The start of the regular season is quickly approaching, and all week the Around The NFL team will be giving its predictions on the league's major awards.
Chris Wesseling's pick: Chip Kelly
Kelly came under fire all offseason for his extreme makeover of the Eagles' roster, but what's not to like? Nick Foles was never going to be a franchise quarterback. Sam Bradford has a chance if he can stay healthy. The new backfield duo of DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews are ideally suited to Kelly's one-cut-and-go power spread attack. Recent draft picks Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor have the look of future stars. Free-agent acquisition Byron Maxwell is a potential shadow cornerback.
The best football coaches ultimately realize one truism: To be successful, you have to be your own man. Like most great coaches, Kelly is a man of singular vision.
Dan Hanzus' pick: Jim Tomsula
What can I say, I'm a sucker for an underdog. Everybody put the 49ers out to pasture after a historic exodus of roster stalwarts (I'm expecting Colin Kaepernick to embrace curling, his true passion, any day now). As the story goes, the NFC West is loaded with the defending conference champion Seahawks, the knocking-on-the-door Cardinals and eternally-ready-to-make-the-leap Rams. Tomsula has won me over with his Uncle Who's Seen It All attitude and the defense remains anchored by NaVorro Bowman, who looks like his old self this preseason. If Kaepernick and Vernon Davis can bounce back and that offensive line finds a way, I can see this team sniffing nine wins. Given all the adversity, that would be worthy of recognition.
Gregg Rosenthal's pick: Bill Belichick
Voters love narratives. And they love to reward veteran coaches like Belichick when they overcome obstacles and logic. Belichick has a chance to show he can win with Malcolm Butler as his No. 1 cornerback, Jonas Gray as the most likely Week 1 starting running back and three starting rookie interior offensive linemen. The last time the Patriots faced so many preseason questions was 2010, not coincidentally the last time Belichick won Coach of the Year.
Marc Sessler's pick: Chip Kelly
This award rarely goes to the best coach. If it did, Bill Belichick would have netted a dozen of these without blinking. It's a narrative-driven trophy, but this time around, the voters get it right by recognizing one of the game's true innovators.
Chip Kelly was scoffed at all offseason for a string of transactions that looked suspect at best. As one star player after the next was shipped out of town, Philly's coach found himself under the microscope. Kelly, though, believes in his methods and has stuck by them to build one of the better teams around. After the Eagles handle the NFC East with ease, their coach will get the credit he deserves.
Kevin Patra's pick: Mike Zimmer
Coaches of teams that surprise or make great strides forward are the best candidates for this award. The Vikings are a trendy team to make the leap into the playoffs and Zimmer checks off all the boxes of an up-and-coming coach primed to garner attention. An underappreciated assistant coach for years, Minnesota made solid progress in his first season and is set to take another big leap forward.
With Teddy Bridgewater poised for a studly second season and Adrian Peterson returning to carry the load, the offense should put up points. Zimmer's defense will also be improved in 2015. With stalwart veterans like Everson Griffen, Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith along with promising young players Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, the Vikings' defense will be sneaky good with Zimmer at the helm. The fiery coach will have plenty of COY supporters by the time the playoffs roll around.
Conor Orr's pick: Mike McCarthy
Mike McCarthy never had to "come back" from anything, but his troubling performance as a play-caller in last year's Super Bowl prequel left some believing he was losing his edge. Not so, as the Packers, down Jordy Nelson, prove that culture beats talent every single time. McCarthy also proves he was worth every dime of that extension.