Coach of the year is a multi-horse race

Getty Images

As the storm clouds gather for the coaches who won’t be coaches a week from now, the sun is eventually going to shine on one of the coaches whose teams outperformed preseason expectations.

Ultimately, preseason expectations drive everything. From high bars to low bars and every peg in between, coaches are judged based on what we generally expected their teams to do. When it comes to coach of the year, the question becomes which coach took his team the farthest beyond what anyone thought he would?

The candidates for 2017 include, in no particular order, the following men:

Doug Pederson, Eagles: From fourth place in the NFC East a year ago to, as soon as Monday night, the No. 1 seed in the conference. Who legitimately expected the Eagles to win the NFC East? Few did, and the team’s rise not just to the top of the division but the top of the NFC makes Pederson a prime candidate for the honor.

Mike Zimmer, Vikings: A disastrous 2016 had a here-we-go-again vibe early, with the mysterious post-Week One knee injury to quarterback Sam Bradford and the Week Four ACL tear suffered by talented rookie Dalvin Cook. A loss in that same game to the Lions dropped the Vikings to 2-2. Since then, they’ve gone 10-1. And Zimmer has done it in a season after having more than a half-dozen eye surgeries.

Doug Marrone, Jaguars: The pieces were generally there a year ago, but the performance definitely wasn’t. This year, an unlikely AFC South crown and a still-lingering shot at a bye justifies consideration for Marrone. Cutting against his candidacy is the lingering presence of, as defensive lineman Malik Jackson referred to him during Friday’s PFT Live, “Coach Coughlin.”

Bill Belichick, Patriots: Another year, another 12-win season. Another No. 1 seed. Another run looming for the Super Bowl. The greatest coach of all time deserves consideration for the annual honor, especially given the glaring evidence provided eight days ago, in a head to head game against the Steelers, about the value of a stubborn adherence to and respect for situational football. Even if he’s not the coach of the year, he’s the coach any team should want, in every year.

Sean Payton, Saints: Three straight years of 7-9 quickly has become a balanced offense and balanced roster that likely will win the division — and that could perform well on the road in the postseason. Payton deserves credit for resolving the Adrian Peterson situation and realizing that Alvin Kamara had the skills as a rookie to carry a significant workload.

Ron Rivera, Panthers: From managing Cam Newton‘s shoulder injury to finding a way to balance Newton as a runner and a thrower, Rivera has presided over a turnaround that has the Panthers still alive for a division title, and very much in the hunt for a Super Bowl appearance.

Sean McVay, Rams: Recent wins at Seattle and Tennessee have rocketed McVay to the top of the list for many, and for good reason. In his first year, McVay has taken a 4-12 roster and turned it into something special. The fact that he’s doing it at the age of 31 could be the tiebreaker for plenty of voters.

Pete Carroll, Seahawks: Racked by injuries and lingering roster weaknesses, Carroll nevertheless has his team in striking distance for a playoff berth. If they make it, he deserves to be at least mentioned.

John Harbaugh, Ravens: A litany of injuries and chronic offensive struggles made it hard to pile up wins early. But they kept chugging and overachieving and could end up with a playoff berth — to the dismay of teams like New England and Pittsburgh.

Others who merit mention in this article, albeit not their own blurb, are Steelers coach Mike Tomlin (the final moments of the Patriots loss killed his candidacy), Chiefs coach Andy Reid (the midseason swoon will keep voters from saying “Oh yeah!” to Big Red), Chargers coach Anthony Lynn (an 0-4 start kept many from noticing what came next), Falcons coach Dan Quinn (Atlanta hasn’t cratered after last year’s horrific Super Bowl defeat), and Bills coach Sean McDermott (he’s turned around the culture quickly, but the quarterback shuffle sent the season off the rails).

The hay won’t be fully in the barn until next Sunday. How the final six seeds play out in each conference will be a major factor regarding how these coaches end up getting recognized the night before the Super Bowl as the best coach of the year. And they all hope that they’ll be unable to attend the ceremony in person.

