After what has felt like an interminably long offseason, the NFL season kicks off in less than two weeks.
In the aftermath of a wild free-agency/trade/drafting period and in the lead-up to 2019, Sportstips.com will be power-ranking the top 10 players / coaches in various positions around the league.
There’s no better way to assess where your favourite football identity sits in the NFL hierarchy than by seeing them placed amongst the best of the rest.
We continue our weekly series with the top 10 head coaches.
These rankings are purely based on one question – if we were starting an NFL team from scratch, who would we want patrolling the sidelines from the get-go?
Past record is, of course, a relevant factor, but it is not the be all and end all. We have tried – wherever possible – to use some forward thinking as well.
Enjoy! And, please, hit us up with any suggestions.
1. Bill Belichick, Patriots
Sorry, it’s just straight facts. Belichick is not only still currently far and away the best coach in the NFL, he may be one of the greatest coaches in the history of professional sport.
Sure, a generational quarterback like Tom Brady is helpful, but Brady doesn’t line up on defence. And that’s where Belichick’s true mastery is evident.
His coaching performances against the Chiefs and Rams to close out the 2019 post-season were nothing short of legendary, and rightfully will claim their place as two of the most masterful tactical displays we’ve ever seen.
6 Super Bowl wins as head coach + 2 Super Bowl wins as an assistant tells you basically all you need to know about Belichick’s place in NFL history.
2. Sean Payton, Saints
After Belichick, well… It’s fair to say this list gets a bit harder to choose.
Payton gets the nod at #2 largely because he’s shown a clear ability to adapt his coaching style as his talismanic QB slightly begins to wane. 2018 was the first of Drew Brees’ 13 seasons in New Orleans where the now 40-year-old signal-caller didn’t reach 4,000 yards passing, with the Saints evidently becoming a stronger team on both sides of the ball as a result.
If it wasn’t for one of the worst blown calls in history they would’ve played in – and quite possibly won – the Super Bowl last year, and have been desperately unlucky in previous seasons as well.
Despite those postseason “failures”, Payton still has a record better than .500 in the playoffs, has a Super Bowl ring and an overally win/loss ledger of 126-80. He’s more than worthy of his place on the pantheon.
3. Sean McVay, Rams
Generally, a 33-year-old head coach coming off a maiden Super Bowl appearance could consider themselves remarkably unlucky to fall to #3 on a list like this.
It’s just the manner of the Rams’ capitulation to Belichick’s scheme which has us slightly concerned. McVay was out-coached in every facet of the game, and showed a disturbing lack of creativity on the fly.
That takes nothing away from his already proven brilliance, though. After entering the league as a head-coach in 2017-18, McVay has led the Rams to two straight post-seasons, and transformed Jared Goff from potential bust to one of the league’s most valuable players.
Don’t underestimate that achievement.
4. Andy Reid, Chiefs
Yes, Patrick Mahomes deserves a shedload of credit for his explosion on to the NBA landscape last year, but don’t forget about Andy Reid.
Adapting his offense from the stilted, short-passing, high-percentage skillset of Alex Smith to the permanently jaw-dropping Mahomes in such a short amount of time is a remarkably underrated feat.
Last season Reid led Kansas City to their second conference championship game since 1970, and a loss in overtime to the eventual champion Patriots is a fair sign this team is on the rise.
That was Reid’s sixth trip to a conference championship – guess who the only active coach is who has more? No Super Bowl rings thus far in his career his, however, a major blemish on an otherwise excellent record.
5. Pete Carroll, Seahawks
Carroll may have a Super Bowl ring on his finger already, but arguably 2018 was the best coaching performance of his career.
Most pundits had the Seahawks finishing in the 5-11 / 6-10 range, and the fact they rallied to a tight Wildcard Round loss to the Cowboys shows how good Carroll’s coaching was.
Our only qualm with Carroll is his apparent reluctance to just unleash Russell Wilson and his preference for #establishingtherun, which, while admirably innovative, is clearly out of place in the NFL of 2019.
6. Doug Pederson, Eagles
With one Super Bowl win under his belt, and a Divisional Round performance last year – both without the services of his QB1 down the stretch – Pederson has well and truly established himself as an NFL up-and-comer.
