2020 NFL/FFM Defensive Coach of the Year
All this week we are going through the major NFL awards division by division, naming a divisional winner…then debating the divisional winners by conference until we get to the final two candidates and declare our 2020 winner from there.
2/2 = Defensive Player of the Year
2/3 = Coach of the Year
2/4 = Rookie of the Year
2/5 = MVP/Offensive Player of the Year
BUF: HC Sean McDermott
MIA: HC Brian Flores
NE: HC Bill Belichick
NYJ: D-C Gregg Williams
It’s easy to winnow this down to two by eliminating (1) Gregg Williams…the best thing about the Jets was their defense, but they never won games and then Williams had that Raiders event that got him fired. Still, Williams was better than Adam Gase.
(2) Eliminate Belichick…one of the worst coaching jobs of 2020, in the end. There was a moment where the Pats were winning, and you had to shake your head and bow to Bill. However, it was a hollow four wins in 5 games midseason run – luckily escaping the Jets Week 9. Then beating Baltimore in a monsoon. Then losing to Houston followed by luckily escaping past Arizona in OT and then the Anthony Lynn special…a 45-0 Pats crush. It was a head fake because then the Patriots started playing real teams after that and got thumped down the stretch and they fell out of the playoffs.
The last second Cam Newton signing, and not developing any WRs, and not having any TEs…that’s Bill’s fault.
So, it comes down to McDermott v. Flores…which you know where my vote lies.
How could anyone place a vote with Brian Flores? Yes, he had a nice run…but HE blew it when he went to Tua. That’s his fault. It’s anti-Coach of the Year. Sean McDermott is arguably the best head coach in all of football and has been for two years running. He EASILY is the best coach of 2020 in the AFC East.
WINNER = Sean McDermott, Buffalo
PIT: D-C Keith Butler
BAL: HC John Harbaugh
CLE: HC Kevin Stefanski
CIN: HC Zac Taylor
The best thing about the Steelers 2020 has been their defense…their offense has really fallen off. Mike Tomlin pushing Conner-Snell and benching Claypool is one of the most inexplicable things of the 2020 season. Honor the defense here.
John Harbaugh’s team has rallied to the playoffs, but when you look back – the Ravens have lost every ‘big spot’ game in 2020. Lost 2x to PIT. Got embarrassed by KC. Couldn’t ‘revenge’ against the Titans in the regular season. Harbaugh’s regular season team was terrific last year…and a huge disappointment this year. He held it together to get it to the playoffs, but honestly this team regressed in 2020…not Harbaugh’s finest hour.
Zac Taylor may or may not be a good head coach, but the Bengals franchise is so bad it would be hard to tell whether he is a good coach or not. The team continues to fight for him, that’s about the best I can say.
Clearly the best coach in 2020 in the AFC North was Kevin Stefanski – a turnaround of a dead franchise and doing so while dealing with a lot of key injuries off and on all season, then the COVID crisis at the end of the regular season. It may end up being a ‘blip’ season but it’s still a stunning, award-worthy performance by Stefanski.
WINNER = Kevin Stefanski, Cleveland
TEN: O-C Arthur Smith
IND: HC Frank Reich
HOU: HC Romeo Crennel
JAX: O-C Jay Gruden
Romeo Crennel is a joke, but I didn’t know who else to put on from Houston. Everything they did was terrible in 2020.
Frank Reich gets a nod for acquiring/sticking by Philip Rivers and getting him to the playoffs. Colts’ D-C Matt Eberflus does nothing for me, nor did his defense in 2020. However, Reich had so many boneheaded moves during the season…I can’t go there. His mismanagement of Jonathan Taylor early on cost them the AFC division title.
I put Jay Gruden on here as a nod to him getting screwed in Washington. He took the fall for the Dwayne Haskins debacle…a debacle he didn’t want. He also made a not-horrible offense out of James Robinson and Jake Luton and Mike Glennon forced upon him this season.
Arthur Smith rose through the ranks of the NFL as a quality control coach and then positional assistant and then earning a shot as O-C in 2019, where this offense really took off (better than when Matt LaFleur coached it the year prior). He has become one of the best offensive coordinators in the league. Tennessee won a division because of their offense. Defensive guru Mike Vrabel presided over a disastrous defense in 2020. By far the most talented/effective coach in the AFC South is Smith.