78 responses to “Coach of the year is a multi-horse race

  1. GMs draft well and sign good players = the coach is a genius

    GMs draft poorly and sign scrubs = the coach stinks and needs to be fired

    Anti-Coach of the Year = Jeff Fisher. Look at how the QBs who played under him do when no longer under him

  2. Slide Pete Carroll down because the culture’s coming apart.

    Move Anthony Lynn up because he recovered from the 0-4 start

    Give the award to Ron Rivera because he’s also dealing with a change at GM and at owner but my Panthers just keep pounding.

  3. Really going out on a limb… You mentioned every coach in the league who is in the playoffs.

    Coming from a Viking fan-Zimmer’s done a great job, but he had a foundation—The choice is clear: Sean McVay. Goff showed nothing last year and Fisher had that team mired in mediocrity. Good for him

  4. Mike Zimmer hands down.

    To play with your 3rd string QB, lose your star RB, and completely turn this offense around in 1 season.

  5. .
    Going into the season I did not think the Eagles, Vikings, Jags, Saints, Panthers or Rams to be legitimate Super Bowl threats. All of them exceeded expectations.

  6. Sean McVery should be a unanimous choice if for no other reason than his ability to clear out the stench of the Fisher era in just a few games.

  7. McVay should get it based on the quick turnaround from last year. He’s young but was able to assemble a very good coaching staff. Shows that he’s willing to learn from those who know how to prepare a team week in and week out.

  8. Hands down the coach of the Los Angeles Raider.

    No one else did what he did this year. There is a big difference taking your own pile of dung and making something out of it – you know what you had. This coach from the Rams took a team that had perfected losing and had an offense that could not get out of its own locker room.

    There is no other logical choice.

  9. Doug Marone. That team he’s coaching is scrappy, tough, and doesn’t like losing. Giving it to anyone else would devalue the purpose of coach of the year.

  10. Doubtful that Mike McCarthy will get fired, but he might get a set of Glengarry Glen Ross steak knives.

  11. There are some great candidates, but I’d love to see Mike Zimmer get the recognition for what he’s done. The Vikings have been a very good team over the last three years (last season was derailed by injuries after a 5-0 start). You hear so much about coaches changing the culture of a franchise and he’s certainly done that in Minnesota. Again, though, there are some very good candidates this season and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

  12. Bill B never wins because no one(or very few) pay attention to the details that he focuses on. Detail, details, and more details. System QB and coach OR NOT, He makes the system work with whoever he has to work it with. No coach has ever taken so many variations of a team and consistently won – no coach ever. He truly is a genius(diabolical or not). He should be recognized with the hardware. GOAT!!!

  13. Pederson has done more than McVey. Mcvey had a good team with an awful coach. Pederson took over a decent team and made them great. All this after losing his MLB and LT.

  14. Carroll and Harbaugh are the only two on this list I do not find deserving – especially Harbaugh.

    Everyone else has a solid argument to make for them.

  15. What about Jack Del Rio?! JK. He only took what was a high octane offense and sabotage it by firing Bill Musgrave. What was supposed to be a Super Bowl contending team is instead a team that is collapsing… In all seriousness. Sean McVay hands down. Look no further than Jared Goff’s development.

  16. You could swap Belichick onto any of these teams and they would immediately get even better. Only coach who could do it.

  17. Sean McVay seems to me to have done the best job this season, with Pedersen and Zimmer right behind. I’m not particularly impressed with any of the others.

  18. Belichick has won at least 12 games for 8 years in a row. Should be coach of the year every year. When he retires, they will name the award after him. He has also only one it once in those 8 years. Because he has high expectations, he shouldn’t be penalized.

  19. Not even a close race…come on everyone knows it’s McVay in a landslide…look what he’s done to that team

  20. There is only 4 guys who should be in the running. Pederson, Zimmer, Marrone, and McVay. And in all honesty, any single one of those guys are deserving of it.

    My only thing is, are the jags a fluke, and going to be a one year surprise, only to fall off next year?

