Top 10 NFL Coaches: Mike Zimmer Remains Underrated, Sean McVay Suddenly Underrated


NFL coaches could have more influence on the outcome of a game than any other coach in any other sport. They can actually dictate what their players do almost at any time during the game. They have to make decisions in real time on the clock, downtime, difficult games, etc. They have the power to destroy or steal a game.

Welcome to the official CBS Sports coaching rankings. In the past two weeks, we have ranked the top 10 players in each position group – from quarterbacks to kickers and bettors (yes, really). We are now turning our attention to the coaches. Below, you’ll find my ranking for the top 10 coaches in the NFL right now.

But first, a few notes on the list:

  • It doesn’t matter who I think will win the most games in 2020. If that were the case, Andy Reid and John Harbaugh would be above Bill Belichick because they have better football teams than Belichick right now.
  • This is not entirely based on past success. If it was, Pete Carroll and Mike Tomlin would be higher.
  • For fans of the Eagles in particular: Sean McVay won about 69% of his games. Doug Pederson won about 59% of his games. McVay took a bunch of flaks for a bad 2019 season … when the Rams won nine games again. Pederson has won nine games in consecutive seasons. He also went 7-9 in his first season, which McVay never did. On that note, the Super Bowls aren’t the only thing that matters. I will not base my ranking on a match. You can. There is certainly an argument for Pederson on McVay. But if you don’t think there’s an argument for McVay on Pederson, you’re probably a fan of the Eagles or weighing the outcome of a game too much.
  • The next three coaches would have been: Bruce Arians, Sean McDermott and Mike Vrabel.

On the list itself.

10. Mike Zimmer of the Vikings

Regular season: 57–38–1 (.599)
Post-season: 2-3 (.400)

It always feels like Mike Zimmer is underrated. Here is what he has done as a Vikings coach for the past six seasons:

He won 59.9% of his games, good enough for a record 57-38-1. He has played in the playoffs for half of his six seasons, although he is stuck in the same division as Aaron Rodgers. He would be 3-2 instead of 2-3 in the playoffs if Blair Walsh had not played with him. As a defensive coach, he always gets the most out of defending the Vikings. In six seasons, the Vikings’ defense has ranked in the top 10 for five points. The only time they didn’t finish in the top-10 was in their first season in charge, when they placed 11th.

Zimmer is not a perfect coach. He probably has to win more playoff games to get more respect. But he’s a defensive coach who always gets results from his defense.

9. Doug Pederson of the Eagles

Regular season: 38-26 (.594)
Post-season: 4-2 (.667)

In four seasons with the Eagles, although he has suffered a series of injuries, Doug Pederson is 38-26, good enough for a winning percentage of 59.4. He made the playoffs in three of the four seasons. But of course, the real reason Pederson is ranked so high is because of the 2017 season, when he guided the Eagles to the top of the NFC playoff photo, then overcame a late season injury at Carson Wentz making the most of backup quarterback Nick Foles, who has become a quintessential Super Bowl player. Although the Eagles have not taken advantage of their potential in the past two seasons, they still managed to advance to the playoffs in both seasons. Pederson has shown a willingness to be aggressive – especially in the Super Bowl against the Patriots – that should appeal to NFL fans who want to see the game continue to evolve.

8. Pete Carroll of the Seahawks

Regular season: 133-90-1 (0.596)
Post-season: 11-9 (.550)

If this list were based solely on wins and losses, Pete Carroll would rank closer to the top. In his 10 seasons as coach of the Seahawks, he posted a record of 100-59-1 (62.8%). He took them to two Super Bowls, one of which they won. He only missed the playoffs twice. Since winning Russell Wilson, he has missed the playoffs once. With Wilson, the Carroll Seahawks never finished worse than 9-7. Carroll has always been a lock to make this list. If coaches are judged on wins and losses (spoiler alert: they are), Carroll is one of the best football coaches.

So why is Carroll ranked so low, behind coaches who have accomplished so much less than him? There is no easy answer to this question, but it is important to remember that this list is forward looking. It’s not just based on past success. And in recent seasons, Carroll and the rest of his coaching staff have shown a reluctance to evolve into an evolving game. It is his stubbornness in establishing the race that stands out, which often forces Wilson to get out of the offensive from difficult third-third situations. As analytics have become a weapon that smart teams – like the Ravens – use to exploit their opponents, the Seahawks have fallen behind.

Carroll is still an excellent coach. He is good at developing defenses. He deserves credit for Wilson’s development, from a third round pick to one of the top three quarterbacks in football. But as the league continues to evolve, so does Carroll to evolve with it. At this point, he didn’t do exactly that. If he does, he’ll jump into the top five again.

