1. Bill Belichick, Patriots (Last year 1)
Evan Macy (MetroPhiladelphia sports editor): The Patriots’ mastermind is 110 games over .500 as an NFL head coach. Most coaches would call 100 total games in the NFL a successful career. He’s also won four Super Bowl titles and is a relevant force every single postseason. Short of this man retiring, I can’t see him relenting the title of best coach in football any time soon.
Matt Burke (Metro Boston sports editor): Truth be told, the 2015 season was one of Belichick’s worst in New England. There were plenty of head-scratching moves, most notably the onside drop-kick he used in a home loss to the Eagles. Had the Pats won that game they would have had home field vs. Denver in the AFC title game. Still, a bad season by Belichick is a great season by anyone else.
2. Ron Rivera, Panthers (Last year 9)
EM: In the immediate aftermath of the Panthers’ Super Bowl 50 loss, it’s easy to second-guess his spot on the list. But Rivera is a defensive genius who has won a Super Bowl as a player and who has won two of the last three NFL Coach of the Year awards. I’d take him over anyone (but Belichick).
MB: The Panthers were a little too full of themselves heading into the Super Bowl and Rivera deserves some flak for that. But overall, he’s emerged as one of the best defensive minds in the game and he won the NFC with an offense that did not have an elite receiver.
3. Bruce Arians, Cardinals (Last year 3)
EM: The Cardinals were really sleepers last season. By the time they were noticed, they were already nearing their 2015 win total of 13. Arians’ personality leads me to believe he is a fantastic locker room guy, and one players would fight for. And he used to coach at Temple (my alma mater).
MB: I’m not sure how Arians is just one spot behind Rivera as his Cardinals have fell in the playoffs to the Panthers in back-to-back years. And how can you allow Aaron Rodgers to throw that Hail Mary in a playoff game!? So far he seems like a regular season wonder.
4. Pete Carroll, Seahawks (Last year 4)
EM: A one-possession loss in the NFC’s Divisional Round is a successful season for most coaches. Not for Carroll, who’s Seahawks overcame a dreary start to become a legitimate Super Bowl contender for the third straight year.
MB: The Seahawks came oh-so-close to nabbing Carolina in that divisional game and give credit to Carroll that his team didn’t quit when it was down by so much at halftime. There is the chance that Carroll could fall way down this list come next year as things seem to be unraveling in Seattle.
5. Mike Tomlin, Steelers (Last year 6)
EM: What Tomlin overcame to make it to the playoffs is almost as impressive as the times he actually won a Super Bowlwith the Steelers in 2009.He coached much of the season without his starting quarterback, running back and star wide receiver.
MB: Had Ben Roethisberger been totally healthy last month, we’re probably looking at the Patriots or Panthers as Super Bowl champs right now. Credit goes to Tomlin for getting the Steelers hot at the right time. And credit to his assistant, Joey Porter, for trolling Pac Man Jones.
6. Gary Kubiak, Broncos (Last year 20)
EM: Kubiak is the first coach in NFL history to win a Super Bowl as a head coach and a player with the same team. His decision to bring back Peyton Manning over Brock Osweiler may have been a detrimental one if not for Wade Phillips and the Broncos’ ridiculous defense.
MB: Kubiak probably deserves to be higher on this list as he was the king of 2015 and pulled off a Super Bowl win in his first season in Denver. But it was Wade Phillips’ defense that carried that Broncos team to the title, no doubt.
7. Andy Reid, Chiefs (Last year 16)
EM: They started 1-5 and somehow made it to the playoffs (thanks to the collapse of the Jets). And on Reid’s coattails, the Eagles snatched Doug Pederson — his offensive coordinator — as head coach.
MB: If you want to make it to the playoffs each and every year but never win the big one, Big Red is your man. You can do far worse, but does anyone realistically think KC is hoisting the Lombardi anytime soon?
8. Mike Zimmer, Vikings (Last year 24)
EM: What Zimmer has done in two seasons with Minnesota is impressive, as is their near upset over the Seahawks in the third coldest game in NFL history.
MB: I’m riding shotgun on the Zimmer bandwagon. Teddy Bridgewater is coming along in Minnesota and that defense made Russell Wilson look foolish in the Wild Card round.
9. Mike McCarthy, Packers (Last year 5)
EM: Hard to go wrong with Aaron Rodgers, the Hailmary king as your quarterback. Still, McCarthy’s won a Super Bowl title and is certainly worth of a spot in the Top 10.
MB: Eddie Lacy was out of shape for most of the season and Aaron Rodgers looked lost down the stretch of the regular season. He’s supposed to be an offensive genius. It just seems like things are headed in the wrong direction in Green Bay.
