Monday, July 21, 2014

5 comments Ross Tucker Disagrees with Co-Worker David Steele's NFL Coach Rankings, Also Disagrees with Himself About Why

Ross Tucker is showing us all how corporate synergy can work. Both he and David Steele work for The Sporting News and Steele put up a slideshow ranking the best NFL head coaches recently. Taking a page from ESPN, Tucker spits out a short column in response to David Steele's slideshow. Nothing like creating the news and then reacting to the news your company has created. I did have a few issues with David Steele's slideshow of the best NFL head coaches. He puts Andy Reid at #6, ranks John Harbaugh over Jim Harbaugh but then puts Pete Carroll at #2 (given the track record of Jim in consistently getting the 49ers to NFC Championship Game it seems he should be higher than his brother, even with no Super Bowl victory), and puts Jeff Fisher at #13. I'm sure most of you can guess my feelings about Jeff Fisher and Steele wrote this:

It’s hard to find anyone to knock Fisher’s coaching ability, some of the great teams he put together in Tennessee, the identity they forged, or even the early results of the current reclamation project in St. Louis. It’s harder to explain how he only made the playoffs six times, and had six winning seasons, in 17 years with the Oilers/Titans. The record needs to catch up with the reputation at some point.


"At some point" Fisher's record needs to catch up with his reputation? When will this happen? After Fisher has coached in the NFL for 25 years? Naturally, after writing this David Steele ranks Fisher above Rex Ryan, Lovie Smith, and Chip Kelly despite the fact Fisher's teams have made the playoffs twice in the last nine years and haven't won a playoff game since 2003. So while Steele talks about Fisher's record catching up with his reputation, he doesn't back his words up with actions.

Jim Caldwell is #16 on the list, which shouldn't surprise me since that is David Steele's boy. I think if you gave NFL teams a choice between Rex Ryan and Marvin Lewis then I think the vast majority would choose them over Jim Caldwell. Apparently Dennis Allen is the worst coach in the NFL, though he also so happens to coach in quite possibly in one of the worst organizations in the NFL.

Ross Tucker's issue wasn't with the majority of Steele's rankings, but that Steele had Bill Belichick ranked above Tom Coughlin. Belichick was #1 on the list, while Coughlin was #3. See, Ross Tucker believes that Tom Coughlin has done more with less (while only discussing offense and not acknowledging defense), as well as has won games with more than one quarterback. Unfortunately, Tucker contradicts himself on this issue when saying Tom Coughlin's track record is more impressive than Bill Belichick and why.

Not so fast, David Steele.

This is a written version of a "First Take" debate. Ross Tucker is responding directly to something David Steele has written. Synergy is great.

My Sporting News colleague recently ranked all 32 NFL head coaches and started with the following line:

"One fairly reliable rule of thumb: Start with Bill Belichick and work your way down."

And then this:

"It's going to be a long time before any coach is able to dislodge him from the top."

Crazy. Insane. Just madness for David Steele to put one of the longest tenured NFL coaches (the longest tenured I believe) with the best track record #1 in his NFL head coaching rankings. How is that supposed to get pageviews and cause a controversy? It's bad enough Steele had to resort to a slideshow to get pageviews, but now he is going with conventional thinking and making the best coach in the NFL #1 in his coaches rankings? Unconceivable.

Belichick is an extraordinary football coach. The argument for him being the best head coach in the NFL is an easy one and it starts and probably ends with the incredible sustained success that his New England Patriots have enjoyed since 2001.

Yeah, but this isn't a contrarian position that Ross Tucker could take when he can't think of anything else to write about. So he will say that Tom Coughlin is the best head coach in the NFL for the sake of debate and to remind his readers that Belichick should be knocked down in the rankings because he's had Tom Brady as his quarterback.

The numbers are staggering. Eleven Division Titles.Eight Conference Championship Game appearances. Five Super Bowls. Three World Championships.

Yeah, but what have you done for me lately? Only two Super Bowls and four Conference Championship Game appearances.

Almost as impressive to me as all of those accomplishments was the 11-5 season the Patriots had in 2008 with first-time starter Matt Cassel under center after Tom Brady was lost for the season with a torn ACL in the opener.

Remember that Belichick had success with another quarterback under center. It will be important here in a few lines. Belichick went 11-5 with a quarterback not named "Tom Brady" starting for the majority of the season. Therefore, he had success with multiple quarterbacks.

Despite all of that, I'm still not 100 percent certain that Belichick is the best coach in the NFL.  It’s certainly not a slam dunk.

