With special teams rankings out of our wheel house, what artificial topic can we choose before meaningful games actually start? The coaches, of course.
These rankings aren't all about what coach has the longest resume. It's who we'd want leading our team and building a staff right now if we owned a team.
It was tempting to put Belichick alone because he's arguably in the upper echelon of the power rankings of all-time coaches. No one self-scouts and adjusts better than Belichick.
Tomlin understands the big picture. He motivates his players and staff and he manages. Harbaugh enjoyed as jaw-dropping a first season as head coach as we can remember. He creatively finds ways to beat teams and connects with his players. This trio coaches the whole team, not just one side of the ball.
McCarthy is consistent and wildly underrated as one of the game's best offensive minds. Payton is a brilliant tactician, but doesn't excel at managing the whole organization quite as well as our top-shelf picks. Andy Reid's consistency speaks for itself in a topsy-turvy league. The same is true for Coughlin, who hasn't had a sub-.500 season with the New York Giants. Then again, he's only had two seasons out of eight where the Giants won a playoff game. He made those years count.
We look for coaches that definitively bring something to the table. Ryan brings a highly successful defense that is difficult to prepare for, although he doesn't seem to have a great feel for personnel or offense. Jim Schwartz's turnaround job with the Detroit Lions has been remarkable. Ranking Allen this high may look ridiculous, but we are going with our gut feeling that he's going to be the league's next great young coach.
As an owner, we'd rather have a young rising coach than a "proven" average leader toward the end of his career. This group is hungry.
Harbaugh is an effective coach that inherited a great situation. He fits the Baltimore Ravens well. Smith has done a great job with the Atlanta Falcons, but is he a difference maker? Kubiak is like the bizarro Rex Ryan. He doesn't make waves, but he definitely brings a strong offensive attack to the mix. Lovie Smith's defenses are proven, but his game management could use work. Fisher is a good coach that gets knocked largely because we would rather have hired him 10 years ago.
Carroll is 47-49 in the NFL over six seasons and three jobs, although we do believe he's better now than ever. Lewis has effectively managed a coach-killing job with the Cincinnati Bengals. We'd like to see what he could do elsewhere. Whisenhunt, like a lot of competent coaches, is as good as his starting quarterback.
Two big names we don't quite trust. Shanahan exercises too much personnel power and he's 35-45 over his last five seasons. Fox is solid, but can become too conservative.
Coaching in the NFL can often be overrated. A handful of coaches consistently make a difference good or bad, but the vast majority of them are competent. They rise and fall if they have the right players. We don't have a strong feeling about these coaches because most of them are too new to the party.
Gailey is the perfect coach for the Buffalo Bills. He's a master at doing a lot offensively with a little, but we can't just ignore his long losing streaks and changing his plan on defense every season. Mularkey drove us a little crazy as an offensive coordinator, and his first gig as a head coach in Buffalo seemed to drive him crazy.
Turner is a great offensive/quarterbacks coach that seems to be missing some intangible that great coaches need. Garrett underachieved in his only full season. Shurmur is a newbie in a tough situation, but he seemed overwhelmed during games and doesn't seem to bring much else to the table.