NFL Coaches: Ranking the Top 10 Heads Going into the 2011 Season

Ross BentleySenior Analyst IAugust 9, 2011

NFL Coaches: Ranking the Top 10 Heads Going into the 2011 Season

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    Every year 32 men lead their team onto the field Week 1 with hopes of a Super Bowl title on their minds.

    But more often then not, they fail. A successful NFL coach must not only be able to remain focused all year long, but must deal with the extreme personalities of professional athletes as well as the media who covers their every move.  A good NFL coach knows how to lead his team into battle every week and keep them properly motivated and prepared for their opponent.

    The men on this list have proven that they do have what it takes to be a successful NFL coach. Each have their own unique styles, but they are the best men to lead their squads in the 2011 NFL season.

Honorable Mentions

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    First, let's start off with the coaches that just missed the list. Some of them are just too unproven at this time to be included in the Top 10 right now, but could very well be soon.  Others are veteran coaches on the fringe and just missed out of the Top 10, but still have proven their abilities at the NFL level.

    Raheem Morris, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: In just 2 years, Morris has proved that he is one of the best up and coming coaches in the game. Last season Morris led the surprise Bucs to a 10-6 season, and him and Quarterback Josh Freeman have Bucs fans excited for the future.

    John Fox, Denver Broncos: After 9 seasons as coach of the Carolina Panthers, Fox now gets a new chance to start over in Denver this season. Although they were atrocious last year, Fox had a good amount of success in Carolina including leading them to 1 Super Bowl and 3 Playoff Appearances. 

    Tom Coughlin, New York Giants: Tom Coughlin has 133 career wins as well as a Super Bowl title to his name. Although he has rubbed many players the wrong way with his strict approach, Coughlin has shown he knows how to win games and championships in the NFL.

    Mike Shanahan, Washington Redskins: Shanahan is one of only 2 active coaches to have multiple Super Bowl rings and I expect many to wonder how I could leave him off the list. But Shanahan's first season in Washington was a disaster and the way he handled the Donovan McNabb as well as Albert Haynesworth situations left many fans with a sour taste in their mouth and leaves him out of the top 10 for now.

10. John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens

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    The Baltimore Ravens are many peoples pick to take home the Super Bowl trophy this year and it has everything to do with their up and coming Head Coach John Harbaugh.

    After the departure of Brian Billick, the Ravens needed a coach who could command the respect of the Ravens veteran players while bringing a new style to the organization and Harbaugh did just that.

    Going 32-16 and making the playoffs in all 3 of his seasons as a head coach, more playoff success is all that is keeping John Harbaugh from being one of the best coaches in the game.

9. Lovie Smith, Chicago Bears

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    One of the more underrated coaches in the NFL might be Chicago Bears headman Lovie Smith.

    Smith has been to a Super Bowl as well as making it to the NFC title game last season with the Bears. He has compiled a .563 winning percentage in 6 seasons in Chicago yet there has often been rumors about his job being in jeopardy.

    But Smith has done a fine job in his tenure in Chicago and cemented his place as one of the top coaches in the game to not own a Super Bowl ring.

8. Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons

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    The Head man of the Atlanta Falcons, Mike Smith comes in at number 8 on this list.

    In just 3 seasons as the head man of the Falcons, Smith has jump started an organization that was struggling after the wake of the Michael Vick incident.

    While many expected the Falcons to struggle for years to come, Smith as well as Matt Ryan have turned the ship around and made the Falcons one of the top squads in the NFC. 

    During his tenure, the Falcons have not had a losing record and have made the playoffs twice including an incredible 13-3 season last year.

    While the Playoff wins have not come yet, Smith has proven already that he was just what the Falcons needed.

7. Jim Caldwell, Indianapolis Colts

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    When Tony Dungy announced his retirement after the 2008 season, many fans wondered what impact his departure would have on Peyton Manning and the Colts.

    The answer was little if any at all, as the Colts went undefeated through their first 14 games with Jim Caldwell as Head Coach and made it all the way to the Super Bowl before losing to the Saints.

    Caldwell brings Dungy's calming leadership style to the Colts and seems to have earned the respect of his players. Caldwell has won the AFC South title with the Colts both seasons he has coached and as long as Peyton Manning is around, Caldwell and the Colts will likely be the favorites in the division every year.

6. Rex Ryan, New York Jets

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    Sometimes Rex Ryan's personality can over shine his coaching ability. 

