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2015 NFL Honors Predictions: Coach of the Year
2015 NFL Coach of the Year
On January 31st, the evening before the Super Bowl, the fourth annual National Football League Honors Show will air on NBC and NFL Network. The NFL’s version of the Academy Awards, yearly awards will be handed out to the best players and coaches in the NFL. Among standard awards such as Defensive Player of the Year and Coach of the Year, there will also be awards like the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award and the Fed Ex Air and Ground Players of the Year. In anticipation for this exciting night I decided to select each player or coach I believe deserves to win the award. To be honest, there are a few cases were the player I feel SHOULD win isn’t the player I think WILL win. Over the next week or so I will write an article for each award and each winner for said award. Some of the selections are pretty much a given, others are up in the air. It’s always fun to make our guesses at who will win, so please feel free to submit your own thoughts in the comments.
AP Coach of the Year
NFL head coach and quarterback, the two most important positions in all of sports. Having a consistent, strong, and effective head coach can never be understated. The same can be said for the quarterback. Look at the success of the Steelers, with only 3 head coaches in over 40 years, each coach won at least once. Look at the Patriots, with a dynamic quarterback coach duo; they’ve been a force to be reckoned with for over a decade. Then look at teams like the Browns or Raiders, they change QBs and head coaches like Peyton Manning changes plays at the line. Having that top echelon coach can be the difference, whether he is the quiet humble type or the loud motivational type. The Coach of the Year award can go to a coach who led his team to incredible heights, like a 14-2 season. Or it can go to a coach who fought through seemingly unending adversity and still had his team prepared and fighting hard every week all season. It go to someone who completely turned around an organization, it’s almost like a comeback coach of the year award in that way.
This year has some strong candidates, but one coach is the clear favorite to win the award, and it will be his second time if he pulls trough.
Bill O’Brien: Leading all NFL head coaches in the “My team stunk last year but I turned it around” category, the rookie head coach Bill O’Brien and his Houston Texans far surpassed expectations. All year long the team seemed to play hard and come out with tough wins. And whenever the team did lose, the media seemed to want to stick a fork in the Texans season. But O’Brien coached his team to fight back and they were a Ravens week 17 loss away from sneaking into the playoffs. The Texans went 9-7 throughout the year. The sign of a well coached team is winning games and playing strong even in the losses. In 7 losses the Texans lost by one possession or less in every game except for the battle against Cincinnati. O’Brien did this without a true franchise level quarterback under center. If Houston can get that position figured out they will be truly dangerous.
Jim Caldwell: Undisciplined, out of control, NFC North, full of talent, pro bowl quarter back and elite wide receiver. The Detroit Lions concoction of highs and lows of ebbs and flows would make a witch and her brew jealous. No team in the last half decade has been more perplexing. From the first 0-16 season in NFL history in 2008 to a 10-6 record in 2011, the Lions have been up and down and impossible to predict. Under Jim Schwartz the Lions were plagued with off the field issues, on the field face stomps (some things don’t change), and overall undisciplined play. The Lions swapped Jims this year and went with head coach Jim Caldwell, who to the Super Bowl as head coach in 2010. Caldwell was once under Tony Dungy, and his calm demeanor and emphasis on a teaching style of leading has turned the Lions around. Caldwell led the team to an 11-5 record and a trip to the playoffs. The measuring stick will always be the Packers, but splitting the series in 2014 while playing hard all year and making it to the post-season is certainly a great start for the Jim Caldwell era.
Jason Garrett: Leading all NFL coaches in the “I went from the hot-seat to Coach of the Year contender”; Jason Garret undoubtedly proved a lot of naysayers wrong. Those naysayers include myself. If we rewound time a few months and I was asked what coach would lose his job after 2014, Garrett definitely would have been on my list. He, along with the Cowboys themselves, seemed to be the definition of mediocrity since he took over in the 2010 season. However apparently no one noticed that the Cowboys were secretly developing a team and identity that would propel them to success in 2014 and possibly beyond. Garrett was the backup quarterback to hall of famer Troy Aikman during the Dallas dominance in the 90’s. With a defense that did their job and caused turnovers and an offense led by an authoritative offensive line and high level skill positions, the Cowboys were king of the NFL. Garret and his staff have been putting a team together that is reminiscent of the Dallas teams of the “how ‘bout them Cowboys” era. You give me Aikman, Irvin, and Smith—Garrett gives you Romo, Bryant, and Murray. Match that with one of the best offensive lines in football and surprisingly effective defense led by coordinator Rod Marinelli and you’ve got a recipe for success. Run the ball down opponent’s throats and dictate the game. The Cowboys didn’t end the season 8-8, they ended 12-4—that enough should make Jason Garrett a contender for Coach of the Year.
