Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

26 Aug 2006

FO Ranks All 32 Teams on FOX: Coaching Staffs

We finish our series ranking all 32 teams, unit-by-unit, with a look at the men behind the men. In Washington, more is not less, as the league's largest coaching staff also ranks number one on our list. Down at the bottom, just why was Mike McCarthy the choice in Green Bay, anyway?

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 26 Aug 2006

132 comments, Last at 13 Sep 2006, 6:08pm by jetsgrumbler

Comments

1
by Jeff (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 1:54am

New England's coaching staff is ranked number 8?!?!? I understand that we don't have the best coordinators in the league, but Bill Belichick is by far the best head coach in the league and arguably the best ever. To drop New England to 8 because we don't have the best coordinators is ridiculous. I mean, the CinCity Bengals' coaches are higher than New England. This is the nail in the coffin of how bad these rankings are.

2
by B (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 3:10am

The Lions are ranked as high as 20th? What did you guys do with the real MDS?

3
by centrifuge (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 3:14am

Will front office rankings be coming soon?

4
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 4:53am

Re #1: Bellichick isn't "by far" the best coach in the NFL right now. He's not the only active coach with 3 SB wins. He's not the only active coach with back-to-back SB wins. He doesn't even come CLOSE to having the best winning percentage of active coaches. You could call him the "best coach in the NFL" if you want, and you'd have a decent arguement, but to say that he's "far" better than a Shannahan, Cowher, or Gibbs is just disingenuous, in my opinion.

Besides that, this is a ranking of more than just head coaches. By my count, 4 of the 7 teams ahead of New England have an assistant that is either a former head coach or a hot name for head coaching jobs (Saunders, Greg Williams, Ken Wisenhunt, Mike Heimerdinger, Wade Phillips). A fifth team has a coordinator who for a long time was considered the best at his position (Tom Moore). In addition to that, there are countless position coaches who are hot candidates for coordinator positions or considered the best in the league at their craft (Bobby Turner, John Teerlink, etc). I suppose an arguement could be made for putting New England ahead of Cincy or Seattle, but from where I'm sitting, outside of Bellichick, the coaching cupboard is awfully bare in New England. The entire coaching staff appears to be untested and overpromoted due to all of the recent openings. Heck, last I heard, New England didn't even HAVE an offensive coordinator.

5
by Insancipitory (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 5:42am

Tom Coughlin seems like a douche, and not just cause I read it in a Playboy article that sourced an anonymous player. When there are all kinds of news stories about how your next away game is going to be unusually loud, how, as a coach, do you not use your owners billions and billions to rent some freaking speakers and practice? An innovation practiced at least since the start of the 80s?

When your defense is nearly suffocating a team with an injury decimated offense, and your kicker has already demonstrated a lack of range on a cold game played at sea-level, how do you not punt to your opponants horrible special teams, pinning them back in their own endzone?

That stunning play-off performance won't win any awards either.

6
by blahblahfalcons (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 5:49am

i don't think i understood the "Mike Singletary's job in this organization is to be Mike Singletary" line

7
by Andrew (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 6:37am

Jeff #1:

Bill Belichick is by far the best head coach in the league and arguably the best ever

I'll drink some of the haterade.

Belichick is not "the best head coach in the league" - that honor has to go to Joe Gibbs, who is actually enshrined in the Hall of Fame, who won 3 Super Bowls with 3 different QB's, and who proved last year that he still knows how to coach a fairly motley collection of parts into a pretty amazing group of winners. Current coaches such as Bill Cowher, Bill Parcells, Mike Shanahan and Mike Holmgren are all right up there with him, while some further work by younger less tenured head coaches like John Gruden and Andy Reid may prove them to be up there with these guys also.

As to being "arguably the best ever", I have to wonder about your sanity. Better than Chuck Noll? Don Shula? Vince Lombardi? Paul Brown? John Madden? Bill Walsh? George Halas? Tom Landry?

Right now, Belichick doesn't even really look better than his former mentor, Bill Parcells. Lets see Belichick continue to win over another 10 years and especially with a completely different roster and in a division that has actual competition capable of going deep in the playoffs, or take on a couple of disasters in other cities and turn them into winners who make the playoffs in short order.

Enough already. Lets reserve qualifications of absolute greatness for Belichick for the post mortem of the career.

8
by Alan Milnes (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 8:46am

The Eagles are 17th - wow one bad year and suddenly the sky is falling.

9
by BCS (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 11:10am

#1 Not to pile on but did you read the first sentence of the New England ranking? You know, the one that starts like this: "Bill Belichick is the best coach in football"

10
by Kordell Stewart (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 11:18am

Former Bills head coach Mike Mularkey is now the Dolphins' offensive coordinator. Mularkey has always preferred drop-back passers over scrambling quarterbacks

But he did coax a Pro Bowl season out of me, so you never know.

11
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 11:26am

The Patriots coaching staff is clearly ranked too low because Belichick has won three Super Bowls and the media have proclaimed the Pats to be the greatest dynasty ever, even though Parcells, Gibbs, Shanahan, et al have accomplished at least as much. Some guy on WEEI is way better than this. Go Pats! Even without Branch, we'll be great because we're the Pats!!!

12
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 11:28am

By the way, I think that this is an interesting topic… I’m working in this industry myself and I don’t agree about this in 100%, but I added your page to my bookmarks and hope to see more interesting articles in the future.

Gotta love the random spam that drags up topics from over a year ago...

13
by JasonK (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 11:42am

#8:

They also lost their OC.

14
by MJK (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 3:47pm

OK, let me see if I can put a more reasoned argument as to why I think the Pats are ranked too low. Yes, I'm a Patriots fan.

I won't make the sweeping claim that Belichick is the "best ever", but in my opinion, he's certainly one of the top three currently in the game, along with Cowher and Shanahan. Since I think the overall staff in Pittsburgh and in Devner are better right now, given the turnover the Patriots have had, I guess I would put the Pats at #3.

As to the other teams:

First, I want to say that I see no reason to rate a staff highly because some of their coordinators are former head coaches. All that means is that they were failures at head coaching. That may or may not reflect on their coordinator abilities, but it's certainly not a badge of honor.

Now, onto the specific teams above (or argued to be above) the Pats:

Gibbs WAS great, but he has yet to show me that he can function in today's NFL. He's adapting, and last year was better, but he still strikes me as too old school and not enough of an innovator. He does have a great staff, especially his D-coordinator. But the things that knock Washington down in my mind is their front office. These ratings didn't seem to take the front office into account, but that's an important part of the game, and Washington front office seems to consistently find ways to spend the most money of any team on the league, an yet while acquiring bad fits and has-beens. If Snyder wasn't such an excellent businessman who could get all that money to throw around, and figure out how to get it under the cap, would Washington ever compete, in spite of Gibbs?

Holmgren, Dungy, and Schottenheimer are good coaches who field consistently competitive teams, but in my mind they're a step below the three elite coaches in the game right now that I just mentioned. They just don't seem to be able to put it all together.

I'm very impressed by Marvin Lewis and his staff, turning around the Bengals. But I have to see a team that is consistently good and balanced before I'm ready to annoint his staff elite. Actually, that's a knock on Dungy as well. I have a hard time putting any staff too high on a pedastal when they are famous for creating an unbalanced team.

As to Parcells, this is probably a function of being annoyed at him over how badly he treated the Pats team, organization, and fans when he left, but I am far less impressed by him than I used to be. I used to think he was elite at turning around bad teams, but now I suspect that was largely Belichick. It was Belichick that figured out how to stop the mighty Bills and made the Giants defense such a force. What has Parcells done since Belichick other than mis-manage coach-player relations down in Dallas. I think Parcells is an above average coach, but not elite.

