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Ranking the 32 NFL head coaches

We're now past the midway-point of the 2010 season, and it seems like an appropriate time to evaluate and rank the 32 NFL head coaches. In our fantasy football driven culture, we rank players all the time, debating Manning vs. Brady and Andre Johnson vs. Randy Moss, but rarely do we take a chance to examine how the coaches stack up against one another. Here is a completely subjective, admittedly unscientific ranking (with commentary) of all 32 coaches, based on how I see them right now. Instead of trying to weigh their entire body of work, I'm ranking them based on how good they are RIGHT NOW. Who would you want guiding your team going forward, for the next several years? Where did we go wrong? What did we get right? Feel free to weigh in below. -- Kevin Van Valkenburg



32. Chan Gailey, Bills -- Why did he get this job? Because he was the only one who would take it? That's absurd. Brian Billick probably would have jumped at the chance to coach again, but typical of the Bills, they'd rather be boring than take a chance at being good. Even though the Bills have been ok at times this year, he's not a long-term solution. Bills fans have a right to be frustrated.

31. Jason Garrett, Cowboys -- Another incomplete, although let's not pretend like he wasn't to blame for some of the Cowboys' problems. The Ravens dodged a bullet three years ago when he turned down the job. He may yet be a good head coach, but as an offensive coordinator, he hasn't exactly shown he can teach discipline.

29. (tie) Steve Spagnuolo, Rams and Jim Schwartz, Lions -- Both these coaches deserve an incomplete. It's impossible to really grade them. But in both situations, their teams have shown improvement. I really like Schwartz, especially the way he handled himself after the loss in the season opener to the Bears on the controversial "no catch" by Calvin Johnson. He didn't throw a tantrum. He calmly said he thought it was a catch, but that wasn't the reason the Lions lost the game. They've shown improvement under him, and they just need something to get them over the hump. The Lions have been losers for so long, it's impossible to turn around overnight. Spagnuolo's team has shown improvement, too, and he has a very good quarterback to work with going forward.

28. Eric Mangini, Browns -- Before the season, I would have ranked Mangini even lower than this, but there is hope for him yet. He seemed to realize he didn't have the credibility to rule like he was Napoleon, and he changed, which is something NFL coaches rarely do. It's not his fault that the team burned a bunch of money on Jake Delhomme, although he had to be at least consulted about the move. And some of the stuff he did when he got to Cleveland -- hand out stupid fines, show no respect for the team's history -- still lingers. It says a lot that he was universally hated by everyone in New York by the time he was done there. It was probably the right move for him to turn in the Patriots for stealing other teams signals -- a practice he only knew about because he was on the Patriots staff -- but it certainly wasn't very loyal. He deserves to be ranked higher than this based on how the Browns are playing at this moment, but the previous stink hasn't faded enough yet.

27. Lovie Smith, Bears -- To be fair, it's not this fault this team has a bad front office, one of the worst in football outside the Redskins. But Cutler's regression is partly on him, because he hired Mike Martz, and the two of them just let Cutler throw INTs like they're going out of style. He dumped defensive coordinator Ron Rivera for some unexplained reason, even though Rivera was arguably the main reason they were successful in 2006, and he mulls over using time outs and challenges like he's trying to solve a Rubix Cube. In 2007, in a game against the Vikigns, he let the Vikings kneel and run out the clock instead calling a time out and forcing them to punt to Devin Hester. He forgot the Bears had a time out left. No, seriously, he forgot. That probably should have gotten him fired right there.

26. Brad Childress, Vikings --
A bad coach in so many ways. Can't seem to remember he has the best running back in the league, and would rather have a 40-year-old grandfather fling the ball all around the field 35 times a game. Awful at managing the clock. Not a good motivator. Trading for Randy Moss, then releasing him after four games, was a panic move and it almost got him fired when he didn't even check with the owner before he cut Moss loose. Either accept that Moss is a little bit crazy and only tries when he wants to try, or don't trade for him in the first place. Don't light a draft pick on fire in the process.

24. (tie) Josh McDaniels, Broncos and Todd Haley, Chiefs --
It's absolutely fitting that these two goofballs are mired in a feud, but that's only part of the reason I'm ranking them together. They deserve one another. Both of them clearly understand the Xs and Os part of the game, especially on offense, but their arrogance and general immaturity affects their decision making. We've now reached a point where a whole generation of young coaches wants to act like Bill Parcels, but they don't understand Parcels spent years building up credibility to go with his iron fist. You can't just assume players will respect your screaming tantrums. Schematically, Haley stubbornly refuses to give the ball to his best running back (Jamal Charles) for reasons no one can explain, other than Haley believes he's the smartest guy in the room. If he didn't want Chan Gailey to be his offensive coordinator two years ago, he shouldn't have hired him in the first place. McDaniels was probably right to get rid of Cutler when he did, but feuding with Brandon Marshall was pointless, especially in the middle of a season where the Bronocs were contending for a playoff spot, and betting his future on Tim Tebow hardly seems wise. Both can be good NFL coaches, but both need to grow up a bit before that happens.

23. Pete Carroll, Seattle -- He should probably get an incomplete, but he's already shown some improvement with the Seahawks. They are leading the worst division in all of professional sports, after all. I don't know what his previous stints in New York and New England suggest for the long term, but I can't imagine him working 19 hour days through his 60s.

