The Big Lead’s Jason Lisk took a crack at ranking the 32 head coaches in the National Football League Friday, placing Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll second behind only fellow NFC West general Bruce Arians.
Arians came in ninth, which—I just don’t see how people still think Arians is a top-10 coach in this league. The Arizona Cardinals have been a pretty talented team during his watch and, aside from 2015, have really never lived up to their potential under Arians. Last year they were supposed to contend for a championship and went ... 7-8-1 without any extraordinary balance of injuries.
The synopsis Lisk gives for Arians continues to give him credit for the 2012 season when he served as interim coach for the Indianapolis Colts: Arians won NFL Coach of the Year for that campaign, when the Colts bounced back from the 2-14 2011 debacle that earned them Andrew Luck to go 11-5 and gain a wild card berth. Arians was 9-3 in charge of that squad, while Chuck Pagano underwent leukemia treatment. So far so good, but a closer look has always shown that Indy team for total frauds. In his 2013 season preview for the Colts, Bill Barnwell pointed out how Arians’s group played nine games against the league’s bottom-third teams and despite the .685 win percentage still finished with negative-30 point differential—not only the worst all time for an 11-win team, but the first ever to win that many games with any negative +/-. That team was 24th in SRS, 25th in DVOA, and Pythagorean expectation places its strength as approximately a 7-9 club. WHY IS THAT SEASON STILL A FEATHER IN ARIANS’S CAP??
I have a feeling 2017 will be Arians’s final shot as an NFL coach, and he may be the first one fired.
Anyway, Lisk’s ranking generally favors established successful coaches over rising young names, and why shouldn’t it? After Belichick and Carroll comes Super Bowl winners Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh, Sean Payton and Mike McCarthy—except Atlanta Falcons coach and Carroll protégé Dan Quinn cracks that group at number four after taking the Falcons to a conference crown in his second season. Otherwise rounding out the top 10 are Andy Reid (sixth) and Jack Del Rio (10th).
The disparity between Del Rio and his counterpart John Fox, who is all the way down at 31st, strikes me as somewhat odd but explainable. (I don’t know why they’re “counterparts” except that Fox used to coach the Carolina Panthers when Del Rio led the Jacksonville Jaguars in the mid-2000s and I always link those two franchises that expanded together into the NFL in 1995—and also Del Rio served on Fox’s staff in Denver.) Fox has ostensibly accomplished more in pro football than Del Rio, having helmed two different teams to Super Bowl appearances (shout to XLVIII!), but Fox is now with the Chicago Bears who are likely to be putrid again in 2017 and since Lisk angled his list deliberately around future tidings perhaps he sees Fox’s chances in the league drawing short. Meanwhile Del Rio’s Oakland Raiders are considered serious contenders in the AFC.
First-year coaches generally fall in the 20s in these rankings, with Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers), Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams), Doug Marrone (in his second stint but first full year leading the Jags), Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills) and Vance Joseph (Broncos) all lumped together from 22nd to 26th. But Lisk seems to have really liked 2016’s Atlanta bunch because he places Kyle Shanahan all the way up at number 13. I was surprised to see Adam Gase even higher, at 12th, because I had totally forgot the Miami Dolphins went 10-6 and made the playoffs last year.
So Carroll defends the second slot, where I’m sure he’ll probably fit until either he or Belichick retires unless the Grey-Haired Assassin can reel off the string of championships we all believe are the Seahawks’ due and nab that top perch from his rival and successor in New England. And it’s a deserved ranking—Seattle has been the premier organization in pro football outside the Patriots for the last five years. But it’s also somewhat of a relief to see Carroll still holding off the challengers (not that these or any rankings matter at all) considering a broader perception that Carroll might have lost control of the Seahawks locker room in 2016, or that Seattle’s Super Bowl window might be closing. Even I’ve raised this concern myself, though more as a hypothetical than as a genuine worry.
Yet when you honestly evaluate the landscape of NFL leadership, it’s hard to make a case for anyone above of the Seahawks’ head man. Except for the fellow wearing the
sheriff’s badge in Glendale hoody in Foxborough, of course.
What do you think of Lisk’s sorting of top coaches?