    Ryan certainly knows how to talk, and has become one of the most colorful personalities in sports since he became New York Jets head coach in 2009. 

    But what is often ignored is that Ryan, for the most part has backed it up. In both of his seasons as Head Coach, Ryan has led the Jets to the AFC Championship Game, a tremendous accomplishment for someone who had no head coaching experience prior to his job with the Jets.

    Ryan, as defensive coordinator of the Ravens consistently made the them one of the top defenses in the league and he has done the same thing since moving to New York. 

    While his mouth may get him in trouble at times, there's no denying that Rex Ryan is entertaining, and more importantly a great Head Coach.

5. Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers

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    Simply put, Mike McCarthy is all about business. McCarthy's has quietly been a solid coach since 2006 for Green Bay, but until last years Super Bowl run he was given very little credit, but perhaps that is somewhat by design.

    McCarthy elects to stay out of the limelight and leads his team from within. McCarthy has his Packers consistently ready to play as he has accomplished 3 playoff appearances in his tenure with last years Super Bowl title being the highlight of his career.

    McCarthy has all the makings of a coach who could be in place for a long time in Green Bay. With Aaron Rodgers throwing the ball, the Packers have their two most important men in place for years to come.

4. Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints

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    When I think of Sean Payton the first word that comes to mind is guts.

    Payton had the guts to take on a Saints job in 2006 with a team coming off a 3-13 season and in a city still struggling in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, instead of holding out for a better job. 

    Payton had the guts to go for the onside kick in the Super Bowl against the Colts which propelled the Saints to their World Title.

    Payton has been consistently excellent since taking over the job in New Orleans and has turned the Saints from a laughing stock to one of the best teams in the league.

    With no signs of going anywhere, Payton and Drew Brees are another Coach/QB combination that I see having success together for many more seasons.

3. Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles

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    With the departure of Jeff Fisher in Tennessee, the current longest tenured Head Coach in the NFL is Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles who has held the position since 1999. 

    In that time, Reid has compiled a .618 winning percentage with the Eagles and has been to 5 NFC Championship Games and 1 Super Bowl.

    While his lack of success in those championship games and lack of any Super Bowl rings leaves Reid out of the top 2, there's no denying he is one of the best coaches in Football.

    Throughout his tenure Reid has had to deal with extreme personalities such as Terrell Owens, and had a rocky relationship with long time Quarterback Donovan McNabb, but through it all Reid managed to win 5 NFC East Championships and make the playoffs 9 times.

    This year the Eagles are absolutely loaded and Reid's long wait for a Super Bowl Title could finally be over.

2. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Another successor to a longtime successful Head Coach is Mike Tomlin with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    After the retirement of Bill Cowher who coached the Steelers for 15 years and lead them to a Super Bowl Championship, The Rooney's handed the job to Mike Tomlin, who's only substantial NFL job prior had been 1 year of being Defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings.

    Needless to say, they made the right decision. Tomlin, who is the third youngest head coach in the four major sports at age 39, became the youngest coach in NFL history to lead his team to a Super Bowl Championship when they defeated the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.

    Tomlin has coached the Steelers for four seasons and has made the playoffs three times, and the Super Bowl twice. 

    His no nonsense approach fits right in with the Steelers smash mouth defense and storied tradition. Tomlin demands respect despite barely being older then some of the veterans on the roster. But Tomlin's success has proven that he deserves that respect, not only of his own players, but from everyone around the league.

1. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots

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    There is no man I despise more in sports then Bill Belichick.

    Whether its's spy-gate or his ridiculous hoodie he wears or his unenthusiastic press conferences, I can go on and on about why I hate him. 

    But I admit, most of it is out of jealousy as Belichick has been tearing up the NFL (specifically my Jets) since becoming head coach of the New England Patriots in 2000 and even I can't deny he is the best coach in football.

    In that time, Belichick has won three Super Bowl Championships with the Patriots and has won Coach of the Year three times as well.

    Belichick knows how to coach, plain and simple. He has often taken Patriots teams with less talent and maximizes their abilities, leading them to deep playoff runs and even Super Bowls. 

    One can question where Belichick's career would have ended up if Drew Bledsoe had remained the starting quarterback in New England and not gotten hurt opening the door for Tom Brady in 2001. But while Belichick's career might not have been the same without Brady, Brady's wouldn't be the same without Belichick. 

    With no signs of slowing down, Belichick will continue to win games and tick people off in the process until he decides to hang it up.