One man's ranking of today's NFL head coaches, from worst to best, 32 to 1 ...
32. Raheem Morris, Buccaneers
The reason he ranks last is that he has the least impressive pre-head coaching resume of any of the other candidates. Jim Schwartz was a top defensive coordinator for Tennessee for years, Todd Haley ran the Cardinals offense the year they made the Super Bowl and we all know about Steve Spagnuolo. Morris has spent exactly one season as a coordinator, and that was at Kansas State in 2006. We just don't much about Morris, other than that he's young (33 years old) and went 3-13 last year. Have to figure the Bucs give him a couple of years to figure it out, though. Unless they can bring in a Cowher or Dungy they might as well sit tight and takes their chances that Morris might be the real deal.
31. Todd Haley, Chiefs
This is from Sam Mellinger's column in the Kansas City Star last Thursday ...
Todd Haley is the leader but also a student. The Chiefs’ coach is giving orders but also trying to get better, and not just with his team. He’s trying to get better at using me and everyone else who covers this team to send his messages to you and everyone else who follows this team.
And more than all that, he wants his messages to get to his players.
That’s why, between watching video of his team’s practices and opponents’ games, he’s watching old tapes of Bill Parcells’ news conferences.
I think if we learned one thing from the Pete Carroll era it is when an NFL coach needs to switch things up in order to try and reach his players it usually doesn't end well. I smell a cowboy hat and a chin full of dip by Week 6.
30. Jim Schwartz, Lions
This is why these rankings are unfair and probably a little dopey. If Jim Caldwell had coached in Detroit last year the Lions would have gone somewhere around 2-14, and if Schwartz had coached the Colts last year they would have won 13, 14 games. Bottom line for Schwartz is this: If Matthew Stafford makes the jump he'll be the coach in Detroit for the next 6-8 years. If Stafford turns out to be Tim Couch Schwartz will be an assistant by 2012.
29. Tom Cable, Raiders
An easy target, but to be fair the Raiders didn't quit on him last season. After a 2-7 start they beat the Bengals at home and the Steelers and Cowboys on the road and played the Ravens tough in Week 17. I suspect if they get anything close to competent QB play from Jason Campbell they'll win seven or eight games.
28. Steve Spagnuolo, Rams
You saw Sam Bradford last week --- looks like he could be something, right? Even if he's just OK from the jump I think the Rams might get off to a decent start, something Spagnuolo (1-15 career record) desperately needs.
Take a look at the first eight games for St. Louis:
Arizona (remember -- this is the Derek Anderson Cardinals)
at Tampa Bay
I'm not suggesting they'll be 6-2 or anything, but we can look at that and get them to 4-4, right? If they can find a way to scrape another couple of wins the rest of the way all of the sudden Spagnuolo becomes the guy that's turning things around.
27. Josh McDaniels, Broncos
I still think this is the next head coach of the New England Patriots. He'll stick around Denver for a couple more years before getting gassed and move back to New England to run the offense. I'm calling 2016 as Season One of the McDaniels Era in Foxboro. Wouldn't that be a pretty close scenario to the one that brought Belichick to New England -- young coordinator on the rise, burns bridges in his first head coaching job, goes back to work under mentor before taking the keys?
26. Gary Kubiak, Texans
Everyone like the Texans this year, I'm hearing lots of playoff talk. They should be OK, but I can't shake the idea that Kubiak would be the offensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins if the Patriots had really put the pedal to the floor in Week 17 last season. Put it this way: They open the season with the Colts and Cowboys at home and the Redskins on the road. An 0-3 start is definitely in play, and that would put Kubiak in the leadoff spot on every "First Coach to be Fired" list.
25. Chan Gailey, Bills
The 2010 NFL equivalent of hiring Stan Albeck in 1986. This is the kind of stuff that happens when your owner was born when Woodrow Wilson was President. But Gailey did make the playoffs twice (squeezing the last gasp of the Cowboys' 1990s group) so he ranks a little higher than I thought he would when I started putting this list together.
24. Eric Mangini, Browns
Too high, on second thought. Eight games below .500 in his career and soon to be blown out of two coaching jobs in three years. I personally can't wait to see him on ESPN next year as one of the guys running plays on that mini-field. Should be a natural.
23. Jack Del Rio, Jaguars
Admit it, you forgot Del Rio was still coaching the Jaguars. How has the Del Rio/David Garrard duo lasted until 2010? That's as improbable as "Yes, Dear" airing for seven seasons. And do you think Del Rio gets another head coaching shot right away or does he have to go back to a coordinator position?
