Top 10 NFL Coaches
According to the sycophantic banter that dominates football media, football is the most complicated and cerebral sport out there.
Just ask the hundreds of pundits, chief among them Jon Gruden, who questioned Cam Newton's intelligence, saying that he didn't have the smarts to read complex defensive schemes. You have to be a genius to play this game.
This slideshow is a tribute to the geniuses of the game, the coaches. The men with the Xs and Os, the men with the headsets and laminated, diagrammed, laminated sheets (looking at you Andy Reid).
The men of the 90-hour work week, on the sidelines dreaming the game up multiple times before it happens.
Jack Del Rio: Jacksonville Jaguars
Who's the man? Jack DR, that's who!
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This guy has to be a pretty great coach because he still has a job. I don’t get it. The Jags have had their share of success over the years with Del Rio, but also their share of horror.
You’d think that the Jaguars regretful owner and the flip-flopping, Tebow-loving fan base would have turned on this guy already. Does he hold some secret powers that helped him keep his job by stringing together some impressive wins every couple of years?
Big brownie points from this Bills fan when Del Rio visited the ailing longtime Buffalo News sports writer Allen Wilson in the hospital during the preseason. This is perhaps a window into how Del Rio at times is able to get his team “up” for games and how his owner must love him.
He also cuts a statuesque sideline figure in that leather jacket, looking like the personal trainer of your mom’s dreams.
Norv Turner: San Diego Chargers
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Like Del Rio, I don’t understand how Norv Turner still has a job. He must be really good in ways I can’t imagine. Just as I admire rats for their tenacity and population swell, I have to admire Turner’s staying power.
The man looks like an attorney for the auto insurance industry. But no, he’s a football coach in khakis and a headset. Every now and then he smirks as if to say, “Where’d I put that glass of Pinot Grigio?”
Like Del Rio, he has playoff appearances he can point to to justify his position, and the weather in San Diego I hear is quite agreeable. So instead of getting mad about Turner, Charger-fan probably says “Screw it, I’m going to go outside.” Problem solved.
When training camp rolls around, the Chargers owner calls up that guy with the polo and khakis and says “Norv, put down the wine and git yer ass over to camp. Hurry up, because it’s a beautiful day and I need to get my round of golf in.”
I’d love to know how many baby boys have been born in San Diego during Turner’s tenure named “Norv.”
Rex Ryan: New York Jets
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To be a great coach you have to do three things very well: teach, study and lead. I don’t think any coach has a more solid footing in each department than Rex Ryan.
I’ve asked two pretty knowledgeable football fans to name one player on the Jets’ front 7 on defense and neither could do it.
It never hurts a defense to have arguably the best defensive player in the league at cornerback, but the idea is that Ryan has everyone on D geared up and ready to perform feats of strength every week.
As Mark Sanchez’s stunted development attests, his teaching skills seem to lack in generating a championship-caliber passing game. It’s amazing how much success his teams have had without having more success in what has become the most important facet in the game.
And as a football fan, you have to like Ryan’s demeanor. Loose, candid, not scared to put his foot in his mouth. He makes the game more fun.
Sean Payton: New Orleans Saints
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I have a friend who often rates coaches in pro sports by the fear one would have in dating that coach’s daughter. Payton is a solid nine on the 1-to-10 scale. Bill Cowher—before CBS made him show off his lighter side—was a perfect 10.
When you pick her up at her house, you wait in the car and send text messages, “OK, I’m here!” During the holidays, when a face-to-face is mandatory, you pretend that you’re ill and sneak out early before her father is able to give you his manhood-questioning glares.
It’s hard not to admire the job Payton has done in reversing the fortunes of a perennially disappointing franchise. His offense is electric and his defenses have been swarming at times, underwhelming at others.
But look at the thing on his leg and tell me you don’t think he’s one tough jackass. I wonder if he even has a daughter.
Coaches Whose Daughters You Wouldn't Want to Date
Nick Saban: 9
Chan Gailey: 3
Mike Tomlin: 10
Dick Jauron: 1
Herm Edwards: 7
Tony Dungy: 9 (he seems so nice, but we all wear different hats)
Chan Gailey: Buffalo Bills
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A little disclosure, but Gailey, not Black-Ops Tomlin, is the reason for this column. The man is coaching his ass off. Add Mike Shanahan—the man Buffalo courted for a $10 million a year deal before settling for the “uninspiring” Gailey—to the list of higher-paid, higher-profile NFL coaches like Bill Belichick and Andy Reid who Gailey out-dueled this year.