7. Mike Tomlin of the Steelers

Regular season: 133-74-1 (.642)
Post-season: 8-7 (.533)

Mike Tomlin has had a successful coaching career that includes two trips to the Super Bowl and a championship, but the 2019 season, which ended without a playoff appearance, could have been his best coaching job. Despite losing Ben Roethlisberger at the start and being forced out of the year with quarterback Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges, who combined to throw 18 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, the Steelers managed to win eight games in their incredible defense who placed third in DVOA and first to take away. All they needed was a competent quarterback.

As already mentioned, Tomlin won a Super Bowl in two trips in total. He also won 133 games in 13 seasons with a winning percentage of 64.2. It never ended with a record below .500. It is remarkably consistent. However, it seems like he doesn’t always get the credit he deserves.

6. Rams ‘Sean McVay

Regular season: 33-15 (.688)
Post-season: 2-2 (.500)

For as many critics as Sean McVay has taken after a disappointing 2019 season, it’s important to put this disappointing season in context. McVay, hired at age 30, went 24-8 in his first two seasons with two playoff appearances and a trip to the Super Bowl. His disappointing 2019 season still included nine wins, which means his record after three seasons is 33-15, which means his winning percentage is 68.8. Obviously, given his relative inexperience, there is a sample size issue that will be resolved in due course, but it should be noted that he has a higher winning percentage than all of the coaches on this list. That’s why it’s ranked so high.

So why is it ranked so low? It all comes down to the 2019 season, when the defenses finally seemed to figure out how to stop the once touted McVay offensive. In 2017, the Rams offensive ranked sixth in DVOA – the year before McVay’s arrival, they died last. In 2018, they finished second. But in 2019, the Rams offensive fell to 17th place. It may have been just a yearlong fluke, but McVay must make adjustments in 2020 if he is to survive the toughest division in football – the NFC West has three coaches on this list.

However, it was an unreal start to his coaching career. Despite the disappointing nature of the 2019 season, let’s not lose sight of McVay’s performance given his age and how awful the Rams were when he inherited the team.

5. Kyle Shanahan of the 49ers

Regular season: 23-25 ​​(.479)
Post-season: 2-1 (.667)

It would not be surprising if Shanahan, only 40, was ultimately the best coach in the league. He is certainly on this trajectory. Like Andy Reid, he is an offensive brain.

It’s hard to really count on the stats or his career resume, because until the 2019 season, he had a bad hand. In 2017, the 49ers started Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard in the quarterback, going 1-10 combined with those two quarters before Jimmy Garoppolo arrived via trade and won the last five games of the season. Then, in 2018, Garoppolo tore his LCA in week 3, forcing the 49ers to come out of the season with Beathard and Nick Mullens. As a result, Shanahan posted a 10-22 record in his first two seasons as an NFL head coach.

Finally, in 2019, we saw what Shanahan can do with a competent quarterback. With Garoppolo in good health, the 49ers were 13-3, made their way through the NFC portion of the playoff table, and were minutes away from winning the Super Bowl. While some will no doubt be quick to note that this is the second Super Bowl leader that Shanahan has exploded (he was the offensive coordinator of the 28-3 Falcons), we probably shouldn’t blame Shanahan since he wrote a winning touchdown Garoppolo missed outright. If Garoppolo hits this throw, Shanahan wins his first Super Bowl. Instead, Garoppolo failed and now Shanahan is faced with questions about his ability to win big games.

It seems unfair. But even if you subscribe to the belief that Shanahan chokes on great moments, you can still recognize his greatness as an offensive player while realizing that he is a young coach. He has only been head coach for three seasons. He only had his quarterback of choice for one of these three seasons. Shanahan should continue to work up this list.

4. Saints ‘Sean Payton

Regular season: 131-77 (.630)
Post-season: 8-7 (.533)

After three years of mediocrity that allowed them to win seven games per season in 2014-2016, the Sean Payton Saints have regained their status as an NFL elite team with 37 victories in their last three seasons. If not for a terrible chance in the playoffs, they might have won another Super Bowl. Yet even without a second championship, Payton’s Saints remains one of the best teams in the league year after year, making Payton one of the best coaches in the league.

In 13 seasons, he holds a record of 131-77, good enough for a winning percentage of 63.0. He made the playoffs eight times. He won a Super Bowl. His crimes are almost always good. In 11 of the 13 seasons, the Saints finished with a top 10 attack by scoring points.

Payton is still a Super Bowl, far from being considered one of the best coaches in the league. Since the Saints are almost always in the playoffs, where their luck has completely evaporated in recent seasons, they will have a decent chance of doing so. But with Drew Brees nearing retirement, Payton is running out of time to get his second. Even if he doesn’t win another Super Bowl, Payton’s legacy as a great coach is already assured.

3. John Harbaugh of the Ravens

Regular season: 118-74 (.615)
Post-season: 10-7 (.588)

First, let’s review John Harbaugh’s resume because it deserves praise. In his 12 seasons as coach of the Ravens, he has averaged 9.8 wins per season, has made eight playoffs, won a Super Bowl and just grabbed his first coach of the year award . But what solidified Harbaugh’s status as third coach has been his work in the past two seasons, particularly with Lamar Jackson.

