I was looking back through this site last night, and realized, I failed to post my favorite List Column of the year last summer.
So, with apologies for that horrendous oversight, here is my (almost always) annual Stevo NFL Coaches Power Poll!
A few reminders to begin with:
1. 32 is Rich Kotite / Ray Rhodes awful.
2. 1 is Chuck Noll awesome.
3. I tend to be very hard on first year coaches, because they haven't proven themselves yet.
4. I tend to be extremely hard on bad veteran head coaches, because they have proven themselves to be, you know, wretched. Awful. Insert negative term here.
Having said that, here we go!
32. Mike Munchak, Tennessee Titans. I know I've done a lot of dumb things in my life ... but I have never done anything as stupid as firing Jeff Fisher and replacing him with a mediocre offensive line coach. Munchak probably will look decent this fall, because the Titans have some talent. But ask Barry Switzer -- if you're in over your head, eventually all the talent in the world can't save you from yourself.
31. Pat Shurmur, Cleveland Browns. Pathetically, he's probably an upgrade over Eric Mangini. I guess when you start at rock bottom, there's nowhere to go but up. Still, this is a head-scratching hire. To Pat's credit, he comes from a brilliant football family -- his dad Fritz was one of, if not the, best defensive coordinator in the sport in the 1990s. But man, this hire makes no sense at all.
30. Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans. Far be it for me to root for someone's unemployment*, but how in the hell does Gary Kubiak still have his job? Five years into his tenure, and the best mark he's produced is 9-7. I'm guessing it's playoffs or bust for Gary this fall. I'd bet the family farm on "bust".
(*: unless your name rhymes with "Win Bark". In that case, I root for you to wind up shivering half-naked in a cardboard box under a freeway, so pathetic looking that not even the city mission will take your deadbeat ass in for the night.)
29. Norv Turner, San Diego "Super" Chargers. Ah, Norv. Thank God you're still coaching in the division. As long as Norv Turner is at the helm, the Chargers have no shot of winning the Super Bowl. By all accounts, Norv is one helluva great guy, and I think he's one of the brightest offensive minds the sport has ever seen. But he's at best a mediocre head coach who will be known twenty years from now as the guy who wasted Philip Rivers in his prime.
28. Hue Jackson, oakland raiders. Of all the bone-headed decisions made this offseason, was any dumber than ditching Tom Cable for hue jackson? I'm not saying Cable was a great head coach -- he wasn't. But he was the best coach oakland has had since Chucky roamed the sidelines to open the 2000s. He was the first raiders coach to not lose 10 plus games every season since "Sur" William Callahan was coaching the team. This move is going to be a disaster for the raiders. Couldn't happen to a more deserving team.
27. Jim Caldwell, Indianapolis Colts. The Barry Switzer of this generation. Only unlike Barry, he ain't winning a Lombardi before being exposed as a fraud.
26. Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers. I actually liked this hire. The Panthers are so awful though, that Rivera probably won't be given enough time to fix the stink. Which sucks for Ron -- he's a damned good coach who deserves a shot to succeed.
25. Tony Sparano, Miami Dolphins. Should have been fired after last season. God knows owner Stephen Ross did everything but fire him, before deciding to bring him back (I'm assuming) under the "Wayne Fontes Memorial Job Clause". In the words of Lions owner William Clay Ford on Fontes' job status back in the day: "Well, I didn't fire him, and he didn't quit, so I guess he'll be back". Damn I miss Wayne. Rasputin!
24. Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings. I think Frazier's gonna be a damned good coach. He just hasn't proven it yet, hence the bottom 25 percentile ranking.
23. Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys. The boy wonder finally gets his big chance, after four years of waiting for it. I think Garrett's going to be a good one. But then again, I'm that guy who, the day Gunther Cunningham was hired as Chiefs head coach, I had to pull the car over to the side of the freeway because I couldn't see through the tears of joy running down my face, so what do I know when it comes to "good head coaches"*.
(*: yes, this actually happened. I was working for Rubbermaid back then, and had just left the metropolis of Lyons, Kansas, on my way to only God knows where, when the radio station I was listening to broke in to carry Gun's introductory press conference. I literally had to pull off the highway, I was crying so much. Gunther getting that job was a win for every person who's believes that hard work pays off in the end. Unfortunately, in Gun's case, he just wasn't cut out to be a head coach.)
22. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals. Another guy who's probably been on the job a year too long. For all the talk about how good of a coach this guy is ... uuh, really? He's been on the job since 2003. In 8 years, he's produced two playoff berths, and zero playoff wins. I know it's the Bengals, but for crying out loud, even Herm managed to make the playoffs four of his eight years as a head coach. And he won two playoff games to boot, one of them on the road.
21. Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions. Week six is gonna be so much fun. Bears at Lions, Monday Night Football. Again, if my name was "Matt Millen", and I worked for the ESPN MNF pregame show, and they broadcast live from Ford Field, I'd definitely make sure all my priorities were in order before departing for Detroit. We haven't seen a legitimate riot at an American sporting event since Disco Sucks night at old Comiskey in the late 1970s. Decent shot we get one come week six.
20. Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville Jaguars. Too bad the lockout didn't last a while longer -- would have been fun to watch "Of The River" on the management side of the fight, instead of beating up management types. (The scene in "The Replacements", where Martel and his buddies destroy Shane Falco's pickup truck? That is a re-enactment of a real-life encounter at Arrowhead during the 1987 strike, when Del Rio beat up Chiefs Hall of Famer Otis Taylor, thinking he was a replacement player, and Bill Maas, shotgun in hand, overturned a replacement player's truck. The good old days!)
19. Raheem Morris, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I can't believe he's ranked this high either.
18. Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks. Most people remember Carroll as either (a) the clueless moron who presided over the biggest bunch of cheats in modern NCAA history (aka USC Trojans head coach), or (b) the clueless idiot who ran a Super Bowl team (Patriots) into the ground almost overnight. What most folks forget, is that Carroll's first head coaching job ... was in the Real Meadowlands, coaching the Jets. He lasted one season (1994), taking over a playoff team and finishing 6-10. And yes, the infamous Dan Marino fake-spike game? You know, the play that only one team in pro football would fall for, and go figure, that team is the Jets? Oh yeah, that was during Carroll's year at the helm. Of course, compared to the mentally challenged individual who replaced him in the swamps of North Jersey, Pete Carroll looks like a MENSA member. Still, its a testament to how many awful, awful coaches there are in this league, that Pete is squarely in the middle of the pack.
17. Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers. The best move of the offseason so far. I will be stunned if the 49ers don't win the NFC West this fall. My God did KU f*ck the proverbial pooch when we opted for Coach Cornf*cker over Coach Harbaugh a year ago.
16. Steve Spagnuola, St. Louis Rams. Looks to be an inspired hire so far. Given that Sam Bradford only figures to get better, and the Rams upgraded big time at the offensive coordinator position*, the compass is pointed north in Missouri's Second City.
(*: as much as I hated Josh McDaniels as denver's head coach, dammit did I want him as our offensive coordinator. I would have loved to have seen him reunited with Matt Cassel. Oh well. Bill Muir was a pretty solid fallback option.)
15. Tom Coughlin, New York "Football" Giants. In the interest of full disclosure, I hate Tom Coughlin. I've hated him ever since 1993, when his Boston College team failed to spring the upset West Virginia, but kept the game so close that voters reconsidered the Mountaineers. Which meant Nebraska had to face Florida State for the national title, instead of a cakewalk over a smoke-and-mirrors Mountaineers squad. (Nebraska lost 18-16 on a late Scott Bentley field goal ... and when Darin Erstad missed wide right as time expired from 48 yards out. There is still a hole in the drywall of my folks' basement from where I, uuh, "dealt" with that missed kick.) Coughlin's a solid head coach who usually has his squad in contention for the postseason. I just hate him, that's all.
14. Lovie Smith, Chicago Bears. Any man who can coach a Rex Grossman quarterbacked team to a Super Bowl, and can coach a Jay Cutler quarterbacked team to a NFC Title Game, and then almost win that game with Caleb Haney under center (who?) for the entire second half, probably knows what he's doing.