    Rams are young, have very good defense, and the offense pretty much speaks for itself. The gm made some in season trades to help even more.

    Pederson, has a very good young QB, who will lead them to the playoffs for a long time, and only now Pederson will be tested, in how he gets the team to play with foles after losing Wentz.

    Zim, well two years in a row lost starting QB, and starting RB. And way more injuries in 2016.

    All 4 are deserving!

  21. walker1191 says:
    December 25, 2017 at 9:57 am
    Sean McVery should be a unanimous choice if for no other reason than his ability to clear out the stench of the Fisher era in just a few games.


    Jeff Fisher will then quickly claim that McVay’s award should be his.

  22. The Patriots and Steelers are NOT worried about the Ravens. They are licking their chops at the prospect of playing Check Down Joe and that sieve like defence. The Ravens’ best wins came against the Packers and Lions. Feasting in bottom dwelling teams, and barely so, doesn’t make you a contender. Just makes you the 2017 version of past pretenders lie the Texans.

  23. Doug Pederson he lost Sproles, Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks his starting QB if the Eagles win the NFC and get homefield advantage then it should be him.

  24. steves11 says:
    December 25, 2017 at 11:03 am
    Let’s see how Belichick does when he no longer has Tom Brady.

    The Pats went 11-5 in 2008 without Tom Brady. Missed the playoffs in a crazy year where an 11 win team could miss the playoffs.
    The Pats went 3-1 last season without Tom Brady.

    The good news for the rest of the league is that Belichick has said he does not want to be Marv Levy, so that seems to indicate he will retire before he turns 70, which only gives him 3-4 more seasons.

  25. For the same reason as McVea, Doug Pederson should be a unanimous choice if for no other reason than his ability to clear out the stench of the Chip Kelly era.

  26. McVay should win in a landslide.

    A year ago, the Rams looked like one of the worst teams in football and Goff looked like he didn’t belong on the field. Now look at them. They are arguably a top-5 team in this season’s watered-down NFL.

    And this is a new staff this season. It’s not like they’ve been around for years looking to change the culture. They did it in one offseason.

  27. Carroll? No way. He has promoted cheating and defended his players acting like goons over the years. He is in no way deserving of such an honor…especially when his team was favored to win the division and might not even make the playoffs

  28. All “Homerism” aside, take a look at the QBs on all the other considered coaches have to work with. I think they are all #1 on their rosters. Zimm gets this or it’s a travesty!

    But alas, there’s just too much jealousy & ENVY out there for that to happen….. so he’ll go unrecognized YET AGAIN & some one year media driven poster boy will win it…..
    Kind of like the league MVP award not going to Brady as much as deserved…..
    Merry Christmas…..GOD KNOWS…. that’s why they keep going to SuperBowls…. works for me!!!

  30. All the Patriots fans calling for B.B. to get it are for the first time in a number of years, wrong. This is supposed to be the coach of the year, not the decade. What he’s done the last 17 years has been incredible, but he has a team with TOM BRADY that has the same record as a team with Case Keenum.

    I think Zimmer should win this, but I can see why McVay is getting a lot of attention. But personally I think being able to scheme better than Jeff Fisher isn’t enough to earn a COTY nod. The next man up mentality in Minnesota is more impressive, and their team is better. If philly somehow loses these next two games and Vikings end up with home field throughout the playoffs, including the Super Bowl, then it’s a no brainer

  31. Doug Marrone should be a shoe-in. He turned the exact same roster Gus Bradley won 14 games with through 4 years into a division winning 10+ win team! How is this even a contest???

  32. Huge Seahawks fan, but Sean McVay definitely deserves this award. He took a team that has largely been irrelevant for multiple seasons and coached them to an NFC West championship. Looking forward to a long rivalry with LA.

  33. Plenty of deserving candidates but it’s hard to look past what Marrone & McVay have done with their teams. They basically took teams that have struggled for years and turned them around with pretty much the same personnel they had failed with in previous years, they were the difference. As for Belichick, he is a victim of his own past success when it comes to COTY voting.