First, Harbaugh went from Joe Flacco to Lamar Jackson in the middle of last season. Despite their drastic difference in playing styles, the Ravens went 6-1 with Jackson in the quarterback. Last off-season, the Ravens made changes to their offensive to adapt to Jackson’s forces. It may seem like an obvious thing to do, but in the NFL, it doesn’t always happen. Coaches sometimes resist change. They prefer their players to match their system rather than tailoring the system around their players. Harbaugh, along with the rest of his coaching staff, built the perfect offense for Jackson’s undeniable talent and was rewarded with an impressive 14-2 season that ended too early in the playoffs. But with Jackson installed as the team’s long-term starter, the Ravens are ready to build this season and possibly go further.

Harbaugh has also demonstrated a willingness to use analytics to make better decisions in the game. While many NFL coaches are resistant to change, Harbaugh embraced the change. The Ravens converted a 17th tall in the NFL with a success rate of 70.8%.

It’s Harbaugh’s drive to grow that gives me confidence that his placement on this list will age well. Not to mention, he will be associated with Jackson for the next decade. The pair have already won 19 of their 22 regular season games together. Only the success of January is missing.

2. Andy Reid of chefs

Regular season: 207-128-1 (.618)
Post-season: 15-14 (.517)

Finally, Andy Reid got the award that his brilliant career deserved so well. After being 130-93-1 with the Eagles for 14 years, but without winning a Lombardi Trophy, and having averaged almost 11 wins per season in his first six years at the helm of the Chiefs, Reid finally all brought together in his 21st season as an NFL head coach. In 2019, the Reid’s Chiefs went 12-4 to push their team record to 77-35 (68.8%) before winning the Super Bowl. Reid’s resume is now complete. He won 61.8% of his games in his two coaching jobs. He is seventh of all time in victories. He has his Super Bowl. And with Patrick Mahomes locked in as the team’s long-term quarterback, Reid will skip the all-time winning streak in the years to come and likely add more Lombardi trophies to his cabinet.

It’s more than victories and now, playoff successes. It’s also about how the Reid teams win.

He is the best offensive coach in the league. Sure, there’s an argument to be made that any team would succeed with Mahomes in the quarterback, but it’s hard to imagine that another team would be as successful with Mahomes as the Chiefs have known for two seasons. complete. Together, Mahomes and Reid have almost the same winning percentage, but slightly better (including the playoffs) than the winning percentage of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady together. Without Reid, it’s impossible to imagine Mahomes becoming the second quarterback in NFL history to throw more than 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in one season in his very first season as a starting quarterback. NFL. And let’s not forget that Reid has had great success with a game manager-type quarterback at Alex Smith. He has managed to win games with someone like Matt Moore as recently as last season. There is a reason why Reid’s teams are almost always excellent in attack. It’s not always the quarterbacks. But it’s still the coach. In Reid’s 21 seasons as a coach, his infractions have finished in the top 10 on points 13 times.

if Belichick retires before Reid, he will be replaced at the top of this list by Reid.

1. Bill Belichick of the Patriots

Regular season: 273-127 (0.683)
Post-season: 31-12 (.721)

The undisputed best coach in the NFL, Bill Belichick, is also arguably the greatest coach in the history of the sport. As he approaches his 21st season leading the Patriots, Belichick has won an incredible 74.1% of his regular season games with the team. He averages 11.9 wins per season. He played in the playoffs in 17 of those 20 seasons, posting a 30-11 playoff record, good enough for a win percentage of 73.2. He has competed in nine Super Bowls – again in 20 seasons. He has won six Super Bowls – the most in NFL history. Heck, before he even arrived in New England, he managed to take the Cleveland Browns to the playoffs. He even won a playoff game in Cleveland. The Browns have not won a playoff game since.

No one should question Belichick’s position at the top of this list. Its grandeur is undeniable.

Having said that, he is arguably facing the greatest challenge of his coaching career. With Tom Brady having left New England for Tampa Bay in free agency, Belichick will be forced to win games without doubt the greatest quarterback of all time. But the evidence suggests that Belichick will be able to overcome Brady’s departure. He has won a lot without Brady before. In 2008, the Patriots went 11-5 with Matt Cassel after Brady tore his ACL in week 1. In 2016, when Brady was suspended for the first four games, the Patriots went 3-1 with their second and third quarterback strings. If anyone can survive Brady’s departure, it’s Belichick, who is constantly at the forefront of innovation and has always shown a willingness to adapt and a willingness to build a team around his assets, whatever they are.

No matter how the 2020 season unfolds for the Patriots, Belichick will remain at the top of this list until his retirement.


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