Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll top 2017 head coach power rankings

One head coach made going for it on fourth down no big deal. Another moved his chess pieces around so much he had a wideout masquerading as an RB1. And one of these guys decided to go for the touchdown in overtime of the biggest game of the year.

There can be no underestimating the effect head coaches have on NFL games, as Jack Del Rio, Mike McCarthy and Bill Belichick displayed prominently last year. If the latter is the top of the ladder among the front men, who's next? (Wonderful album by The Who, by the way.) Who's 17th? Who's 29th? That's what we've endeavored to figure out below. All things were considered ... wins, impact, situation, experience and their immediate future.

So take a gander at the head coach pecking order, and then, if you wish, hunt and peck to enter your take on a keyboard ... @HarrisonNFL is the place for feedback.

Someone has to be 32nd on the list. Unfortunately, that's Lynn, who has the least amount of experience as both head coach and coordinator. After earning the respect of nearly everyone in Buffalo, Lynn was elevated from running backs coach (and assistant head coach) to offensive coordinator following the departure of Greg Roman last year. While the Chargers are being touted as a sneaky AFC team, Lynn has inherited the most malleable situation of all the new coaches: new city ... new stadium ... toughest division.

Joseph inherits a much more tenable situation than Lynn, though like the Chargers' rookie head coach, Joseph will also be trying to keep pace with Jack Del Rio's Raiders and Andy Reid's bunch out in Kansas City. Joseph's discipline is on the defensive side of the ball, which, in theory, is a good thing, considering the Broncos' talent there. That said, former defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was that unit's unquestioned leader. In case you were wondering, Joseph's defense in Miami finished 29th overall last season. Yeesh.

While everyone annoyingly points to McVay's age -- as if they were never 31 years old -- people should check themselves before becoming armchair ageists. McVay ran the Redskins' offense for the last three seasons, taking them from 13th to 17th to third in total offense. He was also integral to Kirk Cousins' development, tutoring him enough to make him a franchise-tag-worthy player two years running. You think mentoring a young quarterback might be a hair important with the Rams? Your serve, Jared.

Granted, McDermott has never been a head coach. He's also taking over a franchise that underwent a front-office shift just months after he accepted the job. The Bills' new rookie GM, Brandon Beane, is a familiar face to McDermott, as the two worked together in Carolina. Worth noting here that McDermott's lack of experience as a head coach does not make him unqualified for the post. ... He just wrapped up eight straight seasons as a defensive coordinator (for the Eagles and Panthers), fielding a top-10 defense in half of them. Five of those teams made it to the postseason.

Last season was a nightmare for the Jets. The ending? Ugly, particularly for Bowles, who absorbed much criticism for the give-up look of his team. Did they mail it in? Only the head coach and those who were in that locker room know. Yet, if Bowles can pull a Sully and guide this spiraling team gracefully, he might transcend another paltry record. Simply put, Bowles doesn't have a roster capable of turning New York around, much less challenging in the AFC East. But he can lead a rebuild and make a losing season a successful one by developing a QB1.

Shanahan ranks the highest of the first-time head coaches. His nine years as a coordinator leads the pack, while he set the pace for all offenses during the 2016 season. This is not to say that he will come anywhere close to matching the 540 points his Falcons offense put up last season. Although he's taken the brunt of the criticism for the Super Bowl LI loss, without Shanahan, Atlanta wouldn't have even been in the building. Moreover, the infamous sack Matt Ryan took in Patriots territory could have been avoided if running back Devonta Freeman had checked linebacker Dont'a Hightower, or if Ryan had unloaded the ball earlier. Point is, the debacle doesn't solely come down to a play call. Glad we cleared that up.

Marrone toils in the weirdest coaching environment among all the first-year guys. The expectations for the Jags always seem to measure inversely with the subsequent results. The confidence in the (franchise?) quarterback wavers -- at best. And the word on the street is that Tom Coughlin's footprint is all over the Jaguars operation. Thus, Marrone must produce wins with a successful former head coach looking over his shoulder and a quarterback whose recent play has been erratic (and no other QB waiting in the wings), all against the backdrop of what has been a losing culture in Jacksonville.