And because it's not a "slam dunk" this means that Belichick definitely isn't the best coach in the NFL? I think I understand it now. Ross Tucker wants to be a contrarian.

Allow me to make an argument for the one coach whose resume I believe can go toe to toe with Belichick: Tom Coughlin.

I like Tom Coughlin a lot. His numbers of five division titles, four conference championship game appearances, two Super Bowls, and two world championships do not go toe to toe with eleven division titles, eight conference championship game appearances, five Super Bowls, and three world championships. Yes, Coughlin has beaten Belichick twice for Super Bowl victories, but toe to toe Belichick's numbers are better.

I give special credit when evaluating coaches to those who have shown the ability to have success with multiple franchises and/or multiple quarterbacks. 

Well, then Belichick should be considered as good as Coughlin because when given a chance to have a quarterback who isn't Tom Brady the Patriots went 11-5. Belichick didn't have success with the Browns, but he went 36-44 as the head coach of the Browns and won 11 games in 1994, as well as had two 7-win seasons. The Browns have had zero seasons of 11 wins and three seasons where they won 7 games since Belichick left. So in terms of relative success with a team, Belichick had relative success in Cleveland.

That's why I've always respected Joe Gibbs' accomplishments so much.

Gibbs only had success with the Redskins, not another NFL team. He did have success with multiple quarterbacks, that's for sure. I'm not sure why Gibbs' accomplishments mean more than Belichick's (or maybe they don't?) in the mind of Ross Tucker simply because Belichick has consistently had a great quarterback. Plus, while Coughlin has had success with two quarterbacks, Belichick has had success with two quarterbacks as well. He had Matt Cassel lead the Patriots to a 11-5 season when Tom Brady got injured.

Coughlin started an expansion franchise from scratch with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1996 and took them to the postseason four times in his first five years, including two berths in AFC Championship games. That's amazing and unprecedented for a fledgling franchise.

Coughlin is a great coach. There is no doubt about that. Still, his accomplishments can't go toe to toe with Bill Belichick's in terms of conference titles, division titles and Super Bowl titles. If Ross Tucker wants to talk relativity, then that's fine, but just be sure Belichick's relative success with Cleveland over a five year period the Browns have not had since he left should be considered in this discussion as well.

Belichick, on the other hand, only made the playoffs one time during his five-year stint as head coach of the Cleveland Browns in the 90s. That obviously pales in comparison to what Coughlin accomplished in Jacksonville.

It does, that's true. I think it's important to note that Belichick had success in Cleveland during his five years they haven't matched since and Belichick's success in New England eclipses Coughlin's success both in Jacksonville and with the New York Giants. No matter how Ross Tucker wants to slice it, Belichick's numbers overall are better. Of course Tucker wants to throw in cherry-picked reasons Coughlin is better, like his success with two franchises and his success with two quarterbacks, but this doesn't mean he's a better coach than Bill Belichick.

Now let's look more recently. Over the last nine years since Eli Manning's first full season as the starting quarterback in 2005, Coughlin has won two Super Bowl championships. Belichick has none

Funny how that cut-off time is 2005 when Coughlin coached the Giants in 2004. Why could that be? Perhaps because the Patriots won the Super Bowl that year? Don't you like how Ross Tucker is all, "It's what a coach does with two quarterbacks that makes him great," yet only wants to compare Coughlin as the Giants coach with Eli Manning as the starting quarterback. He doesn't want to talk about that 6-10 year with Kurt Warner because it's not convenient. And yes, that same Kurt Warner who had success in the NFL and is a possible Hall of Famer. A coach should be judged on what he does with multiple quarterbacks unless that's not a convenient metric for Ross Tucker to use.

Even since 2005, Coughlin has three division titles, two conference championships, and two Super Bowl wins. Belichick has had eight division titles, five conference championships, and zero Super Bowl wins. So Coughlin has reached greater heights, but Belichick has still made more conference championship appearances and won more division titles since 2005.

Maybe even more importantly, Coughlin has beaten Belichick head to head in both of those Super Bowls. That's a tremendous feather in his cap, especially when you consider the 2007 Patriots were clearly the more talented team in that game.

Yes, that was an impressive win. The Giants did have a pretty good defense during the playoff run though and it's important to note that Belichick has had consistent, sustained success with the Patriots while Coughlin hasn't quite met that standard of consistent, sustained success since 2005.

Have the Giants been as consistent as the Patriots in the non-championship years? Absolutely not, but then again, Manning isn't as consistent as Brady. Not even close.

Oh okay, now I get it. Belichick isn't a better coach because he has the better quarterback. It's sort of like how Tom Brady isn't the better quarterback as compared to Peyton Manning because Brady has Belichick as his head coach. Neither Brady or Belichick will get credit for their success at times due to their affiliation with each other.

