Power Rankings: 12 Head Coaches Competing In the 2014 NFL Playoffs
Grading the NFL Head Coaches Who Made the Playoffs
With the 2013 NFL season now finally finished, it is clear that the top teams in the league have distanced themselves from the worst, and by extension the best players from the worse. An entire season of action tends to do that, and in the grueling and elongated process that is a football season there is no doubting that the best talents separate themselves on a week by week basis from those who show up at the start of the season or for one week throughout.
And while players that will line up in the payoffs such as Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Tamba Hali and Robert Mathis can change the track of single games and put up great numbers, it is clear that a single player is often not the most important person in their organization. The person that usually takes the cake on that front is the head coach of every team in the NFL, although they rarely get the credit for the job being done.
There are many reasons why head coaches in the NFL do not get the credit when things go right, whether it be the fact they do not pick up passing yards, interceptions, sacks, or really anything besides wins or losses. Maybe it is because they often seem to be unlovable, mean and angry figures, who are more in the mold of grumpy old men than football geniuses.
Whatever the reason is for this though, there is no doubting that head coaches in the NFL deserve much more press and praise than they receive. These are guys who get up every single day at the crack of dawn to draw up game plans, draft plans, and generally think about what is going to be happening with their team, not only today but in the long-term future.
In an effort to give these coaches some praise, and by a large extent decipher the best from the worst, I have provided a power ranking of the 12 head coaches who will advance to the 2014 NFL Playoffs. When composing the list I took into consideration past success, tenure on the job, and results during the current season, and then weighed each factor together.
Thank you for reading, and feel free to give feedback on any reactions or disagreements you may have.
12. Mike McCoy - San Diego Chargers
In recent years the San Diego Chargers were a supremely average team, which was highlighted by the fact that they finished 9-7, 8-8 and 7-9 from 2010-12. When Mike McCoy took over as head coach after the 2012 season many felt this average production would be changing, but a 9-7 record in 2013 shows this was not the case. Throughout the current season the Chargers were very streaky, and liable to break down on both offense and defense at any time. The fact that they made the playoffs is laudable, but also something to be criticized after it appears they only made it because of a missed call at the end of their final game. Guiding an average team to average results is not very impressive, and as a result McCoy sits at the bottom of the 2014 NFL Playoffs head coaching power rankings.
11. Ron Rivera - Carolina Panthers
During his first two years in charge of the Carolina Panthers it was clear that Ron Rivera had the team on the right track defensively, but the offense was an entirely different animal. Repeatedly in 2011 and 2012, the Panthers were hurt by quarterback Cam Newton, and Rivera had no real answer to fix this. During the current season, Newton has found a way to get it done when things count, and I feel that rookie offensive coordinator Mike Shula deserves much more credit for this than Rivera. Sure, he led the Panthers to the playoffs with a 12-4 record, but I do not see Rivera as the type of coach that perennially makes it to the playoffs and wins.
10. John Fox - Denver Broncos
John Fox has long been a average head coach, and despite three straight playoff appearances with the Denver Broncos this has not changed. For the past two years Fox has largely been aided by Peyton Manning playing at quarterback, and by extension serving as the head of the offense. Since Manning arrived the Broncos have compiled a 26-6 regular season record, and you can count me among those who believe the quarterback deserves much more credit for this than Fox.
9. Marvin Lewis -Cincinnati Bengals
Throughout the eleven year reign that Marvin Lewis has had with the Cincinnati Bengals the team has repeatedly been a playoff contender, but they always seem to falter when things count the most. The Bengals have made the playoffs four times under Lewis and lost in the first round all four times, which makes the current season a sort of make or break for the perception of the head coach. With talents such as Giovani Bernard, A.J. Green, and Andy Dalton on board, there is no reason why the Bengals should not take down any team they face, but it is hard to believe that will actually happen based on past years. Whether or not it is right, Lewis is the reason to blame for this lack of confidence.
8. Chip Kelly - Philadelphia Eagles
The 2013 season was Chip Kelly's first with the Philadelphia Eagles and by all accounts the season has been a resounding success. From overcoming the controversy around Riley Cooper to implementing the spread offense and establishing a defensive philosophy, Kelly has done it all. A 10-6 record and NFC East championship have indicated that the head coach can succeed in the NFL, and it appears the only way to go is up after picking up a 7-1 second half record. Still, after only succeeding for one year, it is a bit early to anoint Kelly above some more experienced, and successful, head coaches.