Bruce Arians: When a team loses its starting quarterback Carson Palmer, its best linebacker John Abraham (who is the active leader in sacks), and its Pro Bowl defensive tackle Darnell Dockett to injured reserve then that team is in trouble. Throw in the fact that the team also loses its backup quarterback to injury towards the end of the season and that team is screwed. Andre Ellington, the team’s starting running back, battle a nagging foot injury all year and ended up on injured reserve. The backup running back, Jonathan Dwyer, was relieved of his duties for a domestic violence charge. Arguably the best defensive player on the roster, Calais Campbell, missed multiple games and was rarely truly healthy. Shaughnessy, a productive outside linebacker and the player responsible for playing well in Abraham’s absence, missed 8 games. Dave Zastudil, the team’s punter, was placed on injured reserve after week 5. This team is the Arizona Cardinals. They play in one of the hardest divisions in the NFL. An 8-8 season would have seemed like a miracle for Arizona. But an 11-5 record and a trip to the playoffs? That’s absolutely incredible and one of the best coaching jobs in the past decade.
Pete Carroll: In the past 8 years, the Super Bowl winner has either failed to win a playoff game the flowing season or failed to make the playoffs completely. Becoming the Super Bowl champion is extremely difficult. Succeeded the next year is almost even harder. While the Seahawks looked like world beaters in week 1, they stumbled in the early parts of the season. Injuries and subpar play hurt the team early on. However Pete Carroll’s team responded and the second half of the year was just as remarkably dominate as the 2013 Super Bowl run. The defense played even better than last year and the play of Russell Wilson continued to amaze. When having a triumph season after winning the big game is as rare as it is, you have to give credit where it is due—and it’s due to Pete Carroll.
Who I think should win: Bruce Arians—he won Coach of the Year while coaching for the Colts in Chuck Pagano’s absence in 2012. Arians’ style is exactly what the players and fans want. He loves his team, gets his squad ready, and is just as enthusiastic as the crowd or the players on game day. It didn’t matter who was quarterback or who was playing defense. He got his team ready, he made them believe in their unit, and he led them to victory. A coach’s job is to motivate and prepare his team to put them in place to do their jobs and win games.
Who I think will win: Bruce Arians—it seems like Arians is the favorite to win his second Coach of the Year award. But don’t worry, his success won’t go to his head and he takes it with a grain of salt. He knows it takes hard work to maintain success, and at any moment you can be the goat again. Said the soon to be two time Coach of the Year, “It’s a short elevator ride back to the shit house. People all of a sudden, I’m the greatest damn coach in the world. I’ve been a sorry sumbitch for 17, 18 years now. That ain’t changed just because we won a couple games.” Just give him the award right now.
My favorite to watch: Bill O’Brien—I could just as easily give this to Arians again, with quotes like the one above, the Cardinals coach is just amazing. However Bill O’Brien is his equal, if not better, in the fun to watch category. O’Brien on the sidelines and in the press conference is pure gold. He is lively, passionate, hilarious, and just plain entertaining to watch. He’s literally the polar opposite of Bill Belichick, who he used to coach under. When O’Brien gets mad, it’s compelling beyond compare. You can see it in his eyes and in the way he speaks, he looks like he’s about to explode but still stays calm. After the game against Pittsburgh, where the Steelers scored 3 touchdowns in just 2 minutes, O’Brien was clearly upset. And of course the media asked questions that were silly and irritating. O’Brien shot back at the reporters, telling them they were asking questions that made the game look like it was 50 to nothing when it was only a one touchdown game. He topped it off by with one of my favorite responses of the year when a reporter asked if it was a positive that the game was so close, “WHAT? I think it’s a negative Tonya we lost. It’s negative! It’s terrible to lose. It’s not good to lose.” And he had to repeat himself multiple times. “I hate losing, I hate it” O’Brien said in a post-game press conference later that year. “I hate losing with every fiber of my body. So, I guess that answers your question.” I’m not entirely sure what the question was, but that reporter was probably shaking in fear. Don’t ask O’Brien dumb questions, as more reporters found out when asking the coach why he gave his players off on Christmas day. “Yeah they’re ready to, I mean what is the, It’s Christmas! Did you wanna work on Chri, you know I just gave them off. That’s about the fifteen question about the, they worked hard, they’re fresh as hell, they’re ready to go on Sunday. Holy smokes…” What more can you ask for? O’Brien is exactly the type of coach I’d want for my team. In his fiery post-game speech after the last game of the year he said to his team, “It’s just the start”. Houston be excited, because this is just the start, and you have a superstar coach who will take you places you’ve never been.