|Jim Harbaugh (left) and Bruce Arians adeptly handled different challenges with the 49ers and Colts, respectively.|
The night before Super Bowl XLVII, the NFL will salute its best players and plays from the 2012 season with "NFL Honors," a star-studded football and entertainment event at the Mahalia Jackson Theatre in New Orleans. Just like last year, Alec Baldwin will host the proceedings, which will be broadcast on CBS at 9 p.m. ET on Feb. 2.
And while we're talking honors ... Plenty of coaches stepped up in a big way this season, lifting their teams with admirable leadership skills. Which one would you call the NFL Coach of the Year?
Leslie Frazier pulled off quite a trickAs I said Monday, I'm one of the 50 who vote for The Associated Press' NFL awards. In this category, I cast my ballot for the Minnesota Vikings' Leslie Frazier. I'm more surprised by the accomplishments of the Vikings -- whom I picked to win three games this season -- than those of the Indianapolis Colts.
Let's not discount what Frazier did to turn around the Vikings' defense, taking ownership by hiring Alan Williams to be his defensive coordinator. The Vikes vastly improved on defense as a play-making, opportunistic unit.
Jim Harbaugh's bold call paying dividends for 49ersSeattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll deserves a mention here, but what Jim Harbaugh has done in back-to-back seasons with quarterbacks Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick is extraordinary. The San Francisco 49ers' coach made the gutsy decision to stick with Kaepernick -- a second-year backup -- as his starter, even after Smith returned from a concussion.
That decision might lead not only to a Super Bowl championship, but to the formation of a dynasty.
Bruce Arians stands far above other candidatesThere were a number of worthy candidates for this award, including the Washington Redskins' Mike Shanahan, Minnesota Vikings' Leslie Frazier and Seattle Seahawks' Pete Carroll, all of whom led their teams to the playoffs after missing them last season. But Bruce Arians has to be my choice, for several reasons.
Arians took over the Indianapolis Colts after the season had already started, filling in while Chuck Pagano underwent treatment for leukemia. He proceeded to compile a 9-3 record as the interim head coach, leading the Colts to the playoffs without giving up his play-calling duties as the team's offensive coordinator. Arians also guided first-year quarterback Andrew Luck to a record-setting rookie season. And he did all of that with a high degree of humility, always acknowledging that Pagano was the team's head coach.
The Colts wound up with an 11-5 record, just one game behind the AFC South champion Houston Texans. This was an amazing accomplishment, considering the Texans were thought to be Super Bowl favorites, while many expected the Colts to contend for the top pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Colts' inspirational duo demands recognitionThis is a tough call. I really felt Leslie Frazier did a great job keeping the Minnesota Vikings focused, but it's hard to get around what Bruce Arians and Chuck Pagano accomplished in Indianapolis. Especially Arians.
While Pagano's comeback from leukemia (just think about that for a second) was more than special, Arians deserves a truckload of credit for handling a sensitive situation so adeptly, expertly leading the Colts down the stretch. By the time Pagano rejoined the team, Arians had led Indianapolis to a 10-5 record and guaranteed a playoff spot (the Colts were 1-2 when he took over).
If the AP can accommodate a joint award, it's OK by me.
Don't forget about Pete Carroll's gutsy gambleJim Harbaugh gets a lot of credit for sticking with Colin Kaepernick over Alex Smith, but people forget that Pete Carroll made a similar call for the Seattle Seahawks.
The Seahawks signed veteran quarterback Matt Flynn to a big-time free-agent contract, but Carroll still had the guts to go with third-round draft pick Russell Wilson as his starter. Even after Wilson threw three interceptions in a Week 4 loss to the St. Louis Rams, Carroll resisted the likely temptation to make a change. Carroll gets my nod for what he did during the regular season.