22. Tom Cable, Raiders -- This may be my boldest ranking, but I'm comfortable with it. Look at how much they've improved now that the owner isn't forcing them to play a quarterback who weighs 300 pounds and was accused of running a ring of cough syrup smugglers. He gets them to play hard, and when they had nothing to play for last season, and the Ravens had everything to play for, the Raiders still almost won that game. Before this season, when it was fashionable to say he was the worst coach in the league, I always responded like this: The degree of difficulty is off the charts in an organization like the Raiders. It's like going to a talent show and there is a guy who plays guitar with his foot because he was born with no arms. He can play a ton of songs, but he's clearly not as good as some of the guitar/singing acts with two good arms. So you ignore the degree if difficulty and rank him last, overlooking that HE PLAYS GUITAR WITH HIS FOOT!

21. Raheem Morris, Buccaneers --
Morris' grade should really be an incomplete. But I really like the way he carries himself, especially for being so young. He's taken one of the youngest teams in the league, forced them to pay attention to detail, and gotten a lot out of them. Down the road, will he be able to mold Tampa Bay into a playoff contender? Who knows. But right now, Morris doesn't make excuses, and doesn't shy away from making bold statements. I like it when he said the Bucs were the "best team in the NFC" even though they clearly were not. They played the Falcons tough on the road, and I suspect they're going to play the Ravens tough in two weeks at M&T Bank Stadium. That's the sign of a a promising team and a promising coach.

20. Mike Singletary, 49ers -- "Samurai," as he was known during his days with the Bears, is my favorite player of all time. But I'm not sure he's capable of controlling his emotions well enough to be a successful head coach. I don't care what's going on, you can't drop you pants during halftime of a game in an attempt to fire up your team. And that obviously wasn't an isolated incident. Whether it's throwing fits with the media, sending players to the showers during a game, or just acting generally like there are a few screws missing, Singletary has shown he has a lot to work on. Ultimately, it was his decision to continue playing Alex Smith this year, when Troy Smith has already shown quarterback was the biggest thing holding this team back.

19. Gary Kubiak, Texans -- Every year, we're told this is the Texan's breakout season. And every year, they're nothing special. Eventually, that has to fall on the head coach. This year was really supposed to be the year they put it all together, and this week's Hail Mary loss to the Jaguars pretty much finished off their season. Five years is more than enough to prove yourself. He's helped build the franchise up and made it credible but, eventually, you are what your record says you are.

18. Norv Turner, Chargers -- A brilliant offensive mind who simply can't prepare his team to win when it matters. The Chargers should have played in the Super Bowl a year ago. They were way, way better than the Jets and Colts. But their hissy-fit meltdown against the Jets was a perfect indictment of Turner's failings as a coach. Personal fouls, complaining to the referees, kicking challenge flags. It's a shame, because he clearly knows football, but he just can't seem to create a culture of accountability or focus when it matters. Even this year, San Diego has arguably the best offense in the game, and one of the best defenses. And they're still just an average football team.

17. Jim Caldwell, Colts -- I actually have no idea where to put him, which is why I'm putting him right in the middle. We probably won't know what kind of coach he is as long as Peyton Manning is there, because Manning is such a dominant personality, he seems to drag this team (despite injury after injury) to victories. It's not as if the Colts are winning with defense, which is Caldwell's background. He got out-coached in the Super Bowl by Sean Payton, but he does seem to have maintained an atmosphere of discipline and accountability set up by Tony Dungy. It's admirable how humble and respectful he is, but again, the NFL is not a league where you get points for being a great guy.

16. Mike McCarthy, Packers -- The man clearly knows how to coach offensive football, and I don't blame him for a second for wanting to cut ties with Brett Favre a year or three before Favre was ready, but his teams aren't very disciplined and he finds a way to lose way too many close games. His body of work is somewhat hard to judge, but I'm not sure I've ever felt like he out-coached one of his colleagues in the fourth quarter. Not a great sign.

15. Mike Shanahan, Redskins --
This ranking is based a lot on past performance, and after the Rex Grossman Incident, I feel even less confident about it. It's as if the Redkins were forced to give Donovan McNabb a $40 million apology because Shanahan is a bad liar. All he needed to say after that Houston game was, "I just didn't feel like Donovan was playing well, and I wanted to see if I could shake things up. He's still our starter." Instead, he fell victim to the classic Washington blunder: The cover-up is always worse than the crime. All that said, I can go two ways with this: Shanahan has won only one playoff game without John Elway, and the game may have passed him by a bit. On the other hand, he coaches the running game as well as anyone in this era, and he once managed to make Jay Cutler into a credible quarterback, which seems more shocking by the week. Yes, he should be ranked higher based on the success he had in Denver, but I think he needs to prove Elway and Terrell Davis weren't the main reason he now has a reputation his recent resume hasn't lived up to.

14. Ken Whisenhunt, Cardinals -- Another coach who has overcome a culture of losing that seemed ingrained. I thought he was even a little underrated going into this year until I watched the way he handled the Matt Leinart situation. Look, no one thinks Leinart is the second coming of Steve Young. But being a coach in the modern NFL is, at least in part, about getting the most out of players who are malcontents, and at the bare minimum, telling them the truth. If you're not honest with the media, that's one thing. Sometimes you can tell reporters a guy is playing well even if he's not to avoid embarrassing him. But Whisenhunt seemed to lead Leinart to believe everything was fine, then benched him out of nowhere, then cut him. Would he really have been as bad as Max Hall and Derek Anderson have been? All that said, he made Kurt Warner look like a Hall of Famer again, and should be a good coach for years to come.