15
by Jeff (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 3:58pm

To all the people who responded to my first post, I'd just like to say that I have acknowledged that these rankings are based on the entire coaching staffs and not just the head coaches. However, head coaches are the most valuable part of a coaching staff and thus I don't think the Pats should have been ranked so low. And I do think that Belichick goes into the argument of "best ever". I understand that few coaches have had the chance to compete in the salary cap/free agency era, but to build a dynasty in today's NFL is truly amazing. And to the person who said that Parcells is better than Belichick, are you kidding me?

16
by Michael (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 4:22pm

tHE NINERS HAVE A GOOD COACHING STAFF THEY SHOULD BE HIGHER AT LEAST IN THE TOP 20.

17
by Marko (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 4:58pm

I am a Bears fan, and I think Lovie Smith is a good coach (at least in the regular season), but I can't see how the Bears' coaching staff is ranked above Carolina's. The Bears' pitiful defensive performance against Carolina in the playoffs last year leaves me with a serious question as to how good of a coaching staff the Bears really have. Despite having a bye before their playoff game and knowing that Steve Smith is an unbelievable game-breaker, the Bears did not game plan to provide extra help in covering Steve Smith. Then, despite being torched by Steve Smith, Lovie Smith and defensive coordinator Ron Rivera stubbornly refused to make adjustments. Perhaps that was due to Lovie's playoff inexperience as a head coach and Rivera's playoff inexperience as a coordinator. But after seeing how badly the Bears were outcoached in that game by Carolina, it seems clear to me that the Panthers have a better coaching staff than the Bears.

18
by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 7:14pm

#8:

They also lost their OC.

Not only that, they replaced him with Marty Mornhinweg, who was a gut-wrenchingly awful HC in Detroit. So I can understand the low ranking. Marty doesn't worry me that much because plenty of assistant-level coaches can't cut it as head coaches. But I can definitely understand other people wanting to see success from them before they drink the kool-aid.

19
by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 7:16pm

First, I want to say that I see no reason to rate a staff highly because some of their coordinators are former head coaches. All that means is that they were failures at head coaching. That may or may not reflect on their coordinator abilities, but it’s certainly not a badge of honor.

No, it doesn't. It means that the owner or front office didn't like them. It doesn't mean they were failures.

Mike Tice, Mike Martz, and Mike Sherman (what is it with ex-head coaches and Mike?) all had pretty good coaching success.

20
by Cosmik Debris (not verified) :: Sat, 08/26/2006 - 7:37pm

I agree with #8. Philly's coaching has been absolutely great since Read's arrival, except for last year when let's say a few strange things happened. I think Read's winning percentage is one of the best if not the best over the last five years. Has there been a better team in the NFC since Read came to Philadelphia ? And he's done it with only two great players : McNabb and Dawkins. And Jim Johnson has been constantly talked about as one of the very good defensive minds of the game. Unless you considered Childress's departure as a catastrophe, I can't understand how the Eagles coaching staff can be worst than 16 other teams.

21
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Sun, 08/27/2006 - 12:10am

Re #14: First, I want to say that I see no reason to rate a staff highly because some of their coordinators are former head coaches. All that means is that they were failures at head coaching. That may or may not reflect on their coordinator abilities, but it’s certainly not a badge of honor.

I disagree. The fact that they are former head coaches means that they are widely percieved as one of the best coordinators in the entire NFL. That's how you go from coordinator to coach- you kick some ass and take some names. Now, whether these people failed as head coaches or not is irrelevant- the fact remains that they were stud coordinators. Historically, failed head coaches make for fantastic coordinators, and failed coordinators make for fantastic position coaches.

For some examples... Dick LeBeau was a collossal failure as a head coach. He's also arguably the best defensive coordinator in the NFL (or certainly one of the top 5). Mike Martz burned out as a HC, but I think every team would love to have him as an OC. Greg Williams was a bust as a HC, but performed so well the last few seasons as Washington's DC that teams were ready to give him another shot, despite his sub-par record. Bob Slowik was a huge bust as Green Bay's defensive coordinator, but as Denver's secondary coach, he did a truly remarkable job last season, getting studly performances out of a secondary that started two rookie CBs and had a third rookie in the Nickle (Denver had the #1 rated secondary according to FBGs, iirc). If Monte Kiffin became a head coach and compiled a 15-45 record, I guarantee you every single team would still want him as a defensive coordinator.

Gibbs WAS great, but he has yet to show me that he can function in today’s NFL. He’s adapting, and last year was better, but he still strikes me as too old school and not enough of an innovator. He does have a great staff, especially his D-coordinator. But the things that knock Washington down in my mind is their front office. These ratings didn’t seem to take the front office into account, but that’s an important part of the game, and Washington front office seems to consistently find ways to spend the most money of any team on the league, an yet while acquiring bad fits and has-beens. If Snyder wasn’t such an excellent businessman who could get all that money to throw around, and figure out how to get it under the cap, would Washington ever compete, in spite of Gibbs?
Actually, Washington's front office has been very good. You might disagree with their methods, but in terms of talent evaluation, they've had so many more hits than misses that it's not even funny. Marc Brunell, Santana Moss, Shawn Springs, Clinton Portis, Chris Cooley, Marcus Washington... all of these were guys brought in by the front office that were HUGE parts of Washington's success last season.

Besides, Saunders is one of the top 5 OCs in the NFL, Williams is one of the top 5 DCs in the NFL, and Joe Gibbs is in the Hall of Fame. Hard to argue with that.

Holmgren, Dungy, and Schottenheimer are good coaches who field consistently competitive teams, but in my mind they’re a step below the three elite coaches in the game right now that I just mentioned. They just don’t seem to be able to put it all together.

I’m very impressed by Marvin Lewis and his staff, turning around the Bengals. But I have to see a team that is consistently good and balanced before I’m ready to annoint his staff elite. Actually, that’s a knock on Dungy as well. I have a hard time putting any staff too high on a pedastal when they are famous for creating an unbalanced team.
I don't disagree with this at all. Still, Wade Phillips, Tom Moore, and John Teerlink are all better than any assistants on Bellichick's staff, which is why I think SD and Indy are rated higher. Personally, I'd put New England ahead of San Diego, Cincinatti, and Seattle... but that's just me.

As to Parcells, this is probably a function of being annoyed at him over how badly he treated the Pats team, organization, and fans when he left, but I am far less impressed by him than I used to be. I used to think he was elite at turning around bad teams, but now I suspect that was largely Belichick. It was Belichick that figured out how to stop the mighty Bills and made the Giants defense such a force. What has Parcells done since Belichick other than mis-manage coach-player relations down in Dallas. I think Parcells is an above average coach, but not elite.
Are you kidding? What has he done without Bellichick? The season he took over for the Cowboys, people were questioning whether he'd even be able to top 5 wins. He won 10 and made the playoffs. That was probably one of the best immediate turnarounds in NFL history. Outside of POSSIBLY Vermeil, no other coach has had as much success at every single stop as Parcells.

Good post, and great points, though.

22
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Sun, 08/27/2006 - 12:19am

To all the people who responded to my first post, I’d just like to say that I have acknowledged that these rankings are based on the entire coaching staffs and not just the head coaches. However, head coaches are the most valuable part of a coaching staff and thus I don’t think the Pats should have been ranked so low. And I do think that Belichick goes into the argument of “best ever�. I understand that few coaches have had the chance to compete in the salary cap/free agency era, but to build a dynasty in today’s NFL is truly amazing.

I think Bellichick's accomplishments are overrated because they're still so fresh in everyone's mind. Let's compare his record to Shanahan's, for instance. Shanahan's coached 12.25 seasons to Bellichick's 11. Shanahan's record is 122-74 (62.2%), Bellichick's is 99-77 (56.3%). Shanahan has 2 SBs, Bellichick has 3. Shanahan has 2 losing seasons, Bellichick has 5. Shanahan's won as many playoff games without Elway as Bellichick has without Brady. If Denver had managed to beat Jacksonville in 1996 (they were widely considered the best team in the AFC) and made it to the Superbowl, no one would argue that Shanahan's resume was FAR more impressive than Bellichick's (and both would have taken place entirely in the salary cap era)... but because Shanahan's team lost that one game, Bellichick is without question the best in the game?

