow honor in other sports, it really has to be earned in the NFL.

These are the top contenders for the award this year.

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8. John Fox

John Fox
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John Fox gets automatic consideration because the Denver Broncos are a top Super Bowl contender and have been the most consistently dominant team in the league during the regular season. If he wins the award it will be a hollow victory, however, because he would be contractually obligated to immediately to give it to Peyton Manning for actually coaching the team.

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7. Chip Kelly

Chip Kelly
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The Chip Kelly era was one of the most anticipated coaching stays in a long time. Kelly was supposed to revolutionize the NFL game, but instead his Philadelphia Eagles will probably end up winning the NFC East by default.

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6. Pete Carroll

Pete Carroll
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Pete Carroll is the coach of the best team in the league, so I have to include him on this list. But he's Pete Carroll, so that also means I can't rank him too high. I'm pretty sure anyone could lead the Seattle Seahawks to a first-round playoff bye with that defense and home-field advantage.

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5. Ron Rivera

Ron Rivera
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Now we're getting into the serious contenders for the award. Ron Rivera, once on the hottest of hot seats, has led the Carolina Panthers squarely into playoff contention and made them a trendy pick to be the squad that overachieves for a month and wins the title this year.

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4. Sean Payton

Sean Payton
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Sean Payton is the perfect example of how a coach can make a team appreciably better. Last year, when Payton was on a forced sabbatical from the league, the New Orleans Saints struggled mightily. Now that he's back on the sidelines the Saints are back to being title contenders.

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3. Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh
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Ever since Jim Harbaugh came to the San Francisco 49ers they've been immediate contenders. The 49ers were the perfect squad to mirror Harbaugh's tough, in-your-face style of football. You know how owners and their pets eventually start to look alike? Well, good football coaches and their teams do the same thing.

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2. Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick
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It seems like you can never have a Coach of the Year list without including Bill Belichick at this point. Whether you love him or you hate him, he's consistently one of the top coaches in the league every season. The New England Patriots were expected to barely sneak into the playoffs, and now they control their own destiny for the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

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1. Andy Reid

Andy Reid
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Andy Reid has taken the Kansas City Chiefs from the first overall pick in last year's draft to a playoff contender. He's the perfect example of how a quality head coach can immediately change the fortunes for an underachieving football team.