As we finish up our week long Playoff Top Twelve, we hit the coaches. This ranking is done based mostly upon the answer to the question: “Who do you trust most in a playoff game?” I have tried to encompass my thoughts on the coaches’ experience, preparation/gameplan ability, in-game scheme adjustments, motivational ability, and late-game decision-making (e.g. clock management, 4th down decisions, etc.).
This Year’s Top Twelve Playoff Coaches
12). Brad Childress – Minnesota. (1 organization, 4 seasons, 36-28 regular season, 2 division titles, 0-1 playoffs) I kind of like Brad Childress…kind of. But, he is a pretty bad head coach. He makes terrible in-game decisions, doesn’t seem to formulate any sort of inventive gameplan, and never seems like he ever has control of his team. The way he handled the Favre thing this year from the day he left practice to personally pick him up at the airport to the day it came out that Favre wouldn’t let him bench him several times this year just shows how weak he is. The Vikings are immensely talented this year, but they seem like a bit of a long-shot, to me, to win the Super Bowl because I just cannot trust Childress to get anything done from the sidelines (other than win a Tony Kornheiser look-a-like contest). The Vikes would be better off with any other playoff coach calling their signals.
11). Marvin Lewis – Cincinnati. (1 organization, 7 seasons, 56-55-1 regular season, 2 division titles, 0-1 playoffs) I never thought all that highly of Marvin Lewis, but he has impressed me this year, with the way he has kept his team together through some off-the-field issues. And, it is also impressive that he won 10 games and a tough division with a marginally talented squad. However, I can’t give him a pass for the awful failures in 5 of his previous 6 seasons as Bengals head coach. And, because of that, he still needs to prove something before I can say that I have any trust in him in the playoffs.
10). Norv Turner – San Diego. (3 organizations, 12 seasons, 90-98-1 regular season, 4 division titles, 4-3 playoffs, 1 AFC Championship Game appearance) Everyone rips on Norv. And, rightfully so, in many, many ways. Let us be honest, the guy is not a very good coach. His gameday decisions are questionable at best, ludicrous at worst. His preparation for a season is dreadful–just look at how San Diego always starts the year. But, somehow, at least in this his third team, he gets the Chargers playing well in December and January. But, then again, let’s look at some of the talent that good ole Norv has to play with out there in sunny SoCal. My distrust of Norv is only exceeded by my trust for the talent on his team, so when Norv hoists the Lombardi Trophy this year, don’t think it is because of his brilliant coaching.
9). Rex Ryan – N.Y. Jets. (1 organization, 1 season, 9-7 regular season, 1 wild card, 0-0 playoffs) Ryan falls here at #9 because I have absolutely no idea what to think of him as a head coach. So, he’s a zero. I see the first three guys as negatives, and the next 8 as positives. Plus, I am impressed with Ryan’s ability to make the playoffs with a rookie QB and an incompetent set of receivers. He has built an amazing defense up there, so I like the direction in which he is taking the Jets, and I kind of have to root for him, as the son of the great Buddy, so #9 sounds about right.
8). Wade Phillips – Dallas. (5 organizations, 10 seasons, 81-54 regular season, 2 division titles, 3 wild cards, 0-4 playoffs) Personally, I think Wade gets too much flack for his coaching. Everywhere the guy has been, he has won…in the regular season. Then, I think about the teams that he has had and the fact that he has still never won a playoff game, and I think–maybe everyone’s right about Wade. Well, I’m giving Wade one more chance. If the Eagles go in there and beat Dallas on Saturday, then I will officially join the “Wade sucks” bandwagon. Let’s hope that happens.
7). Ken Whisenhunt – Arizona. (1 organization, 3 seasons, 27-21 regular season, 2 division titles, 3-1 playoffs, 1 NFC Championship Game appearance, 1 Super Bowl appearance) I guess it’s impressive that Whisenhunt has taken a notoriously awful franchise and turned them into a winner, almost overnight. So, that’s good. And, I do think that he seems to have a good sense of his team and a really good understanding of the game of football (which is surprisingly lost on WAY too many of the 32 head coaches in this league). However, there is just something about the last three Cardinals teams with Whisenhunt at the helm that irks me. It’s the inconsistency. One week, they look unbeatable, and the next, they look like the old Cardinals. Now, granted, last year the “unbeatableness” came at just the right time, so I guess if that happens again this year, you have to say that Whisenhunt knows when to hit the pedal, but I’m going to wait for that to happen before proclaiming him a great, trustable coach.