Besides, much like how everyone says that Parcells hasn't done anything without Bellichick... what has Bellichick done without Weis or Crennel? Or Mangini, for that matter? And does anyone else not believe that the Patriots coaches are overpromoted because of all of the recent vacancies? I mean, they've lost two DCs to head coaching jobs in two seasons, and they still haven't replaced their OC (or have they?)

23
by tim (not verified) :: Sun, 08/27/2006 - 1:02am

Wait, the dolphins pick up dom capers and mike mularkey and suddenly they're 5 spots above philadelphia?

Is childress that much of a loss?

Has nick saban and this new power combo of capers/mularkey gone through a bunch of championship seasons that i just happened to miss?

24
by thoughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Sun, 08/27/2006 - 11:25am

Indy at #7? Dungy is a good coach, but has had no playoff success with two different super bowl caliber franchises. Peyton Manning really runs the offense and the one thing he can't do, beat a good 3-4 team, is something that is partly Tom More's responsibility. This isn't to let Peyton off the hook, but the coaching staff needs an alternate game plan or something when they are facing San Diego, Pittsburgh, New England, even Cleveland if you saw that game last year. The defense is the one area of the team I will give the coaching staff credit for, although the success of the offense gives the defense an opportunity to play against one-dimensional teams. As for the special teams, you'd think good coaching would make a difference there, right? And did anyone see that game against Pittsburgh last January? Maybe that's why I think this rating is too high.

25
by Shelley (not verified) :: Sun, 08/27/2006 - 12:17pm

Re: #4

Josh McDaniels has now officially been named OC, and he was the de facto OC last year.

26
by Jerry (not verified) :: Sun, 08/27/2006 - 1:26pm

Lovie Smith goes 5-11 and then 11-5 in his two seasons and they are ranked as having the 10th best coaching staff??? And this after their playoff performance.

Marvin Lewis goes 8-8, 8-8, and 11-5 and everyone is stating that without Palmer, the Bengals are toast this year. Yet they currently have the 4th best coaching staff in the NFL. And I guess character issues don't matter. But why???

I usually agree with the rankings but I can't help but feel their are some serious bias issues in this article.

27
by John (not verified) :: Sun, 08/27/2006 - 1:54pm

What a shocker that Art Shell's staff was almost picked last. With everyone in the media saying the politically correct thing that "We have always liked him as a coach" or, "he should have never been fired in the first place", they still won't miss a chance to disrespect the Raiders. Never mind the fact that the staff has more Hall of Famers on it than any coaching staff in the league. Slater, Eatman and Shell seem to be working miracles with an offensive line that showed it had serious problems in the first 2 games of the preseason and has played like world beaters in the second 2. Penalties are going down and the Raiders finally have discipline and focus. Really, giving a team that has been this bad for the past three years a chance to go on the field and compete, cut down on penalties and believe in themselves and the system is just horrible... Right?

Art Shell is a winner, plain and simple. The guy won with Napolean Mcallum at RB for cripe's sake, because the players believe in him. He'll win again.

It doesn't appear Tom Walsh has missed a beat BTW.

28
by Marko (not verified) :: Sun, 08/27/2006 - 3:42pm

"Never mind the fact that the staff has more Hall of Famers on it than any coaching staff in the league."

What does that have to do with anything? Just because someone is a Hall of Famer does not mean that he is or will be a good coach. Bart Starr and Forrest Gregg immediately come to mind as Hall of Famers who were unsuccessful coaches.

I don't follow the Raiders enough to know if they have a good coaching staff. But the number of Hall of Famers on their coaching staff strikes me as utterly irrelevant in the analysis.

29
by Bill Moore (not verified) :: Sun, 08/27/2006 - 4:25pm

Um, Bill Belichick was a former head coach once too.

30
by Andrew (not verified) :: Sun, 08/27/2006 - 5:43pm

MJK #14 and Kibbles:

As to Parcells, this is probably a function of being annoyed at him over how badly he treated the Pats team, organization, and fans when he left, but I am far less impressed by him than I used to be. I used to think he was elite at turning around bad teams, but now I suspect that was largely Belichick.

What, for example, did Belichick have to do with producing a top offense in New England in 1994 and 1996?

It was Belichick that figured out how to stop the mighty Bills and made the Giants defense such a force.

Pats in 1994 - 10-6.
Bills in 1994 - 7-9.
The Pats and Bills split the series 1-1. Belichick was busy having his one successful season in Cleveland. How did he help Parcells get the Pats past the Bills that year?

2-0. That's the Pats vs. Bills in 1995, when Bills went 10-6 and Pats 6-10. Again, Belichick was in Cleveland.

What has Parcells done since Belichick other than mis-manage coach-player relations down in Dallas. I think Parcells is an above average coach, but not elite.

Perhaps he just lucked his way into 3 Super Bowls, 4 Championship game appearances, 9 playoff seasons in 18 years with 4 teams, and an above 500 record at every team he's coached.

31
by protagoras (not verified) :: Sun, 08/27/2006 - 5:58pm

I thought Washington's ranking was ridiculous. Their coaches have the most impressive resumes and the most hype. But they are not the most effective. In fact, Washington consistently underperforms its talent. On paper, they look great, but their play is mediocre at best. This year they are a trendy pick in the NFC, but their ones have been awful in the preseason. They probably won't be that bad in the regular season, but I would definitely take the under.

32
by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Sun, 08/27/2006 - 6:41pm

If Belichick is "arguably the best ever," I'd really like to hear the argument. What points would you make that point to that conclusion? His record in Cleveland was, I've read, 36-44. How much weight does that carry? What evidence do you marshall to place him ahead of Noll, Shula, Landry, Lombardi, Brown, Halas, Walsh...? (I hope not the pathetically lame "it's a different league now" line.)For those, such as MJK, who don't like Parcells for the way he treated New England, are you completely comfortable with the way Belichick treated the NY Jets? (I'm not excusing Parcells' actions--he's an ass and his treatment of NE is one of the clearest demonstrations thereof.) I'm not trying to snark or belittle--I'd honestly like to know how one concludes that Belichick is the best NFL coach ever.

33
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Sun, 08/27/2006 - 7:04pm

However, head coaches are the most valuable part of a coaching staff and thus I don’t think the Pats should have been ranked so low.

Ask any head coach and he'll tell you that his staff is most important and that he is NOTHING without his staff. The head coach is NOT the most important, just as a CEO is not more important than, say, the VP of Sales.

34
by Kevin (not verified) :: Sun, 08/27/2006 - 7:35pm

#5

Tom Coughlin also won a divsion with a team no one expected against squads coached by 2 Hall of Famers and Andy Reid. He also has a good playoff track record with JAX. Did you expect them to be ranked 30th?

35
by MJK (not verified) :: Sun, 08/27/2006 - 8:28pm

As far as I know, Belichick never ignored his team playing in the Superbowl so he could talk on the phone about taking a job with one of their biggest rivals. From what I've read, Belichick didn't really want the Jets job--he wanted to work for Kraft--and had made his intentions clear from the start. The only question was whether the Pats would ante up the draft picks to get the Jets to let Belichick out of his contract. I'm not very familiar with the negotiations that took place, but I never sensed the animosity between the Jets and Belichick that I got from Parcells and the Pats.

Don't get me wrong. I think Parcells is a very good coach and probably deserves the Hall of Fame, if for no other reason than I can't think of a coach who was better at coming in and turning bad teams around fast. But that doesn't stop me from being annoyed with him after seeing the Pats fall to Green Bay in '97. Regardless of that, I think Belichick is a better head coach than Parcells, and I think there's ample evidence to support that.

