There is an often used cliché around the NFL: “In this business, NFL stands for Not-For-Long.” That statement really rings true for NFL head coaches. Head coaches, and players on the back end of rosters, are constantly working to answer the question, “What have you done for me lately?” When a team has an unsuccessful season, there is usually someone who feels the brunt of it. That person is usually the team’s head coach. Head coaches in the NFL have frequently been fired after only one or two years on the job, giving them minimal time to build a team that fits their system.
On the other hand, when a head coach in the NFL leads his team to a major turn-around season, a deep playoff run, or a Super Bowl title, they usually earn lucrative contract extensions. At the halfway point of the 2014 season, there are a handful of coaches who are likely on their way out, and a handful of coaches who will likely receive contract extensions this offseason. Here is a look at the top five midseason candidates for the 2014 NFL Coach of the Year award.
All statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.
1. Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals
Arians has led the Cardinals to a 6-1 record in 2014 with their only loss coming on the road against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Arizona currently owns the best record in the entire NFC and has a solid two-game division lead in the brutally tough NFC West. Arians has the Cardinals looking legitimate contenders to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLIX.
2. Bill O’Brien, Houston Texans
The Texans were the worst team in 2013 and O’Brien has led them into playoff contention in 2014. His job has definitely been made easier by having J.J. Watt and Arian Foster on his roster, but there is no mistaking that he has done a great job in his first year in Houston. O’Brien has been able to turn the Texans around without number one overall pick JaDaveon Clowney – who will return to the lineup within the next few weeks — and despite a below average quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Texans will have to have a strong second-half of the season to make the playoffs, and if they do, don’t be surprised if O’Brien is named the 2014 NFL Coach of the Year.
3. Doug Marrone, Buffalo Bills
At the halfway point in 2014, Marrone has the Bills one win away from reaching their 2013 win total. He made the bold move of benching 2013 first-round draft pick E.J. Manuel in favor of journeyman Kyle Orton at quarterback after a Week 4 loss to the Houston Texans. Behind Orton, the Bills have gone 3-1 and trail the New England Patriots by only one game in the AFC East. At 5-3 overall, the Bills are in a great position in the standings to make a second-half run at the 2014 playoffs.
4. Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys
Garrett has the Cowboys in the mix for the top seed in the NFC Playoffs with a 6-2 overall record. What’s even more impressive is how Garrett has completely revamped the Cowboys’ offensive approach. In past seasons, Dallas relied heavily on quarterback Tony Romo to carry the offense and was simply more of a finesse group. The 2014 overhaul started with the NFL Draft in May when the team selected offensive guard Zack Martin in the first round. With the addition of Martin, the Cowboys’ offensive line has been the best in the league, and running back DeMarco Murray is on pace to potentially break the single-season rushing yards record. They are physically dominating their opponents, and the emergence of their running game has really helped to improve the efficiency of Romo. With all of that being said, Garrett truly deserves an award just for putting up with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for so many years.
5. Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions
Caldwell inherited an incredibly talented, but consistently underachieving team in Detroit. The Lions’ defense has developed into the best defense in the NFL, statistically speaking, and the offense – without All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson — has done enough to win games under Caldwell. When Johnson returns, the Lions may emerge as the team to beat in the NFC in 2014; not a bad turn around from their 7-9 campaign in 2013.