The NFL Coach of the Year Race Is Down To These 8 Guys
We're happy to announce that this list is now 100%-Jeff Fisher free!
We know, we know. Giving a Coach of the Year award to Bill Belichick is like giving a Best Actor award to Liam Neeson when at least 20 of the other nominees are Adam Sandler. But Belichick deserves credit for not only keeping his iron grip on the AFC East, but also for doing so by getting off to a 3-1 start sans Tom Brady, getting by with Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. I'm fully convinced Ryan Leaf could start in a Belichick-run offense and not only lead that team to victory, but also post at least 200 yards, a pair of scores and a passer rating over 90.
Jack Del Rio
How many times have we seen a team thateveryone falls in love with over the summer and watch them totally crash and burn and the head coach is the one who takes the fall? Heck, we saw it extremely recently, as the Jacksonville Jaguars, everyone's August darlings, not only have won just two games, but Gus Bradley paid the ultimate price. Del Rio, however, has taken his work of progress to the next level, officially putting Oakland Raiders football back on the map. The architect of Denver's defenses from 2012-14, Del Rio could very well be the favorite for leading the Raiders to the promised land for the first time since 2002-03.
Garrett could've been excused for another lost season when Tony Romo went down in the preseason, but in helping Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott get off to amazing starts in their NFL careers, Garrett has guided the Cowboys from 4-12 to the top seed in the NFC. He better send the studly Cowboys offensive lines some really good Christmas gifts this year for their efforts, but the turnaround alone ensures he must at least be part of the conversation.
I was skeptical of the Gase hiring by the Miami Dolphins. He gained a reputation as an offensive guru leading the Peyton Manning Broncos' offense, but "offensive coordinator in a Peyton Manning-run offense" is the easiest job this side of "NBA head coach with at least one superstar". Some Dolphins fans were even ready to pull the premature plug on Gase when the Dolphins looked lifeless in a 1-3 start. Instead, Gase has helped the Dolphins, namely RB Jay Ajayi, play up to their potential, and has them on the cusp of their first playoff berth since 2008-09.
Everything about the Buccaneers screamed "one year away", including Coach Koetter, who was overseeing his first head coaching job in the NFL. Under his guidance, however, Tampa Bay's young stars like Jameis Winston and Mike Evans have been able to take the next step, and the Bucs are like in contention for a playoff spot, which would be their first since the 2007-08 campaign. Credit to Tampa brass for hiring in-house, as Koetter oversaw Winston's rookie season as an offensive coordinator.
An argument could be made that the Giants' success this season has been more due to what Steve Spagnuolo has done with the defense, but the fact remains that under McAdoo, the Giants are doing something they weren't doing for years in the late stages of the Tom Coughlin era...close out late games. McAdoo has also been known to be quite the inspirational type. Prior to the team's big win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, McAdoo pumped the Giants up with the video of the human hero that punched a kangaroo in an effort to save his dog.
At 18-39 all time, including a 2-7 mark as an interim coach last year, many felt the Titans hiring Mularkey full time was a bunch of...malarkey? But instead, he has made Tennessee surprising contenders in the AFC South, locked in a dead heat with the Houston Texans. Like Koetter in Tampa Bay, the continuity Mularkey has established with the Titans' young franchise QB Marcus Mariota has been huge to the youngster's development, and his prior work as Tennessee's tight ends coach has made Delanie Walker a force to be reckoned with.
Yes, for some reason it's cool to make fun of Andy Reid, he of the time-out burning, Kool-Aid man looking and non-Super Bowl winning lore. But not for nothing, Reid's Kansas City Chiefs have been one of the most consistent teams in recent NFL history, having gone 20-4 in their last 24 regular season games. Reid also helped the Chiefs end their over two decades long playoff winless streak last year, and KC's play suggests they could be destined for even bigger things come January.
Who do you think belongs in the Coach of the Year discussion? Tweet @GeoffMags5490 and keep the conversation going
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