I'm not ready to annoint him as the "best ever", but if he keeps coaching the way he has been so far, then I could see him breaking into that crowd with Landry and Lombardi. As I said, I certainly think he's one of the three (or maybe 4--I'd forgotten about Reid) best in the game right now, and I think you can make pretty good arguments to back that up. What I think is so strong about Belichick is the fact he's an innovator and he understands versatility. Dungy's famous for his Tampa 2, Walsh for the "West Coast", etc. But you knew what they were going to do. Belichick is famous for coming up with whatever works best against any other team (usually), even if its drastically different from the norm, and doing different things week in and week out. You can't say the Pats rely on "five wide" or a "cover 2". One week they'll come out and play a conservative defense, the next week they'll be in a no-down linemen blitz happy scheme. There aren't many coaches, now or ever, that do that as well. There have been a few through history, but only a few.

36
by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Sun, 08/27/2006 - 9:54pm

Re 35: We seem to agree on Parcells--good coach at turning a team around, deficient human being. We also agree that Belichick has done a superlative job coaching the Pats and, as you state, his innovative skills are second to none. But I'd still like to know (1) if we simply discount his mediocre record in Cleveland as we move into "best ever" territory (2) if he didn't really want the Jets job, why'd he take it? (I don't follow the Jets, don't recall the specifics, and think your account sounds accurate, but does he just get a free pass for changing his mind or ripped for breaking a contract? BTW, I think I remember some animosity on NY talk radio, but then again, there's animosity on NY talk radio toward Mother Teresa, cute kittens, and pie a la mode!)

I also wonder why Noll doesn't get more respect as a great all time coach; you cited Landry and Lombardi and there's no argument there, but the Steelers rarely rose to the level of "below average" in the many, many, many years before Noll and after he took over, did pretty well for themselves. He may have stayed around a season or two too many (but cf. Landry), but he did a great job of assembling and leading a great team. (Yes, he had great players--and he was instrumental in the drafting and development of each of them, just as Belichick has been instrumental in the emergence of Brady.).

37
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Sun, 08/27/2006 - 10:04pm

I think that Belichick's assistants--namely Crennel and Weis--were the ones who came up with the "different look every week" approach, which is another reason that I think that staffs don't get as much credit as they deserve.

38
by Fat Tony (not verified) :: Sun, 08/27/2006 - 11:26pm

re:37 "....Belichick's assistants came up with the 'different look every week' approach"

What's your source for that?

39
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Sun, 08/27/2006 - 11:32pm

Sometimes people out-think themselves when putting together a list like this. A simple acid test of "assuming all else is equal, what staff would you choose to coach your team for a game you need to win." I suppose that you could also use a longer time frame in this as well.

In any case, NE is certainly below some teams that they should not be. I can see Washington (although, can they see after the beating they took last night?), Pittsburgh I can see how others might think so (although I emphatically disagree), Denver never seems to lose the "as schools match wits" game against NE so I can't argue there.

However, how any rationale human can place Cincy above NE, I can't fathom. Seattle and SD are not even close. And Indy!?

Feel free to say that NE is trotting out a bevy of practice squad receivers. Go ahead and say that the ILBs are old and lacking in depth. But to put Cincy and Indy's coaching staff over NE's is just lunacy.

40
by MJK (not verified) :: Sun, 08/27/2006 - 11:38pm

I'm not suggesting giving Belichick a free pass for Cleveland, but I'm not holding it against him very much for three reasons:
(1) It was his first time head coaching. I wasn't alive then, but I would guess Lombardi and Landry and Noll weren't the world's greatest coaches their first few seasons. If you're going to give someone a pass on anything, then you give them a pass when they first start out.
(2) Belichick did OK in Cleveland. I wasn't following the Browns then, so I can't comment on specifics, but according to what I just looked up, he took them from 6-10 to 11-5 and a playoff win. I don't know what happened his last season there (5-11), but perhaps Art Modell announcing that he was moving the team caused some distractions? Do any Cleveland fans have thoughts on what happened that year?
(3) Belichick didn't have the same control in Cleveland that he has in New England. From what I've read, he had Modell and the Cleveland front office breathing down his neck. It may be that to be really effective certain coaches need a freer hand than certain owners are willing to give them, which is why Belichick wanted to go to New England rather than to the Jets (and why I am of the opinion that almost no coach will succeed for more than a season, if that, in Oakland until Al Davis eases up a little--but I digress).

I'm not giving him a pass for Cleveland, but I think the circumstances warrant looking far more heavily at his time with the Pats.

As far a Noll, I don't know as much about him as I do about Landry and Lombardi, which is why I didn't talk about him (that "lack of respect" that you mentioned). I try not to spout off too too much about things that I don't know.

41
by protagoras (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 12:17am

I was very surprised to see Washington at the top of this list. Its coaches have the most impressive resumes, but they are not the most effective. In fact, Washington seems to consistently underperform its talent. And they have looked just awful this preseason. I'm sure they won't be *that* bad during the season, but I would definitely not expect this team to play as well as it should on paper.

42
by Shane S. (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 1:04am

Interesting...the team ranked dead last has the most written about them. My theory is: To determine the Packer's coaching staff, they had a drunken monkey throw darts at a dartboard. There's no other possible explanation for the choices. I guess the question now becomes...is a drunken monkey better at assembling a playoff--or better yet--or super bowl caliber team?

43
by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 1:54am

MJK:

Just as information, first 5 years record of various coaches past and current, by win percentage:

Don Shula (Colts) 50-17-3, 0-2 in playoffs

George Allen (Rams) 49-17, 0-2 in playoffs

John Madden 47-16-7, 3-4 in playoffs

Joe Gibbs 51-22, 6-2 in playoffs, 1-1 in Super Bowl

Bill Cowher 53-27, 4-5 in playoffs (made playoffs all 5 years), 0-1 in Super Bowl

Mike Sherman 53-27, 2-4 in playoffs

Mike Holmgren 51-29, 7-3 in playoffs (made playoffs in 4 of 5 years), 1-0 in Super Bowl

Andy Reid 51-29, 6-4 in playoffs (made playoffs in 4 of 5 years)

Mike Martz 51-29, 3-4 in playoffs, 0-1 in Super Bowl

John Gruden 50-30, 5-2 in playoffs, 1-0 in Super Bowl (made playoffs in 3 of 5 years)

Bud Grant 46-21-3, 2-5 in playoffs, 0-1 in Super Bowl (made playoffs in 4 of 5 years, losing twice in 1968 when there was a 3rd place game)

Dan Reeves 45-28, 0-2 in playoffs

Brian Billick 47-33, 5-2 in playoffs, 1-0 in Super Bowl

Marty Schottenheimer 44-27, 2-4 in playoffs (made playoffs in 4 of 5 years)

Mike Shanahan 41-27, 4-1 in playoffs, 1-0 in Super Bowl

Tony Dungy 45-35, 2-3 in playoffs

Bill Parcells 42-36-1, 5-2 in playoffs, 1-0 in Super Bowl (made playoffs in 3 of 5 years)

Dick Vermeil 41-35, 3-3 in playoffs, 0-1 in Super Bowl

Chuck Noll 33-37, 1-2 in playoffs

Bill Walsh 34-39, 4-1 in playoffs, 1-0 in Super Bowl, 2 playoff appearances

Bill Belichick 36-44, 1-1 in playoffs

Jeff Fisher 32-38, no playoff appearances

Marv Levy 31-42, no playoff appearances (33-47 if the last half year in Kansas City is combined with the first half year in Buffalo)

Looking over the list, if we were to run what Football Outsiders calls similarity scores on Belichick's coaching career, Marv Levy would pop out as most similar - struggled at his first job, achieved an above average result and the only winning record year in the 4th year, was fired after the 5th, was out of head coaching for 4 years, then came roaring back to produce tremendous results over a 6 year period in total after one more bad season to start with the new franchise, with 4 really great years at the peak, then a tailing off into retirement a few years later. Belichick is currently in year 3 of the 4 really great years by this matching up of careers. The major difference between Levy and Belichick to date is that Scott Norwood wasn't clutch when needed, while Adam Vinateri was. That isn't bad company for Belichick to be in, as Marv Levy is a HOFer, and Belichick will be too, but Marv Levy is not the greatest coach ever.

