There are only a few weeks remaining in the NFL season, and many prestigious awards are all but decided.
Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Doug Martin are all having prolific rookie seasons on the offensive side of the football. One of those three will walk away with the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.
On defense, few pass rushers have been better than Von Miller, J.J. Watt and Aldon Smith. Smith is staring down the barrel of several sack records, while Miller and Watt have solidified themselves as elite young talents. All will be in the running for Defensive Player of the Year.
The AP Coach of the Year Award is much more dependent on wins and losses, and because the award is given before the Super Bowl, we won’t have a clear picture of who the winner will be for at least a few more weeks. We can speculate, though.
The following slideshow states the case for the five NFL coaches with the best chances of winning the award. Read on.
The Houston Texans have been one of the best teams in the NFL this season, and it’s not just because of their on-field talent.
Gary Kubiak has spent the last few years developing some of the best young talent in the league, including the likes of Arian Foster, J.J. Watt, Brooks Reed and Brian Cushing. The 2012 roster looks much the same as last year’s, but Kubiak has had the good fortune of coaching a healthy Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson this season.
Even with Schaub and Johnson on the shelf for much of the 2011 season, Kubiak coached his way to a 10-6 record with the Texans, and was rewarded with a three-year contract extension.
Owner Bob McNair has shown a lot of faith in Kubiak, and his coach has delivered for a second season. The Texans are 11-2 with a good shot at securing the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Kubiak’s real test will be how well his Texans can bounce back from their crushing loss to the Patriots last Monday night. Houston will play a surging Indianapolis Colts team with playoff hopes on the line twice before the end of the season.
If the Texans can clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC and make a playoff run, Kubiak should be the front-runner for Coach of the Year.
This may be an inopportune time to discuss Smith’s candidacy for Coach of the Year after Carolina pulled off a 30-20 upset over the Falcons in Week 14.
Still, the Falcons are 11-2 and have the NFC South locked up. Atlanta hasn’t been playing its best football as of late, but the regular season isn’t what will decide Smith’s legacy in Atlanta. The Falcons have failed to win any of their last three playoff games. If Atlanta can make a deep playoff run—or at least win its first playoff game with Smith and Matt Ryan at the helm—Smith could be a front-runner for the award.
The pressure is on Smith. He may not be in the hot seat any time soon, but his Falcons need to find a way to win in the postseason. If they can do so this season, Smith should be all but assured a good chance at winning Coach of the Year.
Though it may seem imbalanced to give credit to Arians for the product Chuck Pagano assembled and coached the entire offseason, Arians has still led that team—and a rookie quarterback—to a 9-4 record and a probable playoff berth after a 2-14 season just a year ago.
Arians considered retirement after the 2011 season when the Pittsburgh Steelers declined to extend his contract and instead hired Todd Haley as new offensive coordinator. Pagano, who was named head coach in January, brought Arians aboard as his offensive coordinator.
Pagano’s battle with leukemia has been a source of motivation for the Colts, though motivation will only get a team so far. Arians has done an impeccable job orchestrating one of the most unlikely seasons in recent years, and he’s done it with one of the youngest rosters in the league.
Pagano could return to the team soon after finishing his leukemia treatments, but Arians will still play a big role. In fact, with Arians focusing more on the offensive side of the game, the Colts could be an even better team when Pagano returns.
Regardless of how the season ends for the Colts, Arians’ unprecedented success this season affords him serious consideration for the Coach of the Year Award in 2012.
Let’s be honest: The Hoodie would probably have a better chance of winning Coach of the Year honors had he not already been a recipient of the award in three prior seasons (2003, 2007 and 2010).
Belichick displays his coaching genius every season by thriving after endless personnel turnover. New England is a perennial powerhouse because of Belichick (with a little help from Tom Brady, of course), and this season has been no different.
The Patriots have dismantled everyone this year, and their only three losses have been by a combined four points. After a strong performance on Monday night against a good Houston Texans team, one has to wonder who can stop the Patriots’ momentum going forward.
Give credit where credit is due. Even if Belichick doesn’t win the award this season, he is the best head coach of the last decade in the NFL.
Peyton Manning has breathed new life into the Denver Broncos’ offense, but it’s John Fox that has made Denver a top-five defensive unit.
Fox is a defensive-minded coach who, with a high-powered offense now in place, could realistically lead the Broncos to another playoff run. Denver is allowing just 309.4 yards and 19.8 points per game this season, while youngsters like Von Miller are thriving under Fox’s tutelage.
Fox has had a solid coaching career, and despite his lack of success in his final years in Carolina, he may be one of the best head coaches in the league. He led the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2003, and this could be the year Fox gets the championship monkey off his back.
If the Broncos find themselves in the Super Bowl this year, Fox should get a lot of credit. Manning has led the offense, but it’s all coming together under Fox.