Arians has done a spectacular job in Indianapolis. He took over the job when it was discovered head coach Chuck Pagano had lekuemia. Since then, Arians has led the team to an 10-5 record and a trip to the 2012 NFL playoffs.
He has handled two of the most stressful positions coaching positions in the NFL—head coach and offensive coordinator—and has managed to help develop a rookie quarterback (albeit the No. 1 overall pick) into an outstanding player and leader.
Despite his great success, it's not a position Arians wanted, or is planning to keep. When Pagano returns, Arians will slide back into his role as offensive coordinator (h/t Indystar):
“If he comes back," interim coach Bruce Arians said Wednesday, “he’ll be the head coach and taking back over...“His footprints and handprints are all over the team. It’s his team.’’
To begin, it is hard to justify giving the Coach of the Year award to an interim head coach. Pagano put the building blocks for success in place early this offseason before leaving the team to battle cancer. Arians simply inherited Pagano's work.
Arians would be credited for the excellent development of Andrew Luck whether he was the offensive coordinator or the head coach. That would not change either way.
But while he has done a wonderful job leading the team, the results on the field would likely be the same had Pagano been coaching the entire time. It is pretty apparent that the Colts are not as bad as they were advertised as coming into the season.
The roster was revamped, and new schemes were put into place by Pagano before he left. Arians has made good on what Pagano laid out for him. That does not necessarily make him Coach of the Year, especially considering he did not do all of the work Pagano did leading up to the season.
Media members and fans are not the only groups hyping Arians for the award. Several players on the roster are already lobbying for Arians to win the award, including kicker Adam Vinatieri, who would know a thing or two about playing for exceptional coaches (h/t NFL.com):
"You can't say enough good stuff about BA right now," Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri said Wednesday. "He's always taken Chuck's wishes and our philosophies and our schemes and he's put that front and center and continued to coach his way to make sure it's done the way that this team needs to be. And then to be successful and be able to still do all his offensive coordinator stuff, but yet oversee the defense and special teams and make personnel decisions and stuff.
Vinatieri has a good point, but he also reinforces the idea that Arians simply inherited the work of Pagano.
What Arians has done is extremely remarkable, but it is not the only head-coaching performance that deserves this much attention.
Take Bill Belichick in New England, who once again has his team playing the best football in the land. Or Mike Smith of the Atlanta Falcons, who appears to finally have his team ready to take the next step. The same can be said for Gary Kubiak in Houston.
Perhaps the man who deserves the award most is ironically the coach who won the award last year—San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harabaugh.
Harabaugh was widely criticized for sticking with quarterback Colin Kaepernick instead of his regular starter, Alex Smith.
The result of Harabaugh's decision?
The 49ers are even better. As if being the best team in the NFL weren't enough, Harabaugh took a leap of faith and now has his team on the fast track to a Super Bowl.
Does Bruce Arians deserve the Coach of the Year award?
The one saving grace for Arians' hopes for the award seem to be the fact the Colts are a surprise. No one expected Indianapolis to perform this well this season, but as hinted at earlier, the Colts were not as bad as some pointed out.
At the end of the day, Arians will likely win the award. He has done a fantastic job in a very serious situation.
The does not mean there are not better candidates that are more deserving, which is something that can be said about the MVP award each and every year. Or Pro Bowl voting.
Arians has been great for Indianapolis, but Pagano should receive most of the credit for laying the foundation for the success.
Arians has proven to be one of the better coaches in the NFL, but to say he is the best coach in the NFL this year would be a disservice to other coaches around the league who put in the entire body of work from day one and have reaped the benefits.