Power Ranking the NFL Coach of the Year Candidates After Week 16

Matt Stein@MatthewJSteinCorrespondent IIDecember 25, 2012

Power Ranking the NFL Coach of the Year Candidates After Week 16

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    With only one week left in the NFL regular season, we've seen some pretty impressive performances from head coaches this season. In fact, the 2012 season has shed both positive and negative light on numerous coaches.

    For example, who would have thought the Indianapolis Colts would be heading to the playoffs this year? On the opposite side of the spectrum, did anyone really think that Rex Ryan and the New York Jets would implode as much as they did?

    Needless to say, you won't find Ryan in our power rankings of the NFL Coach of the Year candidates. However, you will find Bruce Arians, Bill Belichick and a handful of other legitimate candidates.

    Here our your Coach of the Year candidates after Week 16.

9. Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings

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    Team Record: 9-6

    The only reason that Leslie Frazier is a Coach of the Year candidate is because he has the Minnesota Vikings on the cusp of the playoffs without any quarterback at all.

    Of course, he does have Adrian Peterson on his roster, but every other coach up for this award has a quarterback who is either elite or playing at an elite level. However, the fact that the Vikings are 9-6 heading into the final game with Christian Ponder playing like a high school quarterback is overly impressive.

    There is a slim chance that Frazier actually wins NFL Coach of the Year, but what he has done with the Vikings' roster gets him a mention at least.

8. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots

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    Team Record: 11-4

    It may seem surprising to have the head coach of the 11-4 New England Patriots this low, but I believe the Patriots have underachieved this year. For that reason, Bill Belichick is our eighth-ranked coach after Week 16. 

    Sure, they've won the AFC East and are in the running for a first-round bye in the playoffs, but people were talking about this team possibly going undefeated before the season started. They've also had a number of unimpressive performances against teams like the Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers and Jacksonville Jaguars.

    While Belichick has the Patriots poised for another deep run in the playoffs, this hasn't been the best of coaching performances from the legend in New England.

7. Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers

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    Team Record: 11-4

    After a rocky start to the season, Mike McCarthy has the Green Bay Packers getting hot at just the right time. They've won 9 of their last 10 games, and will be entering the playoffs as a favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

    However, what has been so impressive about the job McCarthy has done this year has been how he's dealt with injuries. The Packers have played games this season without a number of their best players including Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews. 

    With each week that passes, the Packers look more and more like the 2010 version of themselves that hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. McCarthy has been an even better coach this year than he was that year, and absolutely deserves to be mentioned as a candidate for Coach of the Year.

6. Bruce Arians, Indianapolis Colts

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    Team Record: 10-5

    The job that Bruce Arians has done while filling in for Chuck Pagano is truly difficult to put into words. The Indianapolis Colts have gone 9-3 since he took over, but that only scratches the surface of how brilliant Arians has been.

    No one expected this team to come anywhere close to making the playoffs. In fact, most people predicted the Colts to be holding a top-five draft pick in the 2013 NFL draft at the end of the season.

    However, Arians has had the Colts overachieving all year long. On top of that, he's kept his team cool, calm and collected, especially late in the games. Indianapolis has seven fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives on the season.

    We also can't forget that he was thrown into an extremely difficult situation with everything that has gone on with Coach Pagano. He's certainly in the conversation for NFL Coach of the Year.

5. Mike Shanahan, Washington Redskins

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    Team Record: 9-6

    Much like Bruce Arians and the Indianapolis Colts, Mike Shanahan and the Washington Redskins have exceeded all expectations this season. They currently control their own destiny in terms of winning the NFC East and making a surprise appearance in the playoffs. 

    What has separated Shanahan from the other coaches this year is how he's molded his offense to play to Robert Griffin III's strengths. He's been able to adapt and have his team play at a high level like few other coaches have this season.

    Shanahan started the season on the hot seat, but an extremely strong finish down the stretch has made him one of the best coaches in the league this season.

4. Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks

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    Team Record: 10-5

    No team is as hot as the Seattle Seahawks right now, and no coach is as hot as Pete Carroll right now.

    The Seahawks are playing fantastic football on both sides of the football. The offense is enjoying an extremely balanced season behind Marshawn Lynch and rookie Russell Wilson. As for the defense, no team has been as physical against the pass as the Seahawks.

    They've consistently shut down the top quarterbacks in the league including Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. Last week they made Colin Kaepernick look like a long-term project instead of the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.

    This team is going to be as dangerous as any other team in the league once the playoffs start, and that is a testament to the great coaching of Carroll.

3. Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans

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    Team Record: 12-3

    While the Houston Texans have been one of the best teams in the NFL this season, they've started to struggle a little down the stretch. They've lost two of their last three games, including an embarrassing loss at home in Week 16 to the Minnesota Vikings.

    However, Gary Kubiak still deserves major credit for the job he has done with Houston this season. He's made adjustments to both his offense and defense throughout the season in order to get the most out of his players. 

    From lowering Arian Foster's carries down the stretch to dealing with injuries on the defensive side of the ball, Kubiak has gotten the most out of his team from Week 1. It would be a complete surprise if he doesn't finish the year as one of the top-three candidates for Coach of the Year.

2. Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons

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    Team Record: 13-2

    Not only do the Atlanta Falcons hold the best record in the NFL this season, but they've also guaranteed that every team in the NFC will be coming to their stadium throughout the playoffs.

    The job that Mike Smith has done with the Falcons has been truly amazing. We all knew that the offense was going to be outstanding with guys like Roddy White, Julio Jones and Matt Ryan, but no one expected the defense to be any good at all. In fact, it was the defense that was supposed to keep this team back in 2012.

    However, they currently rank fourth in points allowed per game with an average of 18.5. They also rank in the top 10 for both interceptions and forced fumbles on the season.

    If it wasn't for our top candidate for Coach of the Year, Smith would be walking away with this award right now.

1. John Fox, Denver Broncos

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    Team Record: 12-3

    For all that John Fox has done in Denver this year, he isn't nearly getting enough credit. 

    To go from tailoring an offense around Tim Tebow to figuring out how to deal with a superstar like Peyton Manning is an extremely difficult task. However, Fox has handled it with beauty and grace and is currently riding a 10-game winning streak into Week 17.

    What really makes Fox the favorite for Coach of the Year right now is what he is doing with his defense. The Denver Broncos currently rank in the top five in points allowed (19.1) and yards allowed (302.2). They also have 48 sacks on the season, which leads the NFL.

    This award is Fox's to lose as the Broncos have to be considered a legitimate threat to win the Super Bowl.