Although Pederson falls below Hue Jackson (who has more experience and was an outstanding offensive coordinator in Cincinnati) in these rankings, don't take that as a harsh judgment on the relatively new head coach. Underneath that gnarly, salty visor lay Philly's best hope for a potential NFC East takeover. Pederson's greatest asset is the wisdom he can impart on former No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz. The coach's decade-plus of experience playing in the NFL puts him in a unique position to help Wentz take the next step. Pederson's mentor, Andy Reid, helped guide the development of another highly drafted Eagles quarterback, Donovan McNabb -- with Pederson as McNabb's backup in 1999. That brief time in Pederson's career should serve Wentz well.

Jackson only won one game last season -- but then, I'm not sure Vince Lombardi could've coaxed even three wins out of those Browns. GM Sashi Brown and Jackson are building something in Cleveland. A contender this year? Not quite. But the collection of talent is getting stronger. Jackson's job kicks into high gear this summer, as he must decide between the aspiring Cody Kessler and a question mark in Brock Osweiler (was he a bust or just a bad fit in Houston?) at quarterback -- unless rookie DeShone Kizer makes a solid play for the job. Jackson is a player's coach with an ability to get the most out of his offensive players in particular, something he'll need to do in Cleveland.

What can I say about Mularkey that hasn't been said 1,000 times? Actually, now that I think of it, I'm not sure anyone has said so much as 1,000 words about the Titans head coach. Either way, a 9-7 record and the continued ascendance of Marcus Mariota under the tutelage of Mularkey and staff say enough for the moment. The key is to keep this young roster from "taking the cheese," as Bill Parcells would say. Put another way: Mularkey must keep the enthusiasm going in Nashville without letting his unaccomplished outfit think it's already Super Bowl material.

Koetter seemingly deserves better than a double deuce, given that he darn near pushed Tampa to the playoffs in 2016. But he has only one year as an NFL head coach under his belt, so it's difficult to place him higher among the more experienced. Here's what we do know: Koetter's influence on Jameis Winston manifested itself even more so in the franchise quarterback's sophomore season, with the former offensive coordinator in the top job. Koetter has gotten the players to buy in, and with the young defense bound to get better, there is no reason Tampa Bay can't be playing meaningful football in January.

Three years in, and Gruden has been up some and down some -- up 21 (wins) and down 26 (losses), to be exact (with one tie thrown in). To Gruden's credit, Washington has managed to be more than a bystander in that time. The 'Skins were in the playoffs two years ago and fell one victory shy of reaching the postseason in 2016. So what now? Gruden has the quarterback to contend, with Kirk Cousins at least a year away from receiving a sweetheart deal in San Francisco. Can Gruden take advantage?

Heckuva head-coaching debut in 2016 for McAdoo, who faced a difficult task in replacing a man who won two Super Bowls for Big Blue. McAdoo took largely the same nucleus Tom Coughlin had -- along with welcome free-agent additions Damon Harrison, Olivier Vernon and Janoris Jenkins -- and went 11-5. Change a few baaaaaad drops into receptions, and maybe the playoff game goes differently at Lambeau. McAdoo got through to his players, boat trips aside, and now must prove he can handle larger expectations.

Tough to gauge Caldwell's career. He was the head coach when the Colts went to Super Bowl XLIV -- but some observers attributed that trip to Peyton Manning's MVP performance. That's not entirely fair, but the idea is not without merit, either, given that Indianapolis went 2-14 under Caldwell when Manning was hurt in 2011. Caldwell has seen the Lions to a couple of playoff performances over the last three years. Yet, when Matthew Stafford sustained a finger injury late last year, Detroit dropped three straight to finish the regular season. As the quarterback goes, so goes the head coach, at least in this case.