7. Mike McCarthy - Green Bay Packers
Mike McCarthy has often been overshadowed by quarterbacks Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers during his time as the Green Bay Packers head coach, but there is no doubting he has done a very good job as well. Since taking over in 2006 he has compiled a 82-45-1 record, made the playoffs six out of eight years, won the Super Bowl in 2010, and possibly most impressive of all, he has dealt with Favre going out and Rodgers becoming the starting quarterback. Of course McCarthy has not been a perfect coach, as his defenses have often been lackluster and offensive line issues have persisted throughout the years, but he ranks as a top notch coach in my book.
6. Chuck Pagano - Indianapolis Colts
Chuck Pagano has done a wonderful job as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, helping lead the team from a 2-14 record in 2011 to two successive playoff appearances. Many people have accredited this success to quarterback Andrew Luck--who came in with Pagano to replace Peyton Manning-- and others will discredit the coach for not being on the sidelines for the entire 2012 season, but I am not among those detractors. Pagano has established a belief in Indianapolis that no matter what happens, the team will be prepared to win on Sundays; they have done just that. Expect the head coach to continue climbing the ranks of top coaches in the future, which would be significantly boosted by a Super Bowl win in 2014.
5. Sean Payton - New Orleans Saints
For many years there were doubts about whether Sean Payton should be given responsibility for the New Orleans Saints finally becoming a successful football team. After Payton was forced to sit out the 2012 season because of "Bounty Gate"-- and the Saints went 7-9 -- these beliefs dissipated, and faith in the head coach is surely at an all-time high. During the 2013 season New Orleans compiled a 11-5 record, figured out that defense was important to winning and they now look like a genuine Super Bowl contender. Nobody can take the credit for this turnaround besides Payton, and it is clear that he is one of the best in the business today.
4. Pete Carroll - Seattle Seahawks
When Pete Carroll became the Seattle Seahawks head coach after the 2009 season few people believed he would succeed, in large part due to previously failing as the head of the New York Jets and New England Patriots. Clearly the third time has been a charm though, as Carroll has brought Seattle from a laughingstock to powerhouse status. In four years as head coach he has led the Seahawks to a 38-26 record, three playoff appearances and a locker room transformation. Seattle now boasts the most talented roster in the NFL, and there is no doubting that Carroll's fun loving and energetic management style is the reason why.
3. Jim Harbaugh - San Francisco 49ers
Jim Harbaugh may only be in his third year as a head coach in the NFL, but what a three years it has been. After taking over as San Francisco 49ers head coach after the team finished 6-10 in the 2010 season he led a transformation, both on the field and off. From the moment Harbaugh took over the 49ers, they embraced his tough persona, not backing down to any player or team. They have brought in the talent to actually be this tough. The result has been three straight playoffs appearances, one Super Bowl appearance, and a first round matchup against the Green Bay Packers.
2. Andy Reid - Kansas City Chiefs
For many years now Andy Reid has gotten a bad rap as a head coach, in large part due to never having won the Super Bowl. Throughout his 15 year coaching career with the Philadelphia Eagles and now the Kansas City Chiefs he has compiled a very impressive 141-98-1 record. The current season was Reid's first with the Chiefs, and he led the team to a 11-5 record after they finished 2-14 in 2012 with largely the same cast of players. Of course they did add quarterback Alex Smith during the last offseason, but the biggest move was undoubtedly Reid. The head coach is simply a great manager of people, and is the second best coach in the 2014 NFL playoffs.
1. Bill Belichick - New England Patriots
There is absolutely no doubting that Bill Belichick is not only the best coach in the playoffs, but in the entire NFL today. Since becoming the New England Patriots he has compiled a 163-61 record, made the playoffs eleven out of 14 seasons and won three Super Bowls. During this time he has continuously built around quarterback Tom Brady, in the process interchanging offensive and defensive players to massive success. In 2013 this has played out to the tune of a 12-4 record, AFC East championship and first round bye, despite losing tight end Aaron Hernandez prior to the season and Rob Gronkowski midway through 2013. Suffice to say, Belichick is the ultimate tactician and is the favorite in any matchup of head coaches.