13. Marvin Lewis, Bengals -- Losing has been so ingrained with the Bengals, and the ownership is so determined to do things on a shoe-string budget, that Lewis has to be ranked this high just for degree of difficulty. Problem is, he can't seem to sustain any success. It's as if any little setback sends this franchise plummeting back to earth, which makes Lewis a tightrope walker who does everything he can to avoid falling, even while people throw rotted fruit at him. Lewis isn't completely blameless. He's the one who agrees to take so many knuckleheads on his team. But he deserves another opportunity after this.

12. Tony Sparano, Dolphins -- Sparano has done an excellent job resurrecting a very bad franchise quickly, taking a team that was 1-15 under Cam Cameron and going 11-5, one of the biggest turnarounds in NFL history. And he's been creative about it. When the Dolphins had no credible quarterback, he introduced the wildcat to the NFL. He's very good at preparation, but I'm not sure he's that great at making in-game adjustments. The special teams debacle against the Patriots this season may have been blamed on the special teams coach, but the Dolphins' special teams still aren't very good, as evidenced by their game against Baltimore. Eventually, that's on the head coach. 

11. Jack Del Rio, Jaguars -- A good coach in a bad situation, I think. All due respect to Jacksonville and their fans, but this franchise is going to have to move eventually. That market simply cannot support an NFL team long-term. Wherever Paul Tagliabue is these days, I hope he feels a pang of shame when he turns on Ravens games and sees another packed house, then switches over to Jaguars games and sees a half-empty stadium. But back to Del Rio. Despite constant uncertainty, he's managed to keep them respectable. I really admire that he had the stones to cut Byron Leftwich out of nowhere a few years ago and go with Gerrard, which everyone thought was crazy at the time.

10. John Fox, Panthers -- It seems strange to rank a coach this high when he's in charge of a team that barely has a pulse, but he's a very good coach who simply needs to move on when his contract expires at the end of this season. Some of Carolina's problems are self-inflicted. The contract extension Jake Delhomme got after that performance in the playoffs against Arizona was ridiculous, and I can't believe the front office would have done it if Fox wasn't so loyal to Delhomme. Now their quarterback situation is the worst in the league (though Arizona might have a counter argument). The NFL is a cold business, and loyalty isn't always a good thing.

9. Mike Smith, Falcons --
You could easily rank Smith ahead of Ryan and Harbaugh, but they've both been to a conference title game, and Smith has never won a playoff game, so for now, he'll have to wait to climb the ladder. He's maybe the most anonymous head coach in the NFL who coaches a playoff contender. He even has an anonymous name. But there is no drama that goes along with Smith. Deserves a lot of credit for resurrecting that franchise after the Vick debacle and Bobby Petrino's cowardly exit almost ruined it. Needs to show his team can win on the road, but right now, they might be the best team in the NFC. He's calm and stable without being a pushover, which is impressive.

7. (tie) Rex Ryan, Jets and John Harbaugh, Ravens --
I thought about this for awhile, and I think they deserve to be ranked together. Their styles couldn't be more different, at least on the surface, and they both have their flaws, but they're two coaches poised to be successful for a long time.

I understand why some Ravens fans aren't ready to embrace Harbaugh, even though it looks like he'll be the first coach in Ravens history to make the playoffs three years in a row. He's very corporate and he struggles with timeouts and challenges in a way that's frustrating. But he's detail driven, very intelligent, hyper-competitive and no matter what you think of the Mighty Men stuff, his players don't turn on one another when times are tough. He lets his team have a personality, but at the same time, he's made them more disciplined. You can go ahead and say Ray Lewis is the real head coach of the Ravens, but that's just a talk radio fantasy. Harbaugh still has stuff he can work on, but it's clear the Ravens made the right call when they hired him. Harbaugh is good at the macro stuff, while an impatient fan base tends to focus on the micro stuff.

Ryan epitomizes much of what I love about the game. Football is not warfare, and it's not life or death. You need to take it seriously if you're a professional, but that doesn't mean you can't have fun and be yourself. Yes, the Jets got under people skin by anointing themselves the AFC favorite in the off-season. But I like that Ryan had high expectations for them, and he managed to steer the ship through rough waters when the season got off to a rough start and some of the media was wondering if he would be fired after one game he lost by one point. (One game!) One of Ryan's strengths is how he adapts. The Jets committed a ton of dumb penalties in the season opener, but they fixed that issue, and are now winning close games. I understand why football has trended toward hiring corporate stiffs as head coaches, because teams are billion dollar corporations now. But I'll always have a soft spot for the Bubbas, the men like Ryan who may have melted cheese on their shirts, but they can design a blitz package the way Jimi Hendrix could play guitar.

