Nine current NFL head coaches have won a Super Bowl: Bruce Arians, Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll, Jon Gruden, John Harbaugh, Sean Payton, Mike McCarthy, Andy Reid and Mike Tomlin. That leaves 23 others who are vying to hoist the Lombardi Trophy for the first time.
Mike Zimmer, who was hired by Minnesota in 2014, is the longest-tenured head coach still searching for a championship, though Ron Rivera, entering his 11th season as an NFL head coach (and second in Washington), has the most on-the-job experience of the group. A pair from the NFC West, Los Angeles' Sean McVay and San Francisco's Kyle Shanahan, were thisclose to winning a title within the last three seasons, ultimately falling to Belichick and Reid on the game's biggest stage.
So, of the 23 head coaches yet to win a title, who has the best chance to win his first Super Bowl in the upcoming season?
I have to go with Sean McDermott. After falling one win short of making a Super Bowl appearance in January, the Buffalo Bills went to work and improved their roster this offseason. Josh Allen had to be happy with the additions to the O-line, backfield and receiving corps, which included veteran receiver Emmanuel Sanders, while the defense retained linebacker Matt Milano and corner Levi Wallace and bolstered its pass rush in the draft. It's a competitive AFC field, but Allen only seems to be getting better with a team that rallies around him.
The Los Angeles Rams had the best defense in the league last season. If they can remain dominant on that side of the ball, even after losing DC Brandon Staley (now the Chargers' head coach) and key players in the secondary, and the offense improves with Matthew Stafford under center, this team is going to be one to watch. General manager Les Snead and Sean McVay have me believing in this team so much just a few months away from the start of training camp.
Fresh off a 13-3 season and an AFC Championship Game appearance, Sean McDermott boasts the top squad of the league's 23 coaches still seeking the elusive Lombardi. While several top teams face uncertainty at the quarterback position, the ever-evolving Josh Allen looks poised to take the Bills' offense to even newer heights in 2021. The Bills also addressed their biggest weakness in their failure to dethrone the AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs by selecting talented and versatile pass rushers (Gregory Rousseau and Boogie Basham) early in the draft. Add that to the stellar job McDermott has done in Buffalo over the years, and he is clearly the favorite.
One key offseason signing can change the entire trajectory of an organization -- we saw this last season when Tom Brady headed to Tampa. I think Matthew Stafford will have that same type of influence in Los Angeles. The veteran passer fits perfectly into Sean McVay's offense and should take this unit to another level. The Rams were trending in the right direction last season, and I believe the addition of Stafford is what will help McVay reach the mountaintop three years after falling just short.
Sure, the Bills showed us they weren't quite ready to take down the reigning champs in 2020, and yes, the AFC is again loaded, but a new year brings new opportunities, and Buffalo seems about as well-prepared as anyone to give it another go. While we spent plenty of time gushing over Tampa's ability to retain its 22 starters, Buffalo followed a very similar path in a much quieter manner, retaining its core while making savvy additions (Emmanuel Sanders, Matt Breida) that could help the Bills get over the hump. Let's also not forget where they found themselves in January -- leading the Chiefs 9-0 in Kansas City -- before things fell apart. That experience will be incredibly valuable, and Buffalo proved in 2020 it knows how to concoct a winning mix. Now the Bills just need to give it another shot at relying on their strengths and established culture, and making sure they don't overcook their dish this time around.
There is more optimism about the Bills reaching the Super Bowl than at any point since the early 1990s -- understandably so. Almost every key player is back from the squad that put the team in the AFC title game for the first time since the 1993 season. Josh Allen, meanwhile, should continue to build upon his elite-level talent. The biggest challenges will be winning a division where Miami and New England are poised to contend and finding a way to slow the Chiefs after Kansas City embarrassed them in a pair of 2020 losses, including a 38-24 defeat in that conference championship match.
Heading into his fifth season as the head coach of the Buffalo Bills, Sean McDermott is poised to be the next coach to win his first Super Bowl. We have witnessed many teams win Super Bowls with quarterbacks on rookie contracts -- Seattle with Russell Wilson, Kansas City with Patrick Mahomes and Philadelphia with Carson Wentz (though he didn't play in the playoffs that season) -- allowing them to spend a great deal of the salary cap on the supporting cast. Enter Stefon Diggs, who led the NFL in receiving yards last season after having an instant connection with Josh Allen. The Bills return Star Lotulelei after opting out in 2020 and brought in two highly touted rookie D-linemen, which should make it more difficult for Mahomes should they meet in the playoffs again. The Bills really have no holes on this roster. It's full speed ahead for the Bills Mafia.