Colts' Bruce Arians dark-horse candidate for top honor
- By Gregg Rosenthal
- Updated: Dec. 27, 2012 at 04:55 a.m.
So last week we with hit you with the end-of-the-regular-season quarterback power rankings. This week, we look back at 2012 coaching performances.
These rankings are based on this year's performance only. Consider it a big Coach of the Year ballot, if all 32 coaches were ranked.
Top shelf: Bruce Arians, Pete Carroll, Mike Smith, Jim Harbaugh
There's no earthly explanation for the Colts' 10-5 record. It's not a 10-5 roster. For them to win all those games with an interim head coach like Arians is remarkable. Arians' work with Andrew Luck and his aggressive in-game management puts him over the top. He maxed out this team's potential.
Smith quietly helped the Falcons overachieve yet again. The Falcons don't make mistakes and they win the turnover battle. They are greater than the sum of their parts. That's coaching.
Carroll's mad scientist approach to defense and energy has translated to the NFL this time around. His decision to start Russell Wilson in Week 1 was gutsy and wise. He's built a program.
The same is true for Harbaugh in San Francisco. The 49ers may be the toughest team to prepare for in the league. The move to Colin Kaepernick has been as seamless as possible.
Arians has my vote, but any of the coaches above have strong cases.
Close to award-worthy: Bill Belichick, Jeff Fisher, Gary Kubiak, Mike Shanahan, Mike McCarthy, Leslie Frazier
Belichick's defense hasn't quite made expected strides, but the offense feels years ahead of the competition. He's still the best at situational football and in-game adjustments. A 12-win season is taken for granted.
Fisher quickly changed the culture in St. Louis after a historically bad period for the franchise.
Kubiak's consistency has helped the Texans live up to high expectations this year.
The Shanahans have done a terrific job bringing Robert Griffin III into the NFL.
McCarthy has navigated a number of injuries and some tough early losses.
The Vikings have overachieved, largely because of Frazier's improved defense.
Praiseworthy: John Fox, Joe Philbin, Greg Schiano
It's hard to know where Fox's impact ends and Peyton Manning's impact begins, but don't overlook Fox's hire of Jack Del Rio for a much-improved Broncos defense.
A lot of analysts expected the Miami Dolphins to be the worst team in the league, and they've won seven games. Philbin has enjoyed a strong start, just like Schiano. Even though the Bucs have fallen apart Raheem Morris-style down the stretch, they were a very tough out for most of the season.
This group took the talent it had and got more out of it than could be reasonably expected.
Did the job: John Harbaugh, Marvin Lewis, Jason Garrett
The Ravens confuse me. I can't tell if they did well just to get to 10 wins or whether they should have been much better. Harbaugh keeps getting them back to the playoffs.
The Bengals have taken a modest step forward from a season ago, but Lewis can still drive you crazy with his challenges and game management.
Garrett doesn't excel during games either, but I bumped him up a tier for the team's overall play down the stretch and Garrett's handling of the Josh Brent/Jerry Brown Jr. situation.
This trio didn't overachieve, but they achieved.
Should have done more: Lovie Smith, Mike Tomlin, Tom Coughlin, Rex Ryan
It's hard for a 7-1 team not to make the playoffs. That's what will happen to Smith's Bears without a little luck. Tomlin's Steelers lost five games by three points. They were a tough team to figure out, but the defense has slowly eroded. Getting rid of Arians didn't work.
Tom Coughlin's team played its absolute worst when it mattered most. The Giants have too much talent to miss the playoffs. Rex actually didn't do a terrible job coaching up a mediocre defense. The lack of talent on the team was a bigger problem.
This group should have squeezed a few more wins out of their teams.
Did poorly with a bad hand: Joe Vitt, Pat Shurmur, Chan Gailey, Dennis Allen
Vitt hardly saved the Saints, going 4-5 since taking over as interim head coach. Shurmur's team played tough for most of the season, but he's another coach from the Andy Reid school of clock management.
Gailey's defensive coordinator hires have been awful, and his reputation for maximizing offensive talent took a hit this year, when Buffalo's passing game was easier to prepare for. Allen's defense in Oakland was disappointing, but I'm not sure if any coach could save that roster.
Bottom of the barrel: Mike Munchak, Ron Rivera, Norv Turner, Jim Schwartz, Ken Whisenhunt, Mike Mularkey, Andy Reid, Romeo Crennel
The Titans have gone backward under Munchak. They are a five-win team that looks like a three-win team. Rivera's inability to win close games killed a talented Panthers squad that should have competed for a playoff spot. The Chargers continued their slow, steady decline under Turner.
Schwartz would have been fired if he put this season together in 2011. Whisenhunt probably will be fired after failing to fix the team's passing game for three years running.
Mularkey somehow made the Jaguars worse, although he too had terrible injury luck. Reid would be the first to admit he failed a talented roster on many levels. The pieces never fit together. Crennel's team somehow has five Pro Bowl players and two wins.
Schwartz is the only coach on this list who will definitely keep his job. It's a brutal business.