2017 NFL head coach power rankings: Bill Belichick No. 1, is he best ever?
No football? No problem. Metro's sports editors argue over which of the NFL's head coaches are the best as the offseason continues.
1. Bill Belichick, Patriots (last year, 1)
Evan Macy, Metro Philadelphia sports editor: There really doesn't need to be much of an explanation here. Matt and I considered trolling everyone by putting Belichick second, but with five Super Bowl rings, including the greatest comeback in the history of the game in Super Bowl 51 last season, he's not only the best active coach in the NFL, but probably one of the four or five best ever to coach the game.
Matt Burke, Metro Boston sports editor:One of the four or five best ever?! This is why Belichick is going to coach until he’s 100 — to convince every last person on the planet that he is greater than Lombardi or Noll or Walsh or anyone else people want to pretend is better. When Lombardi was winning titles there were 14 teams in the league and no free agency. Belichick now has five Super Bowl titles in a much more difficult era.
2. Mike Tomlin, Steelers (last year, 5):
EM: There isn't a clear No. 2 this year, especially after how Dan Quinn's Falcons imploded with a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl. Looking past that, Tomlin's Steelers overcame a bevy of injuries and setbacks last season to make a quiet run at an AFC Championship game. It seems the Steelers are always in the mix, and Tomlin is proving to be a coach who can adapt to the every-changing NFL landscape.
MB: He made it to the AFC Championship Game this year, where he got pounded by the No. 1 guy on this list. It’s been awhile since he won the Lombardi that gives him a free pass (2008 season), but the Steelers are always relevant.
3. Dan Quinn, Falcons (last year, 19)
EM: Quinn gets knocked from No. 2 as a penalty for blowing a 25-point lead, but he holds on to the third spot since, well, the Falcons had one of the best offenses every to appear in a Super Bowl. It will be interesting to see how he bounces back — especially without Kyle Shanahan who left to coach the 49ers.
MB: Kyle Shanahan deservers half the blame for the Falcons not killing the clock down the stretch in Super Bowl 51, but the buck needs to stop with Quinn. As for the Falcons’ defense, which couldn’t stop a nosebleed in the third and fourth of that game … what gives? Quinn is supposed to be a defensive guy.
4. Mike McCarthy, Packers (last year, 9)
EM: McCarthy is sort of like Tomlin in that he finds a way to win. No running backs? Apparently no problem when you have Aaron Rodgers. There were too many pieces missing last year for the Packers to make it to the Super Bowl, but it was impressive they got as close as they did.
MB:There was buzz that McCarthy was going to get canned midway through last season. As is always the case, big Mike needs to give Aaron Rodgers a big smooch and a thank you.
5. Pete Carroll, Seahawks (last year, 4)
EM: The fourth of the top five who has a Super Bowl ring, Carroll has a less dominating defense but continues to employ a winning strategy. He held on while Russell Wilson was banged up and overcame the loss of Earl Thomas, a devastating blow to most NFL head coaches.
MB: Carroll is getting sloppy in his old age. He refused to put Richard Sherman on the injury report all season despite the corner’s MCL injury and now the team will likely be docked a second round pick. This is now the third time that Pete forgot the rules and has gotten his team punished.
6. Bill O'Brien, Texans (last year, 12)
EM: I think O'Brien could have been higher. It's the power rankings after all not, an all-time ranking of coaches. He lost arguably the best defensive player in football in J.J. Watt and had some of the most terrible quarterback play in the NFL, yet still led his team to the second round of the playoffs.
MB:O’Brien needs to figure out a way to get his best offensive player the damn ball. DeAndre Hopkins had just two 100-plus yard receiving days last season.
7. Andy Reid, Chiefs (last year, 7)
EM: In a world full of Big Red haters, I am a believer. Not because of his former success with my hometown Eagles, but because he continues to lead successful football teams with well-rounded offensive and defensive schemes. He fell just a little too in love with Tyreek Hill at the end of the season.
MB:The big guy is turning into Jeff Fisher-lite in that he’s still considered a good coach based on a reputation he built 15 years ago. He’s gone an impressive 43-21 in the regular season during his time in K.C., but has just one playoff win (over the Texans and Brian Hoyer) in his four years there.
8. Adam Gase, Dolphins (last year, 27)
EM: The award for most improved coach goes to Gase, who pretty much took the Dolphins out of nowhere to a wild-card spot. As an NFC guy, I didn't see this one coming at all, but I can only assume things will be tougher for him next year with so much tape on him out there now.
MB:In his first year as a head coach, Gase made it clear that he was NFL head coach material. They nearly went into Seattle and beat the Seahawks on Opening Day (losing 12-10) and then nearly went into New England and beat the Patriots in Week 2. They still finished 10-6 and made the playoffs.
