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NFL Coach of Year Should be Quite a Race

How Quickly Things Can Change

Quick…name the 2009 AP NFL Coach of the Year? If you guessed the gentlemen pictured above, then, well, you’ve got a good memory. Yes, only a year ago Marvin Lewis garnered the award for his 2009 campaign steering the Cincinnati Bengals through a number of off-the-field tragedies (Chris Henry, Mike Zimmer’s wife, players affected by Tsunami, etc.) and to a division championship and playoff appearance. Unfortunately for Bengals fans, Marvin Lewis will clearly not be in contention for the honor this go-around. And while it will be a few weeks before the writers declare a winner, there is plenty of room for debate. So why not get started early?

If you consider Wikipedia the resident authority (which is often a requirement for this one-man-band), the AP Coach of the Year award is bestowed upon the NFL head coach who “has done the most outstanding job of working with the talent he has at his disposal.” Now, as with most subjective sports awards, one could argue ad nauseam about whether these former winners walked home with the award based on that description or simply their team’s final record. That said, let’s take that brief as gospel. If I was pondering folks to consider for this award, my own list would be lengthy. Tell me you couldn’t make a case for any of the folks below:

The Super Sophs – Spagnuolo & Haley
Call me the sucker, but in terms of comeback stories the Chiefs and Rams are pretty compelling. The Lambs, losers of 15 games last year, are a win away from making the playoffs with a rookie quarterback, a group of no-name receivers and a defense full of former Giants castoffs…oh yes, and a second-year head coach. Sure, Spagnuolo’s team is 7-8 in a putrid NFC West. But if you told me this summer that St. Louis would sniff .500 and the playoffs, I’d have had you committed.

In a not too dissimilar scenario (although with admittedly a ton of young talent), Todd Haley has engineered the greatest one-year turnaround in Kansas City Chiefs history. The Chefs have already won the division and earned a home playoff game at Arrowhead, where they are undefeated (7-0) in 2010. Haley sees your second-year success Mr. Spagnuolo and raises you…

The Silent Assassin – Smith
Like his team, you don’t hear a lot about Mike Smith. Yet, the 2008 Coach of the Year has the Falcons soaring again. Tied for the best record in football. Flawless at home. The spotlight will be on the Falcons Monday night as the Saints march into town. Meanwhile, it’d be hard to critique a vote cast for Coach Smith again in 10.

The Old Vets – Belichick and Reid
Reid and Belichick. The second and third longest-tenured sideline chiefs in the biz in New England and Philly. Each has cranked out consistent winners over a long stretch, with Belichick’s rings being the major difference. They’ve both done it again this year. In New England, they’re back on an annihilation run reminiscent of the 2007 regular season. A re-tooled defense, one of the youngest rosters in football…and, yes, Danny Woodhead, Deion Branch and Wes Welker just torturing folks. Just moving round the pieces…

For the Eagles, Reid took a giant question mark and turned it into an exclamation point. That goes for the team, his job and that position behind the center. The unknown was supposed to be just that…but at least the person was supposed to be identified…Kevin Kolb, of course. Instead, after waffling a bit, Reid made his choice and one could argue that Vick and the Eagles, if not the best, are the most dangerous team in the NFC.

Back to Glory? Lovie and Tomlin
And last but not least…what about these guys? There were whispers coming into the season that Lovie’s seat was hot. Like, piping. Toasty as toasty can be. But with seven wins in their last eight, an 11-4 mark, a division title in sight and a playing-to-potential Jay Cutler, some don’t think it’s crazy to talk about Lovie winning the award he claimed in 2005.

No, I haven’t forgotten about Mr. Tomlin either. Me? Never. Iron Mike has again simply guided the Still-ers to the postseason. Suspensions to your star quarterback? Your defensive MVP used as a posterboy for a new rule bonanza? Injuries to your studs? No matter. Tomlin’s demeanor permeates this team, and they soldier on through. You certainly wouldn’t hear anything from me if Omar snagged a few votes.

Regardless of which way you’re leaning, the race is intriguing. I’ll be interested to see who the powers-that-be deem most worthy come mid-January.


  1. Anonymous

    December 27, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    No love for the Bucs Raheem Morris? He's already tripled his wins from last season.

  2. Cecilio's Scribe

    December 27, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    big raheem fan. and a former big red coach (albeit for a year) to boot…huge supporter. i just think they've got a bit more to work with and would need to make the playoffs. think they underachieved last year and overachieved this year. still a heckuva job, and you could make a case

  3. Anonymous

    December 27, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    I'd vote for a coach that actually is bringing a bad franchise back from the dead. That team doesn't necessarily have to be going to the playoffs, but making a splash in the NFL again. Teams like the Lions, Falcons, Rams, Chiefs, Raiders. Of these teams, I'd have to go with Todd Haley, and I'm a Raider fan. How Lewis in Cincy has a job I will never understand. In 8 years he has TWO winning seasons with an overall record of 58-65. 0-2 in playoff games.

  4. Anonymous

    December 28, 2010 at 8:40 am

    Raheem Morris? HELLO how can you even put Spagnuolo in the same class? Haley yes but Spagnuolo come on man. Raheem all the way for what he has done with the Bucs.

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