6. Andy Reid, Eagles --
It pains me to rank him this high, but his awful clock management and his bizarre distrust of the running game during Donovan McNabb's prime don't outweigh the fact that he's been a consistent winner. I think it's a lot harder to be good for nearly a decade than it is to be great for one season and then below average for the rest of the decade. The fact that he's resurrected Mike Vick's career and ditched McNabb at just the right time is more evidence that, even though he tends to look at his play sheet like it's a menu at a vegetarian restaurant every time the Eagles get in a 2 minute drill, he's still very good at what he does. You can see what a little coaching has done for Michael Vick. It's turned him into arguably the the most difficult player in the game to defend.

5. Tom Coughlin, Giants -- I dislike ranking him this high, because I don't particularly like his humorless, maniacal methods (On time means five minutes early!), but I can't deny he's had success in a place where the degree of difficulty is also very high. I think the Giants Super Bowl victory was a bit of a fluke, and not just because a journeyman wide receiver pinned a football to the side of his helmet on the most important play of the game while he was crashing to the ground. The Giants were just OK that season until they got hot at the right time, but he and Steve Spagnolo badly out-coached Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in that Super Bowl. What is impressive about Coughlin is he has dealt with a series of ME guys like Tiki Barber, Michael Strahan and Plaxico Burress, and he's never let them completely undermine him. That matters in the NFL. I felt better about putting him here before his team posted a no show against the 1-7 Cowboys, but we'll just pretend that didn't happen.

4. Sean Payton, Saints -- One Super Bowl season doesn't yet make a career, but the degree of difficulty of doing it in New Orleans has to play a role in where we rank him. He's a great play caller, and he clearly has the stones to take risks and deal with the potential repercussions for his bold choices. If that on-side kick didn't bounce off the face mask of Reality Show Husband Hank Basket, media and fans would have torched Payton for gambling like that in the Super Bowl. But he trusted what he'd seen on film, and he went with it, knowing he'd have to live with it if it didn't work. Too many coaches are scared to make those kind of calls because if they go the traditional route, they shield themselves from criticism. They may also cost their team a chance to win games.

3. Mike Tomlin, Steelers --
A great players' coach who understands the modern NFL as well as anyone. Yes, players need discipline, but they also need to know you're telling them the truth when you look them in the eye, and I think Tomlin has that credibility. I think he's going to be good for a long time. Maybe you can argue that all the pieces were in place when Bill Cowher left, but I think he'll have them contending for years to come. Earns a bonus for winning games this year with Charlie Batch, who has been playing quarterback since Bill Clinton was president.

2. Jeff Fisher, Titans --
The best mustache in football, and the most consistent regular season coach in the game. I've always felt he gets let off the hook a little bit for the way his teams make just enough mistakes in the playoffs to lose to inferior opponents, but the playoffs can be a crap shoot, too. (Barry Switzer won a Super Bowl, after all.) Sometimes it doesn't matter how often you preach ball security or special teams, you're still going to have a tight end who fumbles or a kicker who forgets how to kick. Fisher gets guys to play hard for him, he knows how to manage egos, and his teams never quit on him, even when they're 0-6. That says a lot.

1. Bill Belichick, Patriots -- On the surface, he's the humorless slob everyone loves to hate. But the man is truly a film study savant, and the fact that the Patriots are winning this year -- less that six months after the Ravens embarrassed them in the playoffs -- is proof he's still the best coach in the Era of Extreme Parity. Yes, he can be accused of stealing signals and stealing another man's wife, and his press conferences are generally about as interesting as interviewing a door, but a lot of that is just a front for his eccentric genius. His lack of sentimentality when it comes time to cut a player makes him easy to dislike, but is he ever wrong? The Patriots are only going to get better thanks to the garage sale heist they pulled on the Oakland Raiders and Minnesota Vikings with Richard Seymour and Randy Moss. I still believe he made the right call going for it on fourth down in that regular season game against the Colts, even though it didn't work out. I like coaches that are fearless and don't care about armchair criticism, even from people like me. That's Belichick.



I think McDaniels should be rated lower. I understand how this might be a referendum on coaching skill alone, but man, is he an awful talent evaluator too. He got rid of Jay Cutler by trying to trade for noodle-armed Matt Cassel, ran Brandon Marshall out of town, traded Tony Scheffler and Peyton Hillis (for Brady Quinn, no less!), and ruined the zone blocking system that paid out so many dividends in Denver for much of the Shanahan reign there. Don't forget he traded a 1st round pick to Seattle to take Alphonso Smith, who was subsequently traded to Detroit for a song after only one year (one year!)for playing poorly and now has 5 INTs to his name. Like you said, staking his entire fortune on Tim Tebow doesn't do him any favors either.

I think that one of the most telling differences between him and Harbaugh is that when John came in, he was able to keep his ego in check to see what was working and what was not with the Ravens at that time. He kept Rex because he realized that Rex gave him credibility and that Rex was also a hack of a DC. I think that one of the biggest hallmarks of a good coach is seeing what works and keeping it. McDaniels, on the other hand, blew up everything that was good about Denver's offense because it wasn't in "his image", when in reality all that needed to be fixed was the D (n.b. jay Cutler helped me win my fantasy league the year before McDaniels showed up in Denver).

Finally, I agree with your assessment of Haley. As a Jamaal Charles owner, it kills me to see him become a victim of Haley's hubris. How can one back who is so much better than the other fail to be used more often is beyond me. If Cam Cameron outsmarts himself, Haley rewrites the whole book on how to be successful.

Your thoughts?

I'm sorry if someone has already commented on this, but the Falcons are in the NFC.

