NFL Power Rankings: The Top 16 Head Coaches Players Love To Play For

Lake CruiseAnalyst IJanuary 22, 2011

NFL Power Rankings: The Top 16 Head Coaches Players Love To Play For

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    22 Nov 1998:  New Orleans Saints head coach Mike Ditka looks on during a game against the San Francisco 49ers at 3Com Park in San Francisco, California. The 49ers defeated the Saints 31-20. Mandatory Credit: Jed Jacobsohn  /Allsport
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    There's been a lot of talk recently about New York Jets coach Rex Ryan getting the most from his players. Rightfully so. 

    According to players like Chad Ochocinco, Ryan's style is a refreshing change from the old guard. Old-school coaches could be up in arms, but Mike Ditka (pictured) is accustomed to it. Ryan's father, Buddy, was Ditka's defensive coordinator for the 1985 Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears.

    Join me in this coordinated look at the most user-friendly coaches in the NFL.  

16. Jim Harbaugh: San Francisco 49ers

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    SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 07:  Jim Harbaugh speaks at a press conference where he was introduced as the new San Francisco 49ers head coach at the Palace Hotel on January 7, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    He already knows his way around the NFL head coaching ranks.  His brother John is the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens.

    Being Stanford University's former head coach, Jim also knows the San Francisco Bay area.  Whether or not he can get the San Francisco 49ers out of deep water remains to be seen.

    I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, but his NFL head coaching career is like a dangling participle right now.  It applies to nothing at all in particular.

15. Hue Jackson: Oakland Raiders

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    ALAMEDA, CA - JANUARY 18:  New Oakland Raiders coach Hue Jackson pauses as he speaks to reporters during a press conference on January 18, 2011 in Alameda, California. Hue Jackson was introduced as the new coach of the Oakland Raiders, replacing the fired
    Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    According to Al Davis, Jackson is burning with black and silver fire.  He has the emotional fire to set “a flame that will burn for a long time in the hearts and minds of the Raider football team and the Raider Nation.” 

    Jackson lit a fire under the offense this season after being brought in to assist Tom Cable.  Let’s see how it goes next season for Mr. Davis' newest hire.

    If I were Jackson, I'd hire someone to drive Davis—away from practice. 

14. Marvin Lewis: Cincinnati Bengals

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    ATLANTA - OCTOBER 24:  Head coach Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on October 24, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    In Baltimore as the defensive coordinator, his record-setting defense crushed the New York Giants 34-7 in the Super Bowl. 

    In Cincinnati, though, Lewis will accept mediocrity in a New York minute.  It’s not his fault—it’s the Bengals’ way under their forgiving owner. 

    It could be true that Bengals players don't worry too much about being traded or cut for off-the-field transgressions or poor play.  If going deep in the playoffs is your passion, however, the Bengals track record isn't for you.

    In my Jim Mora Sr. voice: "Going deep in the playoffs? Don’t talk about … going deep in playoffs?"  Apologies to the Moras.

    I make no apologies for Lewis, but cut him some slack.  The Cubs are lovable losers.  Why can't the Bengals be? That's rhetorical.

13. Leslie Frazier: Minnesota Vikings

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    DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 02:  Interim head coach Leslie Frazier of the Minnesota Vikings looks on from the bench while playing the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on January 2, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit won the game 20-13.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Gett
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Judging by the coaching staff he's putting together, Minnesota could be playoff contenders—if they find a franchise quarterback next season.

    They lost to the eventual Super Bowl champions—New Orleans—in the playoffs last year and failed to make them this year.  The Vikings played a lot better, though, after Brad Childress' debacles and departure.  They brought the noise against Michael Vick and the Eagles in a meaningless game for them. 

    It remains to be seen if the team was playing hard in response to Frazier or in relief because Childress is gone. 

12. Jack Del Rio: Jacksonviille Jaguars

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    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 19: Jack Del Rio of the Jacksonville Jaguars looks on against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Colts defeated the Jaguars 34-24.   (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images
    Scott Boehm/Getty Images

    Coaching on the sidelines in a suit is his thing.  His coaching style suits his players fine—maybe too fine. 

    In 2003, Del Rio had a massive tree stump placed in the locker room along with an ax.  It was a symbol of his mantra for the team to keep improving.

    It wasn't Del Rio's fault his only Pro Bowl player at the time—place kicker Chris Hanson—almost chopped his own foot off.  Gotta love a coach who gives players enough room to split an artery with an ax.

11. Steve Spagnuolo: St. Louis Rams

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    DETROIT - OCTOBER 10: St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo during the warms up prior to the start of the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on October 10, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    Getting the previously lowly Rams to the brink of the playoffs was a major accomplishment.  With the run they had—going from worst in the NFL over the last two years to almost first in the NFC West—his players almost have to believe in him.

    Believing in a coach is part of what makes team sports fun.  The Rams are probably excited to get on the field next season.  With a decimated offense, he still managed to get smiles and enjoyment out of his players. 

    He should get considerations for NFL Coach of the Year.

