NFL Power Rankings Week 6: Power Ranking the AFC Coaches
There is no other member of an NFL organization as influential to a team's success as the head coach.
Though the quarterback is unquestionably a team's most important player, even he doesn't have as much impact on the outcome of single games or whole seasons like a HC.
Being a successful NFL HC takes the right combination of knowledge of the game and an ability to motivate and relate to players. Some coaches possess the former, others the latter. But, few have the appropriate mixture of each.
All the coaches on this list have endured times of prosperity and hardship in their careers. Though the final draft of the 2010 season has yet to be written, some have distinguished themselves as standouts, while others' jobs are on the line.
Following is a power ranking of the AFC's head coaches going into Week 6 of the NFL season.
No. 15 (tie): Chan Gailey, Buffalo Bills (0-5)
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First-year Bills coach Chan Gailey has had a dismal start to his career in Buffalo.
The Bills are 0-5 going into Week 6, one of only three winless teams left in the NFL. Gailey has already made a change at QB, though even new starter Ryan Fitzpatrick's success has yet to yield a victory, as the Buffalo defense is absolutely porous.
At this point, all Gailey has to look forward to is April's NFL draft, where Buffalo is sure to have a top five selection.
No. 15 (tie): Norv Turner, San Diego Chargers (2-3)
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Unlike Gailey, Norv Turner has led the Chargers to two victories in 2010. However, given the talent on the roster and the way in which they've lost, it is certainly arguable he has been the AFC's worst coach this season.
The Chargers, considered a Super Bowl favorite by many coming into the season, have a 2-3 record going into Week 6. They lost to the lowly Oakland Raiders for the first time in 13 meetings Sunday, a direct result of horrible and undisciplined play on special teams.
If San Diego is to catch the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West race, Turner has to get better execution from one of the NFL's most talent-laden rosters.
No. 13: Eric Mangini, Cleveland Browns (1-4)
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Their record standing at 1-4 (second worst in the AFC), the Cleveland Browns haven't excelled in any facet in 2010. If they don't improve as the season wears on, second-year man Eric Mangini's job will surely be on the hot seat.
The Browns have been competitive in every game this season, as their only double-digit loss came last week to the Atlanta Falcons (20-10). Mangini needs to motivate and will his team to win fourth quarters in close games, a hallmark of good NFL coaches.
Things look to only get worse for Mangini and company, though, as Cleveland's next two games are on the road against perennial powers Pittsburgh and New Orleans.
No. 12: Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals (2-3)
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Coach Marvin Lewis's Cincinnati Bengals possess considerable talent on both sides of the ball, as evidenced in their Week 2 win over Baltimore.
However, Cincinnati has underperformed the last two weeks, losing games to the Browns and Buccaneers. If they want to keep pace in the AFC, Lewis needs to get more out of his players on offense as well as defense.
With players like Palmer, Benson, Ochocinco, Owens, Hall, Maualuga and Joseph in the fold, the Bengals should be better than their 2-3 record.
No. 11: Josh McDaniels, Denver Broncos (2-3)
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This was supposed to be something of a re-building year for HC Josh McDaniels's Denver Broncos. Still, that doesn't excuse his team's incredibly unbalanced offensive attack.
QB Kyle Orton has been fantastic for McDaniels this year, far outperforming even optimistic expectations. That said, the Broncos have become far too one-dimensional, as they rank second in the league in passing and 32nd in rushing.
If McDaniels wants to keep his team's playoff hopes alive, he needs to help a mediocre defense stay off the field by establishing even the slightest semblance of a running game.
No. 10: Tony Sparano, Miami Dolphins (2-2)
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Through four games, Tony Sparano and the Miami Dolphins have a 2-2 record.
After solid road wins over Buffalo and Minnesota in the season's first two weeks, Miami's defense looked awful in losses to New York and New England.
For a team that needs to rely on defense and the running game to win, Sparano's Dolphins haven't looked good in either aspect, despite possessing the necessary talent to thrive in both respects.
No. 9: Jim Caldwell, Indianapolis Colts (3-2)
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Through the season's first four games, Coach Jim Caldwell's Indianapolis Colts were one of the NFL's most consistent teams, exhibiting a great passing offense but shoddy defense.
That changed against Kansas City on Sunday, as Peyton Manning's passing game sputtered and the defense held the Chiefs to only nine points.
Despite injuries to the roster, Indy has the necessary pieces to play a more balanced game. Caldwell should give the running game a chance to succeed, and in doing so, he would help his defense in the process.
No. 8: Jeff Fisher, Tennessee Titans (3-2)
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The Tennessee Titans have two impressive road wins over the Giants and Cowboys early in the 2010 season. Despite that, they could be doing better.
