NFL Power Rankings: Tom Coughlin, Rex Ryan and the Best and Worst Game Managers
Tom Coughlin, Rex Ryan, Bill Belichick and 29 other guys have the coveted job of coaching a professional football team. Three of those guys aren't the same ones who started the year in that job, but such is life in the NFL.
At the end of the day, winning is the biggest measuring stick for success. How you get those wins often doesn't matter. One of those ways, though, is by being a good "game manager," that is your ability to manage the clock, know when to call that trick play, knowing which clutch plays to call and how much weight your authority carries on the sidelines.
For those Rex Ryan fans out there, the "weight" is figurative, not literal.
Here's a look at 10 head coaches: five who could be considered "good" game managers, and five who would be considered "bad" game managers.
5. Bad Game Manager: Mike Shanahan
Mike Shanahan has won a Super Bowl, but he did it with John Elway, a Hall of Fame quarterback, and a cast of superstars. It's easy to be seen as a good coach with the talent he had on that team.
Since Elway left, Shanahan has done a lot of wheel-spinning, and finally was let go after the 2008 season.
Now back with the Washington Redskins, we've seen a lot of questionable playcalling, a lot of poor clock management and I can sum it all up in two words for you:
Shanahan has a lot of good qualities, but when you bench Donovan McNabb for Rex Grossman, and then can't even explain it consistently after the game, you've made a bad decision and probably aren't the best game manager out there.
5. Best Game Manager: Jack Del Rio
When you have a quarterback like David Garrard, and your team still manages to stay in the playoff race until the very last week of the season despite an injury to Maurice Jones-Drew, you're doing something right.
Just go back through the 2010 season to see the bag of tricks Del Rio pulls out to get some of those fourth quarter comebacks. When it doesn't work, you'll see it's usually because Garrard didn't execute. But when Garrard executes the plays called, good things tend to happen.
Del Rio knows how to use the clock and rarely makes mistakes.
4. Bad Game Manager: Jim Caldwell
Jim Caldwell has one of the best quarterbacks of this generation playing at the top of his game. However, Caldwell not only lost the Super Bowl last year, but the Colts still need a win this Sunday to guarantee that they'll be in the playoffs.
Caldwell did not make adjustments in the second half of last year's Super Bowl, often looks bewildered on the sidelines and doesn't seem to "coach" during a game.
Caldwell seems more like a bystander, occasionally interjecting his thoughts on the matter rather than being an active participant, and the results speak for themselves. He may be good on the practice field, but without good players, Caldwell probably gets fired for poor game management.
4. Good Game Manager: Jeff Fisher
Let's be honest here, Jeff Fisher has never won a Super Bowl. He came up one yard short of sending Super Bowl XXXIV into overtime, pending the PAT, versus the Rams in 2000.
But Fisher's teams usually are above .500 and they're almost always in the playoff mix.
If it weren't for Bud Adams and Vince Young sabotaging things, Fisher might have a Lombardi Trophy on his mantle. There's no doubt Young's fragile psyche damaged the team's ability to win this year, and Kerry Collins can only take a team so far.
If you give Fisher a chance to win a game, he's going to do it. It's not always going to be pretty, and his defense may commit a bunch of personal fouls along the way, but Fisher knows when to hold 'em, and he knows when to fold 'em.
3. Bad Game Manager: Eric Mangini
Eric Mangini is cursed this year with a roster full of marginal talent, a few young players who still need developing and a handful of stars.
That being said, Mangini's clock management skills are atrocious, and he too often plays for field goals rather than risk failing to get a touchdown. Mangini's players are disciplined, but that doesn't mean much when the Browns keep getting beat in the second half because the other team is playing to win while Mangini begins coaching not to lose.
If Mangini is to keep his job in 2011, he not only has to get a new offensive coordinator (different argument but relevant), but he has to convince Browns President Mike Holmgren that a few talent upgrades and more adjusting on his own part will lead to the Browns winning the close games next year instead of losing them.
3. Good Game Manager: Mike Smith
Mike Smith came in and made an immediate impact on the Atlanta Falcons. He not only developed Matt Ryan at a very quick pace, but he knows when to call the running plays with Michael Turner and when to just unleash Ryan's power.
Smith is a shrewd coach who is rarely surprised, and reacts to the game with a cool demeanor.
Smith is surrounded by great talent, and he knows how to use them, how to manage the clock and when to throw it out on the table.
2. Bad Game Manager: Rex Ryan
Rex Ryan's sideline isn't exactly the most organized place in the world as evidenced by Sal Alosi's masterful trip maneuver.
In fact, when you look back through the last two seasons, Ryan and the Jets seem to be lucky more than skillful at the end of games.
Ryan coaches by the seat of his pants, and there's nothing wrong with that if you get wins, but there's no way you could call Ryan a "good" game manager.
He's a good talker, and he sometimes will throw some surprises at you, but there never seems to be any rhyme or reason to a Rex Ryan gameplan.
2. Good Game Manager: Tom Coughlin
Tom Coughlin is a very organized guy, and he knows what he wants and how he wants it done when it comes to the game.
The Giants usually have a good gameplan, and they're in most of their games. The late season fades seem as baffling to Couglin as they do to the fans, although Coughlin ends up taking more than his fair share of blame when the "Bad" Eli Manning starts throwing picks, the defense breaks down or Matt Dodge punts the ball straight to DeSean Jackson against Coughlin's specific order.
But winning a Super Bowl against the Patriots is something that earns you big points. Even if it did come down to one play late in the fourth quarter, Coughlin was smart enough to take advantage of the opportunity given to him.
1. Bad Game Manager: Marvin Lewis
What part of Marvin Lewis' gameplan ever make sense?
Outside of the last two weeks, and most of last year, Lewis tended to manage a game like a nine year old tries to mow the lawn for the first time.
There's no order, clock management isn't even a factor and adjustments usually happen only by accident.
The only reason Lewis wasn't fired long before this season is because Bengals owner Mike Brown is cheap and refuses to pay two coaches.
1. Good Game Manager: Bill Belichick
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Bill Belichick's resume speaks for itself. He's plotting three plays ahead of everyone else, he almost never wastes a timeout and he knows exactly when kicking to an offensive lineman is going to return dividends.
Belichick excels at every aspect of the coaching end of football, and there really are few who can beat Belichick on any kind of consistent basis, especially with Tom Brady, on the field.