Otherwise, a great post and a very interesting read. Spot on with your analysis of Brad Childress!

I think you rated Mangini way too high. Yeah the Browns have improved but that's mainly due to decisions forced on him by injuries. Neither Peyton Hillis nor Colt McCoy were playing until injuries pushed them into the lineup if I recall correctly. And how long has it taken him to figure out what to do with Joshua Cribbs? I'd rate him dead last.

But I'll always have a soft spot for the Bubbas, the men like Ryan, who may have melted cheese on their shirt, but they can design a blitz package the way Jimi Hendrix could play guitar.

Classic line Kevin:)

You make some very good points about McDaniels, Sam. There is almost too much idiocy to cram into one paragraph about him. I still contend he blew the Super Bowl against the Giants by not spreading the Patriots out and getting Brady to throw the ball quickly until the fourth quarter. When the Broncos were 6-0 last year, he was pumping his fist and screaming on the sidelines, which isn't how you want your head coach to act. You can't have your highs be too high, and your lows be too low. Peyton Hillis for Brady Quinn is going to look dumb for a long, long time. He probably should be lower on the list.

Haley seems to be determined to show how smart he was in signing Jones, and therefore can't admit he already had a great running back on his roster. To give Charles 10 carries a game is completely insane, especially when he as averaging close to 6 yards per attempt.

Thanks for the catch on the NFC/AFC thing, Paul. I don't think you'll have to worry about Childress much longer.

Pretty decent list, but a couple things jump out:

1) I love Jeff Fisher and respect the heck out of him for constantly fielding good, competitive teams over the long haul, but I can't put him at #2 over a few different Super Bowl coaches. For me, Payton would be the clear-cut #2. He's turned around a culture of losing (that you valued in other guys), built a consistent winner, and won a Super Bowl. What's more, he's definitely a proactive guy; there's no doubt that these are his schemes we're seeing on offense. He's not just a manager. And that Super Bowl win was not just a good team winning a big game. It was a near-flawlessly coached game as well. Probably the best big-game coaching performance since Belichick's Pats upset the Rams a decade ago. Have to take him over a guy who's never won it all.

2) Seems a little harsh on guys like Schwartz and Spagnuolo. As you said, they're more incompletes to me. Both teams appear to clearly be headed in the right direction. There's a bright future for both, especially the Rams, who appear to have the only franchise QB in that division. I'd much rather take an unproven guy over a guy who's proven to be mediocre at best (Mangini, Marvin Lewis, and certainly Lovie Smith).

3) Way too high on the former Ravens coaches. I love Marvin Lewis, but let's be honest. He's had some good years and turned around a losing franchise, but he's had a number of bad years as well. This year he has a talented roster that has been undone by civil strife. That falls on the coach's shoulders. And bottom line- he's never even won a playoff game. There are too many good coaches ranked behind him here. Same goes for Jack Del Rio. Good coach in a bad situation? Maybe. But he's shown no consistency. His teams are not perennially competitive. Sometimes they are, sometime they're not. Again, he's fielded some pretty lousy teams too. In both cases these rankings are just too high for a couple of guys who have inconsistent records and haven't even reached a conference championship game.

Finally, there's only one ranking I find to be fairly absurd: Shanahan. Look, I'm with you. He's probably overrated, and he's been mediocre since Elway left. More importantly, the part that's not talked about enough is how he had Kubiak and Alex Gibbs on that coaching staff, and his offenses has struggled since they left. But this sport is about bottom lines. He's a guy who's won two Super Bowls. At the end of the day, the question when evaluating these guys has to be, "Is he good enough to win a Super Bowl?" There are a number of guys where I'm not sure if the answer is yes. There are probably about a half dozen where my answer is, "I'm pretty sure it's a yes, but can't say for sure until he's done it" (Jeff Fisher, ie). And then there's the guys for whom it's a "yes." That's only five guys. He may have been in a perfect situation and he may have struggled since, but we do know that if given the right players, Mike Shanahan can win a Super Bowl. You can't possibly put 10 different guys in front of a two-time Super Bowl winner.

Candidly I think Harbaugh is rated too high. His time management, confusion on red flaging, handling pressure circumstances with play calling and most not having his team ready from the start gun to offer hell to the other team are leaving me in some doubt. True he is new and young and learning, but to be in the upper third of coaches-NO!!! Somewhere below the half mark (18).

Sorry but I agree everyone is measured against Belichik. You could easily skip 5 spot empty and pile the rest there and below.

By the way I do not like Belichik.

I'm a Bills fan, so call me biased if you wish, but Chan Gailey is not the worst coach in the league. He's trying to make chicken salad (if you know what I mean) with very little talent, and he gave your Ravens more than they could handle a few weeks ago. John Fox at 10? I thought you were basing this on how the coach is doing right now. For that matter, why isn't Shanahan dead last? Did you spend more than 5 minutes thinking about this?

I find it interesting that as a general rule, the better the management / owner, the better the head coach.

This is hardly news. We see it in baseball all the time. As an example, had Marvin Lewis a solid management team behind him, he would have been a big hit in Cincinnatti from his very first game.

Converesly, were he to have had Peter Angelos waiting in the wings, he'd be 0-16 every single year with the sort of Hot Stove football season that the Orioles have in baseball every single winter.