The Texans are still unsettled at quarterback, yet O'Brien keeps getting them to 9-7. That's the sign of a coach who knows what he's doing. So why not place him higher? Given that his background is on offense, it seems that developing a quarterback should be within his reach, but no less than Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett and Brock Osweiler have flamed out in Houston. Still, making the postseason in 2016 without J.J. Watt is a significant achievement.

For a man who has taken the Bengals to the postseason seven times, this ranking might seem unfair. Consider, though, that none of those trips resulted in a playoff win. While discipline has been an issue in the past, what derailed the Bengals last season were injuries and a punchless offense (Cincinnati ranked 24th in points scored). For the record, the 6-9-1 campaign was just the fourth losing season of Lewis' 14-year tenure.

What a feat Gase pulled off in Year 1. Whether the Dolphins were barely beating the Browns at home amidst a 1-4 start or ripping off nine wins over the last 11 regular-season games of 2016, Gase stayed the course, not changing his tune with players or reporters. The feel you get watching Gase is that he is the smart guy in a room, someone who knows what he has to work with and what he doesn't. The real test this year: Can he push Ryan Tannehill's game forward to the point where the offense can lean on the quarterback? Tannehill's knee sprain and the emergence of running back Jay Ajayi kept that from happening in 2016. Let's see what Gase has in store for Tannehill, as well as the Patriots, in Year 2.

How the Colts got to eight wins in each of the last two years is anybody's guess. The defense ranked 30th and 26th -- otherwise known as Saints-esque -- during that time. Sure, Andrew Luck putting the team on his back has something to do with Indy staying afloat in the AFC South. But considering the franchise quarterback has been banged up, it's OK to spoon a heap of credit Pagano's way. YOU try coaching when your star quarterback is at less than 100 percent, you have no defense to lean on and your job security is scant.

Del Rio earned all of the Coach of the Year praise that came his way last year. After all, it was his game-winning go-for-two call in Week 1 that propelled the Raiders to a fast start that only let up when Derek Carr went down in Week 16. Del Rio connects with his players better than most coaches, even if he isn't considered an Xs-and-Os "genius." Don't buy it? Take a look at the I'm joking but I'm not Twitter exchange with his Pro Bowl left guard. How fun is it that the Raiders are relevant again? Give the head coach credit.

In August, the season appeared lost following injuries to Tony Romo and backup Kellen Moore. By January, Garrett had his guys in the playoffs. Offensive Rookie of the Year Dak Prescott and NFL rushing leader Ezekiel Elliott had much to do with the overall success, but you can't take credit away from Garrett, who lets his assistants coach. That includes offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who worked wonders with Prescott. Garrett's steady hand and experience as a journeyman quarterback should serve Prescott and this Dallas team well going forward.

While the last couple of years have not been kind to Fox, it would be awfully difficult to rate him lower at this point. Fox has coached two vastly different football teams in the Super Bowl -- the quarterback-centric 2013 Broncos and the run-first, play-defense 2003 Panthers. Neither squad won it all, but Fox went to the playoffs seven times while running those teams. Reaching the promised land with the Bears is a taller task, but Fox has a few assets in running back Jordan Howard and a budding defense. We'll see.

Quinn proved himself in 2016. One year after a debut that showed promise (with an admittedly sluggish finish), Quinn pushed his team to the Super Bowl. Make no mistake, this is his football team, reflective of his Seahawks DNA. The Falcons drafted speedy linebackers and one physical safety to pursue a brand of defense similar to what Quinn ran in Seattle. Throw in heavy use of running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, and this Atlanta team will be challenging the Seahawks and any other comers in the NFC for awhile.

Although the Vikings went 8-8 last season, Zimmer did his job. Remember that the Vikings' two most important players -- Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson -- were non-factors. Zimmer kept the ship afloat, even starting the season 5-0. While the slow finish was not optimal, without Zimmer's panic-free attitude, it's doubtful Minnesota would have finished at .500 in a division with two playoff teams.