22. Mike Singletary, 49ers
I love Peter King, but sometimes he lays it on pretty thick. He tweeted this a couple of weeks ago:
Mike Singletary told me in his office, "My goal is to be the greatest coach of all time."
I say: Wouldn't it be noteworthy if that weren't his goal?
But I'll give Singletary credit: With all the ranting and raving and pants dropping early on I figured he'd last maybe half a season. But he's got the players buying into his plan, which sometimes seems as important as any part of the job. And it sure seems that he's got the best team in the NFC West. Hard to believe that the San Francisco 49ers haven't won a division title since 2002, this was THE franchise in the league for 15 years. If someone had walked up to you in 1991 and said that there would be a seven-year stretch in the not so distant future where the Patriots would win six division titles, three conference crowns and two Super Bowls and the 49ers would go zero, zero and zero during the same span I'm not sure you would known what language the person was speaking. But here we are. Makes you wonder if there is some team with no real history waiting to go on a dynastic run.
21. Pete Carroll, Seahawks
Do you know what 35-year-old Matt Hasselbeck is going to love after getting sacked six times in a Week 11 loss to the Redskins that'll drop the Seahawks to 3-7? A couple of practical jokes from Pete Carroll AND the promise that Will Ferrell could show up at any time in QB meetings!
20. Marvin Lewis, Bengals
I know that his stock is high right now but this still a guy that has just two winning seasons in seven years and exactly zero playoff wins.
19. Lovie Smith, Bears
Lovie was probably on the way out before he arrived , but I still think that Jay Cutler is going to get four or five coaches fired before someone figures out that it might be his fault. This generation's Jeff George.
18. Tony Sparano, Dolphins
You know, if you take over a 1-15 team and win seven games in your second season that's usually considered pretty good progress. The Dolphins just made the leap a season too soon. Sparano's work last season (started 0-3 and finished 7-6 with Chad Henne at QB) was in a lot of ways just as impressive as his first season. Looks like he'll be kicking around the AFC East for a while.
17. Mike Smith, Falcons
See Sparano. A step back year after a huge leap forward isn't anything new (remember 1995 and 2002 Pats?) but it'll be interesting to see how Smith and Sparano handle Year Three.
16. Mike McCarthy, Packers
He took over a team that went 4-12 in 2005 and is 38-26 in four seasons. A quarterbacks coach by trade, he has turned Aaron Rodgers into one of the top five or six signal-callers in the league (do you realize that Rodgers has the best passer rating -- 97.2 -- of all-time?) Sure, the defense has been spotty and some of his late-game calls haven't been perfect, but this coach is a keeper, no question.
15. Wade Phillips, Cowboys/Norv Turner, Chargers
Or, Two Guys That Can Get You To 10-6 But Never Win A Big Game.
Both these guys fail the "Can You Close Your Eyes and Picture This Coach Holding the Lombardi Trophy?" test. Every owner should take this test before they bring a coach in.
13. Brad Childress, Vikings
Too high, Part II. Just not sure where Childress fits. The good? He's won two division titles, including one with Gus Frerotte and Tarvaris Jackson taking all the snaps at QB. The bad? He did everything but vomit on the 40-yard line in the NFC Title Game vs. the Saints last season. Throw in the ex-husband in "Sleeping with the Enemy" stalking of Favre in the offseason and it's not too hard to envision the team quitting on Childress if the Vikings start out 2-4.
12. Ken Whisenhunt, Cardinals
A truly great Santonio Holmes catch away from maybe having a lifetime of security in Arizona. The NFC title -- though it probably bought him three or four years -- must seem like 50 years ago as he tries to decide between Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson for Week 1.
11. John Fox, Panthers
I don't think Fox has forgotten to coach, and I'm sure the Panthers agree. But you have to figure another 8-8 (or worse) season and Fox is gone. Will the Panthers find another coach as good as Fox? Probably not. Will it take Fox any time at all to find another head coaching job? Not according to Peter King, who thinks the demand for Fox will be greater than for Cowher. So why will the Panthers make the move if they go 8-8 or worse? Because it's the easiest way to look like they are doing something, taking action. Doesn't matter if it's the right thing to do.
10. Jim Caldwell, Colts
The new George Seifert, minus the sense of humor and smoldering sex appeal.