At one point last season the Eagles looked for all money as if they were suffering a pronounced Super Bowl hangover, but were able to right the ship thanks to the leadership and Pederson. If it wasn’t for a tight loss to the Saints, there’s a better than average chance it would’ve been the Eagles rather than the Rams up against the Patriots.
Who knows what would’ve happened there. Pederson’s capacity to re-tool his offense around Nick Foles (not once, but twice) has been incredible, and he is a renowned communicator. Look out for the Eagles while he’s at the helm.
7. Matt Nagy, Bears
You don’t get named AP Coach of the Year for no reason, and Nagy certainly earned his title in 2018.
This is a pick more for the future than the present. By taking the Bears to their first postseason since 2010 – and a completely unexpected one at that – Nagy showed he’s more than capable of becoming one of the upper-echelon coaches in the league.
Sure, he’s an offensively-minded coach, and the Bears are currently built around defense, but don’t count out his impact on the development of Mitch Trubisky.
If (and it’s a big “if”) Trubisky becomes a truly great QB, this Bears team can be anything.
8. John Harbaugh, Ravens
He’s an easy coach to hate on, but Harbaugh has proven time and again that he’s capable of extracting disproportionate levels of performance from sub-par teams.
The decision midway through last year to switch QBs from Joe Flacco to Lamar Jackson was a move as bold as it was brave, and history will show it propelled the Ravens to the playoffs for the seventh time in Harbaugh’s 11 seasons in Baltimore.
It remains to be seen whether Jackson and Harbaugh can improve from last year’s breakout success but, in any case, a playoff record of 10-6 with a Super Bowl win and two AFC Championship Game losses is all the proof you should need to put some respeck on the Harbaugh name. Particularly given that Super Bowl victory came with Flacco at QB and a defense that was far from awe-inspiring.
9. Anthony Lynn, Chargers
Lynn may well be near the top of this list in a couple of seasons but, for now, we remain unconvinced.
Despite a blowout loss to the Patriots in the Divisional Round last year, 2018-19 was largely a success for the Chargers. In two years since taking the reigns, Lynn has a record of 22-12 and, really, it has to be said that outside of playoff results the Chargers have been one of the more consistent teams in the league in that span.
Lynn is renowned for his offensive acumen, and he and Phillip Rivers have a legitimate chance to be one of the most formidable QB / coach duos in the league this season. The Chargers are stacked on both sides of the ball and this really is a boom or bust kinda year – we’ll know by January whether Lynn deserves to be further up these rankings come the start of next season.
If you have your doubts about him, check out this excellent NBC interview from late last year. He speaks brilliantly.
10. Frank Reich, Colts
In the wake of Andrew Luck’s shocking retirement, the Colts have officially become the most interesting team in football.
If Reich can find a way to lead the franchise to the playoffs behind backup QB Jacoby Brissett, you can rest assured he’ll be sitting much higher on this list by the end of December.
Last year the Colts – a rabble in 2017-18 – went 10-6 in Luck’s return from the NFL and made it to the Divisional Round despite starting the year 1-5 with a QB who hadn’t thrown a ball in nearly 18 months.
This all came on the back of a baffling situation with Josh McDaniels, who apparently reneged on the head coaching role in Indy and opened the door for Reich to take over. He now gets the perfect chance to show exactly why he was such a highly-rated offensive coordinator during Philadelphia’s Super Bowl run.
And, we just like the guy. His handling of Luck’s retirement and the consequent chaos it has thrown his team in to has been exemplary.
Mike Zimmer, Vikings
Didn’t make the playoffs last year after making NFC Championship Game the year before, which is a blight on his record. Needs good QB play this year, because the run defense he has instilled is as good as any.
Mike Tomlin, Steelers
Pittsburgh are going hugely under the radar this offseason, but if Tomlin can find a way to sneak them in to the playoffs it’ll be a brilliant coaching performance with an ageing Ben Roethlisberger and no Antonio Brown or LeVeon Bell.
Dan Quinn, Falcons
Injuries decimated Atlanta last year as they crashed to their first non-playoff season since Quinn took over. A Super Bowl appearance (which should have been a win) and two other postseason trips in four years at the helm is a better-than-average result for a young coach.
Ron River, Panthers
We’ll know pretty quickly whether Cam Newton’s injury was really to blame for Carolina’s woeful 2018 season. However, you don’t win Coach of the Year twice in 5 years if you’re a chump, so we’re betting on Rivera to bounce back.
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