13. Ken Whizenhunt, Arizona "Super" Cardinals. Now we find out if this guy can coach. Most anyone can look decent with Kurt Warner under center. Most anyone can look utterly inept with Derek Anderson under center. Kevin Kolb? The middle-of-the-road QB that good coaches find a way to look better than they actually are. (Like coach 9 coming up, and man, I never dreamed the dude at slot number 9 would EVER get this high in my rankings.)
12. Chan Gailey, Buffalo Bills. What can I say, I love the guy. The guy can flat out coach. He took the dying remnants of the Cowboys dynasty and somehow bled two playoff berths and a division championship out of them (in two years). He took over an (at best) also-ran program at Georgia Tech, and promptly made seven consecutive bowl games. He made Tyler Thigpen look like a Pro Bowl quarterback for Christ's sake, and he DID make Kordell Stewart a Pro Bowler! And look what he did with Ryan Fitzpatrick last year! Ask any Chiefs fan what game scared you sh*tless the most last year, and I guarantee you, if they're being honest, the answer is "Buffalo". I am dreading the home opener. Buffalo is going to beat at least two teams it has no business beating this season.
11. Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons. I actually had to do a Google search on this guy's first name. I knew his last name with Smith, but I had no idea what the hell his whole name was. Still, three seasons at the helm, two playoff berths, three winning records. Next step? Win a playoff game. Trust me, as a Chiefs fan, at some point, just getting there isn't good enough. (Fun factoid of the day time! Name the NFL team that holds the record for most consecutive playoff defeats. Answer coming up shortly.)
10. Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers. Ranking my top 10 is really tough. Just like there's a solid 10-12 putrid coaches in this league, there's at least 10-12 coaches that probably deserve to be ranked in the top three. McCarthy should be familiar to Chiefs fans -- he was our quarterbacks coach under Marty and Gunther. Anyone that can make Elvis Grbac look like a Pro Bowler, knows what he's doing.
9. Todd Haley, Kansas City Chiefs. I never dreamed the man I affectionately dubbed "Coach Asshat" would ever be ranked in the top 10 of my coaches poll. That ought to tell you a couple things. (1) I have the power to forgive (reread my denver 2009 recap for how I felt about him after that debacle). (2) I overreact emotionally to every Chiefs win and loss. And (3) the answer to your Fun Factoid quiz? You betcha. The Kansas City Chiefs, who have now lost seven consecutive playoff games, dating back to the 1993 AFC Title Game in Buffalo to start the streak. (The other losses: at Miami 94, vs Indy 95, vs denver 97, vs Indy 03, at Indy 06, vs Bal 10).
8. john fox, denver broncos. Oh john, how could you? How could you take patrick j. bowlen's money and agree to coach that piece of sh*t roster for the next few years? (jenni voice) WHY? WHY? I like you john. I mean, I really like you. How could you sell out like that? What possibly possessed your mind for ten seconds to agree to coach those spawns of Satan? Those worthless bastards? How could you? (Translation: the donkeys will be back in contention far, far sooner than anyone thinks. This guy can flat out coach.)
7. "Sexy" Rexy Ryan, New York (fireman ed voice) J! E! T! S! Jets Jets Jets!. This is not going to end well. It never does with a Ryan at the helm. But you can't deny how great the first two years have been. Two AFC Title Games, four road playoff wins (including in Foxboro and Indy). Just enjoy the ride while it lasts, because when it crashes, it's going to crash hard.
6. John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens. Another coach that you just can't question the on-field results of. Three years, three playoff berths. Color me impressed. Also, his gameplan in the Wildcard Game last January was brilliant. You de-pants my team's head coach in our biggest game in five years, you earn my respect.
5. Mike "The Rat" Shanahan, Washington Redskins. I know a lot of people think last year should have diminished his coaching star, and it did -- he fell from top three to top five in my coaching rankings. The moment that sealed shanarat's place in the top five permanently? At least until he's as old, feeble, and senile as his former boss now is? "The Stand", week 13 2005. Chiefs lead 27-23, 2:08 to play. 4th and 2 denver at the donkeys 46. shanarat goes for it, calls a draw to mike anderson. The initial spot gave denver the first down. Thankfully, the man I've been calling for to return to the sidelines for five f*cking years and counting now, Mike White, was on the sidelines that afternoon, and immediately ordered Coach Vermeil to challenge the spot.
