NFL's Top 10 2009: Head Coach Ranking

Andrew MaisonneuveCorrespondent IJune 14, 2009

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 4:  Coach Tony Sparano of the Miami Dolphins directs play against the Baltimore Ravens in an NFL Wildcard Playoff Game at Dolphins Stadium on January 4, 2009 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

The motivation of a team, its preparedness, and general cohesiveness starts with the philosophy and environment that the head coach instills on a NFL team.

What makes a great head coach? My definition of leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.

Inspire Trust

You build relationships of trust through both your character and competence and you also extend trust to others and players. You show others that you believe in their capacity to live up to certain expectations, to deliver on promises, and to achieve clarity on key goals.

Clarify Purpose

Great coaches involve their people in the communication process to create the goals to be achieved. If people are involved in the process, they psychologically own it and you create a situation where people are on the same page about what is really important—mission, vision, values, and goals.

Align Systems

This means that you don’t allow there to be conflict between what you say is important and what you measure. Directing other coaches to mold the players for one common goal.

Unleashed Talent

When you inspire trust and share a common purpose with aligned systems, you empower players. Their talent is unleashed so that their capacity, their intelligence, their creativity, and their resourcefulness is utilized. When that happens you found your play maker.

Miami's Tony Sparano (1)

Sparano out-performed every coach in 2008 with out question. He oversaw almost an impossible turnaround, leading Miami from last-place finish in 2007 to a playoff berth in 2008. The former offensive line coach in Dallas, joined Bill Parcells with the Dolphins and the makeover in Miami was just as impressive as in Atlanta.

The Dolphins were 1-15 a year ago before cleaning house, and Sparano guided them to an 11-5 mark that won the AFC East. Only one team has ever improved as much as Miami’s 10-game turnaround: the 1999 Indianapolis Colts.  In 2007 Miami’s defense finished 30th for points scored against.

The improved greatly in 2008 and found them self’s in the NFL’s top ten points per game. and 8th best in the league for total sacks. Even special teams enjoyed a top 3 finish on the kick off unit, and 2nd best overall on field goals and extra points made.


New York Giants' Tom Coughlin (2)

Coughlin is a master of sorts playing home going 7-1 for the season. Coughlin’s inability to mold Manning into a consistent quarterback is just one of many achievements. Coughlin learned to listen more attentively to his players and staff.  

That increased preparation efforts for the detail-oriented Coughlin. The Giants finished 3rd in total offense averaging 26.7 points per game.

New England's Bill Belichick (3)

His football philosophy minded style works by adjusting player schemes and personnel to the opponent for maximum production. Nobody in the NFL can configure match-ups like Belichick. The ruthless style of play is demanding for players and his coaching staff to maximize the teams overall efficiency and production.

The Patriots finished with an 11-5 record that was impressive, but not enough to get him the top spot.


Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin (4)

He is smart and tough, but the best thing he does is delegate authority. He lets his assistants coach and his players play. He believes in his staff and lets them get the job done. LeBeau was allowed to have hands-on control of the defense proving to be an excellent choice.

Atlanta's Mike Smith (5)

AP NFL Coach of the Year, oversaw sensational turnarounds, leading their teams from last-place finishes in 2007 to playoff berths this year. Smith helped guide Matt Ryan (Football)">quarterback Matt Ryan to the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Smith also had a first-time starter at running back, Michael Turner, who rushed for 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Smith had to deal with a makeover of the Falcons organization and its image following the incarceration of quarterback Michael Vick for dog fighting and the resignation after 13 games last season by coach Bobby Petrino.

He left Jacksonville, where he was the defensive coordinator, to take on one of the biggest rebuilding challenges in sports.

Tennessee's Jeff Fisher (6)

A yard away from a Super Bowl title, he guided this team through a restructuring phase and back into contention. Tennessee had the second best defense in the league and ranked first in forced fumbles at 23.

Arizona's Ken Whisenhunt (7)

Whisenhunt coached his team to a Super Bowl so that's at top ten spot by its self. Arizona ranked 2nd in NFC points per game, however the defense gave up 26.6 per game and ranked 3rd worst in the NFC. To have that swing and still get your team to the dance is pure coaching talent.



Carolina's John Fox (8)

John Fox has been a question mark for me for years. He enters every season on the hot seat it seems and in 2007 a source told CSTV that UCLA was considering Carolina Panther head coach John Fox to take over the Bruins' football program. He was under heavy gun fire for another disappointing season with the Panthers.  

He just witnessed a mass exodus from his staff this off-season and could be the next out the door if his coaching strategy remains unfavorable for that team. Winning the AFC south confirmed however he can control winning.

New Orleans' Sean Payton (9)

Payton showed big offensive stagy improvements in 2008. Some may say New Orleans coach showed great strides given the talent level during his tenure. Payton uses a offensive mind set by ranking 1st in the league for points per game. The defense however giving up 24.6 points a game will not get you a top 5 rank in the coaching polls.

Chicago’s Lovie Smith (10)

Entering his sixth season with the Bears, Smith is 47-37 with two NFC North titles and an NFC Championship during his tenure. That gives the Bears a winning percentage of .625, tied with the Cowboys for sixth-best in the NFL since '05.

Chicago’s offensive off breed approach is creative however the QB spot contributed to less than expected numbers. Chicago’s special team’s continues its great success with out Devin Hester returning.

Chicago still had a winning record of 9-7 and with a credible QB they would have won the NFC North.


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