Taking team allegiances out of the equation, the two matchups set for Championship Sunday are a football fan's dream. Why? Because they feature the best teams in the league on paper: the Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs.
This group is made up of the league's four highest-scoring offenses of the 2018 season. It has an unbelievable mix of talent, leadership and records -- lots of records. I'm not assessing the players this week, though, as I'm turning my focus to the four head coaches in the spotlight: Sean McVay (Rams), Sean Payton (Saints), Bill Belichick (Patriots) and Andy Reid (Chiefs).
Payton, Reid and especially Belichick are anything but beginners when it comes to coaching in the postseason. Belichick, who has led the Patriots to five Super Bowl titles, has the most playoff wins (29) of all time among coaches, while Reid is second among active coaches with 12 playoff victories. Payton joins Belichick as the only other head coach in this group to win a Super Bowl. Reid has made one Super Bowl appearance as a head coach -- his Philadelphia Eagles lost to Belichick's Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX. Meanwhile, McVay is just 1-1 in playoff games as a head coach.
This season, all of these coaches have been exceptional, helping their teams combine for a 49-15 regular-season record. Heading into Championship Sunday, I decided to rank them based on who I trust most at this stage in the postseason. Here's how I stack them:
1) Bill Belichick, New England Patriots: The most successful teams this late in the season have coaches who are great at game-planning, preparation and situational football. Belichick has been the best at all those things -- at least that I have seen -- in the last two decades. His teams are always prepared for any situation that could arise, and Belichick is also good at clock management. It helps that Belichick has one of the best quarterbacks in history -- and a lot of other talented players -- on his side, but I firmly believe the longtime head coach's decision-making in the postseason is the main reason why the Patriots have been to eight straight AFC Championship Games and won five Lombardi Trophies in their eight Super Bowl appearances during his tenure.
Belichick is a master motivator, too. My colleague (and former New England Patriot) Willie McGinest can attest to this. Even Brady, who still has a huge chip on his shoulder from not being picked until the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft, still feels like an underdog at times. This was on display again in his postgame interview Sunday with CBS Sports' Tracy Wolfson, when TB12 said, "... I know everyone thinks we suck and, you know, can't win any games. So we'll see." It's clear Brady still has something to prove. STILL. After everything he's accomplished. No matter how Belichick motivates his players, it's clear that they still respond, as we saw in Sunday's rout of the Chargers.
2) Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints: I trust the Saints' head coach for a lot of the same reasons I trust Belichick. Payton excels at situational football and has the same aggressive mindset, which we saw on Sunday with the successful fake punt and TD pass to Keith Kirkwood on fourth down. Payton might take more make-or-break chances than the rest of the coaches on this list, but from a quarterback's standpoint, I trust that he'll put me in the right position to succeed. With Payton calling plays, the quarterback never has to question the game plan and knows adjustments will be made if necessary. Sunday was a perfect example of that. As bad as it looked in the first quarter, when New Orleans fell behind 14-0, the Saints were bound to make it competitive because Payton makes the needed adjustments more often than not. He is also a great motivator, as players always seem to play hard for him. I guess that's what happens when you put the Lombardi Trophy, more than $200,000 in cash and a Super Bowl ring on display during a team meeting.
3) Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams: I love McVay, but the reason he's third is because he still has the tendency to get caught up in the "I'm a good play-caller" trap. What's that, you ask? It's when you get away from what you do best in favor of showing how creative you can be. He wants to go shot for shot against other great play-callers, trying to outwit and out-scheme the opposition. It might work sometimes, but more often than not, McVay should drop the smoke and mirrors and stay true to what got the Rams to this point: running the ball. We saw McVay try to go blow for blow against both Matt Nagy and Sean Payton in the regular season, and it didn't pan out in either situation. As good as McVay is, he can easily get caught up in his own Xs and Os, and this happens to a lot of good coordinators. It happened to Kyle Shanahan with the Falcons in Super Bowl LI. Being a great play-caller can be a blessing and a curse.
4) Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs: Interestingly, Belichick has coached 342 games with the Patriots and allowed more than 40 points just seven times, but three of those were against Reid. Statistically, Reid's offenses put up gaudy numbers, but my concern is that he hasn't been the best coach when it comes to situational football. There have been instances where his teams played with zero urgency when losing -- like in Super Bowl XXXIX -- and others where he's done a poor job with the clock. As brilliant as he is at the Xs and Os, Reid has lacked in other areas of game management. As a head coach, that's the one area where you must be great and he isn't. Reid has had many opportunities to lead his team in situational moments in big games, and he's often come up short.
That said, all four of these coaches have a chance to win the Lombardi in February. Even though he's the coach I trust the least from this group, Reid has the X-factor with Patrick Mahomes, who possesses qualities defenses can't account for (SEE: no-look throw). The young passer can flip the script with one play.