Ranking the NFL Head Coaches (Part II)

Yesterday, I ranked the 16 best NFL coaches. Now, I pick up with the other 16 coaches. One interesting thing is the dividing line between going with a complete unknown and unproven commodity as head coach who has no interim or college experience running a team. As you will see, I actually have four coaches below the cut for the unproven guys, which means I would replace these guys with a highly qualified assistant because I have seen enough.

17. Jim Schwartz (age 45). Schwartz is hard to evaluate because Detroit was soooo bad when he took over, so his 8-24 mark can be forgiven. This is a big year to make a leap. This team came on strong at the end of last year. Schwartz has an economics degree and is a bright guy. If he can get the quarterback position to stay healthy, we may see some good things.
18. Leslie Frazier (age 52). This one’s a hunch. I like Leslie Frazier’s personality and demeanor, and he has the track record as a successful defensive coordinator. He’s got to be higher than the bottom of this list, because he’s a major upgrade over Childress.
19. Steve Spagnuolo (age 52). He’s in the same range as Schwartz. This is the year he could make the leap, as he took over a dreadful situation in St. Louis and has moved them toward respectable.
20. Jim Caldwell (age 56). He’s got the highest winning percentage of all current coaches. He’s also been massively outcoached in two playoff losses and seems far too conservative for my taste. Still, not every coach could have taken the Colts team to the Super Bowl two years. He’s a poor man’s George Seifert. Not the best or nearly as good as his record, but not the worst either.
21. John Fox (age 56). Too conservative for me, and tends to stick with non-productive veterans too long. Teams have been too volatile with good years followed by bad. His conservative approach has led to many fourth quarter losses where the team led. Still, took a team with Jake Delhomme at quarterback to the Super Bowl.
22. Pete Carroll (age 60). Fifty year old Carroll, sure. He’s the second oldest coach in the league, and I’d rather have a younger guy rather than someone looking for a payday and to avoid NCAA sanctions.
23. Jack Del Rio (age 48). Here we get into the range of replacement level coaches. Del Rio is a perfectly competent coach, with a slightly over .500 record, 2 playoff appearances, and a guy that seems to always keep them chopping wood.
24. Tony Sparano (age 50). Meh. Another coach who is right at the replacement line, one playoff appearance in 3 seasons.
25. Ron Rivera (age 49). Okay, so I looked at all rookie coaches hired from 1997-2006 (other than interims). Of the 34, 15 never made the playoffs, and 6 more only made it once. Most were assistants and not college coaches. 34% of them made the playoffs in more than 25% of the seasons they coached, including names like Brad Childress, Jim Fassel, and Herm Edwards. Most new coaches fail, it’s as simple as that, so I’m ranking these new hires only above the guys who I think I would replace because uncertainty is better than the known. Rivera has been a deserving coaching candidate for years after coordinating the Bears defense in 2006, and the Chargers units of late.
26. Pat Shurmur (age 46). Shurmur was the Eagles quarterback coach for a long time under Reid, and then coordinated the Rams’ offense with a rookie quarterback. His uncle was defensive coordinator for the Packers’ Super Bowl teams.
27. Hue Jackson (age 46). He’s a high energy guy who did wonders with the Raiders offense last year, considering what he had to work with. I like Jackson, but he’s in the abyss in Oakland.
28. Mike Munchak (age 51). Great player in the Hall of Fame, long time assistant as offensive line coach. Hand picked off of Fisher’s staff to replace him.
29. Chan Gailey (age 59). Gailey has actually done wonders with quarterbacks, including Fitzpatrick last year. He’s tied for 3rd oldest though, without much track record of success, and seems like a guy who would be a good coordinator but who I don’t necessarily want as coach at this point. Still having a hard time getting opening day against Dolphins out of my head, too.
30. Norv Turner (age 59). Do not get why he is coaching for 17 seasons in the league and continues to get chances to show how mediocre he is. For never taking over an expansion team or truly horrible team, his 99-105-1 record is simply unacceptable. He is too conservative when he needs to make bold decisions, and his teams always seem to underperform talent.
31. Marvin Lewis (age 53). The fact that Lewis, who has gone to the playoffs twice in eight seasons and never gotten past the wildcard round, and has seen his franchise quarterback want out, but is coming back for a 9th season says all you need to know about the expectations of the Bengals organization. Nice guy, but the Peter principle says his opportunity should be up.
32. Gary Kubiak (age 50). Five years, no playoffs, and he is coming back. In each of the last two years, he has made baffling end-of-game decisions that run counter to how his team should be playing, and could have made the playoffs each of the last two with better management. He can run an offense, but the defense has regressed under Kubiak, and they seem to constantly come up small when it matters most.

[photo via Getty]

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