10. Todd Bowles, Jets (Last year 25)
EM: Bowles (another head coach with Temple ties) did yeoman’s work in New York, turning a team that was a laughing stock as recently as training camp into a team that should have made it to the playoffs.
MB: Bowles’ first season with the Jets was highly impressive. If only he could figure out how to beat Rex Ryan’s Bills. He helped make Brandon Marshall look brilliant again and the New York defense was an extremely tough unit.
11. Marvin Lewis, Bengals (Last year 18)
EM: Lewis continues to lead the Bengals to winning seasons but can’t win where it counts. Compared to the alternative, I think he’s a pretty good coach. Pretty good — not great.
MB: Bengals owner Mike Brown is 80-years-old. He doesn’t have the heart to fire anyone. Lewis has that job until Mr. Brown is no longer with us. No doubt.
12. Bill O’Brien, Texans (Last year 15)
EM: O’Brien really didn’t have a quarterback all season, but still helped lead the Texans to a playoff berth. Yes, their division was trash — but the playoffs are the playoffs.
MB: Talent evaluation is part of coaching in today’s NFL. And O’Brien let Ryan Fitzpatrick waltz to New York in favor of Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett. And then he started Mallett over Hoyer. And then Mallett missed a team flight. And then Hoyer got the job back. And then Hoyer flamed out in the playoffs in epic fashion. Should’ve kept Fitzpatrick.
13. Jay Gruden, Redskins (Last year 32)
EM: Being painfully familiar with the NFC East, I don’t really give Gruden too much credit for his 2015 NFC East title. But, like O’Brien, the playoffs are the playoffs.
MB: Gruden had Kirk Cousins (KIRK COUSINS!!!) playing like the best quarterback in football during the stretch run of the regular season. Cousins had a decent game in the playoff loss to Green Bay too. Props to BOC (Brother of Chucky).
14. John Harbaugh, Ravens (Last year 2)
EM: I am sure Matt thinks Harbaugh deserves to be higher on this list — and were I starting a franchise from scratch I would probably pick Harbaugh over a few of the coaches above. But, this is a power rankings, and ‘what have you done for me lately’ factors in here. The Ravens painfully underachieved in 2015.
MB: If we’re doing “what have you done for me lately” here, why don’t we just list the standings of the 2015 season and save ourselves some aggravation? Terrell Suggs is the heart and soul of the Ravens and they lost him in Week 1. Harbaugh has had eight seasons in Baltimore and last year was his first below – .500 campaign.
15. Chuck Pagano, Colts (Last year 7)
EM: For stretches of his tenure as Colts’ head coach, I am led to believe he knows what he is doing. And then, for other stretches, it looks like he’s clueless. The jury is still out.
MB: Here’s an ESPN.com headline from Jan. 1, 2016: “Colts won’t retain head coach Chuck Pagano at end of season.” The article said that an NFL source said that his relationship with GM Ryan Grigson had turned “toxic.” Three days later Pagano signed an extension. This is not going to magically get better overnight.
16. Sean Payton, Saints (Last year 10)
EM: It was a pretty bad year in New Orleans but Payton and Brees are committed to return. That means, for one more season at least, they will be a fun team to watch.
MB: I thought it was just time for Payton and New Orleans to part. The Saints’ season-by-season records since 2011: 13-3, 11-5, 7-9, 7-9. Not going in the right direction.
17. John Fox, Bears (Last year 11)
EM: Fox has had a few stops during his NFL coaching career and varying levels of success. Bears fans are antsy for a contender. Can Fox deliver?
MB: The Bears were 2-4 at one point and looked like the worst team in the league, but Fox got them to play hard until the end of a season that had “rebuild” on it from the beginning.
18. Jim Caldwell, Lions (Last year 12)
EM: The future success of Caldwell in Detroit could have a direct correlation to whether or not he can convince Calvin Johnson to return for another season.
MB: The Lions went from 11-5 in 2014 to 7-9 in 2015. Just because they lost Ndamukong Suh? Unlikely.
19. Dan Quinn, Falcons (Last year 23)
EM: The Falcons were red-hot to start the season but couldn’t have ended much colder. But for a first-year coach, Quinn was respectable.
MB: Quinn and the Falcons will be fascinating to watch next season. So far, he’s on a “Josh McDaniels in Denver” career path. Strong start, quick flameout.
20. Rex Ryan, Bills (Last year 22)
EM: I, like everyone else, expected better things from Rex. He seems to have a decent team on paper but execution is not his strong suit.
MB: Rex can always say he kept the Jets out of the playoffs once again, but enough is enough. If the Bills don’t make the playoffs in 2016, Rex’s career as a head coach in this league should be over.