9. Jason Garrett, Cowboys (last year, 24)
EM: Garrett is a weird case. He's been around forever. And last year first he overachieved (with a rookie starting quarterback and running back) and then he underachieved (losing to the Packers in the second round of the playoffs, his first playoff game). Like Gase, a lot is riding on next year.
MB:The Cowboys had two weeks to prepare for Aaron Rodgers and couldn’t deal, falling 34-31 at home. The next week the Falcons (who were thought to have a weaker defense than the Cowboys) solved Rodgers pretty easily. That was a brutal job by Garrett.
10. John Harbaugh, Ravens (last year, 14)
EM: What do you to with a Super Bowl winning coach who hasn't done much lately? Throw him at No. 10. Harbaugh's Ravens were in the mix for a playoff spot last year and he's overcome some big setbacks in recent years.
MB:I’ve got to admit, I fall into the Harbaugh trap. He just looks like he knows what he’s doing. He gets a lifetime pass from me for winning a Super Bowl with Joe Flacco, but his Ravens haven’t won their division since that year in 2012.
11. Jack Del Rio, Raiders (last year, 21)
EM: Del Rio probably deserves better than 11th after a phenomenal year helming the now-Las Vegas Raiders. A detrimental injury to Derek Carr flatted his playoff chances immediately. We'll never know if a healthy Raiders squad could have challenged New England.
MB: Amazing what a good quarterback will do. Del Rio jumped 10 spots in our rankings from last year. Ninety percent of this is due to Derek Carr.
12. Jim Caldwell, Lions (last year, 18)
EM: First of all, poor Lions fans. They never, ever get to end an NFL season without feeling queasy. However, the Lions walked a tight rope in 2016 winning several really close games — many of which shouldn't have done their way. Caldwell is an average coach on an above average team.
MB:Caldwell is the most blah coach in the NFL. If you’re interested in going 9-7 for eternity, hire this man.
13. Ben McAdoo, Giants (last year, 29)
EM: McAdoo surprised me in leading the Giants to a playoff berth. I thought the New York defense was overpaid and too much of a mercenary unit, but he proved me wrong.
MB:So McAdoo was fined only $200,000 for blatantly using a walkie-talkie on the sidelines during a game but the Patriots were docked draft picks and had their QB suspended a quarter of the season for maybe, possibly having a couple footballs slightly under-inflated. Makes sense. Oh … McAdoo’s a good coach.
14. Sean Payton, Saints (last year, 16)
EM: The more I watch the Saints — who continue to be one of the most exciting bad teams in sports — the more I am positive the best of Payton is behind him.
MB: Another Jeff Fisher in the making. Payton has been riding Drew Brees’ coattails forever, but he still can’t figure out how to field a presentable defense.
15. Ron Rivera, Panthers (last year, 2)
EM: Rivers dropped off the face of these rankings after a putrid 2016 campaign. Can his once legendary defense rebound after a truly down year?
MB:Here is Rivera’s resume through six seasons in Carolina: 53-42-1 record, took his team to one Super Bowl and lost. Here is John Fox’s first six seasons in Carolina: 51-45 record, took his team to one Super Bowl and lost. Hmm.
16. Jay Gruden, Redskins (last year, 13)
EM: Gruden had a good football team and pretty much was gifted a wild-card berth — but he wasn't able seal the deal. He's average, and better get Kirk Cousins back if he wants to stay in Washington past next year.
MB:Gruden deserves credit for helping make Kirk Cousins into a decent little QB, but the pressure is on him in Washington to take the next step after a mediocre 8-7-1 campaign.
17. Mike Zimmer, Vikings (last year, 8)
EM: Zimmer's 2016 fate was tied to Sam Bradford and a predictably mundane result followed.
MB:Wish we got Zimmer higher on this list. I still think he’s the best coach the Vikings have had since Dennis Green. Yeah, that’s not saying much (apologies, Mike Tice) — but I expect the Vikings to be a playoff team in 2017.
18. Bruce Arians, Cardinals (last year, 3)
EM: It seems like a lot of really good, accomplished coaches have had bad seasons recently. Carson Palmer's return means Arians should rebound in 2017.
MB:This guy has to be the most overrated coach in the league. He gets a free pass from the media because he wears funny hats and cool glasses? What was the excuse for Jimmy Garoppolo and the Patriots going into their house in Week 1 and losing?
19. Mike Mularkey, Titans (last year, 31)
EM: The Titans were now of the NFL's best surprises — as was Marcus Mariota's season-ending injury. This team is on the up and up and Mularkey will be in the top 15 next February.
