NFL Power Rankings: Ranking the Head Coaches' Game Management

Thomas ConroyCorrespondent IOctober 21, 2011

NFL Power Rankings: Ranking the Head Coaches' Game Management

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    What’s game management?

    It’s the ability to reduce the tempo of the game and take precious seconds off the clock. Mistakenly, head coaches will leave too much time for the other team to have a chance at winning the game in the final seconds.

    Here are my rankings of the NFL head coaches in terms of their game-management ability.

32. Pat Shurmur, Cleveland Browns

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    The jury is still out on the Pat Shurmur’s coaching ability, as his team is trying to figure out their identity under his reins. 

31. Mike Munchak, Tennessee Titans

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    The first six weeks of the season have shown that Mike Munchak lacks the experience to make sound game management decisions. His learning curve is rather steep, as Munchak is replacing a legend (Jeff Fisher) on the sidelines. 

30. Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings

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    Some in Minnesota want Leslie Frazier to show some emotion and the skill to make in-game adjustments, or he could be out of a job at the end of the season. 

29. Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers

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    With each week, Panthers fans feel better and better about the state of their football team. They have a young, talented quarterback learning on the job and a head coach, Ron Rivera, trying to turn a tough situation into a competitive environment once again.

28. Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks

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    Pete Carroll’s rah-rah high school coaching schtick just doesn’t work in the NFL. Last season, his unconventional game management decisions almost cost the Seahawks an NFC West divisional title. 

27. Tony Sparano, Miami Dolphins

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    That moving object coming towards you in the rear-view mirror is your replacement as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins.

    It’s not Tony Sparano’s fault that he doesn’t have enough quality players on the roster to contend for a playoff position. He’s very good at developing a game plan each week, but his lack of making in-game adjustments could get him fired in the near future. 

26. Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans

7 of 32

    No more excuses—Gary Kubiak needs to lead the Houston Texans into the playoffs, or he should lose his job. 

25. Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona Cardinals

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    His shining star has faded over the last two years, as Ken Whisenhunt would have been higher on the list if he hadn’t let a couple of victories slip through his hands earlier this season. 

24) Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    It’s very tough to judge Jack Del Rio’s coaching ability, as he is starting a rookie quarterback to help gain him some valuable game experience. Patience might be Del Rio’s biggest virtue this season.

23. Jim Caldwell, Indianapolis Colts

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    The media has portrayed Jim Caldwell as a coach winning with Tony Dungy’s players, and his coaching flaws were exposed during the Super Bowl against the New Orleans Saints. Sean Payton badly out-coached him on a surprise onside kick to start the second half. The Colts could never regain momentum and lost the game. 

22. Steve Spagnuolo, St. Louis Rams

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    Again, it’s tough to judge a coach's talent during a rebuilding process. Steve Spagnuolo has the pieces in place with a young quarterback to lead his team back to contention, but it will take some time. 

21. Chan Gailey, Buffalo Bills

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    Chan Gailey isn’t the long-term solution for the Buffalo Bills, but he’s done an excellent job this season. Let’s not forget his terrific play-calling in a last second win over the Oakland Raiders in Week 2. He has the fans thinking about playoffs once again in upstate New York. 

20. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Marvin Lewis is a decent coach, but unfortunately there’s no direction coming from the Cincinnati Bengals front office. This captain could go down with his ship.

19. John Fox, Denver Broncos

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    It took too long for John Fox to decide on a quarterback, as upper management was conflicted between Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow. If they had made the move earlier, then the Broncos might have a few more wins under their belt. 

18. Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys

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    After taking over for Wade Phillips, Jason Garrett showed excellent game management during his interim time as Dallas Cowboys head coach.

    However, Cowboy fans cannot be happy with the way they lost the New England game, as Garrett settled for a field goal on their final drive and left plenty of time for another Tom Brady comeback.

17. Lovie Smith, Chicago Bears

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    If you watch a Chicago Bears game, you quickly become frustrated with Lovie Smith’s long, drawn-out process of calling timeouts and challenging questionable plays.