That win in Super Bowl XLIV seems farther and farther away -- as does the idea of the Saints in the playoffs. Three straight 7-9 finishes don't seem to have affected Payton's reputation, with most observers blaming the slump on a paltry defense. Of course, defense is under Payton's purview, making the free pass unusual, if nothing else. Payton is doing his part to tip the scales in tandem with GM Mickey Loomis, emphasizing defense in the draft the last two years while signing Adrian Peterson. Maybe New Orleans will keep that defense off the field for longer stretches.

The two-time AP Coach of the Year looks to bring the Panthers back to their familiar spot atop the NFC South. Last season's 6-10 mark (an aberration?) brought with it a last-place finish after three straight years in first. To his credit, Rivera seems to handle tumult well, whether he's rebuilding a Carolina team that won two games the year before his 2011 arrival or staying the course with a 3-8-1 team in 2014, ultimately stringing together enough wins to earn a playoff berth.

Arians has been rated highly, including in this space, both for his diligent work in making the Cardinals contenders and for his brilliant effort as AP Coach of the Year filling in for Chuck Pagano in Indy in 2012. That said, Arians has his work cut out for him, coming off a season in which his football team dipped below .500 for the first time under his stewardship. Arians has proven to be a master motivator. That might be his most important asset with this veteran Cardinals roster.

The Ravens' late-season stumbles in 2016 shouldn't obscure what has been one of the most successful runs among NFL head coaches. Baltimore bounced back from the organization-wide frustration stemming from the 2015 campaign, when the team went 5-11 (with nearly every loss coming via a one-score margin), to finish 8-8. That is Harbaugh's only losing season to date, as the Ravens have made six playoff appearances, competed in three AFC Championship Games and won a Super Bowl in his nine seasons on the job. Not bad.

As consistent as any coach or player in the NFL, Reid might be the most successful head coach in the Super Bowl era to never hoist the Lombardi Trophy. He has certainly joined the Dan Reeves and Marty Schottenheimer stratosphere in that regard. Can Reid get the Chiefs there? If so, analysts and fans alike might discuss him as a Hall of Fame-level leader. If he can't, 173 regular season wins (nearly 10 per season), five championship game appearances and one Super Bowl loss (which might've turned out differently if a certain receiver had spent a bit more time in the hyperbaric chamber) will have to do.

Perhaps the AFC version of Pete Carroll ... Like Carroll, Tomlin seems to have a way with his players that other teams can't emulate. Like Carroll, he owns both a Super Bowl ring and a Super Bowl loss. And like Carroll's Seahawks, Tomlin's Steelers tend to drop some "gimme" road games people expect them to win. Thus, Tomlin isn't always considered a top-shelf head coach. But that's rubbish. His guys play for him, and at the end of the day, that's what counts.

McCarthy has earned the respect accorded a premier head coach, although the process has been lengthy. Apparently, winning a Super Bowl ring and making the playoffs eight years in a row is not enough for some folks. Some people try to attribute that success all to Aaron Rodgers, but can you do that, really? Don Shula didn't make the playoffs eight years in a row with Dan Marino. Nor did Bill Walsh with Joe Montana. All four of those guys are in the Hall of Fame, by the way.

Carroll's handling of players has been top-notch since he returned to the NFL as head coach in 2010. Look no further than his ability to get Eddie Lacy to eat a few more salads on the way down to 250 pounds. Even the reported issues between the offense and defense that have surfaced the last two years haven't stopped the Seahawks from making (and winning in) the playoffs. Long ago, Carroll was also a highly successful assistant coach. He led the 49ers' defense to a No. 1 ranking in 1995. Think about that: Carroll coaching the 49ers. Weird.

You've probably done the math by now: Belichick once again graces the top of the charts (although for some fans, his leadership has been none too graceful). Whatever you think of his bottom-line approach or the controversy surrounding the Tuck Rule or Spygate, Belichick has five Super Bowl rings. And that's not accounting for the two he won while serving as a top-notch defensive coordinator under Bill Parcells.

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