Harbaugh at #7???? Come on! Are you on the hippie lettuce???? Harbaugh is 20th at best... The guy is clueless on the sidelines, has a stupid doghouse where he won't play a guy if Harbs is mad at him, the veterans have no respect for him (Little tidbit for you, Jarrett Johnson and Harbs had to be seperated in the locker room over a month ago).

The guy got to 2 playoffs because he is Joe Altobelli reincarnated and is getting the rewards from the players he inherited.

He can't win against the elite teams, is lucky that he received a bad call against the Bills this year to win that game, played a Steelers 4th string QB and almost lost, almost lost to the Browns, lost to 2-7 Bengals...

Well written article.

very tough to rank coaches in this year of extreme parody ,but neverless you did a good job although i would rank mcarthy higher with caldwell on all those injuries both these two teams have, and still playing at at a very high level

@ravens2488 - You were probably one of the guys riding Brian Billick out on a rail as well. The Altobelli comment is really off the mark. This team is very very different than the one he inherited. There are going to be people who trash Harbs on this blog (you know who you are!!!) as being holier than thou, whatever they mean by that. But the bottom line is that he has made the playoffs two years in a row and will likely do so a third time which will be a first in Ravens history and almost unheard of in NFL history.

This team consistently beats the teams it is supposed to beat which is an improvement over BB whose teams typically played down to their level of competition. And while they still can't beat the Colts (and neither did BB's teams), his record against the Steelers is 500 and he beat the Pats in the playoffs and had them within a FG in OT in their stadium this year.

I love how you "fans" want to blame the coach when the team loses, but when they win it was because of preexisting talent, or luck, or whatever. You can't have it both ways. The coach is the coach when they win or lose.

Although it isn't going to happen, you can bet that if Harbs didn't have his contract renewed by the Ravens at seasons end he would instantly be at or near the top of every teams list who is currently looking for a coach. It's the truth and whether you like him or not the guy is a highly successful coach in the NFL in just two and one half seasons. Ask Spags, or Schwartz or Chan Gailey how easy it is. If you remember, the Ravens job was not coveted. Schottenheimer TD'd it. Garret said no. The lockerroom was thought to be nuclear with CMac, Reed, Ray and the inmates were running the asylum. How much has that changed in the last two years? Guess what gentlemen - that is all due to John Harbaugh as is the two playoff berths and 3-2 playoff record with a QB who was playing at Delaware University just 3 years ago.

Harbaugh at 7 is a joke. He's the only guy in the top 10 that continues to get out coached every week. Can't handle timeouts or the challenge flag. Can't counter his opponents halftime adjustments. Is supposedly a special teams guru and he can't even find a returner. Special teams are horrible. I don't even think the guy has any input on the gameplan. He's the only head coach that when asked a question about the offense or defense he says "I don't know. You'll have to ask Cam or you'll have to ask Mattison" WTH? Are you the Head Coach or not? Ask Tomlin and he has a firm grasp on what happened. You will never hear him say "ask Bruce or ask Dick LeBeau". He's not a bad guy. I just think he's over his head. There will be people who defend him and that's fine. But backing into the playoffs the past 2 years doesn't make you immune to criticism.

Why would you really push the idea at the beginning of the article that you are judging them on what they are doing right now and then go on to talk about past failures repeatedly throughout the article.
Maybe your rankings are based on what they are doing right now, but the comments certainly don't make that clear.
Just be honest that there is no way to judge them purely on what they are doing right now.

"Instead of trying to weigh their entire body of work, I'm ranking them based on how good they are RIGHT NOW"

Then you say....

"He deserves to be ranked higher than this based on how the Browns are playing at this moment, but the previous stink hasn't faded enough yet."

"Five years is more than enough to prove yourself. He's helped build the franchise up and made it credible but, eventually, you are what your record says you are."

"The Chargers should have played in the Super Bowl a year ago."

I'm just saying be honest with yourself about your rankings.

But I'll always have a soft spot for the Bubbas, the men like Ryan who may have melted cheese on their shirts, but they can design a blitz package the way Jimi Hendrix could play guitar.

with his teeth?

KVV...this was an awesome post...Now that you've done it for the active coaches let's see you put one together for the "non" active coaches that are most likely to get a gig after this season...and where you may see them, Cowher, Billick, Dungy, and anyone else you can come up with...Belief if Fox is going to Dallas...does that mean Cowher gets Carolina? Would enjoy hearing your thoughts...and see you in two weeks! Who's idea was it to change the start time? Guess we won't make it back to Tampa till Monday!

Keith, I find it strange that you introduced this list by saying it was based on how the coaches are doing right now instead of basing it on their previous body of work, yet over and over again you cite past performance.

If you truly want to judge the coaches on the here and now, scrap this list and go thru the coaches again. Really, whatever you think of a guy like Fisher prior to this year, his 2010 team is endlessly inconsistent. That's just one example of how you have weighted the past more than the present. Maybe that's not what you intended to do when you set out, but that's how the listed ended up.

Kevin -- Good analysis overall, but I'd switch your ranking of Jim Caldwell and Marvin Lewis in a heartbeat.

