Coach of the Year race: Ron Rivera leads pack, but don't sleep on Andy Reid

The night before Super Bowl 50, the NFL will salute its best players and plays from the 2015 season with "NFL Honors," a star-studded football and entertainment event hosted by Conan O'Brien from the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. Here's the broadcasting information for Saturday night's festivities:

» 8 p.m. ET on NFL Network: Super Bowl Saturday Night, featuring all the red-carpet coverage.
» 9 p.m. ET on CBS: 5th Annual NFL Honors.

One of the awards that will be presented on Saturday: Coach of the Year for the 2015 season. Who gets your vote?

Ron Rivera went 15-1 in the regular season after losing one of his best offensive players in the preseason. His staff designs a game plan that best utilizes the skill sets on the roster. The way he's built this team in the last few years has set him up for championships. Ron Rivera has done a great job building the best team in the league. For those who want to hype New England's Bill Belichick (given all the injuries he dealt with) or Kansas City's Andy Reid (for bringing his team back from a 1-5 start to make the playoffs), just remember this: Those teams were expected to be good.

Ron Rivera, on the other hand, led a Panthers team that barely made the playoffs last season (with a 7-8-1 record). He ultimately guided Carolina to 14 straight wins to open the 2015 season, helped Cam Newton enjoy his best year ever and oversaw the most balanced team in football. There might be sexier names out there, but this guy is most deserving. For some reason, Mike Tomlin isn't getting any burn for Coach of the Year. Didn't the Steelers win 10 games, and win a playoff game, despite losing the best running back in the game, his backup, the starting quarterback for a portion of the season and Antonio Brown in the playoffs? Yet, there Pittsburgh was, pushing the Broncos to the limit in a tough loss. I like a lot of candidates, but how do you not vote for Ron Rivera? The Panthers didn't have Cam Newton's best target ( Kelvin Benjamin) and they played much of the time without their best pass rusher ( Charles Johnson). Even with those two, coming into the season, did you expect a 15-1 campaign from a team that went 7-8-1 in 2014? Of course not. Rivera kept Carolina steady as the pressure of an undefeated season built, and the Panthers continued to flourish. The time has come for Andy Reid. I thought the Chiefs were in big trouble after starting 1-5. Jamaal Charles went down in Week 5 -- it was a grim scene in Kansas City. To turn things around so drastically and win 11 straight games is a testament to the coaching staff and the leadership on the team.

The Chiefs were one score away from playing the Broncos for the AFC championship. This might not be a popular choice -- because of the time management issues on that final drive in that final game -- but the clock still ticks on this award. Right, Andy? When Carolina entered the regular season without Kelvin Benjamin, everybody thought the Panthers would sputter offensively. Nobody predicted the dominance they've exhibited all season. As much as we want to credit Cam Newton, it comes back to Ron Rivera. Bruce Arians coached one of the most dynamic teams -- on both sides of the ball -- in the NFL. So, yeah, I'd be cool with him winning the award for the third time in four years. Ron Rivera's the answer, for so many reasons ...

The Panthers' 15 regular-season wins in 2015 were eight more than the team managed in 2014, and Carolina did that despite the loss of wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. The Panthers scored 161 more points than last season's team, and did so while starting two new offensive tackles, including Mike Remmers (who was waived by four teams since 2012) and Michael Oher (who was waived by the Tennessee Titans and signed as an unrestricted free agent). Carolina allowed nine fewer sacks in 2015 than in 2014. On defense, the Panthers had 17 more takeaways and 10 more interceptions than last year. What Rivera did to put together an offense that fit Cam Newton's skills is a tribute to what he meant as a coach this season. Rivera lost his No. 1 receiver and the Panthers didn't get much buzz early on. Yet, they went 15-1 and are playing for the Super Bowl. The way Rivera led that team speaks for itself. Ron Rivera is clearly the Coach of the Year with a 15-1 record -- an eight-win improvement from the 2014 regular season. The next-best increase in win total went to Todd Bowles of the Jets, who nabbed six more Ws for New York. I have to say Ron Rivera. Continuing the streak from the middle of the 2014 season and rallying his team to a 15-1 campaign and Super Bowl appearance ... Quite impressive.

Coaches who let their players show personality in a respectable manner tend to win Super Bowls. We've seen it with Pete Carroll, Bill Belichick, Mike Tomlin and others. Rivera is leading this team the right way. This one was tough, and I hated not voting for Ron Rivera. But what Andy Reid did was pure coaching, bringing the Chiefs back from a 1-5 start -- sans Jamaal Charles -- to win 10 straight to end the regular season. I want to give the award to Ron Rivera and Andy Reid. For Rivera, 15-1 speaks for itself. For Reid, overcoming such adversity and putting together the run Kansas City did after Week 6 was special. Ron Rivera*.

**BIG assist here from Mike Shula, who -- unlike what many other offensive coordinators might have done -- made the smart move: He tailored the offense to suit the singularly talented Cam. * 

Also, high praise for Jay Gruden, about whom many (or at least I) made jokes in August. He more or less put his job on the line for Kirk Cousins ... and won. To be 17-1 right now despite some of the injuries this team has had on the offensive side of the ball? Yeah, Rivera deserves the hardware. No one expected the Panthers to be this dominant.

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