Forbes.com released a story on the highest paid coaches in American sports on Thursday, which Bill Belichick tops thanks to his reported $7.5 million annual salary. Whether his failure to win a Super Bowl in over six years warrants this or not, plenty of worthy NFL coaches are absent from this list of big butter and egg men.
So what if Mike Shanahan, Pete Carroll, Lovie Smith, Ken Whisenhunt, Tom Coughlin, Mike Tomlin and Belichick are rolling in filthy amounts of cash, let’s talk about the coaches who deserve some more respect, and perhaps extra green.
Chances that any of the following coaches reference this column in contract negotiations: 10,000 to 0.
“Rated” tends to become an odd, vague descriptor, leading to more pissed off readers, brutal message board comments about my level of education and clicks. Perfect.
I think Todd Haley is underrated.
Sure, the 10-6 record has brought him praise and notoriety, but no one really gives the Chiefs too much respect after bowing out at home in the wild card round. Most casual fans probably assume San Diego won the division yet again, especially after they obliterated KC in Week 14, when Matt Cassel sat out with that appendix issue.
Oh, and this didn’t help his image either.
But Haley’s a wizard in the passing game and helping young receivers flourish, just ask Kurt Warner or Larry Fitzgerald. Between Cassel’s bizarrely unfortunate organ issues and possessing only one decent receiver in 2010, the fact that KC broke the Chargers’ AFC West hold rings incredibly impressive. This after a 4-12 mark with an extremely young roster in 2009.
Some coaches become underrated after receiving way too much general blame for their shortcomings.
Marvin Lewis is an impressive leader for the same reason Genghis Khan is an impressive leader; he united an impossibly rowdy clan into a fearsome, successful outfit.
Lewis doesn’t get the props he deserves for the Bengals' division titles in 2005 and 2009 as he’s instead derided for somehow missing the postseason with Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco in the same locker room.
I really don’t want to imagine what would’ve happened if Khan was coaching the 2010 Bengals. Just a terrible visual, terrible man. Apparently he imparted this piece of wisdom before leaving the world:
“The greatest happiness is to scatter your enemy, to drive him before you, to see his cities reduced to ashes, to see those who love him shrouded in tears, and to gather into your bosom his wives and daughters.” – Ghengis Khan
So ... Yeah, I wasn’t kidding. Just awful, awful, awful.
With Lewis it would probably go more like this:
“The greatest happiness is not having the NFL’s two most neurotic, prima donna receivers and perhaps get through the offseason without arrests or other violations of league policy. Bill Parcells would’ve jumped off a bridge by now. Yup, right into the Ohio River. I’m doing the best I can.”
Here, underrated looks like an empty spot in the trophy case. Belichick received Associated Press Coach of the Year for winning 14 games but, much like the previous three years, it amounted to no postseason wins...with arguably the greatest quarterback of all time still in his prime.
Meanwhile, Morris inherits a team with dynamite in all the floors, set to demolish and go young in 2009. By 2010, second-year quarterback Josh Freeman and the fledgling offense pulls out narrow, clutch, gutsy wins one after another on the way to 10-6.
Snub I say! Give this man his AP hardware. His $4 million maximum potential salary (if he meets incentive clauses) for 2011 falls well short of big shot Belichick's $7.5, and that's fine. Belichick is great — but Morris owned 2010.
This is the part where I catch a ton of flak. Where I’m ridiculed endlessly. Where my self-esteem is beaten ruthlessly by the reader.
But if you’re rating has plummeted for 20 years, doesn’t that give you a better chance of becoming underrated? Here are some fun facts about the San Diego Chargers over the past 15 years.
Postseason wins under Norv Turner in four seasons: 3
Everyone else in 11 seasons: 0
Redskins fans still scoff and shudder at the sound “Turner;” fair enough, his name’s dirt in that town. And his Raiders tenure was a disaster, but good luck holding onto that job.
All I’m saying is Turner serves as a punchline way too much, and doesn’t get enough credit for his job in 2007 and 2009. Not saying he’s a Hall of Famer, or that he doesn't need to make the postseason next year to save his job.
(Note to Redskins fans: I’m sorry, I had to come up with something. You don’t know what kind of pressure five slides puts me under.)
Sometimes underrated is defined by the failure to become a household name despite doing gangbusters work.
Mom’s heard of Bill Belichick. Mom’s heard of Chuck Schwartz. But Jim Schwartz is just a nobody.
In 2010 the Lions upgraded from pesky-yet-hapless suckers to terrifying upstarts.
Now, we can’t underestimate Ndamukong Suh here. Few things help regain long-lost swagger like that kind of visceral, violent force plowing through offensive lines and quarterbacks.
But he’s just one player, and Detroit ripped off a four-game winning streak to close out 2010 after everyone but Lions fans stopped caring. Well, everyone who tuned out missed the turning point: Detroit handing Aaron Rodgers his last loss to date.
The 2009 season featured close-fought heartbreaks with regularity and that carried into 2010. But at some point that changed, and the culture changed.
Check out Bleacher Report's overrated NFL head coach list as well.