For my awards season, I went through team-by-team within their division and I selected one ‘winner’ from each team and then chose a divisional winner. One winner from the eight NFL divisions then faced off in an ‘Elite Eight’ head-to-head until we named our winner for the Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Coach of the Year.
Today, we look at: Head Coach of the Year 2018 season.
NFC EAST: Coach of the Year…
WINNER = You could make a case for Jason Garrett, Jay Gruden, or Doug Pederson…but I hate two of those coaches, so it’s going to be tough. You’d think it’s Doug Pederson, but Dallas dominated them, and HE benched Nick Foles for Carson Wentz…only injury to Wentz saved the day. I can’t reward that terrible coaching decision.
Jason Garrett then? Midseason he was about to get fired. The ‘Boys got hot/a little lucky at the same time Philly was dying due to injury as was the Redskins. Garrett survived more than thrived here.
I go with Jay Gruden – before the injuries it was Washington about to run away with this division and get Garrett to get fired. Even with all the injuries, Gruden kept the Redskins limping along to almost the very end. When he had ‘his team’ – they were very good. When he lost his whole O-Line, QB, best CB, etc., he still kept the Redskins fighting. A low-key best job performance in the NFL this season. My NFC East choice is Jay Gruden.
AFC EAST: Coach of the Year…
WINNER = I want to give the nod to Adam Gase because he had the Dolphins in the playoff hunt right up until a final 3 week collapse at the end. He lost Tannehill, and then went and beat the Bears with Osweiler the following week. However, you have to hand it to Bill Belichick – not his best team or coaching job, but somehow beat both KC and Chicago this season. They won the division walking away, so I have to give the edge to Belichick.
NFC WEST: Coach of the Year…
WINNER = We should really give it to Steve Wilks because it’s a special feat to get hired and fired in less than a year…because of total incompetence. Usually the incompetent will get a merciful 2nd season to ruin the franchise more, but not Wilks.
In lieu of Wilks, I have to go with Pete Carroll over Sean McVay. I did not think Seattle could gut the core of its defense and bring in a terrible offensive coordinator and still get to the playoffs. I have to tip the cap there. Sean McVay…I thought the Rams finished terribly and started regressing. Their defense was erratic from sometimes all-world, to sometimes erratic. Seattle finished strong and the Rams did not, so nod to Carroll.
AFC WEST: Coach of the Year…
WINNER = Anthony Lynn…as much as that pains me to say. I didn’t believe the Chargers would have a shot at the AFC West after the first half of the season. The Chargers were missing Joey Bosa for months. Lost all their linebackers. Lost Jason Verrett at corner, again. Despite the hardships, the Chargers finished strong and almost pulled off the division title.
AFC SOUTH: Coach of the Year…
WINNER = Three great candidates here.
Nobody expected the Colts to make such a move this year, but some of that was we were all unsure about Andrew Luck – Luck was fine, and the Colts nearly won the division.
Tennessee was thought to be a playoff fluke from last year and with a coaching change there were lower expectations…but the Titans had a winning record and almost snuck into the playoffs again.
Somehow Bill O’Brien did it again…especially after an 0-4 start, I thought he was done for 2018 and done in Houston. They won nine in-a-row and ultimately held off the hard-charging Colts for the division title and almost snuck in to get a BYE.
It feels like Indy had the biggest hole to climb out of with the least expectations, so give the edge to Frank Reich.
NFC SOUTH: Coach of the Year…
WINNER = Sean Payton wins by default. Ron Rivera had a terrible season. Dirk Koetter benched an early MVP candidate to go with Jameis/losses and the Falcons never got going.
AFC NORTH: Coach of the Year…
WINNER = John Harbaugh over Gregg Williams, but it’s debatable/arguable. It can get lost in the shuffle that midseason the Ravens were expected to be moving on from Harbaugh…as the Ravens hit a losing streak and as the Steelers took over the AFC North. Harbaugh had to change his offense to Lamar Jackson-style on the fly and made the wise move to not go back to Joe Flacco. Harbaugh has nine lives…
NFC NORTH: Coach of the Year…
WINNER = No doubt it is Matt Nagy. You think because of the shocking (not to me) season Chicago had, but the bigger part is – all the coaches in the NFC North were awful this year.
**College Football Metrics 2019 subscriptions are now available!!
I have been going through the East-West game prospects and beginning work on the first full scouting reports since December 2018, and they’ll be the first things you see out of the gates when we open up.
I’m shocked by a few of the East-West prospects…some potential ‘wow’ prospects in a game there usually isn’t much ‘wow’ in because they all usually wind up at the Senior Bowl. Not this year. The East-West games will have dynasty rookie draft sleeper wheels turning early.