Of the great winning coaches in history, the only one with a seriously bad record at the beginning was Tom Landry @ 18-46-4, with the expansion Dallas Cowboys. However, after those seasons, Tom Landry had 21 consecutive seasons at or above 500. No coach has ever taken a team to more Super Bowls (5 - tied with Don Shula) and Championship Games (12) than Coach Landry.

Also, one other note, there is at least one other guy like Parcells noted for turning teams around quickly and achieving results every time - Dick Vermeil. He, Parcells, Holmgren, and Reeves are the only guys who ever took more than one team to the Super Bowl.

44
by T.O. (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 9:48am

The Dallas coaching staff is way overrated. Philly too.

45
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 9:52am

I wonder if Washington might not be apporaching the 'too many chiefs' point (no pun intended)? Sometimes less really is more.

46
by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 12:57pm

Re #45- c'mon, be honest... there was def a pun intended

47
by Carlos (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 1:17pm

Belichik's obviously been a fantastic coach the 2d time around, but how many super bowls has he won without Tom Brady?

You can talk about "greatest coach ever" when he's blown out the competition in the superbowl with the likes of Doug Williams, Mark Rypien and the immortal Timmy Smith.

48
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 1:54pm

So looking over that list I'm wondering why Brian Billick isn't getting more love? He won a super bowl with the tandem of Tony Banks/Trent Dilfer at QB. He's had a top defense on every team he's coached despite having 3 different defensive coordinators and numerous other assistants hired away (Donnie Henderson, Jack Del Rio).

49
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 2:34pm

Turnarounds might be an indicator, but are no sure mark of greatness. Jim "We sucked" Mora turned around the Colts from a 3-13 season to a 13-3 season from 98-99. The biggest turnaround ever.

Why? They had that last place schedule (of course they had that the 3-13 season too), but Manning matured in his second year and James replaced Faulk (who was no slouch, as the judge in Caddyshack might say). I think Mora is generally regarded as a pretty good coach--he did some good things in NO and Indy--but would never enter into the "great" discussions. In fact, might not enter into many "good" discussions. But there's that humongous turnaround, and then a couple playoff seasons after that, except when Edge got hurt.

Where does Ted Marchibroda fall in this discussion? I know he's kind of old news, but IIRC, he put the Balto Colts into the playoffs his first three seasons at the helm there, right? (mid/late 70s) And led Indy's very unlikely mid-90s playoff teams, one of which was a dropped Harbaugh hail-Mary from the SB. Man, five playoff seasons as the Colts HC--that's gotta be a record, at least for now.

50
by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 2:36pm

Why doesn't Billick get more love? Because he is a supposed Certified Offsensive Genius who stumbled into a Super Bowl winning season with one of the greatest defenses ever, and then has done nothing since. Kind of the same reason Mike Martz gets no love despite a pretty good record.

Great coaches show consistency and improvement (such as Madden, Holmgren, Reid, Shanahan, Parcells, etc.), or even more so, just sudden unstoppableness (like Gibbs and Cowher), not a nugget of blind luck and decline.

51
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 2:49pm

Re: 48

I don't think Billick gets much credit generally for the Ravens defensive success (and consequentially their Superbowl win). I think the general perception is that as a coach with a background in offense (as opposed to an offensive background) he has been largely hands-off on the defensive side. It's a perception I share but I've got no 'insider' perspective.

I think perceived credit for their defensive success has been attributed to talent (Ozzie) and quality defensive coordinators (Lewis in addition to those you mentioned).

Some folks have made the case that his offensive skills have probably helped create/improve some defensive schemes employed by the Ravens. Certainly not an unreasonable hypothesis, but almost impossible to evaluate.

52
by Dan (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 3:25pm

#27 you are drinking the Kool-aid. FO made some very good points about the Raiders staff. And why does every Raider fan think Art Shell is the answer to stopping penalties? Do you know which team coached by whom has the most penalties in a season, ever? The Raiders, under Shell. Why would you think that he would be the one to turn it around? the truth is that Shell was a desparation pick, and that the Raiders are the worst team in a very tough division. Have fun going 6-10.

53
by BigManChili (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 3:37pm

So to get this straight, the Falcons are worse than 16th in almost every category? Including worst D-Line in the NFC? I'm an avid Football Outsiders fan, and so I know that most of this is based on stats, but can't you give us a break?

54
by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 3:53pm

a) I'd like to see Tennesee a bit higher, myself. It sounds like Norm Chow is the holdback, there?

b) In defense of Philadelphia, Brad Childress didn't call the offenses.

c) In offense of Minnesota, no one on that staff has ever called a pro offense.

d) No argue with the Carolina ranking, but I think John Fox IS regularly mentioned among the league's best coaches, though probably not among the elite level of Belichick-Parcells-Gibbs-Shanahan.

e) LOVED this ranking series. Saddened to have read the last one.

55
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 4:08pm

Hey Billick-hating Andrew:
First, Billick coached the team in 1999, so he was an active part in the forming of the Super Bowl team. I guess when the Ravens blew up their roster b/c of salary cap reasons in 2002 and later lost Marvin Lewis, Billick stumbled upon the best defensive team in the league in 2003 also. The only reason the Ravens didn't make the playoffs in 2004 is because the AFC was ridiculously stacked, if they played in the NFC DVOA indicates they could have easily obtained a 2 seed.
So basically Billick has had one bad year coaching out of 7, which was last year.

56
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 4:13pm

Re: 52

The only way Oakland is winning six games this year is if you add their preseason wins to their regular season wins.

57
by Sean D. (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 4:15pm

Just had to point out that nowhere in the Chargers coaching staff did it mention James Lofton, who has already been interviewed for head coaching positions (albeit probably, and sadly, as the token black guy). Also, I'm disappointed that there is only one mention of a special teams coach in the whole article.

58
by Ryan (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 4:17pm

#40 - Lombardi (in his first head coaching job) took over a Packers team that won exactly ONE game in the year prior to his arrival. He coached them to a winning record his first year, an NFL championship game appearance his second year, then the first of five world championships (in a seven year span) in his third year.

59
by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 5:24pm

jonnyblazin #55:

First, Billick coached the team in 1999, so he was an active part in the forming of the Super Bowl team. I guess when the Ravens blew up their roster b/c of salary cap reasons in 2002 and later lost Marvin Lewis, Billick stumbled upon the best defensive team in the league in 2003 also. The only reason the Ravens didn’t make the playoffs in 2004 is because the AFC was ridiculously stacked, if they played in the NFC DVOA indicates they could have easily obtained a 2 seed. So basically Billick has had one bad year coaching out of 7, which was last year.

Both 1999, 2002 and 2005 count as bad years in Baltimore record-wise, so that is 3 of 7 years with Billick. His best year was 2000, and he has done nothing to even come close to that since, being unable to put together an offense he is wasting the best defense in football. The D ranking from 1998 to present has been 14, 2, 1, 4, 6, 1, 2, 5. The O has been absolutely atrocious though, ranked: 22, 27, 21, 26, 24, 26, 20, 27, and Billick is supposed to be an O minded coach. He wasted three years on Kyle Boller because he could kneel and mid-field and throw a ball through the uprights, while he passed on Daunte Culpepper, Chris Simms, Drew Brees and Chad Pennington in various drafts before 2003.

Yes, Billick helped form the 2000 team, but many key pieces were in place when he arrived, including Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, Charles Woodson, Mike McCrary, Peter Boulware, Tony Siragusa, Matt Stover, etc., so it isn't like he had no talent to work with when he arrived.

For the most part, looking at what he's accomplished to date, it looks like he inherited some talent, made a couple of good picks in 1999 and 2000, stumbled into getting some key free agents, and went on a late roll with defensive football to win a Super Bowl, and since then has accomplished nothing, going 42-38 in the past five years, and 1-2 in the playoffs.

