Midway through the 2011 NFL season, people are already beginning to look at who should be crowned coach of the year.
While several coaches should be in the discussion for the award, including Jim Schwartz, Chan Gailey and Marvin Lewis, there are two men who stand out above the rest: Mike McCarthy and Jim Harbaugh.
During Jim Harbaugh's tenure at Stanford, his teams became known for their ferocity on defense and smash-mouth, bury-you-into-the-ground scheme on offense. He coached Heisman Trophy runner-up Toby Gerhart and a player that is being hailed as arguably the best collegiate passer of his generation in Andrew Luck.
He has carried that style into the NFL.
His San Francisco 49ers have adopted his defense with open arms and are reaping the benefits on the field. They have the eighth best defense in terms of yards per game and the best defense in terms of points per game.
However, arguably his most impressive feat in leading last year's 6-10 team to a 7-1 start this year is the impact that he has had on quarterback Alex Smith's development.
Smith has the fewest interceptions in the league among regular starting quarterbacks and has lead the offense effectively, putting his team in position to win the game.
Who is Coach of the Year?
Everyone that follows the NFL on a week-to-week and season-to-season basis has heard of how Mike McCarthy lead last year's injury-devastated team to a Super Bowl victory. But just as impressive this year is how he's kept his team level-headed and has them at an 8-0 start.
He has Aaron Rodgers playing at one of the highest levels a quarterback has ever played at and has kept his team together despite the defense's faults.
The team has been able to fully integrate those who were regular impact players prior to injuries last season, putting them back into the lineup and has them contributing regularly.
While his team has the talent to make it to an 8-0 start, it requires not only great game strategy to maneuver the team to the record, but also great strategy on a personal level to keep the players cohesive.
People can talk about the statistical achievements of the team, but in my opinion, it is even more impressive to manage a team with vocal players (i.e. Jermichael Finley and B.J. Raji).
Obviously, it is still far too early to determine who should be the coach of the year, but we can still project the winner.
I give the nod to Harbaugh.
Turning a team around into a consistent winner is one of the most difficult things to do in the NFL, a lá Dolphins, but Harbaugh appears to have done that with his team.
While McCarthy should be commended for his work with his team, the only realistic way that he would win the award is if he finishes with a 16-0 record, or maybe a 15-1 record. The turnaround that Harbaugh has worked could only be overlooked by a season of perfection.