    Bears fans will recall a 2007 game against the Minnesota Vikings, when he forgot to call a timeout to force the Vikes to punt the ball away on fourth down. Instead, they went to one knee and ran the clock out. He can screw up the end of a game with the best of them. 

16. Norv Turner, San Diego Chargers

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    Norv Turner never receives the proper credit for his offensive play-calling ability. In San Diego, he quickly geared his offense toward the personnel on his roster and simplified the game plan enough to allow Philip Rivers to make plays. 

15. Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers

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    Still a little bit too early in the Jim Harbaugh era to call him a great coach, but you cannot argue with success. He demands his quarterback make the right reads during crunch time, and so far, Harbaugh is pushing all right buttons. 

14. Hue Jackson, Oakland Raiders

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    Hue Jackson is one of the underrated coaches in the NFL, as he makes the necessary halftime adjustments to win a game. Keep your eye on the Oakland Raiders for the second half of the season. 

13. Mike Shanahan, Washington Redskins

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    Mike Shanahan is still one of the best game managers in the league today. He will be very stingy with taking timeouts early in a contest. 

12. Todd Haley, Kansas City Chiefs

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    The biggest problem with Todd Haley is that he is too fiery on the sidelines. Some will criticize him for being too aggressive on fourth-down plays. If Haley wants to survive as a head coach, then he will have to control his emotions on the field. 


11. Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions

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    You love that the Detroit Lions have embraced the super-competitor personality of their coach, Jim Schwartz, as they will not be pushed around anymore on a football field.

    His team is fast becoming the feel-good story of this season, as a young coach is making an on-field impact to a franchise that’s trying to dig out of a decade-long obscurity. 

10. Raheem Morris, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    In his first season as head coach, Raheem Morris showed that he could make the tough decisions after a rocky start to his career. Now, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are contending for a NFC playoff position. 

9. Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons

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    Mike Smith is very controlled on the sidelines but yet very aggressive in his play-calling. His detractors will point toward his 0-2 mark in the playoffs, but his Falcons teams might have been the biggest overachievers in recent times. 

8. John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens

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    John Harbaugh’s demeanor on the field seems to be a coach in control all of the time. Once his team gains a lead, then they become more conservative in their play-calling, but they have problems with time management during the playoffs. At times, Harbaugh appears confused or uncertain to throw a red flag on close plays. 

7. Rex Ryan, New York Jets

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    If Rex Ryan could keep his big mouth shut, some might be willing to give him credit on becoming a good head coach. Ryan adapts well to the tempo of the game, as his adjustments are uncanny. He limits himself by not getting involved in shaping the offensive game plan each week. 

6. Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Andy Reid is horrible at clock management, as he is stubborn and slow to making any necessary on-field adjustments. But you cannot argue with his successful record—Reid has led the Eagles to the playoffs nine of his 12 seasons as head coach. 

5. Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers

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    Mike McCarthy has become football’s version of the new flavor of the month, as the Cheese State is celebrating their Super Bowl win from last season. Occasionally, he will make game-management errors, but all is forgiven if McCarthy can coach the Pack to a perfect season this year. 

4. Tom Coughlin, New York Giants

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    Tom Coughlin is the “king of the challenges,” as he has won over 65 percent of his challenge flags.

    Unfortunately in head coaching, you're only as good as your last game, and critics will not forget how Coughlin's teams have continually collapsed in the fourth quarter. 

3. Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints

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    Sometimes, Sean Payton is his own worst enemy, as he will outsmart himself. But you cannot disagree that Payton gives his team an opportunity to win a game each week. Too many coaches in the NFL are afraid to take chances and settle for guaranteed points. 

2. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    By his own admission, Mike Tomlin knows that he has to get better at game management. He thinks of himself as a work in progress and never forgets his awful decisions in a playoff loss to the Jaguars. 

1. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots

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    What’s not to like here, as Bill Belichick is a brilliant tactician. He’s aggressive and smart when managing the game itself. The hoodie is best known for his in-game adjustments and throwing out a game plan at a moment’s notice.