Gailey’s hand-in-glove relationship with newly christened franchise QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has led to some heady on-field performances and numbers. It has established the Bills as not only a relevant NFL team (which is news), but also a playoff contender as the season reaches its mid-point.
While Gailey’s defensive coaching has left a lot to be desired at times, his offensive schemes have been creative and fresh.
He’s bunched receivers at the line, gone five-wide regularly, effectively used Wildcat in short-yardage situation, and has found a way for a Bills offense to use a tight end for the first time since Bush Sr. was president.
He’s done it all with offensive personnel that make a sixth round pick look like a top prospect. After linemen Wood and Levitre, only backup guard Chad Rinehart and journeyman tight end Scott Chandler have been drafted higher than the seventh round.
Gailey likely won’t get the credit he deserves, but Bills fans are still glowing after watching him out-Belichick Belichick in the final minutes of the Bills’ first victory over the Pats in eight years.
And you gotta love the sleeveless windbreaker.
Bill Belichick: New England Patriots
Bill Belichick makes this list on street cred alone. He’s made it acceptable for announcers to declare coaches geniues by first creating a defensive model everyone copied, followed by creating an offensive model that everyone copied.
Next is the special teams, as his teams have never recovered an onside kick. You’d think the genius woulda figured that out by now!
New England’s defense hasn’t been dominant for years, and that’s supposed to be the Hoodie’s bread and butter. It’s becoming apparent that the rest of the league has caught up with Belichick, who seems content to ride his past success and the best QB in the league.
Belichick can safely be filed in the Tony La Russa category for coaches: superstitious, expressionless and mentally deranged. He’s the result of 30 years of anxiety for which even victory has provided no tonic.
I'm betting he's itching to follow La Russa and go out on top with one more Super Bowl.
Andy Reid: Philadelphia Eagles
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I'll just take football people at their word that Andy Reid is a good coach. I really want to like him, he looks like men older than me that I've known my whole life.
He looks like he's no stranger to bad food and pitcher beer. He's like a football Santa Claus. Big, rotund and jolly in a football kind of way. And what a mustache!
John Harbaugh: Ravens; Jim Harbaugh: 49ers
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I’m pretty sure they are the same person, coaching from different sides of their brains and in different planes of reality. Brothers are freaky like that and these two are no exception.
They are both so clean, so good-looking, so football. In another era, they’d both be prime candidates for an exemplary military career. But they were lucky enough to be born in America, making buckets of money and not putting their lives in danger.
Aside from that, anyone able to get to 6-1 with Alex Smith at QB earns his spot on this list. Smith raised his QB rating some 20 points higher than his career average this year, good for ninth in the league between Vick and Roethlisberger.
The secret has not been vigorous and frequent handshakes from the coach, but short, high-percentage passes. Genius! Smith has the lowest yards per pass attempt average among the top 15-rated QBs.
Mike McCarthy: Green Bay Packers
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There’s a reason why the Pack have the best record in the league and why they haven’t seem to suffer any Super Bowl hangover.
I’d love to say it’s the coach, but really I have no idea. I’m sure there’s an intelligent sports writer somewhere in northeast Wisconsin who can make the argument that McCarthy is the glue that binds the team, develops their impeccable game plans and gets them focused on the work. But that guy ain’t me.
From here it looks like they have the best passing game in the league. They also boast an above-average, big-play defense thanks of their talented personnel, not necessarily their coach.
But he deserves a lot of credit for Green Bay’s success in spite of the Favre opera. Even if he’s not the best coach, years from now his Super Bowl win could help him into a $10 million a year deal with the Washington Redskins.
Mike Tomlin: Pittsburgh Steelers
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This is an easy one. Tomlin not only wins big games, devises incredible game plans and gets his players to believe in him, but he does it all looking good. In a sport where the intelligence in coaching is always overstated, Tomlin has the appearance of the quiet genius.
But where other football “geniuses” routinely appear mentally ill (Bill Belichick, Marty Schottenheimer, Rex Ryan), Tomlin just looks in control of the game and of his handsome, steely eyes.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Tomlin had some secret life, like a super hero. When he goes home he tells his wife he’s about to go in the basement to watch “game film” when indeed he’s working on a stop-motion claymation film version of The Iliad.
That would surprise me a little bit. But it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Tomlin was a secret Navy Seal and had something to do with Bin Laden’s capture. I lied again, that would also surprise me. Suffice it to say the man is a useful thinker.