Monday, April 11, 2011

10 comments ESPN Decided to Rank The Top 10 NFL Head Coaches

Before I get to the ESPN ranking of the Top 10 NFL head coaches, I thought I would mention the title of this article Ken Rosenthal wrote for last week when the Red Sox started the year off 0-6. It is titled, "MLB fans should not panic about the Red Sox this early in the season." Apparently the link was titled by someone other than Ken Rosenthal because his article is titled, "It's too early to panic, Red Sox fans." So Ken Rosenthal is worried about Red Sox fans being depressed, but Fox Sports is worried all of baseball will be negatively harmed by the Red Sox slow start.

Regardless, the people at don't want just Red Sox fans to not panic, but MLB FANS should not panic either. I, for one, was terribly concerned about the Red Sox record because as we all learned from Bill Simmons last summer if the Red Sox aren't a good team then that means nobody else cares about MLB as a whole either. I have not slept much since the season began because the idea of a non-competitive Red Sox team is such a difficult thought to bear for me. If the Red Sox aren't any good, I would probably just give up on baseball, and most likely life, all together. The Red Sox set the fortunes for the entire season for MLB fans all over the globe. Masses are huddled by their television, just hoping the Red Sox win games and are relevant so they can go on loving baseball in America.

So I hope the Red Sox continue to win games so I can start watching the Atlanta Braves games again and not constantly be checking the Internet to see if I can enjoy the game I am watching or not based on the result of the Red Sox game. End my panic quickly, please.

Now on to the article for today. ESPN has decided out of boredom apparently to have their NFL bloggers list the Top 10 coaches in the NFL right now. It is the early part of April, the perfect time to rank the best coaches in the NFL. What gets me is that out of the 8 guys who give their opinion a total of 13 coaches got votes. This isn't a poll of the Top 5 coaches in the NFL, but the Top 10 coaches, and only 13 coaches got votes? Are the top coaches in the NFL really that easy to pick out? Apparently so.

Here's the Top 10, followed by the comments and finally (of course) my criticism of the choices.

What a definitive list I tell you. Guess who came in 13th on this list with TWO votes? Jim Caldwell. I wouldn't let him coach my Madden team.

Belichick wasn't the only coach voted on with conviction. Head coaches are the fifth installment of our Power Rankings series, and the 13 combined nominees from our ballots were the lowest number of nominees so far. Our panel nominated 17 tight ends, 17 pass-rushers, 16 wide receivers and 15 running backs.

I just can't believe 13 guys only got votes. No Raheem Morris?

There are certain coaches who have never coached in the NFL who should never get a vote. This is Ron Rivera, Pat Shurmur, Mike Munchak, and Jim Harbaugh. Apparently the guys at The Big Lead were so impressed with the mere hiring of Jim Harbaugh, they ranked him as the 9th best coach in the NFL. With all due respect, that's ridiculous. You can't even rank him until he coaches a game. How do you rank him as a coach in the NFL when he hasn't done anything but smile pretty at a press conference and have the sports media fawn over him?

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was second in the Power Rankings, and the lowest he rated was sixth on NFC West blogger Mike Sando's ballot. The minus-4 differential from Sando -- not a substantial disparity at all -- was the largest negative margin relative to final placement in the entire process.

West Coast Bias!

What this tells me is that I am either (a) a complete moron who doesn't see the 10 best coaches in the NFL is an easy list to compile, (b) there was a tremendous amount of groupthink, or (c) these coaches weren't really ranked on their current coaching ability. I find it hard to believe out of 10 spots available there are only 13 coaches who fill those spots.

"I favored coaches that walked into tough situations, won relatively quickly and then sustained the improvement over more than one season," Sando said in a statement issued through an NFC West blog spokesman.

So Mike Tomlin taking his team to two Super Bowls in his four years as a head coach isn't impressive because the team was already good before he got there? In the NFL, success in one season doesn't translate as well to success the next season. Just ask many of the Super Bowl participants from the last 10 years.