21. Jack Del Rio, Raiders (Last year 28)
EM: The Raiders wanted so badly to make a run at a playoff spot last season, and as retiring future hall-of-famer Charles Woodson said, things will get better soon.
MB: The Raiders made a little noise last season and seem to be ascending. Del Rio is still suspect, but he’s lasted in Oakland this long. That’s a win on its own.
22. Chip Kelly, 49ers (Last year 8)
EM: What can you say about Chip Kelly? As a coach his inability to adapt cost him the playoffs and his job with the Eagles. Maybe facing less pressure with the lowly Niners he can succeed.
MB: Why didn’t Chip make it easier on himself and go somewhere with a decent starting quarterback? It just always seems like he’s trying to reinvent the wheel.
23. Jeff Fisher, Rams (Last year 20)
EM: The Rams are a talented young squad, and perhaps Fisher will have success out west in L.A. He’s been to a Super Bowl before and has a respectable 170–156–1 record.
MB: I’ve fallen into the Fisher trap far too many times. The guy hasn’t made the playoffs in his last six seasons in the league. Who else in the history of football gets as much leeway?
24. Jason Garrett, Cowboys (Last year 13)
EM: It wasn’t all Garrett’s fault last year (Tony Romo and Dez Bryant’s injuries certainly played a part) but the Cowboys were one of the most underachieving teams in 2015. Thankfully for Garrett he is Jerry Jones’ boy and was not shown the door.
MB: Jason Garrett has got to have pictures of Jerry Jones (and you just know there are pictures). He’s been the Cowboys head coach since 2010 and he’s won a grand total of one playoff game. Remember, Jones is the guy who got rid of a coach who had won back-to-back Super Bowls for him. What happened to the real Jerry?
25 Gus Bradley, Jaguars (Last year 31)
EM: The Jaguars weren’t a complete train wreck in 2015, and I can see them making considerable progress under Bradley in the near future.
MB: The 2015 season was already Bradley’s third as HC of the JJ, can you believe it? The Jags went 5-11 this past season and it was seen as a grand success. Bradley might have the best gig in America.
26. Mike McCoy, Chargers (Last year 17)
EM: McCoy has seen San Diego go from back-to-back winning seasons in 2013 and 2014 to a 4-12 mark in 2015. Philip Rivers can’t do it all by himself.
MB: McCoy should be thankful the Chargers had that whole relocation thing distracting eye ball from what was happening on the Qualcomm Field this past season.
27. Adam Gase, Dolphins
EM: The highest ranked of the new coaching class, Gase was the first to sign a contract and was the hot, golden boy of the coaching carousel. He has high expectations in Miami.
MB: Gase did some decent things with a decent Bears offense this past season. While in Denver, he helped Peyton Manning orchestrate arguably the best offensive season in NFL history. He needs to get Ryan Tannehill up to speed immediately.
28. Hue Jackson, Browns
EM: Jackson has been a head coach before and the experience will serve him well. So will not having to coach Johnny Manziel.
MB: Jackson willingly went to the Browns over the Giants. He must know something we don’t know.
29. Ben McAdoo, Giants
EM: Was the Giants’ offensive success due to Tom Coughlin, or former offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo? We’ll find out in 2016.
MB: McAdoo was a boring hire for the Giants, but sometimes the best hires aren’t the sexy ones. The offense will be fine, but New York needs its defense to get back to an elite level if it wants to contend for titles again.
30. Doug Pederson, Eagles
EM: After three years in Chip Kelly-land, the Eagles reversed course as they yearned for the Andy Reid days. His top lieutenant Pederson has gotten mixed reviews in Philly, but appears to be well-suited for the job.
MB: Many in Philly wanted a return to the Andy Reid era. Well, it looks like Pederson is just as bad at late-game clock management as his former boss. What he did late during the Chiefs’ loss to the Patriots in the playoffs was embarrassing.
31. Mike Mularkey, Titans
EM: Mularkey coached the Titans to a 2-7 record after the team parted ways with Ken Whisenhunt. Those nine games, and his quarterback Marcus Mariota, could help him succeed a bit more in his first full go-around.
MB: About the best thing we can say about Mularkey is that he looks like Kevin Costner. He has a career head coaching record of 18-39 (he coached the Bills and Jaguars, previously).
32. Dirk Koetter, Buccaneers
EM: The bottom spot goes to Koetter, not because he’s a bad coach but because he’s new to the head coaching scene and takes over a rebuilding Bucs squad.
MB: Koetter did some nice things as Jameis Winston’s offensive coordinator this past year. The Bucs improved from 2-14 to 6-10 this past season so the pressure will be on Koetter immediately to make the postseason.