MB:Mularkey is French for mediocre. Not sold on this Kevin Costner lookalike just yet. His Titans were on the verge of a playoff berth but lost to the friggin Jaguars, 38-17, on Christmas Eve.
20. Dirk Koetter, Buccaneers (last year, 32)
EM: The Buccaneers were another surprise, and the relatively unknown Koetter showed he belongs in the NFL.
MB:We all need a few more Dirks in our lives. Koetter just needs to keep Jameis Winston out of elementary schools going forward and he’ll be fine.
21. Chuck Pagano, Colts (last year, 15)
EM: Pagano can be a good football coach, but he can also be get mired into relying too much on Andrew Luck's late-game heroics. The Colts' success will rely on Luck having help.
MB:Good god. This guy hasn’t been fired yet? Back to back seasons going 8-8 and owning what was thought to be the best young QB in football.
22. Marvin Lewis, Bengals (last year, 11)
EM: Cincy actually played well at the end of the year. Was it the coach or the players at fault for a terrible start that dug too deep a hole for the Bengals?
MB: Another one who has somehow been granted immunity from his team’s owners. Everyone said before the season started that Lewis would be gone if he couldn’t win a playoff game. Lewis one upped that, and didn’t even make the playoffs.
23. Kyle Shanahan, 49ers
EM: I think San Francisco made the right choice in hiring former Falcons offensive coordinator Shanahan. But I'm not sure Shanahan made the right one. He'll have nothing to work with in the Bay Area and will be fantasizing about Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman when he can't fall asleep at night.
MB:What he did with Matt Ryan last year was amazing. He was the mind behind the league’s MVP. What Shanahan did in the second half of the Super Bowl was amazing, too. Amazingly dumb.
24. Doug Pederson, Eagles (last year, 30)
EM: If Pederson's start to the season was the true Pederson, he'd be ranked a lot higher. Some inexplicable fourth down attempts and questionable play calling made him look like a rookie coach, but he looks to be doing a fantastic job with new face of the franchise Carson Wentz.
MB:The jury is still out on this guy. Wouldn’t be surprised if he’s fired at the end of the 2017 season or wins coach of the year.
25. Doug Marrone, Jaguars
EM: Marrone coached the Bills and went 25-25. He was 1-1 as interim head coach in Jacksonville. He has some young talent but maybe not the chops to lead a turnaround.
MB:Glad to see Marrone get another crack at a head coaching job. Just a shame it had to be with the Jaguars.
26. Vance Joseph, Broncos
EM: He is just 44 and has never been a head coach so you never know, but I am not particularly impressed with his assistant work coaching the Dolphins, Bengals, Texans and others.
MB:Crazy to think that just 14 months or so, Gary Kubiak was still thought of as a blah head coach. Broncos fans have to be worried about Joseph being anywhere as good as Kubiak.
27. Todd Bowles, Jets (last year, 10)
EM: Coaching the Jets might be one of the toughest gigs in the league as far as pressure and expectation goes. If he doesn't have a good 2017 he could be the first one fired.
MB:The Jets had a pathetic season last year, but Bowles never let the chaos get too out of control. Something to be said about that, particularly when it comes to this franchise.
28. Sean McDermott, Bills
EM: McDermott would have been a great fit with the Eagles last year but he decided to stick in Carolina a year too long. He is a slight upgrade over Rex Ryan.
MB:McDermott’s Wikpedia page does not have a photo of him. Therefore he must not exist.
29. John Fox, Bears (last year, 17)
EM: The Bears have potential but many, many question marks. He's an established, veteran NFL coach but Chicago may not be a great fit.
MB:Fox’s Bears went from 6-10 in 2015 to 3-13 in 2016. He still has a job, which means the Bears’ plan must have been to tank last season.
30. Sean McVay, Rams
EM: McVay is 31-years-old, or two years older than me and an NFL head coach. He was Washington's offensive coordinator — but he'll have a mess on his hands with L.A.'s offense.
MB:Hiring a 31-year-old as your head coach just screams, “We’re trying to be different! We got the smart young kid! We’re young and hip!” The Rams will win four games tops in 2017.
31. Anthony Lynn, Chargers
EM: Lynn has two Super Bowls as a player but hasn't accomplished much as an assistant. He hails from the Bills coaching tree which hasn't been great lately.
MB: Lynn is a Rex Ryan guy, which gets nobody excited in 2017.
32. Hue Jackson, Browns (Last year, 28)
EM: Finally the coach of the 1-15 Browns. He's in last because his team is awful. That's all I got.
MB:In two seasons as an NFL head coach, Jackson has a 9-23 overall record. Had the Browns won just two games in 2016 he would have gotten to that magical double-digit mark. There’s a chance, albeit small, that he gets there in 2017.