I believe Brady is the best quarterback in NFL history. Even if you disagree, there has to be an acknowledgment that you can make a very compelling argument in Brady's favor in that regard.

So Coughlin would have done much better if he had a chance to coach a potential Hall of Fame quarterback. If only there were a quarterback he could have coached early in his career as the Giants head coach...

Manning? I'm not sure he's a top 10 QB in the NFL right now. He certainly wasn't last year.

I think Tucker isn't exactly looking at the defensive side of the ball and weighting Manning's performance last year too much. I would argue the Giants have had better defenses over the past few years than the Patriots have had. I'm sure that's Belichick's fault though and when comparing Manning to Brady defense shouldn't be taken into account at all. The only pertinent discussion as to whether Coughlin or Belichick is the better coach is a discussion that revolves around which coach has the better quarterback. Nothing else matters when comparing the two coaches.

So Coughlin did far better than Belichick with a different team and different group of men in their respective first opportunities as head coaches and has won two more Super Bowls over the last seven years,

But Belichick has done better when comparing both coaches side-by-side over the lifetime of their coaching careers. While Coughlin has been better in terms of winning the Super Bowl over the last few years, Belichick has still consistently accomplished more as a head coach during that time than Coughlin has. So the question becomes whether Tucker wants a coach who is consistently great, but can't win the Super Bowl, or a coach who won the Super Bowl a couple of times but has missed the playoffs four of the last five seasons.

beating Belichick head to head both times when everything was at stake with a lesser quarterback.

Well, Belichick did beat Coughlin to secure a perfect regular season record in 2007, but that was a regular season game so it clearly doesn't count in this discussion.

Are we still so sure that Belichick is the best coach in the NFL?

In terms of the coach that has accomplished the most over a long span of time, I would consider Belichick to be the best coach. That's just me, but Ross Tucker is incorrect by acknowledging and then forgetting Belichick has won games without Brady as his quarterback. He also focuses really hard on the two Super Bowl victories Coughlin has while ignoring that Belichick has accomplished more on a consistent basis during the time span of Coughlin's two Super Bowl victories.

No matter the reason, Ross Tucker's best coach in the NFL hasn't even made the playoffs four of the last five seasons. Is he sure that Coughlin is the best coach in the NFL? 


Snarf said...

ranks John Harbaugh over Jim Harbaugh but then puts Pete Carroll at #2 (given the track record of Jim in consistently getting the 49ers to NFC Championship Game it seems he should be higher than his brother, even with no Super Bowl victory)

Ben, I wouldn't begrudge you putting Jim above John, but I did want to point out that John is no slouch in this department. The Ravens have been to 3 AFC championship games in his six year tenure, so it is not as though he only has the one SB trip as far as playoff success.

HH said...

My favorite part is that Coughlin should be ahead of Belichick because of the outcome of, basically, two plays. If two plays go differently in two games, then BB has the titles and Coughlin don't. I'm gonna assume everyone here is sophisticated enough to understand that two close wins in a game that happened to be the championship tells us almost nothing about who the better coach is.

Bengoodfella said...

Snarf, make them tied! That's what should happen. My point was that if David Steele was counting consistent success in getting to Championship Games, Jim has that over John. I wouldn't dare rank coaches and probably would have them tied as a cop-out. Steele seems to hold on tight to success in reaching these Championship Games and Jim Harbaugh has a slightly better percentage than his brother.

HH, yep. I think the idea of Coughlin over Belichick is just a way to run counter to what David Steele wrote.

More importantly, it seems this post got linked on some Sporting News feed done by readers. That's a little weird.

Anonymous said...

To be fair (and I would absolutely agree that Belichick is pretty clearly a superior head coach to Coughlin), Belichick doesnt really do much on the offensive side of the ball, but does serve as the, de facto, defensive coordinator, so the argument that the Pats havent has good a defense as the Giants (or other teams) doesnt really get you anywhere. Having a pretty bad defense for a lot of seasons has to be, kind of, on Belichick, right? (Of course, the flip side with Coughlin is true -- he's an offensive guy and doesnt get too involved in the defense).

Also, inconceivable, not unconceivable. you're welcome.

-- grammar police

Bengoodfella said...

Wait, I wrote unconceivable? (checks) It turns out I did. Wow, that's a double fail because that was a covert "Princess Bride" reference too. Man, I failed on all levels there.

I don't mind the spelling/grammar police on occasion. I try to pride myself on spelling words correctly at the very least.