10. Pete Carroll: Seattle Seahawks

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    SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 08: Head coach Pete Carroll and Will Herring #54 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrate a fourth down stop by the Seahawks in the third quarter against the New Orleans Saints during the 2011 NFC wild-card playoff game at Qwest Field on Ja
    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    As enthusiastic and upbeat as any coach in the league, he may set the standard for positive vibes from coaches. 

    He rescued Tom Cable by making him the offensive line coach and assistant head coach.  He also brought in Marshawn Lynch and we see how Lynch performed in the playoffs.  He’s developing a reputation for a caring coach.

    Hey, the NBA Cares.  Why can't the NFL?  That's rhetorical.

9. Mike Smith: Atlanta Falcons

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    ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 02:  Head coach Mike Smith of the Atlanta Falcons celebrates in the final seconds of their 31-10 over the Carolina Panthers at Georgia Dome on January 2, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    It remains to be seen if he can take his players to the Promised Land.  They know he has their backs, though, if it comes to a brawl.  Smith was ready to get after trash-talking DeAngelo Hall on one fine sideline day in November 2008.

    Smith probably wishes quarterback Matt Ryan would have thrown the pick-six over the sidelines instead of to Tramon Williams in the NFC Divisional round.  He didn't throw his quarterback under the bus, though, and he gets cool points for that.

    The next coach on the list always looks cool and calm.

8. Andy Reid: Philadelphia Eagles

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 09:  Head coach Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles looks on against the Green Bay Packers during the 2011 NFC wild card playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 9, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Chris
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    He’s had transgressions in his family life to cause other players to be able to question his authority, but his team still wins. 

    His offense was one of the most exciting in the NFL with Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson. 

    Despite his issues, his team keeps winning, rallying behind him and having fun.  Players know if they produce, they'll get some clock.

7. John Harbaugh: Baltimore Ravens

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 09:  Head coach John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates with fans in the stands after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 30-7 in the 2011 AFC wild card playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 9, 2011 in Kansas City, M
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The Baltimore Ravens coach comes from a coaching family.  He also knows both sides of the players-coaches spectrum.  His brother is the coach for the San Francisco 49ers. 

    The Ravens play as hard as any as stay out of trouble—a sign of respect for their coach.

    His brother Jim is now on the clock.

6. Lovie Smith: Chicago Bears

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 16:  Head coach Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears looks on in the first half against the Seattle Seahawks in the 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Soldier Field on January 16, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Ge
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    If you like to play smash-mouth NFL defense on a hard and choppy field with a soft-speaking coach watching in the bitter cold, then you’ll love him. 

    Linebacker Bryan Urlacher said Smith deserved an extension, but it remains to be seen what will happen. 

    Urlacher speaking up for the quiet and humble Smith speaks volumes. 

5. Mike McCarthy: Green Bay Packers

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 09:  Head coach Mike McCarthy of the Green Bay Packers looks on during their game against the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2011 NFC wild card playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 9, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylv
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    On defense, the Packers play with a motor as revved up as any in the NFL.  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers loves McCarthy for giving him the opportunity to start over Brett Favre.  Rodgers rewarded the loyalty with a stunning 2011 playoff performance.

    The way they play, perform and interact on both sides of the ball reveals the fun they have.

4. Sean Payton: New Orleans Saints

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02:  Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints watches a play during the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Louisiana Superdome on January 2, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Buccaneers defeated the Saints 23
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    The Bill Parcells protégé isn’t as sour, feisty or surly as the image Parcells portrayed of himself.  Payton is one of the most popular people in New Orleans. 

    His players respect him and almost have to love him just on “g.p.”—good principle.

3. Raheem Morris: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02:  Head coach Raheem Morris of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers watches a play during the game against the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome on January 2, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Buccaneers defeated the Saints
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach said he had the best team in the NFL.  No big deal.  He became famous for the “Yeah, I said it” emphasis he put on it.

    The youngest head coach in the NFL has players who have fun on the field and stay out of trouble off it—so far.  He seems to be on his way to being recognized as one of the best coaches in the league.  I can't wait.

    Yes, I said it.

2. Mike Tomlin: Pittsburgh Steelers

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 15:  Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers smiles on the sidelines against the Baltimore Ravens during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Heinz Field on January 15, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    He’ll shadow box you in celebration on the sidelines when you come off the field after coming off the quarterback’s behind.  Deion Sanders said he was ready to put on some pads and go play after interviewing Tomlin. 

    Perhaps the most inspiring coach in the league according to NFL insiders, Tomlin is confident without being too cocky.

    A lot of people think the next coach on the list is too cocky, but his players can't wait to shut up all you "non-believers."  Amen corner, anyone?  Rhetorical.

1. Rex Ryan: New York Jets

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    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 08:  Head coach Rex Ryan of the New York Jets looks on during warm ups against the Indianapolis Colts during their 2011 AFC wild card playoff game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 8, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    His trash-talk tolerance level is off the charts.  In fact, he may be the biggest trash-talker on the team.  The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. 

    Even Jim Rome agrees.  He said he’d never seen a group of players want to play for a coach more than Buddy Ryan in the 1990s.  Rex is Buddy’s big boy—his son.

    "Sexy Rexy" is a buddy to his players, but they respect him as the head coach.  It's working, and I expect NFL owners and coaches to copy the Jets coaching model.  See Raheem Morris.