You write of Caldwell, "It's not as if the Colts are winning with defense..." Guess you didn't catch the Colts' game on Sunday against the Bengals. On of the rare times Peyton Manning didn't throw for a touchdown (he had only one regular wide receiver playing and lacked his go-to tight end) and the running game sputtered as usual, Indy beat Cincy largely on its defensive play: Were it not for a 42 yard run on a fake punt, the Bengals would have been held to just 30 yards on the ground.

Sure, the Bengals had some success in the air, but at the end of the day the Colts' defense accounted for 3 interceptions (one a pick-six), 2 fumble recoveries and 3, yes, the Colts have been winnng on defense or at least with defense making significant contributions in most games.

And for most of the season, the Colts have had major injuries of skill players on offense and key players out on defense, too. Yet they have been in most of the games. Sure, much of the credit goes to Manning, but some should go to Caldwell, too, who's kept the team on an even keel in spite spite of the storms.

As for the last Super Bowl, okay Sean Peyton outcoached him, but let's not forget so quickly that Caldwell was a rookie coach who took his team to the big game. That counts for a lot and for some reason you're dismissing it.

Lewis on the other hand, has had a reasonably healthy Bengals team and one seemingly improved over the offseason with the addition of Terrell Owens, but they've underachieved badly. Losing to a team they should have beat (the Browns--admittedly an improved team) and in danger of ending the season last in the AFC North after winning it a year ago.

The Bengals seem to draw malcontents like some kind of Raiders East and Lewis can never seem to keep discipline for very long: One week it's Chad Johnson (I refuse to use his childish legal name) pouting because he's not getting the ball thrown to him and the next T.O. deciding to quit on a couple of balls late in the Colts game (one being an interception he could at least have deflected had he not given up on the play), which may have changed the outcome.

But anyone who follows the Bengals (I live in Cincy and never thought they should have gotten rid of Dick Le Beau, a vastly better coach than Lewis) knows it's almost always like this with them (last year was an anomaly--Cincy playing well almost an entire season)--the normal M.O. is for them to play well early in the year, then pack it in around mid-November.

Also, Lewis may have cost his team the game on Sunday by using his timeouts too early in the second half, so that near the end he had a crucial call against the Bengals that he could only grimace about. Not good coaching, at all.

So, Caldwell over Lewis makes a good deal of sense. You'll may get a lot of readers standing up for your position, but that probably has more to do with hating Indy than objectively evaluating coaching abiltiy.

So, anybody that has ties to the Ravens is a good coach? How are Del Rio and Lewis top 15 coaches? Del Rio and Lewis are barely over .500 for their career. And since when are the Jaguars playing in a "half empty house"? Baltimore's the last place that should be pointing out other city's attendance issues. Jacksonville has averaged over 60,000 per home game every year except one (56,000). That's a far cry better than Baltimore was in the years before the Colts left. People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Then again this is the town that stole the Browns after screaming for years about how wrong it was that Indy took the Colts.

Many of you make fair points about what you see as inconsistencies here regarding past accomplishments vs. current performance, and how the list was weighted. How about we say the further in the past it happen, the less weight I gave it. In part, I wanted to come up with a ranking that asked: Who would you want as your coach going forward? This year is only half over, so the most recent, most complete results we have are from last season, and that's probably why I didn't drop some coaches down the list just yet. As awful as the Bengals look right now, they did win the division last year. I still think John Fox is a good coach. I don't really feel that way about Shanahan. Sometimes coaches wear out their welcome in cities and they need a new start. It happens almost everywhere, in fact. Maybe Fox will prove me wrong and fall on his face. But there are a ton of teams that will be fighting over him once his contract is up this season, which suggests he's still a pretty good coach.

Ken, Caldwell is probably the toughest coach in the league to rank. Manning makes it so hard to know how good he is. You could rank him 5th or 25th and make a case for either.

Colt McCoy's dad gave a leadership talk today at my company's year-end meeting. He said Mangini never uttered a word to Colt from the time he was drafted until just before his first start. All through the minicamps and training camp, Mangini and the top coaches all referred to Colt as "SMF". Colt is Holmgren's guy. IMO not Coach McCoy's, if Colt succeeds, chances are Mangini is gone.

Keith, You are the best writer at the Sun, but...

"That's absurd. Brian Billick probably would have jumped at the chance to coach again, but typical of the Bills, they'd rather be boring than take a chance at being good."

Totally disagree. Billick is not on anyone's radar.

Look at the talent level. How can you justify Childress over Chan Gailey.

I used to enjoy you posts Kevin, but after his one, I am now convince that you know NOTHING about football. Theres no wonder why it's called the 'Toy Department,' because you can't handle real football debates.

Maybe it would have been better for you to skip this season, and just go on last year's records (and prior years on a sliding, descending, scale of importance). That would mean that several coaches for which you gave 'an incomplete' would not be rated, and you would be rating coaches with records with coaches with records. Maybe split the rating into two sections - one rating the 'coaches with records', and just a listing of 'coaches without records'.

As everyone knows, a first year coach almost always has many, if not most, of the personnel left by the previous coach, so any success (or non-success) most likely is not the current coach's alone. Example, when MIke Davis led Indiana University to the NCAA Championship game against the Maryland Terrapins in 2002 (I know, college basketball isn't pro football, but . . .), he had players recruited under the previous coach. Even I, as a Hoosiers' fan (blech on the Terrapins!) can recognize that the victories were not entirely Davis', but Knight had a big part in Davis' early wins.