WINNER = O-C Arthur Smith
KC: HC Andy Reid
LV: HC Jon Gruden
LAC: Team Doctor
DEN: Vic Fangio
At one point Jon Gruden had the Raiders at (6-3) and were on the verge of beating KC for a second time to take the AFC West lead, and then Mahomes did his thing, a last second win and the Raiders’ season went down the tubes from there. Gruden has been great for about half a season the past two years but then falls apart. Credit for the good stuff, but the bad stuff makes him not COY material.
Vic Fangio always keeps his team competitive, but they always seem to lose the close ones and always are dealing with a ton of injuries. Fangio does a decent job but not COY material work/results.
Andy Reid went (14-2) and has his team primed for a follow up Super Bowl trip. No matter how good he’s got it with Mahomes, it’s always tough to keep your dominant unit dominant. Reid has done that, so ‘great job’ for sure – but I always feel like anyone could coach the Chiefs to 14 wins with Mahomes.
I’m serious, I don’t know his name and I’m not going to look it up, and I know he’s not a coach, per se, but the doctor that mistakenly punctured Tyrod Taylor’s lung to force Justin Herbert into the lineup…and thus embarked on the greatest rookie season of any QB – that guy/doctor deserves a medal of honor for doing the only thing that could stop Anthony Lynn from his madness.
WINNER = Chargers Team Doctor
WSH: HC Ron Rivera
NYG: HC Joe Judge
DAL: HC Mike McCarthy
PHI: D-C Jim Schwartz
Had a hard time figuring out the Eagles nominee. In a sense, credit the offense for having to deal with their entire O-Line getting hurt before/early in the season. BUT leaving Carson Wentz in too long for the season killed this team…a switch to Jalen Hurts would/could have solved all their issues. The Eagles D kept Philly in it some games, credit to Schwartz.
Mike McCarthy, I give credit to him for the greatest con in the NFL in 2020. He conned the media and a Billionaire that he was really studying hard this offseason and was ready to be a top NFL head coach. He then admitted he lied about all of that in his intro press conference – the Breaking Bad award goes to McCarthy, not the Coach of the Year though.
I’m not giving it to Ron Rivera because he destroyed this team via sticking by Dwayne Haskins early. You can’t be serious about winning and yet starting Haskins. It doesn’t compute. It nearly ruined their season.
What Joe Judge did with the Giants, without Saquon Barkley but with awful Daniel Jones – a ton of credit. He built a hard-nosed, tough team that nearly pulled it off in the end…with the worst roster in the division. Credit to the runner up for the award – the Giants D-C for building a top 5-10 defense out of nowhere.
WINNER = Joe Judge, NY Giants
GB: HC Matt LaFleur
CHI: QB-C John DeFilippo
MIN: HC Mike Zimmer
DET: O-C Darrell Bevell
Bevell filled in for Matt Patricia getting fired, and at least loosened the group up a bit and Detroit had a couple decent moments late season. He is a terrible coach but without Kenny Golladay all season and with Adrian Peterson shoved down his throat…the Lions weren’t terrible disasters on offense.
Give credit to John DeFilippo for getting a bump out of Mitch Trubisky to start the season, managing Nick Foles to a couple big wins for a stretch, then getting Trubisky reengaged for the stretch run and got themselves to the playoffs…lucky as it might have been. The QBs did well enough to win some games, did better than many expected.
Give credit to Mike Zimmer for overhauling his cornerback group and living through early pain that really ruined the season, but then the group started to turn in the 2nd-half of the year…but it was too late. Gutsy by Zimmer to take a rebuilding year and take a lot of heat. They’ll be better for it in 2021.
I’m not a Matt LaFleur fan at all, and I think he is going to implode once Rodgers is gone…but you have to applaud him for making it all ‘work’ for two years of success when most people, including Aaron Rodgers, can’t stand him.
WINNER = Matt LaFleur, Green Bay
NO: HC Sean Payton
TB: HC Bruce Arians
CAR: HC Matt Rhule
ATL: HC Raheem Morris
The Falcons played better ball under Morris, but not good enough. Matt Rhule was on the verge of making shockwaves in his debut season…a lot of close losses and no Christian McCaffrey cost them a legit playoff shot. He’s a contender for this award, but so is Sean Payton…perpetually getting division titles lately and doing so with Drew Brees missing chunks of the season.
I’m swerving into Bruce Arians as the division COY…without Arians, there is no Brady coming in. I think Brady chose Tampa over many options because of what Arians would allow/be like. By midseason, people were trying to get Arians fired and talking about what a terrible match – well, they won 11 games and got to the playoffs. The reason – because of Brady. But you don’t get Brady without Arians…and then Arians being smart enough to let Brady take control.