Haskins-Grier-Lock-Minshew-Murray-Stidham…other? What’s up with this oft-labeled weak QB draft class? I’m not sure it’s that weak…depends upon your perspective. We’ll be analyzing and computer grading all the top QBs and discussing what I mean by ‘perspective’.
It’s NFL Draft overload season…it’s Fantasy title defense or title chase study season… Here comes our 8th year of College Football Metrics to the rescue!**
EAST v. EAST: Jay Gruden v. Bill Belichick
I’m not a fan for Jay G., but he was potentially going to win the NFC East (potentially) before he got hit with mass injuries again – Alex Smith, Quinton Dunbar, the O-Line again. Even falling apart, Washington was still scrapping with a playoff chance near the very end. But how can you deny Bill Belichick? 4-0 against playoff teams in 2018 regular season. Beat KC and Chicago when they were becoming ‘it’ teams. His losses late season were the fluke to Miami and the tight loss to the Steelers late. The Pats had one ‘bad’ game (vs. TENN) in their final 13 games.
WEST v. WEST: Pete Carroll v. Anthony Lynn
Everyone expected the Chargers to make the playoffs and possibly get to the Super Bowl…they let a lot of people down getting rocked by the Pats in the playoffs. Rare few expected Seattle to be a playoff team, and yet they made it and were getting stronger as the season went on. I’m not a Pete Carroll guy AT ALL, but respect to him for his 2018 results in what was supposed to be a rebuild (per me/the media but never Carroll).
SOUTH v. SOUTH: Frank Reich v. Sean Payton
No one expected the Colts to make the playoffs, and everyone expected the Saints to…so, edge to Reich for this award. But I would also like to honor Reich’s work by paying respect that he went for a lot of gutsy 4th-down shots. Payton did a great job, but Reich turning a broken team with a bunch of youngsters + Andrew Luck off injury? Gotta go Reich.
NORTH v. NORTH: John Harbaugh v. Matt Nagy
A nice job by both of these guys but I see a lot of ‘lucky to win’/close wins for the Ravens…where I see a lot of ‘should’ve won’/OT games with the Bears among their handful of losses. The Bears were very close to being a 13-3 type team. The Bears were more impressive overall to me, but it’s close between he and Harbaugh.
EAST v. WEST: Bill Belichick v. Pete Carroll
Carroll got his team to the playoffs when no one thought it likely this year. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year. The Pats were supposed to be good and were. Both of these teams were getting better as the year went on. Carroll went 2-4 vs. playoff teams and got a wild card. Belichick was 4-0 vs. playoff teams and stomped his division again. Belichick’s sustained excellence moves on.
NORTH v. SOUTH: Frank Reich v. Matt Nagy
I’m going to not go Matt Nagy here. Why? I think Nagy finished poorly…that despite the year, he was actually a hindrance, a ‘brake’ applied to the Bears upside down the stretch. The Bears, loaded with talent, won despite Nagy in the second half of the season. Nagy stumbled onto gold Week 4 vs. Tampa Bay…and ran hot for several weeks, but then once into the NFC North lead…he did the Andy Reid thing – went conservative and didn’t improve his team or his QB. He rested on laurels, and like Andy Reid…he got knocked off prematurely in the end.
Frank Reich did not hold his team back. He let it all hang out with a lot of rookies and no-name players and no backfield and missing WRs and TEs all over. Reich’s team improved as the season went on, but Nagy’s wasn’t…even though they were winning they weren’t improving. So, for that reason I go with Reich.
Bill Belichick vs. Frank Reich
Tough call. Frank Reich had a great season. Andrew Luck had, arguably, his best season. Eric Ebron actually had value. A rookie LB might have been the best defensive player in the league. T.Y. Hilton was hurt. Jack Doyle was lost. Most everything Colts was ‘better’ than recent years. Reich wasn’t the first choice of the GM. Staff was already hired before he got there because of the whole Josh McDaniel thing. Strange circumstances to overcome for Reich walking in the door.
Belichick did a masterful job again and doesn’t get enough credit…ever…for how great he is. Andy Reid gets called ‘a great play caller’ all the time, and he isn’t. While no one ever calls Belichick a great play caller…and all he does is win and put up nice offensive numbers every year no matter who his O-C is. The NFL hates results and likes simple narratives that sound true if you say them enough.
Reich never held back. I never watched a game and wondered why Reich was holding back or suppressing talent. I also love Reich’s aggression all season in play calling and gambling on 4th-downs.
Belichick had a bunch of changes in staff, per usual, and just rolled right through it and succeeded. This wasn’t Belichick’s best team…and, yet, there they were dominating the division/conference again.
I’d like to call it a tie. But in the end, I have to hand it to Frank Reich for overcoming so many obstacles (injuries, foreign staff/hired late, a slow start at 1-5) and squeezing so much out of young talent who hadn’t really played together for long…getting better as the season went on.
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