Ed from Park Heights - You actually make my point, Harbaugh beats the teams he's supposed to (Barely though and when anyone says they beat teams they are suppsoed to that means they beat LOSING teams!) like you said but I see you can't mention he beats the teams that are good! Because Harbaugh RARELY does!

BTW, I love Billick and always did. Hell, I'd like to have Billick back.

My job is done here with Ed from Park Heights as I just schooled him...

KVV: Cogent commentary, and a very interesting and provocative read, as evinced by the comments. As I was reading, I was struck, as were a number of others, how often you considered past performance while supposedly eschewing it as part of your criteria. To the specifics: I really like Jeff Fisher's performance as a coach, but until he wins the big one, I simply cannot agree with your ranking him above Tomlin. Yeah, yeah, he's Pittsburgh's HC, and therefore Public Enemy No. 1 here in Ravensland. But since the guy already has one SB to his credit, consistently produces teams that succeed despite getting virtually everyone's best shot, understands the value of, and employs to maximum effect, HOF Dick LeBeau's genius, and displays both excellent game management strategy and tactics, I suggest he's #2. Using the same criteria, Payton is #3, and Fisher is #4. I think Mike Smith should be tied with Harbaugh and Ryan. He's done a fabulous job with a great GM to create the Atlanta phoenix that has risen out of the ashes of Vick/Petrino. And why do I think you don't give enough credit to Smith, but far too much to ex-Ravens coaches like Lewis and Del Rio? Finally, Caldwell should be #10; you seem to be letting the brilliance of Manning blind you to the hard-nosed, tough defenses that Caldwell continues to turn out. Yeah, Indy's suffered a lot of injuries, but quite a few of those also have been on the D-side of the ball, so the fact that they continue to play hard and stuff other teams is a credit to Caldwell.

Go ahead and make Harbaugh 8 and Rex 7. I felt like you just couldn't pull the trigger on this one and probably felt that Ryan should be the coach here in B-more.
I like both Harbs and Rex but truth is, everyone in Baltimore is quietly saying, they wish the big guy was in charge here.

Harbaugh is ranked way too high. His offense is spotty, his defense is fading fast, his special teams -- his strength -- is awful other than his two kickers. Until he makes the tough personnel (coaching) decisions he needs to make to move this team forward, he should be ranked in the bottom half.

The comments about Harbaugh & Ryan reflect what I've felt. John sounds like a canned product at times, but he has instilled more discipline and has gotten the team to buy in to his plan. He also doesn't get into arguments with his best player, which is a sure way to turn everyone against you. Ryan reminds me so much of his dad, Buddy. When I held Eagles season tix (after the Colts wouldn't renew my tickets after '83....) Rex' old man would spout off the same way- he didn't care what you thought. Like him or hate him, he's entertaining, which is what this league needs.

I think Carrol and Morris should be higher, they're winning.

This guy's name is Kevin...not Keith. Yes, he is the Sun's best football writer far and away.

Harbaugh is a clear top 10 coach in the NFL on everyone else's list...except for a few know-nothing Ravens "fans" that have nothing better to do with their worthless lives than to complain about success. As stated earlier, if Harbaugh landed on the open coaching market at season's end, he would be the #1 or #2 choice for every vacancy out there. There are 24-25 teams out there that would salivate to have the opportunity to have the success that the Ravens have had in the last 2 1/2 years. I guess if we don't go 16-0 every year, the Ravens are a failure in the childish, knee-jerk minds of a certain portion of the fan base.

I do think Del Rio and Lewis are a bit too high. Also, didn't Brad Childress go 13-3 last year and wind up one bad INT away from a Super Bowl? Not sure why suddenly he's dogmeat as a head coach. That's a bad overreaction in my book.

No way is Buffalo's Chan Gailey the worst coach in the league. Not only has he not lost the locker room during the Bills' frustrating start, he has gained increasing respect every week. The Bills are one of the hardest working teams in the NFL. After years of offensive futility, the offense has come alive this year under Gailey's tutelage (netting 500+ yards and 34 points against the Ravens' defense, for instance). This season is a transition year for the Bills, obviously, but the team is getting better every week. The Bills can win with this guy and win with class, for Gailey exudes it.

I think you can move some of the numbers around on these coaches but overall this is a great rating piece and a ton of work and thought. Thanks for the job.

As a writer for the baltimore Sun, you are very close to the team and the players/coaches. I think you do a great job covering the Ravens for the Sun.

With that being said, you should never write an article about any other team or head coach in the NFL again until you actually read and watch how they play/operate. This article is filled with so many horrible inaccuracies, assumptions and just down right mistakes that it makes you appear no better than some internet message board schlep trying to cobble together an article for his buddies website running on a server down in the basement.

It sucked and it was horrible

Del Rio's cutting of Leftwich wasn't so much stoneworthy as it was just plain throwing Leftwich under the bus. IMHO, Del Rio's ego is a big reason Leftwich didn't succeed. Leftwich is a field general -- the kind of guy the coach has to be willing to hand the ball to and say, "go score". Coaching is a balance between control and delegation, and Del Rio landed on the wrong side with Leftwich.

Need to get your facts on Jacksonville instead of just jumping on the pile. No half empty stadium this year and no blackouts. Why don't you mention blackouts in Tampa, San Diego, etc?
Agree Jack is a good coach.

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