Bruce Arians Barely Makes the Top 10 in 2021 NFL Coach Rankings

There is no greater accomplishment for an NFL coach than to win the Super Bowl. It signifies that the coach is one of, if not the best in the business. It earns you respect and a place at the top of the best coaches in the NFL list.

Unless the coach we’re talking about is Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians.

Just four months removed from lifting the Lombardi trophy, the Pennsylvania native is already finding disrespect as NFL analysts put out their “best of” lists in the offseason. One such list has Arians barely cracking the top 10 coaches in the league.

It took Bruce Arians a long time to become an NFL head coach

Bruce Arians | Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Arians is likely used to being overlooked like this by now. The career football coach started coaching at 22 and didn’t get his first full-time head coaching job until he reached 60.

The former Virginia Tech quarterback started his coaching career at his alma mater and worked his way up the college ranks, becoming the head coach at Temple University from 1983-1988. In 1989 he took a job as the Kansas City Chiefs running backs coach and, outside four seasons back in the college ranks, has coached in the NFL ever since.

After working for the New Orleans Saints, Cleveland Browns, and Indianapolis Colts, Arians got a job with the Pittsburgh Steelers, first as a wide receivers coach for three seasons and then as offensive coordinator for five.

In the Steel City, Arians won a Super Bowl as receivers coach under Bill Cowher and as OC under Mike Tomlin.

After leaving Pittsburgh, Arians became the OC of the Colts in 2012 but quickly became the interim head coach when Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with cancer. Arians guided the team to an 11-5 record and won NFL Coach of the Year.

The Arizona Cardinals hired Arians away from the Colts to be their new head coach when Pagano came back. In five seasons in the desert, the former QB produced a 49-30 record and reached the NFC Championship game in 2015.

Arians retired after the 2017 season but returned to the sidelines to coach Tampa Bay in 2019.

Arians ranks ninth on NBC Sports EDGE’s NFL Coach Rankings 2021 list

After winning his first Super Bowl at 68, you’d think Arians would finally be considered one of the best coaches in the game. Apparently not, according to NBC Sports EDGE.

NFL writer Patrick Daugherty compiled a list of the best NFL head coaches heading into the 2021 season. The first two coaches on the list, Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots and the Chiefs’ Andy Reid, are no surprise.

The surprise comes when you don’t get to the defending Super Bowl champion coach until No. 9.

Arians is behind two young and relatively unproven coaches, the Los Angeles Rams’ Sean McVay and the Buffalo Bills Sean McDermott and only one spot ahead of the San Francisco 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan. The son of NFL coaching legend Mike Shanahan is an exciting young offensive mind, but he shouldn’t be near Arians with a 29-35 career coaching record.

Arians should be No. 4 on the list of best NFL head coaches in 2021

Arians doesn’t get the credit for the coaching job he did in 2020 because he did it with Tom Brady. Take that name out of it, though, and you have a coach in his second year with a franchise and a new quarterback who won the Super Bowl with no preseason and very little (and a very strange) training camp due to COVID-19.

The Super Bowl champion coach should be No. 4 on the list. Putting him behind Belichick and Reid is a no-brainer, as these are the two best coaches operating in the NFL today. Harbaugh should move from No. 4 to No. 3 because he wins consistently and over a long period of time with different quarterbacks, and he’s created systems that work for each.

Arians should slide into the No. 4 spot, and the New Orleans Saints’ Sean Payton should move down to the No. 7 to No. 9 range. Payton is a successful NFL head coach, but all the other veteran coaches on this list have won with multiple QBs.

Until we see an entire season of Payton coaching without Drew Brees, Payton shouldn’t be in the top half of the top 10, and he certainly shouldn’t be above Arians.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference

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