WINNER = Bruce Arians, Tampa Bay
SEA: HC Pete Carroll
LAR: D-C Brandon Staley
ARI: D-C Vance Joseph
SF: HC Kyle Shanahan
Pete Carroll was a disaster in 2020, to me. Taking a good/hot team and coaching them downward down the stretch. He did win the division, but it was ugly/lucky that the 49ers had a thousand injuries.
Speaking of the 49ers, Kyle Shanahan deserves a pat on the head for having to deal with mass injuries and yet keeping his team competitive.
Brandon Staley coached the top defense in the NFL…but he also had Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. That helps.
I pick Vance Joseph as best in the division (and I can’t believe I’m typing this). Consider what a joke we all felt the Cardinals defense was in 2019…and we all figured it would be just as bad in 2020. It wasn’t. To me, when fully healthy – it was a top 10 defensive unit in 2020. Had they not lost Chandler Jones midseason and various others on defense for 1-2-3 games missed with injuries they probably would’ve been a playoff team. One of the most drastic, shocking turnarounds of 2020 was the Arizona defense —you have to credit Joseph for that.
WINNER = Vance Joseph, Arizona
COY FINAL EIGHT…
HC Sean McDermott, Buffalo
HC Kevin Stefanski, Cleveland
O-C Arthur Smith, Tennessee
DOC Chargers Team Doctor
I’m dead serious that the Chargers’ team doctor deserves an award – if not for him, we would not know (in 2020) Justin Herbert was awesome…and Anthony Lynn would still be the disastrous coach for L.A., potentially. The guy deserves a lifetime achievement award for setting up LAC for the future with one misplaced needle to a lung. However, it was an accident (‘wink-wink’) so we cannot honor it too highly. His journey to Coach of the Year ends here.
Arthur Smith did an excellent job with the Tennessee offense, but he just played the cards he was dealt, and played them well. The other two contenders changed entire cultures/organizations, which is more impressive for the awards resume. So, Smith’s journey ends here.
Who was more impressive – Stefanski or McDermott?
Stefanski worked a miracle, even if just blind luck – taking Cleveland from a joke to 11 wins and the playoffs. However, McDermott led the best regular-season team in football for the 2nd-half of the 2020 season.
I’m going to go with McDermott – more because this was the culmination of a multi-year rebuild that he not only coached but built as the de facto GM. What the team did to turn around Josh Allen…or just saw that potential and drafted it three years ago – an amazing thing. Whereas Stefanski walked into a mediocre team with a decent roster and led it to a very good season. McDermott has pulled more miracles than Stefanski, but that’s no slight to Stefanski who I could see deserving the nod.
For coaching/managing his team to a place where people had them #1 ranked in power rankings most of the 2nd-half of the season – I give the slight edge to McDermott.
AFC Finalist: Sean McDermott, Buffalo
HC Joe Judge, NY Giants
HC Matt LaFleur, Green Bay
HC Bruce Arians, Tampa Bay
D-C Vance Joseph, Arizona
You have to give Matt LaFleur credit – back-to-back division titles, but his division is weak and he has Aaron Rodgers. Still, some credit due for sure.
Joe Judge was strong in the running for the award in the early stages of the 2nd-half of the season…but the team stumbled to the finish and missed the playoffs. Good job…not the best job.
Again, Vance Joseph really pulled off a massive turnaround with this defense. He may have orchestrated the greatest turnaround of a unit of anyone in the 2020 season. But Bruce Arians being key to closing the deal with Tom Brady…then Arians having all the pressure for it to work, and they were trying to kill him off by midseason – so Arians had a much larger elephant to eat, so to speak. I’m going to give the edge to Arians.
NFC Finalist: Bruce Arians, Tampa Bay
COY SUPER BOWL:
HC Sean McDermott, Buffalo vs. HC Bruce Arians, Tampa Bay
You could go either way here, but I am siding with Sean McDermott for a couple reasons…
1) McDemott’s Bills were considered #1-2 best team in the league at season end…while the Bucs kinda wobbled midseason and then rode an easy schedule late to semi-sneak into the playoffs.
The Bills were a better team than the Bucs by 2020 end.
2) McDermott built this thing over three+ years as GM and HC, and his Josh Allen gamble ended up being genius. Bruce Arians landed ready-made Tom Brady, which is a feat in its own right but the change in Allen culminating in his 2020 season is miracle work, I think.
For an amazing 2020 season that he built brick-by-brick for 3+ years…I give my vote to Sean McDermott as 2020 NFL Coach of the Year.
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