"We should view the success Bill Cowher enjoyed in a similar context. Both worked for an outstanding organization."

Ok, I can agree with this comment. That's a better reason for ranking Tomlin lower.

To be honest, I actually considered putting Cowher on my ballot just for the heck of it. But I opted against getting cute.

You "actually" considered doing this? But you "literally" didn't do it? Actually, this would literally be inaccurate since Bill Cowher hasn't coached in the NFL in five years. It would not be cute to do this, but incredibly inaccurate. You may as well put Bill Walsh in the rankings while you are at it.

(I hate the use of "actually" for emphasis and how the word "literally" doesn't mean literally to some people. These people who say things like, "My heart was literally pounding outside my chest," are mentally deficient. You would be dead if that happened. Literally means this actually happened, it is not to be used as a cute way of providing emphasis on how you WANTED to feel, but on what happened in reality.

We ranked Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid third, and he was listed no lower than fifth -- on AFC West blogger Bill Williamson's and mine -- on anyone's ballot.

Somewhere 60% of Philadelphia Eagles fans started screaming at the computer.

"Consistency is very important for head coaches, and Smith has more non-playoff seasons than playoff seasons," Walker said.

This from a guy who ranked Mike McCarthy 4th in his rankings (3 of 5 years has made the playoffs, never had two winning seasons back-to-back until last year), Sean Payton 5th (3 of 5 years has made the playoffs, never had two winning seasons back-to-back until last year), and Tom Coughlin 6th (hasn't made the playoffs in two years). Still, these coaches deserve more consideration than Walker's next coach on the list. Mike Shanahan is 7th (hasn't had a team make the playoffs since 2005, though he has been consistent in his team's ability to have a sub- or near-.500 record) on Walker's list. There's no reason for this.

At least these three other coaches above Shanahan have made the playoffs more often than they haven't, so perhaps they are consistent at this present time. Mike Shanahan doesn't meet any of Walker's criteria. He has made the playoffs 7 of the 16 seasons he has coached.

Clearly, Walker only wants coaches who are the most consistent at this current time, unless they used to be a good coach in which case they are grandfathered into the list for some reason.

"Smith seems to be on the hot seat every other year in Chicago,

Because a head coach's ability should be judged by the fan's knee-jerk opinion of him.

and he missed the playoffs three consecutive times from 2007 through '09. Despite a good run last year, Smith is a pedestrian 34-30 since '07."

Mike Shanahan's record (7th on Walker's list) since 2007?

21-27. This impresses Walker apparently.

Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith came in ninth. He didn't appear on NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert's ballot because Smith hasn't won a playoff game yet.

But hey, Ken Whisenhunt's ability to go 5-11, and never have a better record than 10-6, in a weak NFC West impressed Seifert enough to put him 10th on his ballot. Who cares about 2 playoff appearances in a 3 year span in a tougher division?

Seifert swore it had little to do with that Falcons school bus commercial that gets played incessantly on NFL Network. Three other panelists omitted Smith, too.

The three other panelists who omitted Smith put the following coaches on their ballot instead:

Ken Whisenhunt (3), Mike Shanahan (3) and Jim Caldwell (1)

Because apparently a 33-15 record as a head coach is no match for being above average in a weak division, being a good coach 10 years ago, and being fucking clueless.

Eight teams have new coaches for 2011, ostensibly reducing the number of Power Rankings candidates to 24 from the jump.

Some of the "new" coaches have coached in the NFL before, so they could theoretically be ranked somewhere based on their previous performance. This certainly happened for Mike Shanahan since we only have one season as Redskins coach to judge him upon.

A two-year stint didn't prevent the panel from voting for Shanahan, whose body of work includes a pair of Super Bowl titles with the Denver Broncos,

In the 90's with a Hall of Fame quarterback. Since then his team has been in the playoffs 4 of 11 seasons and he has a 97-79 (55% winning percentage). More importantly, he hasn't won his division in the last four seasons he has coached.

"Shanahan may not have looked like a brilliant coach in his first year in Washington, but he deserves to be on this list," Williamson said.