  34. There is no world where Bill Belichick will win this award. Those that vote on such things believe he is recognized just fine with his division championships, conference championship appearances, conference championship victories and super bowl championships to reward him with a coach of the year award. He will never win that award again.

  35. I dont know how this realistically would be anyone else but Pederson if the Eagles end up on top of the NFC….especially after losing Wentz.

  36. McVay is leading an incredible turnaround. However, the Rams have a roster full of top 10 picks including a QB taken 1st overall, a WR drafted 4th overall and a RB drafted 10th overall. It took incredibly inept coaching out of Jeff Fisher to ruin a roster full of premium talent. Meanwhile, Mike Zimmer has a Vikings team headed for 13 wins with undrafted Case Keenum at them helm throwing to undrafted Adam Thielen, 5th round Stefon Diggs and 6th round Latavius Murray at RB. He lost his starting QB and RB for the 2nd year in a row and barely blinked. 99 times out of 100 you lose your starting QB and RB in the first month of the season and you aren’t making the playoffs let alone be in play for the top seed. The Vikings at 13 wins is nothing short of remarkable.

  37. it’s either pederson or McVay, McVay turned around an average at best franchise and pederson has done a fantastic job of keeping the train rolling with all the injuries…Zimmer belongs in that conversation as well

  38. if Marvin Lewis gets fired he wins. You have any idea how hard he’s worked to get fired?

    If that’s the criteria, Hue Jackson by a landslide!

  39. McVay is most likely to win the coach of the year but in reality Jeff Fisher had no clue how to run that team. McVay has super star talent all around that organization that hasn’t been used for years. I’m talking about multiple first round picks for like 4 years in a row that are finally showing what a good coach can do.

    That said, it should be Douggy P that wins it. Why ? Show me a team that has handled injuries as well as the Eagles?
    Lost QB (wentz)
    Lost RB (strokes)
    Lost LF (Peters)
    Lost MIddle linebacker
    Had a game w/out a kicker
    Lost Cb -Darby for most of the season

    Js – this team may have projected to do well but that’s some adversary

  40. idislikespeciousness says:
    December 25, 2017 at 2:16 pm
    Belichick should never win the award. The award should be named after him.


    The NFL learned its lesson in naming the SB trophy the Lombardi.

  41. Everyone saying Mcvay but in reality these people don’t know anything. The Rams were stacked with talent. Pederson deserves it. Lost a bunch of pro bowl caliber players due to injuries and just kept in winning. #1 seed in NFC for God sakes.

    Pederson in a landslide.

  42. I don’t believe BB cares one way or another if he ever wins the COTY award . The only thing he cares about is WINNING . You can keep all your awards and you know where you can put them .

  43. tylawspick6 says:

    why does bb never win gm or coach of the year? it is absolutely ridiculous how jealous people are

    Well my friend, maybe if he put his secret video camera away & didn’t look he just sucked on a lemon when confronting (very briefly) the media after a loss, he would get some votes. No one likes a sore loser & he most definitely is one.

  44. Sean Payton……complete turn around in NOLA is well deserving. Since its a yearly award… if it were any other team but the Saints he would be considered. NOLA is the NFLs red headed step child. From “bounty gate” to placing falcon fans as refs in a Saints/Falcons game… it’s ridiculous.

  45. McVay and Zimmer are both deserving this year, but when I heard Patriots 12 win season is their 8th in a row, Belichick is the coach of the 21st century without question. That is impressive.

  46. vikingjim60 says:
    December 25, 2017 at 9:44 am
    Really going out on a limb… You mentioned every coach in the league who is in the playoffs.

    Coming from a Viking fan-Zimmer’s done a great job, but he had a foundation—The choice is clear: Sean McVay. Goff showed nothing last year and Fisher had that team mired in mediocrity. Good for him


    Wait what? Zimmer built the foundation for the current team. McVay is the one whose foundation was already built.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.