EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 9, 2012

Where have all the good coaches gone?

Belichick, Coughlin dominating today's NFL like no other time in game

On Pro FootballHector Longo
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — FOXBORO – Last winter, when Andover’s Bill O’Brien took the top job at Penn State University, I lobbied for him to re-consider.

As talented a young offensive mind as you’ll find, O’Brien added integral years of seasoning under one of the best ever, Bill Belichick.

But it was more than that. Look around the NFL right now. This has to be an all-time low point for talented head coaches in the game.

I took some time yesterday, after Denver head man John Fox’s embarrassing effort at Gillette Stadium on Sunday afternoon to compile a 1-32.

As you can see from the list attached, it’s not a very good one.

The good old boy network is well-presented with retreads like Chan Gailey and Norv Turner in the bunch. But where are the winners?

Take a look at the list for a minute. Who do you honestly trust to keep your favorite football team at the top of the heap?

Belichick and New York’s Tom Coughlin stand head and shoulders above this bunch, what with their five combined Super Bowl victories as head coaches.

They enter each game clearly ahead of the opposition.

It speaks volumes that I would list Sean Payton of New Orleans at No. 3. Payton currently sits and watches his Saints team in street clothes due to the suspension he is serving for bounty-gate.

You can clearly see how he is missed in the Saints’ 1-4 start. This is a New Orleans team that took it to the Pats in joint workouts this summer but misses his leadership badly.

At No. 4, I feel like Jim Harbaugh sits with the potential to move all the way to the top, despite just two NFL seasons under his belt. As a QB, the ex-Bear fought like a champion. It translates into his attitude with the Niners, who many feel are the team to beat in the NFC.

Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin has done exactly what those in his Chuck Noll/Cowher legacy might expect.

In seven sevens, he is 57-27 with a Super Bowl title to his name.

Tomlin has one of the best ownership/managements in the game behind him, but with that comes pressure, and he’s delivered.

When I think of Mike Shanahan, I see Belichick’s face and the reverence he has for the current Redskins’ boss.

He was a dynamite leader in Denver, and I have to believe the Redskins problems come in spite of him.

From there, things become blurry.

I like Houston’s Gary Kubiak, whose crew is again off to an unbeaten start. Overall, he’s just 51-49, though.

Leslie Frazier at Minnesota has the look of a winner. He’s brash and aggressive, a work-a-holic type.

But again, we’re still in the top 10 here.

Rounding out the top 10 are Jeff Fisher in his second stop, now in St. Louis, and Tampa’s first-year man Gregg Schiano, a pick I make because the rest of the field is so mediocre, and he was such an impact man at Rutgers.

Of course, Television is a gigantic culprit. Between the networks, plus Fox, ESPN and NFL you see the likes of Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy, John Gruden, Jimmy Johnson, Joe Gibbs, Steve Mariucci and others who could be getting it done on the sideline.

There’s some serious Hall of Fame coaching ability there.

Instead, they’re taking the much less stressful role behind a microphone somewhere.

But that doesn’t make up for the dearth of talent running NFL teams these days.

Belichick and Coughlin are pure thoroughbreds in a coaching field laden with plow horses.

And it’s truly showing in this era of the NFL.

Follow Eagle-Tribune Sports Reporter Hector Longo on Twitter under the screen name @MVcreature.

Rating the NFL coaches 1. Tom Coughlin, New York Giants … Two Super wins separate him from No. 2. 2. Bill Belichick, New England … Hall of Famer, still eons ahead of everyone else. 3. Sean Payton, New Orleans … We're seeing how much he's missed. 4. Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco … Looks to be the next big thing. Made a player out of Alex Smith. 5. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh … Got a ring, that carries a ton of weight. 6. Mike Shanahan, Washington … Maybe a reputation pick, but he's got a great resume. 7. Gary Kubiak, Houston … Is this his year? Team always seems ready, then gets swamped with injuries. 8. Leslie Frazier, Minnesota … Building a solid program and undoing the mess that Brad Childress made there. A pure winner. 9. Jeff Fisher, St. Louis … No excuses. He's got the franchise QB in Sam Bradford. Time to step up. 10. Greg Schiano, Tampa … First-year guy has the work ethic and talent to step right up ladder. 11. Mike Smith, Atlanta … I know he hasn't won the big games, but his teams are consistent winners. 12. Mike McCarthy, Green Bay … Might be the most mediocre contending coach in league history. 13. Mike Munchak, Tennessee … Went 9-7 with awful talent in his rookie year at helm. 14. John Harbaugh, Baltimore … Keeps knocking on door, nobody answering. 15. Jim Schwartz, Detroit … Is it his fault Matt Stafford's shoulder socket is made of paper machete? 16. Lovie Smith, Chicago … His Kryptonite is his man-love for Jay Cutler at QB. 17. Rex Ryan, New York Jets … Top five two years ago, the act now wearing thin. 18. Andy Reid, Philadelphia … Feel bad for him off the field, but he's wasted a bundle of talent there. 19. Pete Carroll, Seattle … Pumped and jacked to see him do well, because he might be the nicest guy in football. 20. Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona … I'm not buying the start. Ultra-conservative. Headed for the middle of the pack. 21. Jason Garrett, Dallas … Where is the offensive genius? Tony Romo has crumbled under him. 22. Ron Rivera, Carolina … Do you see this franchise improving, even with Cam Newton? 23. Romeo Crennel, Kansas City … Sorry, loved you here as a coordinator, just don't see it as the leader. 24. Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis … Get well, sir. I refuse to kick a sick man. Leave it at that. 25. John Fox, Denver … Everyone in the game loves him. Watching him hand games away, I see why. 26. Mike Mularkey, Jacksonville … Won't last another full year. 27. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati … Stuck in second gear, or third place perpetually. 28. Joe Philbin, Miami … Like to give him a chance, but I can't. 29. Dennis Allen, Oakland … Has zero control over a talented group. 30. Pat Shurmur, Cleveland … Dick Jauron and Brad Childress (both loser coaches) are his coordinators. 31. Norv Turner, San Diego … Has Charger fans longing for immortal Marty Schottenheimer. 32. Chan Gailey, Buffalo … Still giggling at that defensive game-plan against the Pats last week.