The excuse that the AFC has been too tough is just bogus. He's had 7 years to find an offense that is just mediocre to go with the #1 D, and he hasn't gotten it done.

60
by Kyle of the Ville (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 5:34pm

You sure about that Charles Woodson guy?

61
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 6:08pm

Its Rod Woodson, obviously.
But I disagree that Billick failed in 1999 and 2002. The Ravens were 4-12 in 1996, 6-9-1 in 1997, and 6-10 in 1998. So an 8-8 record in 1999 (outscoring opponents by 47 points for the season) coming off three bad seasons has to be considered a success.
And in 2002 the roster was absolutely gutted, Billick basically coached the team to a 7-9 record with a bunch of no name rookies. 1999 and 2002 are only failures (one game below .500, by the way) if you are completely blind to the circumstances surrounding the season.
My comments about the AFC being tough only apply to 2004, you can't argue with that. Look at the DVOA, Carolina is second in the NFC with a 2.3% DVOA, and the fourth best team overall in the league (Buffalo) missed the playoffs. Billick coached a good team that year that probably deserved to make the playoffs.
It just seems with Billick people always end up making excuses as to why he succeeds, giving credit to others, and then they point out all the faults of the team and claim that is his responsibility. You can't have it both ways.
If the Baltimore offense fails to be at least average after this year with McNair, I might consider changing my opinion, but the Ravens have allocated the majority of their cap space towards defensive players in the past, so obviously the defense will be better than the offense. Its the overall result that counts, and that has been pretty solid with Billick.

62
by Dan (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 6:36pm

Re: #56, I'm just being generous to the poor guy. He already has to wear make-up just be a "true" fan, and I'm sure is not even from Oakland, but is clinging on to a team that left SoCal a long time ago. It's tough being a Raiders fan, and I would feel sorry for them if they weren't almost all huge douchebags.

63
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 7:07pm

I also don't get the 'inheriting talent' critique. You know, the best coaches in the league suck without talent. Did Andy Reid turn into a bad coach when his talent got injured?

64
by Trip (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 7:55pm

While I think that the Texans ranking is about right given they have an unproven head coach, the article does not mention Assistant Head Coach Mike Sherman at all. He is the most notable assistant on the staff with a good record as a head coach in one of the premeire jobs in the NFL.

65
by OMO (not verified) :: Mon, 08/28/2006 - 9:28pm

I've said this once and I've said it a thousand times.

Manning does not call his own plays. Moore calls a base running play and a base passing play and a 3rd third alternative play that Manning may or may not use in the huddle (just like the other 2 plays).

Then at the line Manning runs the called play and/or adds/subtracts to the play with formation and/or route deviations or scraps the called play to an audible list that I've been told is around 30 sets.

Yes, Manning has more degrees of freedom than any QB in the league, but Tom Moore still calls the base plays.

Now in terms of the ranking...sure...Manning makes Tom Moore a better OC because of his ability...but then I think Manning should be thought of as a on-the-field member of the coaching staff.

66
by noah of the ark (not verified) :: Tue, 08/29/2006 - 12:30am

This is a tough ranking, a sure bet to raise some serious controversy. I mean, it's really hard to pick one staff over another because, more than players at any position, coaches and their staffs are hyped up. Did anyone notice that all first year coaches rank among the worst staffs? Proven track record had a lot to do with this list. And it makes sense.
I mean, you can tell the competition is tough when even Brian Billick can lay claim to being one of the best, don't you think? The bottom line is, if you, as a head coach, can't lay a claim to being one of the best, then you're probably getting fired real soon. It's different with players. Maybe that's the reason coaches get so much hype. And that's why first and second year coaches don't get much respect, regardless of their staffs.
I assume, for example, that it's Saban, and not his very good staff, that brings the Dolphins' grade down, as odd as that sounds.

Am I making sense?

67
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Tue, 08/29/2006 - 12:40pm

So ... the Lions have bad QBs, bad RBs, bad receivers, bad OL, bad DL, bad LBs, bad DBs, bad ST, bad coaches ... yep, that's about right.

On the bright side, Roy Williams may become the first receiver in NFL history to draw quintuple coverage on every obvious passing down.

68
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Tue, 08/29/2006 - 12:44pm

If Belichick is “arguably the best ever,� I’d really like to hear the argument. What points would you make that point to that conclusion?

Playoff record: 11-2. Vince Lombardi: 9-1. Everyone else below them.

Belichik’s obviously been a fantastic coach the 2d time around, but how many super bowls has he won without Tom Brady?

If you're conceding the "Brady vs. Manning" debate in order to win the "Belichick vs. Gibbs debate," I'm willing to make the trade.

69
by Andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 08/29/2006 - 1:14pm

Scott de B #68:

Playoff record: 11-2. Vince Lombardi: 9-1. Everyone else below them.

Don't be ridiculous. Belichick has only been to the playoffs 5 times in 11 years of coaching and won 3 Championships.

Lombardi went 8 times in 10 years and won 6 championships. There is no comparison between the two.

I'm willing to put Belichick on the level of HOFers like Paul Brown, Chuck Noll, Don Shula, Bud Grant, Marv Levy, Bill Walsh, Tom Landry, etc. He's not on the level of Lombardi, and he simply hasn't done what Gibbs has done winning with different QB's. Nor has he done what Parcells, Vermeil, Reeves, and Holmgren have done in winning and reaching the Super Bowl with different teams. Its not to say he can't or won't during his career, but to date he has not yet.

win the “Belichick vs. Gibbs debate,�

Gibbs went 9 times to the playoffs in 14 years and won 3 Championships. Belichick can't even match the level of playoff appearances Gibbs has generated in 14 years of coaching if he makes the playoffs each year for the next 3 seasons.

Lets also mention Bill Walsh - 7 playoff appearances in 10 years, including 3 championships, and the construction of a team which Walsh assistant George Seifert then Steve Mariucci took to the playoffs 8 more times in 9 years winning two more championships.

70
by PackMan (not verified) :: Tue, 08/29/2006 - 1:22pm

I knew we would be last in this one.... :(

71
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 08/29/2006 - 4:53pm

Re: 61

If you are going to add 'credit' to Billick because of the salary cap issues that led to the 2002 Ravens roster, then you have to subtract credit from him in 2000 and 2001 because of the salary cap tricks that allowed them to load up with talent for those two years. Ya can't have it both ways.

72
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Tue, 08/29/2006 - 5:21pm

Gibbs went 9 times to the playoffs in 14 years and won 3 Championships.

Pre-salary cap. Mickey Welch won 44 games in a season once, too -- that doesn't make him better than Roger Clemens.

73
by sippican (not verified) :: Tue, 08/29/2006 - 5:56pm

Marvelous fun discussing this.

Belichick is the best active coach. It's amusing to hear he's never won anything without Brady. Brady was a 6th round pick he discovered and developed, and at the crucial moment backed over first pick in the draft Bledsoe. Brady is proof that Belichick knows exactly what he's doing, not the opposite. Ron Borges of the Globe is still driving by BB's house every night and throwing toilet paper in the shrubs over this.

BTW, the best coach in either league of any kind is Dante Scarnecchia, the Pats line coach since leather helmets. How many years does the guy have to put 5 guys you never heard of in the playoffs before he gets the credit he deserves. He absolutely refuses to be promoted, or he'd be coaching any team in the NFL by now.

Most head coaches in the NFL are capable of putting a competent squad with a competent game plan on the field.

The second tier consists of coordinators promoted beyond their expertise.

Then there's the odd person without a clue.

There are very few coaches who have any real insight into the game to the point where their approach is worth mimicking. Belichick, certainly is one of those coaches.

The Chiefs are going to find out the difference between an inspired coach and an overpromoted coordinator shortly.