No, he doesn't.

"He is not some old retread. With so much turnover in the coaching ranks, he is truly one of the last remaining of the old guard 'Super Coaches.'

Except he isn't a "Super Coach." Other than that, spot-on critique.

The guy has two rings

Again, from the 90's on a team with a Hall of Fame quarterback and his team has made it out of the Wild-Card round once since that time.

and a lot of playoff appearances.

Where his team did not fare well in the first game of the playoffs, by losing in the Wild-Card round, in 3 of those last 4 appearances.

My reasoning is that Ryan, despite not winning the Super Bowl, has a tractor-beam pull on his players -- and even other teams' players -- unlike any other coach in the league. Ryan carries serious clout with the people who matter most of all, the ones on his roster.

I agree. Rex Ryan is a great coach, despite not having coached for very long. If this were a column about college basketball, I think Jeff Goodman would suggest Rex Ryan immediately be inducted in the Hall of Fame because WHY WAIT UNTIL HE IS ACTUALLY ELIGIBLE?

Another to receive votes despite two years at the helm was Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Caldwell. He came in 13th overall, eighth on Kuharsky's ballot and 10th on Walker's.

Any ballot where Jim Caldwell is ranked among the Top 10 coaches of anything is a ballot that I question the validity and accuracy of.

"I do not think he's a particularly good game-day coach," Kuharsky said of Caldwell. "The rationale he had for the late timeouts that helped the Colts lose at Jacksonville and to the Jets in the playoffs was flawed.

"Sure, he may suck at actually coaching his team, managing the game, managing the clock, and getting a game plan together to win games. That's not Jim Caldwell's strong suit. He may not have much to do with his team's success, but let's pretend he does."

"But in terms of delivering a consistent message, setting expectations and holding a team together through an injury-riddled season, he did excellent work.

"He has coaching intangibles that people overlook! Look at his intangibles!"

And those are very important elements to the job."

"What's more important is he has Peyton Manning as his quarterback, and it is so hard to win games as a coach when you have a quarterback that pretty much runs the offense and you can focus on setting expectations through blank stares and writing down a consistent message in your Hello Kitty notebook before the game."

The floor is yours. Let us know if you agree or disagree.

I disagree with some of these votes.

The worst overall ballot by far is James Walker. His ballot looked like this:

1. Bill Belichick
2. Mike Tomlin
3. Andy Reid
4. Mike McCarthy
5. Sean Payton
6. Tom Coughlin
7. Mike Shanahan
8. John Harbaugh
9. Rex Ryan
10. Jim Caldwell

I have no real issues in #'s 1-6. Mike Shanahan I have a huge problem with and I don't see how you can put John Harbaugh over Rex Ryan if you are looking for a coach who has been consistent. Ryan has made the AFC Championship Game his first two years as a coach. Harbaugh should be ranked in the Top 10, but I wouldn't rank him above Ryan when using Walker's criteria. Of course, I think #10 is just a fucking disaster. The Colts did well last year with the amount of injuries they have, but I don't see how Jim Caldwell can be ranked in the Top 10 if all of his negative attributes deal with the actual coaching and management of an NFL game.

I also don't get how Mike Smith got left off the list at all. He's been pretty damn good with the Falcons so far, except for the 2009 season when the entire team was hurt. I think he has a sufficient excuse for a mediocre record that year.

John Clayton is the winner (loser?) for worst ballot in the "Did not pick Jim Caldwell on his ballot" division. His Top 10 ballot looked like this:

1. Bill Belichick
2. Andy Reid
3. Tom Coughlin
4. Sean Payton
5. Mike Tomlin
6. Lovie Smith
7. Mike McCarthy
8. Rex Ryan
9. Mike Shanahan
10. Ken Whisenhunt

The first thing I notice about Clayton's ballot is that I have no idea what criteria he used to make his choices. The closest guess I can make is he gave a great amount of consideration to how long a person had been an NFL head coach. That is the only reason I can explain Tom Coughlin and Lovie Smith over Rex Ryan and Coughlin over Mike Tomlin. This could easily be the worst ballot, actually it is, but I can't let James Walker off the hook for choosing Jim Caldwell. Three major comments:

