You could be the greatest football team in the history of the NFL, but without a quality head coach at the helm, you’re not going anywhere. This may feel like a gross exaggeration, but we truly believe this to be true. Sure, the players are the ones on the field getting things done, but it’s the big boss on the sidelines who’s tasked with putting them in the best position to succeed; something that’s much easier said than done. As we all know, some coaches are better at this than others.
While the NFL does have an offseason, there’s never really a “break” in the action. Whether players are training on their own or coaches are working on the best way to prepare their players for the upcoming season, at this level of the sport, the grind never stops. For many NFL head coaches, all the preparation in the world will not result in a successful season. For other head honchos, the exact opposite may happen — in more ways than one.
The main objective is and always will be rooted in team glory. Still, that doesn’t mean coaches aren’t rewarded for efforts. Although not every head coach — especially the ones who pull the right strings throughout the season — will be recognized for the part they play in their team’s success, one lucky individual will be. According to those fine folks in Vegas, with the preseason in full swing and the 2016 NFL regular season approaching, here’s a look at the coaches with the best chances of winning NFL Coach of the Year.
5. Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers
Your chances of winning in the NFL are exponentially better when you have a guy like Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. This isn’t a secret; it’s a fact. Yet, that doesn’t change the fact that Mike McCarthy is still one of the best head coaches in the game.
Since he took the helm back in 2006, the Green Bay Packers have a combined record of 104-55-1 and they went 10-6 in 2015 (eventually falling to the Arizona Cardinals in the Divisional Round of the playoffs). If the Packers manage to live up to expectations in 2016, then McCarthy could be looking at some hardware of his own — in the form of NFL Coach of the Year.
4. Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers
Although the 2015 Carolina Panthers fell short of their ultimate goal, losing to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 by the score of 24-10, you have to hand it to head coach Ron Rivera on the fantastic job he did guiding this group to a 15-1 regular-season mark. In fact, since taking over in 2011, Riverboat Ron has turned the Panthers into one of the more formidable clubs in football.
In five seasons calling the shots, Rivera is 47-32-1, holds a .594 winning percentage, has led Carolina to the playoffs in each of the last three seasons, and has earned Coach of the Year honors on two separate occasions. While it might be hard for this group to duplicate what it accomplished in 2015, with Rivera at the helm — and Cam Newton under center — you never know. The sky’s the limit in Carolina.
3. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
Although New England will be forced to endure the first four games of the 2016 season without future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, if you’re a Patriots fan, there’s no reason to panic. After all, you still have Bill Belichick on the sidelines.
As a four-time Super Bowl champion and one of the best coaches in the history of the NFL, Belichick has amassed a career record of 223-113 (.664 winning percentage) in his 21 seasons as a head coach, which also includes a ridiculous mark of 187-69 (.730 winning percentage) during his 16-year stint with the Pats. Should this group manage to stay afloat during the early part of the 2016 season in Brady’s absence, don’t be surprised if the Hooded One winds up winning the fourth NFL Coach of the Year award of his career.
2. Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings
It might be a bit surprising to see Mike Zimmer this high on the list, however, when you consider the season the Minnesota Vikings put together in 2015, maybe it’s not so crazy after all.
While running back Adrian Peterson tore up the competition to the tune of 1,485 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, it was Zimmer’s leadership that helped the Vikes become the fifth-rated defense in the NFL at 18.9 points per game and finish atop the NFC North with an 11-5 mark. Now entering his third season at the helm, Zimmer has this group believing it can make a serious run at the Lombardi Trophy. Expectations are certainly high in Minnesota — and they should be.
1. Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals
The only thing more impressive than Bruce Arians’ combination of style and swagger is his ability to put together a winner on the football field. Including his stint as the interim coach of the Indianapolis Colts back in 2012, Arians has amassed a record of 34-14 (.708 winning percentage), including winning at least 10 games in each of his three seasons with the Cardinals.
While Arians has already won the NFL Coach of the Year award twice before, we’d be foolish to think he doesn’t have a legit shot at taking home No. 3. Clearly, like us, Vegas feels good about his chances.
Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.