2008 NFL Coach Of The Year: The Short List
Some years make it seem easier to pick accolades than other years. For the 2007 season, it would have been difficult to choose anyone other than Tom Brady to be the MVP.
When a Running Back breaks the record for most rushing touchdowns, he's up there for MVP. When a coach does what Bill Belichick did in 2007—coaching his team to a 16-0 record—it's easy to gain Coach of the Year votes.
This year, it won't be so easy to pick the Coach of the Year. There are a number of great stories and great headlines, and they demand our attention.
I'm listing them in alphabetical order according to team, so as to not be biased.
Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons
He hasn't done all that much. He's just a rookie head coach who has taken a team with a rookie QB in Matt Ryan and a first time starter at RB in Michael Turner and leading the team to a 9-5 record. The 4-12 joke of the 2007 season and all the circus of the Michael Vick fiasco has become a distant memory.
John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens
Again, a rookie coach joins with a rookie QB to attain a 9-5 record, up four games from last season. Actually, he would be my No. 4 pick for CotY, but that's no slander. He's done extraordinarily well. Considering the egos that he's had to manage, he's looking amazing.
Tony Sparano, Miami Dolphins
2007's record: 1-15. 2008's record: 9-5, tied for the AFC East lead with two games left. How much more needs to be said?
Just a few points, actually—he's managed this with a new QB (Chad Pennington) who was thrown to the side by his old team, a starting RB (Ronnie Brown) who missed more than half of 2007 with injury, a second RB (Ricky Williams) who had only 6 carries in the past two season. Add to that the loss of arguably the best two defenders in Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas, and it's just a great story.
Oh, did I mention that he's a rookie head coach also?
Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
The only experienced head coach in the lot, but don't hold it against him.
Losing Tom Brady early in Week One, but still pulling off a 9-5 season with Matt Cassel, tied for the AFC East lead—that's enough to put him on the short list of CotY candidates. But it's the list of players—starters and backups—who have been injured that clinch his inclusion.
Players missing on offense: Tom Brady (s), Laurence Maroney (s), Ryan O'Callahan.
Defense losses are also bad. Rodney Harrison went on IR in October; four LB's—all starters at one point or another—are either on IR or likely to be (Bruschi).
Despite this, the Patriots have won guaranteed their eighth consecutive winning season, longest active streak in the NFL.
All four of these coaches have good reason to receive votes and the award. If any of these coaches win the award, it's a good choice.
As a Patriots fan, I tend to lean toward Bill Belichick winning for a second year in a row. He's already one of only 10 head coaches to win multiple times (2007, 2003). However, only three head coaches (Allie Sherman, Don Shula, Joe Gibbs) have won in consecutive years, and even if the Patriots make the playoffs, it's unlikely to see him win now.
While my vote goes to Bill Belichick, my bet would be on Tony Sparano. Even if they lose their last two games, they'll still be eight games better than last season—that's half a season! He has done an exceptional job. Granted, he didn't lose the MVP in Tom Brady—but then, he never had him to begin with, nor Randy Moss.
He's done this with less than the others, in my opinion.
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