74
by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Tue, 08/29/2006 - 6:07pm

Interesting stuff. In the comments, I see a number of dismissals of the differences in the role of the head coach between the eras before and after the salary cap. I think that's a serious mistake if people really want to use numbers accurately in an argument on "best ever." I think it really is two different games because the environment has changed so completely. There are a lot of things the "hat generation" coaches never had to deal with, so I think for now the numbers aren't conclusive, unless you're comparing within an era.

75
by Fan Without a Team (not verified) :: Tue, 08/29/2006 - 7:42pm

It's weird (well, not really) to see all the Belichick love. What isolates a coach's performance from his team's performance (and make no mistake, they are two very different things) is whether the coach can perform at a similarly high level with a different team. This is why so much praise is levelled towards guys like Vermeil, Holmgren, Parcells, etc.--they took multiple teams, with totally different rosters, to successful seasons. Granted, they could just be lucky enough to have had good teams fall into their laps repeatedly, or great GMs/talent evaluators, but the main way to evaluate a coach in my opinion is not to look simply at what his one, best team did, but rather all the teams that he coached. If, after a sizable number of years (which presumably a good coach has), there is a repeated trend of success, then it's fair to say the coach must be at the least a part of that. Which is why some of the criticism towards Belichick has merit, in my opinion. Minus the dynastic Patriots, who it must be pointed out have a lock Hall of Fame QB as well as the best defensive linemen in the game now (the two most 'impact' positions), what is Belichick but a pretty average coach? Re: Sippican, what on earth basis do you have for saying Belichick 'developed' Tom Brady and not that Belichick rode on the coattails of Brady's ridiculously good decision-making, accuracy, etc.? Obviously Brady is an extraordinarily successful player, and no matter how much any fan worships the ground Belichick trods on, recognize that he is -not- responsible for all of the success/development/good things that have happened with and to the Patriots (such as Tom Brady's development, etc.). I am willing to admit freely that I am frequently impressed with Belichick's coaching, but I want to wait on calling him 'the greatest active coach' until 1. we have more seasons to see just how the salary cap affects coaches and 2. he wins without the core of the original Patriots roster. Other coaches have done this, in fact, other coaches have won just as much if not more than him without HoF (or extremely good) QBs and DEs (Gibbs for example, and yes I know he's not salary cap era but like I said, we don't really know how different it is.)

76
by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 08/29/2006 - 8:44pm

#11: I think you mean "magic beans."

77
by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 08/29/2006 - 9:52pm

On a more serious note, I find the idea that the best metric of a coach is championships. I believe the best coaches have a history of consistent playoff and championship success, but judging a coach's entire career on a couple 4-game long crapshoots seems not only unfair but also incredibly naive, as it assumes that talent in the postseason is completely even, overstates the importance of a small number of games, and overstates the coach's control over the determination of said games. This is as opposed to the regular season, where a larger sample size allows comparison of seasons, trends and removes a great deal of randomness.

I believe the most important things to look at for a coach are:
1. Winning percentage (as a baseline)
2. Winning percentage when leading by at least 7 points during the game (to highlight strategic decisions)
4. Winning percentage when facing better teams (to highlight the ability to scheme appropriately for a superior opponent)
5. Consistency (to show ability to utilize talent and motivate players)
6. Reconstruction (taking a bad team and improving it, either suddenly or gradually)
7. Pedigree (quality of eventual head coaches that studied under him; somewhat recursive)

I think this would be a much better way to evaluate talent as a coach than just plugging our ears and yelling "la la la la championships la la la la" whenever the subject arises.

78
by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 08/29/2006 - 10:28pm

"I find the idea that the best metric of a coach is championships"

should be

"I find the idea that the best metric of a coach is championships a bit silly"

79
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Tue, 08/29/2006 - 10:45pm

Re: 71
So then your assessment would be that Jeff Fischer is a terrible coach then? I would disagree with that, and I don't get your point.

80
by Travis (not verified) :: Tue, 08/29/2006 - 11:57pm

I believe the best coaches have a history of consistent playoff and championship success, but judging a coach’s entire career on a couple 4-game long crapshoots seems not only unfair but also incredibly naive, as it assumes that talent in the postseason is completely even, overstates the importance of a small number of games, and overstates the coach’s control over the determination of said games.

I agree with not evaluating coaches based on their teams' performances in only "a couple" of playoffs, but when those performances are repeated over and over, I think they become significant.

(Intentionally sticking with older and retired coaches) A couple of coaches that I think should be downgraded based on their teams' playoff performance are Marty Schottenheimer and Chuck Knox.

Schottenheimer has never taken a team to the Super Bowl and has a 5-12 record in the playoffs. Those losses weren't to dominant/far better teams; to use Pat's favorite stat in defending Tony Dungy, only 1 of the 12 teams that Schottenheimer lost to went on to win the Super Bowl (the 1997 Broncos, who the Chiefs were playing at home had beaten 2 months earlier). The last 3 losses (1995, 1997, 2004) came at home, and 2 of those 3 were after bye weeks.

Knox had a 7-11 playoff record, never made the Super Bowl, and only 1 of the 11 teams that he lost to went on to win it all (the 1983 Raiders, who the Seahawks had beaten twice during the regular season).

81
by Fnor (not verified) :: Wed, 08/30/2006 - 12:38am

Travis: You're still judging a coach by a little over one season's worth of games, all of which are against quality opponents. Even with coaches that have a large number of playoff appearances and losses, it's still a tiny fraction of their total number of games. These games are sometimes harder or easier, but generally are more even matches, making the random or semirandom things affecting a football game even more influential.

In any case, you are still taking a small number of games and making them somehow more important than the others. From a league perspective, of course they are. But as games there is nothing intrinsically different than a regular season game against that same opponent. If there is any variation, it is in the players' attitutes and other emotional effects, which head coaches have only very slight control over in these situations, anyway.

82
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Wed, 08/30/2006 - 1:06am

What isolates a coach’s performance from his team’s performance (and make no mistake, they are two very different things) is whether the coach can perform at a similarly high level with a different team.

Except that we're talking about the Patriots here. Leading the Patriots to the playoffs is like going 16-0 with another team. Winning the Super Bowl with them is a feat on a par with taking the Cubs to the World Series. The only other coaching job that surpasses it in bad karma is head coach of the Cardinals. We're talking about a cursed franchise here, folks. Parcells held the curse at bay briefly, for which he deserves credit, but Belichick slew it.

83
by Travis (not verified) :: Wed, 08/30/2006 - 1:21am

But as games there is nothing intrinsically different than a regular season game against that same opponent. If there is any variation, it is in the players’ attitutes and other emotional effects, which head coaches have only very slight control over in these situations, anyway.

I disagree that head coaches have little influence in the playoffs. Game planning and play calling, the domains of the head coach, are more important during than the playoffs, when the matchups are largely even, than they are during the regular season.

84
by Travis (not verified) :: Wed, 08/30/2006 - 1:47am

Adding to #83:

Also, during the playoffs, unlike the regular season, the coach's sole focus is (or should be) winning the current game. Given this, a good coach should be able to:

1. Tailor the game plan to take advantage of the other team's weaknesses. This is a Belichick specialty, whereas less successful playoff coaches (I'm thinking of Dennis Green and Colts-era Tony Dungy) haven't really done so.

2. Make every effort to win the game, rather than play to reduce risk and hope to get lucky. I can't think of many playoff coaches who have managed the game conservatively and won with regularity (unless they had all-world defenses). Parcells and Belichick frequently will go on 4th and short (the turning point in Super Bowl XXI was a fake punt), whereas Dungy was fully prepared to punt down 18 late in the 3rd quarter on 4th and 2 had Peyton Manning not overruled him.

