With one-third of the season behind them, the 2019 NFL campaign is already filled with its fair sure of Cinderella stories and crippling disappointments. While some coaches, such as the recently-fired Jay Gruden, were already thrown overboard, others are making a wonderful case for Coach of the Year. They are the usual suspects, the up-and-comers, and the ones who have risen from the ash.
While several coaches could lay claim to the Coach of the Year award, these five stand out from the rest.
Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
Bill Belichick is getting to that point that so many great ones get to where they are almost too good to win awards. With the Patriots never failing to contend, Belichick’s name is constantly lost in the mix. The fact that he has won six Super Bowls made it to an additional three, and constantly boasts one of the best records in the league, yet only has two Coach of the Year awards to show for it, proves as much.
It makes sense that the award tends to cater to younger coaches, the coaches with the most wins, or the ones who did the most amidst adversity. But keeping a team a top-tier contender should not eliminate a coach from contention, it should make them a perennial winner.
Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills are a team that is known more for its mediocrity than its stellar play, but this year they are starting to turn some heads. Josh Allen has shown glimpses of brilliance throughout the season, and if Sean McDermott can get the best out of him, he will be a surefire candidate for the prestigious honor.
The Bills’ reputation could work in McDermott’s favor, as voters historically love a coach who can turn around a sinking ship.
Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers were not expected to be one of the best teams in the NFL, but after winning their first five games, they might be the surprise team of the season. That alone is enough to put Kyle Shanahan on the shortlist to win Coach of the Year.
From Jimmy Garoppolo’s dominant play to the team’s ability to work through a wide array of injuries, the 49ers are working like a well-oiled machine, and Shanahan deserves the bulk of the credit.
The big test for Shanahan and his team will be what happens when they presumably receive their first loss. Doing well when everything is going one’s way is one thing, but fighting through adversity is another. If the 49ers can either avoid adversity or fight right through it.
Matt LaFleur, Green Bay Packers
After a much-needed coaching change, the Packers have started the season very well. They haven’t had to strain Aaron Rodgers, and the star QB seems to have a good working relationship with his new coach. Their wins are not always the prettiest, but they have found a way to get it done in five of their six games. The fact that they are doing this without having to rely on heroics is evidence that the team is buying into Matt LaFleur’s coaching.
The Packers have shown that they can win close games, which means that if they can make a deep run into the playoffs, they may be better equipped when crunch-time hits. It would help LaFleur’s case for Coach of the Year if he could get more decisive victories under his belt, but if he can, then the award may be his.
Frank Reich, Indianapolis Colts
When Andrew Luck surprised everyone and retired in the middle of the offseason, many had the Colts dead in the water. Despite being a team who had to make a major adjustment just weeks before the start of the season, the Colts have not looked half bad, and Reich’s ability to rally the troops amid adversity has been on full display.
Nobody knew what to make of Jacoby Brissett, the 27-year-old quarterback who took over in Luck’s absence, but the quarterback has responded well. The NFL loves a good story, and Reich might just have the best one this season.