6). Mike McCarthy – Green Bay (1 organization, 4 seasons, 38-26 regular season, 1 division title, 1 wild card, 1-1 playoffs, 1 NFC Championship Game appearance) I guess McCarthy is one of those coaches that you don’t really think about, but you’d have to consider pretty solid, right? He’s been in Green Bay for 4 years. The first one was just miserable because Favre looked completely washed up. Then, the next year, they won 13 games and went to OT in the NFC Championship Game. Then, last year, again Favre derailed the season, with all those distractions and the breaking in of a new quarterback. And, then this year, they look like a powerhouse again. I never think of McCarthy as a really good coach, but I guess he’s kind of on his way to becoming one, right? Either way, I think he does a good job, and I would trust him to coach my team in a playoff game.
5). Jim Caldwell – Indianapolis. (1 organization, 1 season, 14-2 regular season, 1 division title, 0-0 playoffs) This one is tough. The reason Wade Phillips, and his .600 winning percentage is all the way down at #8 is because he hasn’t won a playoff game. Well, Caldwell hasn’t either, so it’s hard to make a case that you can really “trust” him in the playoffs yet. However, I think that he is a no-brainer selection for Coach of the Year this year, and I think it’s probably time we start taking just a little of the mounds and mounds of praise we give to Peyton Manning for this season and give some over to the coach. I’m not going to get into what I think about his decision to rest people and whatnot, but let’s just remember that this man has still never lost a game in which he played his starters–EVER. So, until he, well, loses, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt. I probably could have ranked him even higher, but he is, after all, still a rookie.
4). John Harbaugh – Baltimore. (1 organization, 2 seasons, 20-12 regular season, 2 wild cards, 2-1 playoffs, 1 AFC Championship Game appearance) If you told me, two years ago before he was hired to be the successor to Brian Billick, that I would rank John Harbaugh as the 4th best coach in the 2010 playoffs, I would have said you were crazy, unless the list was limited to the best special teams coaches. But, no, Harbaugh has done a phenomenal job in both of his 2 seasons at the helm in Baltimore. He inspires the team; he trusts them; and, he gameplans around the weaknesses to take full advantage of their strengths. He has made the playoffs two years in a row with an inexperienced quarterback, in a tough division. And, last year, they were only a play or two away from going to the Super Bowl. Yes, this guy can flat-out coach.
3). Sean Payton – New Orleans. (1 organization, 4 seasons, 38-26 regular season, 2 division titles, 1-1 playoffs, 1 NFC Championship Game appearance) I have, in the past, been accused of being way too high on Sean Payton, so maybe this is just another example of that, but I think he is a fantastic coach. I know that he missed the playoffs in two of his first three seasons in New Orleans, but let’s not forget that it is the SAINTS. His offensive gameplans gave me nightmares when he was with the Giants, and he has brought that ability to New Orleans with him. Plus, he seems like a guy that the players trust and respect to the fullest. Except for the two playoff coaches with a generation of playoff experience and success, Payton is the best coach in this year’s playoffs, in my opinion.
2). Andy Reid – Philadelphia. (1 organization, 11 seasons, 108-67-1 regular season, 5 division titles, 3 wild cards, 10-7 playoffs, 5 NFC Championship Game appearances, 1 Super Bowl appearance) Say what you will about his clock management or his run-pass balance or his tendency to lay an egg against a really bad team once a year or even his inability to win a title with a load of talent. Please say it. We’ve all heard it all, and yet, Andy Reid is back again with the Eagles at 11-5 and a team that nobody really wants to face in the playoffs. Yes, they blew a chance at the #2 seed and maybe even the NFC Championship Game at home, but this team is still rolling. And, they are rolling despite having all of their healthy offensive weapons, save the quarterback, under 24 years old. They are still rolling despite having several disastrous injuries on the offensive line and a complete patchwork of a linebacking corps. They are still rolling despite the offseason personnel decision to get rid of their only emotional leader on the defensive side of the ball. Yes, Reid drives me absolutely nuts on Sundays. He makes terrible game-day decisions and STILL does not understand anything about a 2-minute drill. He may be the worst NFL coach on Sundays. But, I would argue that he is one the best of all-time from Monday to Saturday. The guy is amazing at gameplanning and scheming. He is phenomenal at handling his players and working them so incredibly hard in August, before giving them loads and loads of rest in November, so that they are ALWAYS peaking in December and January. With maybe one exception, there is no one that I would rather have calling the shots for my team from Monday to Saturday than Andy Reid. And, I think that that makes up for his glaring weaknesses on game day.
1). Bill Belichick – New England. (2 organizations, 15 seasons, 148-92 regular season, 7 division titles, 15-4 playoffs, 4 AFC Championship Game appearances, 4 Super Bowl appearances, 3 Super Bowl titles) This was the easiest choice of the week. 3 Super Bowl titles for a team that was a laughingstock before he got there. I don’t like Belichick. I think he’s arrogant; I think he’s self-absorbed; I think he’s mean-spirited. But, he is one hell of a football coach. And, there is no doubt that he is the best in these playoffs, and he’s almost inarguably the best of my generation.