Unlike previous coaches on this list, Jeff Fisher has relied too much on the running game thus far this season. Star RB Chris Johnson hasn't been his usual dynamic self, in large due to teams stacking the box with eight or nine defenders.
Fisher should balance the offensive attack by letting QB Vince Young take more chances in the passing game, as he's shown a newfound ability to avoid turnovers. In doing so, Johnson and the Tennessee running attack would revert back to the league's best.
No. 7: Tom Cable, Oakland Raiders (2-3)
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The fortunes of Tom Cable and his Oakland Raiders drastically improved with Sunday's exciting win over the Chargers.
Despite the team's 2-3 record, Cable has the Raiders playing spirited and fiery football, an aspect that cannot go overlooked in evaluating a coach's effectiveness. Clearly, the players want to play for Cable.
If Oakland can get improved and consistent play at QB from Bruce Gradkowski or Jason Campbell, Cable and his team could ride their energy and emotions to challenge for a playoff berth.
No. 6: Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans (3-2)
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After a fantastic start to the 2010 season, Gark Kubiak's Houston Texans have labored to a 1-2 record over the last three weeks.
The Texans possess one of the league's best offensive trios in QB Matt Schaub, RB Arian Foster and WR Andre Johnson. Additionally, DE Mario Williams is one of the NFL's most dominating defensive presences.
If Kubiak can get his dismal pass defense to improve (ranked last in the league), the Texans could earn the franchise's first playoff berth in 2010.
No. 5: Todd Haley, Kansas City Chiefs (3-1)
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After a 3-0 start to the season, Todd Haley and the Kansas City Chiefs were the talk of the NFL world. Despite Sunday's 19-9 loss at Indianapolis, KC holds a commanding lead in the AFC West race.
The Chiefs possess perhaps the NFL's most improved defense, limiting opponents to 14.3 points per game, third best in the league. Haley's young team has clearly bought into his attitude and system, and it shows in the Chiefs' inspired and confident play on the field.
While KC has a long way to go on offense (the passing game in particular), Haley and company look poised for the team's first playoff berth since 2007.
No. 4: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots (3-1)
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New England Coach Bill Belichick's ranking is based largely on his ability to diffuse a potentially destructive situation surrounding departed WR Randy Moss.
Sensing an unhappy Moss could spell trouble for his team's fragile playoff hopes, Belichick acted swiftly and bravely in trading him to the Minnesota Vikings. The one-for-all, all-for-one attitude exemplified by the Patriots' head man is extremely influential to his team's consistent success.
While having QB Tom Brady under center to lead his offense obviously helps Belichick, it is ultimately his sentiments that will prove influential to his team's post-season chances in 2010. If Brady and the passing attack continue to thrive without Moss, Belichick will rise even higher up this list.
No. 3: John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens (4-1)
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After his team's fantastic 4-1 start to the season, Ravens HC John Harbaugh could easily rank first on this list.
Baltimore is playing their typical dominating football on defense, ranking fourth in the league in points allowed per game. It is their progress on offense, though, that has them looking like legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
If Harbaugh can keep his young offense on an upward trajectory, the Ravens should be able to ride their defense to a post-season berth and a realistic chance at the Super Bowl.
No. 2: Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1)
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The Pittsburgh Steelers and HC Mike Tomlin have already started two different backup QBs this season, compiling a 3-1 record in the process. With star QB Ben Roethlisberger returning from suspension this Sunday, the Steelers will cement themselves as perhaps the league's premier Super Bowl favorite.
In Roethlisberger's absence, Tomlin rode one of the league's best rushing attacks to produce points on offense. Defensively, Pittsburgh remains the NFL's gold standard, ranking first in both points allowed and total defense.
Now that Roethlisberger is back, Tomlin's Steelers will prove to be the most balanced team in the NFL and stake their claim as the league's best team.
No. 1: Rex Ryan, New York Jets (4-1)
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Coming into the season, no NFL HC had as much pressure on him as the New York Jets' Rex Ryan. After five games, Ryan and the Jets have not only silenced their many critics, but looked like a Super Bowl team in the process.
After brashly proclaiming his team as the NFL's best and displaying an overall sense of superiority on HBO's Hard Knocks, Ryan has delivered unlike any other coach in the league. His typically dominant defense has been just that thus far in 2010, and the Jets currently rank first in the NFL in rushing.
Having already endured the toughest stretch of their schedule and coming out virtually unscathed, Ryan's Jets are poised for the NFL's best regular season record, and look capable of backing up the Super Bowl talk that dominated preseason headlines.