1. I would love to know how the hell Ken Whisenhunt is a better coach than Mike Smith and John Harbaugh? Harbaugh and Smith are in tougher divisions AND they have had more success (in terms of record) than Ken Whisenhunt. It's madness. I can understand Tomlin 5th because he is a part of a successful organization, but what has Lovie Smith done that Mike McCarthy has not done at this point? Other than coach for a longer period of time of course. Then we have Rex Ryan at 8th on Clayton's ballot. Two AFC Championship Games in two years is apparently not an impressive feat.

2. There is Mike Shanahan again. What is the fascination with him? Is there something I am missing that makes him a great coach, other than his ability to destroy his quarterback's confidence at a moment's notice? He's like a superhero in that way. If he were a superhero he would fight off villains by ruining their confidence.

What's really, really crazy is John Clayton left Harbaugh and Smith off his ballot entirely, while putting Mike Shanahan on the ballot. What has Shanahan done in the past 5 years that says he is a Top 10 coach? I can't believe Harbaugh and Smith aren't better coaches than Shanahan right now. Short-term and long-term this doesn't make sense to me.

3. Andy Reid is 2nd and Tom Coughlin is 3rd? I don't even believe fans of these two teams could back up this argument. John Clayton clearly puts too much emphasis on how long a coach has been coaching.

What a disaster. I guess that's what happens when 8 different with 8 different set of criteria pick out the Top 10 coaches in the NFL. Again, what's so crazy to me is these guys all used different criteria to make the list but only came up with 13 nominees for the 10 spots. Any list like this is going to be subject to criticism, but there has to be some sort of set criteria so the list doesn't turn into a Lifetime Achievement Award. Short-term and long-term it doesn't make sense for Mike Shanahan to be anywhere on this list.


Martin F. said...

The fans of the Giants and Eagles not only would not agree with their guys in the Top 3, they'd be the ones most vocal about shouting them down the list.

I read this list after reading the Big Lead list. I enjoy Jason Lisk's take on the NFL usually, but even some of his choices were.....weird. This list is absurd. Any Top 10 list like this one with Shanny on it makes it invalid. The Lovie Smith fascination baffles me. It's almost as if some of these guys wrote down the first ten names they could think of for the poll.

And yes Jim Harbaugh is already a better coach then Jim Caldwell and Mike Shanahan.

rich said...

Coughlin and Shanahan have no business in the top 10.

Coughlin hasn't done jack shit since they won the Super Bowl and he's completely lost his teams the past two seasons. The fact that the Giants have been in "win and in" positions in those seasons and failed to make it in both times is a testiment to that. Nevermind that completely shitshow against the Panthers the year after they won the Super Bowl, Coughlin doesn't deserve to be in the top 10.

Shanahan hasn't done shit without a HOF quarterback/running back. He's your prototypical "I have a system and I'm going to run it regardless of the talent I have" and so he completely sucks if he whiffs on a bunch of drafts and/or takes over a team that's "rebuilding."

rich said...

Just as Martin F said, as a Giants fan, Coughlin keeping his job was a death kneel to the team.

I'll also agree with the "why the love for Lovie?" thoughts. Going into last season, the guy was on the hot seat going into last season and then he does well in with a relatively easy schedule, beats a 7-9 team in the playoffs and magically he's a top 10 coach again>

Gene said...

Latest Simmons Tiger Woods column is a must read, btw.

What a pile of horseshit, especially when put into context of Simmons' prior argument comparing Woods and Ali situations. Such a transparent and strained attempt to manufacture the fallen-redemption storyline. So aggravating

Bengoodfella said...

Martin, I figured that was true. I try not to judge how other fans feel about their teams and coaches, but I had a feeling about that one. There is no way Mike Shanahan deserves to be on this list. No way. That's ridiculous. I find it amazing that only 13 coaches were named. Pretty it was assumed if a coach has been in one place for a while then he is a good head coach.