Vermeil does challenge. The spot was wrong. The Chiefs hold! "The Stand!" Arrowhead is going crazy. Only two people realize the other error the officiating crew made on that play. Me ... and mike shanahan, who immediately pulls referee Bill Leavy aside, and points out that if anderson didn't make the first down, then the clock stopped when the play was over, meaning there was 2:02 to play, not two minutes.
Now, you might say, "who the f*ck cares Stevo? It's two seconds!" Exactly. By getting those two seconds back, it ensured the Chiefs would have to punt with about :40 if they failed to get a first down. Had the clock run to the two minute warning and then been first down? Ballgame. (denver was out of timeouts). shanarat bought his team an extra possession (and chance to win) by keeping his head and composure in the heat of the moment. The next time a Chiefs head coach pulls off a manuever even half that smart, let me know, because it'll be the first.
4. "Fat" Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles. Spare me the "he's horrible with clock management" argument. Spare me the "he's never won a Super Bowl" garbage. The man can flat out coach. He took over the Eagles in 1999, after they went 3-12-1 in Ray Rhodes final season at the helm. Here's "Fat" Andy Reid's seasons since:
2000: 11-5, wild card. L division round at Giants.
2001: 11-5, NFC East champs. L championship game at Rams.
2002: 12-4, NFC East champs. L championship game vs Bucs.
2003: 12-4, NFC East champs. L championship game vs Panthers.
2004: 13-3, NFC East champs. L Super Bowl vs Patriots.
2005: 6-10, no postseason. (The "TO" season).
2006: 10-6, NFC East champs. L divisional round at Saints.
2007: 8-8, no postseason.
2008: 9-6-1, wild card. L championship game at Cardinals.
2009: 11-5, wild card. L wild card round at Cowboys.
2010: 10-6, NFC East champs. L wild card round vs Packers.
11 seasons, 10 .500 or better seasons, 9 playoff berths, 5 NFC Title Games, 1 Super Bowl appearance. Any Chiefs fan who wouldn't gladly sacrifice our last 11 seasons (5 .500 or better seasons, 3 playoff berths, 0 playoff wins) for that stretch of success, needs their head examined.
3. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots. You want proof this is a screwy league? Care to guess who currently is tied for most (current) consecutive postseason losses by an active head coach? Answer? "Fat" Andy Reid and Bill Belichick, with three. Belichick's last postseason win was the AFC Title Game in 2007. Since then the Pats have lost a Super Bowl, lost to Baltimore in the wildcard round, and lost to the Jets in the divisional round. When you realize that Wade Phillips, Brad Childress, and Pete Carroll all have won playoff games more recently than Bill Belichick has, that's a scary thought, to be honest. And it's why the man most people consider to be the League's finest, only rates 3rd in the Stevo Poll.
2. Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints. Five years at the helm, 5 .500 or better seasons, 3 playoff berths, 2 division titles, and a Super Bowl victory. That's a pretty damned good start to what is looking like a spectacular head coaching career. Honestly, the only reason he's not number one, is because he's never truly succeeded in New Orleans when he's faced major injuries. He's held the team together -- hence never finishing below .500 -- but he's never overcome them and still had unquestioned success. The only coach remaining, seems to do that on a yearly basis.
1. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers. The Omar Epps look-alike. Four years at the helm, three division titles, two Super Bowl appearances, one Lombardi Trophy. And he does it no matter who's hurt, suspended, and/or otherwise unavailable. You know how some folks say that organizations win championships, that there's just some franchises that "get it" and others that never will "get it"? (OK, I say that.) The Steelers are the benchmark for an organization that "gets it". They've employed three head coaches since 1970 -- the man I consider to be the best coach in NFL history (Chuck Noll), a man who will be joining Chuck in the Hall of Fame someday (Bill Cowher), and now Mike Tomlin. As long as Mike Tomlin is calling the shots in the Steel City, the Steelers will be amongst the best in the League. That's why he's the 2011 Winner of the Stevo Coaches Power Poll, uuh, trophy? Award? Blog shout-out? Not sure what I'm giving away for winning this thing, but he's earned it, whatever it is.