Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera may wellgo 16-0, the third team in the NFL’s modern era to go undefeated in the regular season. His team might sweep their way through the playoffsto the SuperBowl and win it, becoming the second ever undefeated to lift the Vince LombardiTrophy. Itmight well go down as the best head coaching record in franchise history and one of the best ever in the league.
Andyou know what? He wouldn’t have done half the coaching job as Todd Bowles in his first year with the New York Jets.
Turn the thermostat downbecause here comes the hottest of takes.
It is blasphemy to say that a head coach going undefeated and winning the Super Bowl shouldn’t be honored as the league’s best but Rivera didn’t completely change the culture of his team or take a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2010 into a winning program.Bowles has started from the ground-up, a team 4-12 a year ago, without a playoff appearance or a winning record since making the AFC Championship Game in 2010.
He took over for a deposed head coach who let the inmates run theasylum, who mucked things up so badly the past four years that the team was a walking, talking, missed tackling joke. From ‘Buttfumble’ to ‘Tripgate’ and everything in-between, Rex Ryan’s teams took a nosedive after two initials years of success.
There was little accountability in the locker room, a culture of misfits that Bowles had to overcome. That he has this team already guaranteed of a winning season with two games left is a testament to the work he put in not just on the field but off of it as well.
Compare that to Rivera, who has had five years to get the Panthers to where they are now, making the playoffs now for a third straight season. Bowles has done plenty in one year, not onlymore than doubling last year’s win total but putting his team squarely in the playoff mix in a division with a dominant New England Patriots team. It is subjective for sure, but Bowles faced a tougher job than Rivera to get his Jets into the playoff picture.
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After all, 7-8-1 was good enough to get the Panthers not only into the playoffs last year but to win their second straight division title. Coincidentally, the Jets haven’t won their division since 2002.
And don’t bring that argument that an undefeated season is worth an automatic nod for Rivera to get some personal hardware. 16-0 ain’t what it used to be and it shouldn’t be considered an automatic berth for, say, the league’s top coaching honors.
The 2007 New England Patriots became the second team in modern NFL history to go undefeated in a year and since 1984, five NFL teams have finished the regular season with at least 15 wins, not including the Patriots who finished perfect. Itisstill a rare accomplishment in the league but it is becoming increasingly lessimpressiveof an accomplishment. Especially in an NFC South that the Panthers essentially wrapped up around Halloween (no team has better than a .500 record). They didn’t exactly play in a competitive division or much of a slate of games.
Especially with a strength of schedule that, according to PredictionMachine.com is fourth worst in the league.
Now Rivera has done a great job with his Panthers. He has an elite quarterback (at least for this year) and a defense that is coming together and is third best in the league. But consider the Jets this time a year ago when, onDec. 21, they were coming off their twelfth loss of the year and would have their worst record since 2007.
Now Bowles has the team on the verge of double-digit wins in what should be a rebuilding season. If he gets this team to close out with two wins and into the playoffs, it might be the best head coaching job in franchise history. He had a much higher mountain to climb to get his team to where it is than where the Panthers came into this season from.
Bowles is the best coach in the NFL this year, undefeated or not.