I don't know if I can believe Jim Harbaugh is better than Caldwell and Shanahan. I want to see him coach first.

Rich, that is a great point. The Giants have had a chance to play themselves into the playoffs and have failed to do so. I am not in the locker room, but I have to say that shows a lack of motivation or something.

Great point on Shanahan. He has a typical system and if he doesn't have the best players to run it, I don't know if he can be successful. I have to admit he was right about Trent Williams, who wasn't terrible this year though. He can draft offense pretty well.

Your opinion on Lovie may be echoed by Bears fans. I know a Bears fan and he isn't a fan of Lovie for the reason you stated.

Gene, I haven't read it yet. I will though. It is so funny b/c I haven't covered Simmons in a while, so I started an epic post about him and now he puts something potentially shitty out. I guess get ready for a lot of Simmons.

ivn said...

Shanahan - dude is a good coach but a lousy GM.

Lovie Smith challenges all of your criticisms of hi--oh wait, the ruling on the field stands. seriously though in the guy's defense his players do seem to like him and play hard for him. the Bears have made the most out of their roster considering their front office is definitely in the bottom half of the league.

the consensus top five is pretty good, the only change I would make would probably be Ryan over Reid. beyond those six (ESPN's top five plus Rex Ryan) you can't really set anything in stone, though. except for the fact that Jim Caldwell fucking sucks, it's a joke he made it onto two ballots.

Bengoodfella said...

Ivn, I don't know if he is a good coach or not. I would say he is probably a good coach. Not worth the money he makes and I don't know if I would put him in the Top 10 in the NFL. As a GM, he leaves much to be desired I think.

I hear your point about Lovie and I am honestly torn. I didn't bash Lovie really in the post, mostly because the reasoning of why one writer said he shouldn't make it, "that he is always on the hot seat" is just stupid. You can't base your entire opinion of a coach on what the fans think. I guess I should have made my list of the Top 10 coaches so I would have something to talk about, but I don't know if Lovie makes it or not. He's closer than Shanahan in my mind.

I wouldn't put Whisenhunt or Caldwell in the top 10. I would put John Fox in there before Whisenhunt.

Martin F. said...

One problem in making the choice is some of these teams have coordinators who are outstanding, and cover up for the head coaches in some areas. How high can I rank McCarthy when Dom Capers is his D-coordinator? Capers is an excellent defensive coach. I doubt McCarthy has much to do with the D side of the Packers, yet the defense was great this year.

It's almost easier to rank bad coaches because they are often the guys trying to do to much and looking for credit everywhere (McDaniels and Shanahan off the top of my head). Or they come across as clueless when managing the clock and using challenges (Reid and Lovie). I'd put Jim Schwartz and Raheem Morris up in the Top 10 and kick out Shanny and Lovie just based on game day choices.

Not in any order, but my Top Coaches right now would have Belichick, Morris, Tomlin, Mike Smith, Schwartz, Ryan in it, and I'm not sure who else. the remaining choices come with a chunk of baggage, or too small a sample size. After what he accomplished this year in Oakland I'd think about putting Tom Cable in there if he wasn't fired.

Bengoodfella said...

Martin, that is a good point as well. Having good coordinators on both sides of the ball is extremely important as well. Capers had a lot to do with the Packers success, which makes McCarthy look better.

It is easier to mock those guys, and I take part in that, because they don't look for help other places and all of the decisions fall on them. I would say those guys bring it on themselves a bit too.

I would probably put Morris in the Top 10 as well.

your favourite sun said...

McCarthy has also shown baffling in-game management before, too. The Patriots game shows why it's hard to rate him right now: on the one hand, with the backup QB making his first career start and being on the road against the team playing the best football in the league at that time, the Packers had no business being in that game. And yet, how do you not call two plays coming out of a timeout in the last seconds of said game?

I don't watch enough of other teams to know what my top ten would look like, but it feels like McCarthy being in the top five is too high, or at least premature.