Bill Belichick is the Coach of the Year. I don’t think I can say it any more plainly than that. I know there will be arguments for guys who turned around bad teams, like Steve Spagnuolo or Todd Haley, and for other coaches with teams in the playoffs, like Mike Smith.
Here’s the thing, though. The Associated Press seems to go out of its way to find guys who were either lucky or helped turn a team from bad to decent, rather than just give it to the best coach. They should honestly rename the award as the “Well, we thought his team would suck way worse than it did” Award. Last year’s winner, Marvin Lewis, may be looking for a new job after this season. How can you go from the best coach in the league to unemployment in twelve months? Because you weren’t the best coach.
Since 1970, almost as many Coach of the Year Award Winners have missed the playoffs (5) as have won Super Bowls (7) the season they were named. Less than half of the coaches who were named Coach of the Year (17 of 40) even reached a conference championship game. I know upsets can happen, but why are so many coaches who were the best-allegedly- that season unable to advance deep in the playoffs? I know talent matters, but at some point, the award needs to go to the best coach, not the best coach we had no expectations of.
You know how many Coach of the Year Awards Vince Lombardi won? One. And that was in 1959, before he ever won a title. Once the Packers began dominating the sixties, he was never selected as the best coach.
I think the Associated Press needs to evaluate how they give the award. No one is suggesting that Jay Cutler should win the Player of the Year Award in the NFL, because he played much better this season than last. But that is exactly how the Associated Press decides its Coach award.
This season, Bill Belichick’s Patriots are 13-2 and have already secured the top seed. He made the bold decision to trade away a Hall of Fame receiver early in the year, because he was grousing about a new contract. He has taken a very young defense and maximized what he can out of them. The offense is ruthlessly efficient, and the Patriots have squeezed every ounce out of their talent. That’s coaching.
I know it may be boring to pick Belichick, who won in 2003 and again in the 16-0 season in 2007, but just do it. If you would honestly take Steve Spagnuolo or Todd Haley or Mike Smith over Belichick, then cast that vote. If you wouldn’t, but just want to reward that guy who was better than you expected, put that vote back in your pocket, and use a little common sense. It’s something the Associated Press voters have needed to consider for about forty years now.