14-2 is 14-2 and all, but we all watched Caldwell butcher the Super Bowl. Bringing out Matt Stover (just three years younger than Ralph Wilson) to attempt a 51-yard field goal with 11 minutes left in a one-score game might not have been the worst coaching decision in Super Bowl history, but it's got a safe spot on Mt. Rushmore.
9. John Harbaugh, Ravens
Went into Foxboro and handed Bill Belichick and Tom Brady a mortifying, "is it all over?" kind of loss. Two years as a head coach, two playoff appearances, three playoff wins. I wonder if his success will lead to more special teams coaches getting shots. No sign of it happening so far.
8. Rex Ryan, Jets
This is a quote from Greg Daniels (SNL writer from 1987-90) in the "Live From New York" book, an oral history of Saturday Night Live:
"The thing is, you get these guys right when they are at their maximally famous, most-fame-going-to-their-head-moment. And they come in. They're in New York City. And they're hosting the show and they kind of give you a couple of minutes and they want to run out and just have fun."
In a totally unrelated note, don't forget that episode four of "Hard Knocks" is on Wednesday night at 10 p.m.
7. Mike Tomlin, Steelers
Did win a Super Bowl, but didn't exactly inherit the 1991 Patriots. Now there is some concern that he doesn't have control of the wheel (Roethlisberger stuff, Santonio Holmes) after missing the playoffs in 2009. Not that the Steelers would ever get rid of him, this is an organization that has had three head coaches since 1969.
6. Andy Reid, Eagles
One of the four or five best coaches without a Super Bowl. Eight playoff appearances and five NFC East titles in 11 seasons (just two years with a sub .500 record). There are just 34 coaches in NFL history with 100 wins, and Reid's winning percentage of .617 ranks 12th among the group, ahead of guys like Tom Landry and Chuck Noll. I don't know, I get that the Super Bowl is the ultimate prize for a head coach, but has someone like Jon Gruden (95-81, five playoffs in 11 years) had a better career than Reid simply because he won a Super Bowl?
5. Jeff Fisher, Titans
Here's why I like Fisher over Reid: Fisher has had to rebuild. Reid always had McNabb, but Fisher has won 10 or more games with McNair, Vince Young and Kerry Collins. It's really too close to call between the two coaches, but if I'm a GM and both are available I'm going with the one that has proven he can win without the All-Pro QB.
4. Sean Payton, Saints
If I did this ranking a year ago today he'd be, I guess, somewhere in the high teens. Funny what an all-time coaching performance in the Super Bowl can do for you status.
(And I understand that I just talked about how one Super Bowl win doesn't make a career, but come on. Is there a team in the NFL right now that would take Andy Reid before Payton?)
3. Tom Coughlin, Giants
Coughlin might seem out of place here, but to me this is borderline Hall of Fame head coach. Took the Jaguars from nothing (literally) to four straight playoff appearances and three division titles. And all he has done with the Giants is win another couple of divisions, make the playoffs four more times and pull off maybe the biggest upset in Super Bowl history. Of course if he had stayed at BC he might be in his 20th season and who knows what could have happened? I understand that his stock is down right now but it's been down a couple of times before and he's found a way to survive. Bottom line is that he has won wherever he has gone, which is a pretty rare feat in the NFL. And while winning a Super Bowl shouldn't mean everything it should mean something, which is why I put him above Reid and Fisher.
2. Mike Shanahan, Redskins
It's true that Shanahan has one playoff win since John Elway retired, but it really isn't that simple. He won 11 games with Brian Griese in 2000 and 33 games in three years with Jake Plummer from 2003-05. Without Elway the Broncos finished no worse than 10th in the NFL in points scored from 2000-05. If McNabb is healthy and motivated he's going to have a monster year in 2010. Shanahan might not be an immortal coach without John Elway, but he's still a very good one.
1. Bill Belichick, Patriots
Still the standard, even after a 2009 that included fourth-and-2 and a blowout playoff home loss. Three teams have won at least 10 games each of the last two years -- Colts, Vikings and Patriots. Not too shabby for a team that lost its Hall of Fame QB in the first quarter of 2008 and couldn't find a pass rush in 2009. And watch -- with all these injuries to the defense the Pats will still find a way to win 10-11 games. Absolutely fair to question if Belichick is still aces when it comes to picking the groceries, but it hard to argue that he has an equal when it comes to coaching them.