85
by sippican (not verified) :: Wed, 08/30/2006 - 8:38am

Re: Sippican, what on earth basis do you have for saying Belichick ‘developed’ Tom Brady

I don't know, maybe that fact he took him when no one else wanted him, developed him into something over a period of years, and then replaced the first pick in the draft and the most popular player in franchise history to date with him, when most if not all coaches would have put Bledsoe back in.
Obviously Brady is an extraordinarily successful player, and no matter how much any fan worships the ground Belichick trods on,
I'm a grown man. I assume you are too. I don't worship other grown men. I enjoy their efforts occasionally and analyze the genesis of their success or failure.
recognize that he is -not- responsible for all of the success/development/good things that have happened with and to the Patriots
The dictionary definition and stated job function of Bill Belichick is that he is 100% foursquare unequivocally "responsible" for every personnel decision and coaching move of the Patriots.
I am willing to admit freely that I am frequently impressed with Belichick’s coaching,
Me and Bill have been waiting for you to come out on his behalf before moving on with our lives. Thanks.
but I want to wait on calling him ‘the greatest active coach’ until 1. we have more seasons to see just how the salary cap affects coaches and 2. he wins without the core of the original Patriots roster.
The original core of the Pats is playing, overpaid, on other, crummy teams, or out of the league entirely. Look at the roster from 2001. More or less, that's the least talented team ever to win a Super Bowl. What do you suppose the difference was? Salary Cap? Bill Belichick is exhibit A in how to manage the salary cap. It's the reason I said he's better than the other coaches. He rarely overpays players at the end of their useful life, and passes on the malcontents that get casual fans excited but are cancer to a team.

Bill Belichick won with Parcells and Fredo's leftovers, and then developed his own team through acquisition, and developed a third team now, all his draft selections more or less. They stomped Joe Gibbs effort into the ground the other day.

It's not magic. He just knows exactly what he's doing. I simply acknowledge it.

86
by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 08/30/2006 - 10:57am

Scott de B. #82:

The Browns are a franchise at least as cursed as the Patriots, with zero success at anything since the Johnson administration. Why couldn't Belichick work his magic there?

If we are going to descend into the realm of cursed franchises and karma and the like, lets take this discussion on over to some place more amenable to the idea that such nonsense has an actual influence over wins and losses - say sportsline.com.

As to discussions here, hopefully we can stick to discussing objective measurements and backing them up with good reasoning.

I'd still like a response from Patriot homers to the concept of Marv Levy having the coaching career as a head coach that most closely parallels Belichick to date, and so would merit the highest similarity score.

87
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Wed, 08/30/2006 - 2:06pm

Re: 85

Wow...just...wow. I find it hard to even comprehend someone trying to argue that being forced to play basically a rookie 6th round draft pick nobody had ever even heard about because your QB gets injured makes him some kind of genius. Sixth round draft picks aren't guys who you think may turn out to be HOFers if they're lucky enough to be able to develop under the tutelage of such a brilliant mind.

Belichick being the luckiest coach in history doesn't make him the greatest coach in history. There are many many arguments you can make to support your point of view, but citing the drafting of Tom Brady as some kind of inspired move is absolutely not one of them.

88
by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Wed, 08/30/2006 - 3:25pm

Andrew, I don't think enough work has been done to be able to draw the conclusion you're trying to draw. Especially since Levy's career took place primarily in the non-cap era.

89
by Fan Without a Team (not verified) :: Wed, 08/30/2006 - 3:43pm

Re: 85
I still don't get the whole 'Belichick developed Tom Brady' thing. Ok, so he drafted him. Lots of teams, other than the 'Skins, draft players. Development is what happens after the draft when a player achieves at or beyond his potential through good coaching. You, nor I, nor probably Tom Brady himself, will ever know how much of his being an excellent QB is due to the coaching and how much is due to the fact that he is just a great QB. Again, the only way to tell if a coach is a good 'developer' is he repeats this success on some other 6th rounder (Don't give me Matt Cassel, he hasn't become a successful QB yet). In response to the responsibility thing, there is a vital difference between being 'responsible' and being 'held responsible'. Being held responsible is people's perceptions of whether outcomes (say, winning the SB) were caused by you; being actually responsible for those actions is something (often) totally different. Irrational fans often confuse the two by saying that coaches masterminded some amazing plot, when in fact the coach in question became lucky. Irrational fans have an unfortunate tendency to blame good things which happen to their teams on master plans rather than good bounces of the ball, other teams playing badly, simply good execution, several big plays, etc. All of these things are variables which confuse the already cloudy picture of how 'good' a coach is. This is why I say its necessary to look at not just a coach's greatest success, but his entire record. One team/championship/win/even dynasty, is not sufficient to say that coach is 'the greatest ever'. For exactly the reason you said: the 2001 Patriots were a great example of a team catching good luck (Tom Brady being drafted in the 6th has got to be the greatest stroke of luck in football history) and winning it all. Whether it was just good luck, or also great coaching, remains to be seen: can he continue to propel his team to the playoffs again and again, as more and more of the team leaves or declines in performance? He got in last year, but mostly because of a weak division. I said it before and you curiously didn't respond: minus Patriots, Belichick looks decent, but not great.

90
by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 08/30/2006 - 3:57pm

sippican and wanker79:

Obviously if Belichick and Pioli had any idea about how good Tom Brady really was, they would have drafted him no later than the 3rd round, rather than wasting that pick on Fullback JR Redmond, and risking Brady falling to another team. No Coach or Personnel man lets players valued highly on their draft board slip down the draft if they are available but other teams are passing on them.

Is there any evidence at all that the Patriots valued Brady higher than the 5th or 6th round in 2000?

91
by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 08/30/2006 - 4:15pm

CaffeineMan #88:

Levy vs. Belichick:

Levy
1st job - 4 yrs and 9 games with Chiefs. 1st year bad, 2nd and 3rd years mediocre, 4th year winning record, 5th year bad.

Belichick
1st job - 5 years with Browns. 1st year bad, 2nd and 3rd years mediocre, 4th year winning record and playoff berth, 5th year bad.

Levy and Belichick were both out of coaching for 4 years.

Levy
2nd job - 11 years 7 games with Bills. 1st half year bad to match up with last half year with Chiefs. 1st full year mediocre. 2nd full year - 12 wins Super Bowl caliber, but lost AFC Championship. 3rd year 9 wins, mediocre. 4th and 5th years - 13 wins, Super Bowl appearance. 6th year - 11 wins 4th best record in AFC, Super Bowl appearance.

Belichick
2nd job - 6 years to date with Patriots. 1st full year bad. 2nd full year - 11 wins Super Bowl caliber, wins Super Bowl in upset (Tuck Rule, Snow Bowl, Vinateri kicks, etc.). 3rd year 9 wins, mediocre. 4th and 5th years - 14 wins, Super Bowl wins both years. 6th year - 10 wins, 4th best record in AFC, lose 2nd playoff game - in AFC Divisional.

The parallel and similarity of progression so far in Belichick's career to Levy's is quite good and almost uncanny. The major differences are not major deviations in the story line but a few lucky or unlucky breaks one way or another (such as Scott Norwood's kick).

92
by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Wed, 08/30/2006 - 5:07pm

Andrew:

Account, statistically, for the differences between cap and non-cap eras in a general sense and then the similarity assessment will have some merit. Until then, it's a pretty subjective argument. Which can be fun, no doubt. :)

93
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 08/30/2006 - 6:01pm

re:87 Wanker

Wanker, how many times in the last 5 years have you seen a starting QB go down, only to have the team improve? There are a bunch.In 90+% of those times, when the stud $8+M a year guy comes back, he gets the starting spot.

Belichek had the guts to stand up to the public (and we all wanted Bledsoe) and say 'I'm benching our number 1 pick whos making millions a year in favor of a 6th round draft pick who has no track record'

Marc Bulger is teh starter of the Rams now. About 4 years ago, he Warner came on, the team was I want to say 2-5. Warner gets hurt. Bulger wins 5 straight games. They put Warner back in, and dont make the playoffs. Belichek didnt do that.

If it was just the brady case, I'd say yeah, it was just luck. But in the last 5 years, they've repeatedly found HUGE value in low round picks. They drafted a 7th roudn reciever, and 4 years later someone else signed him to a 6 million dollar a year deal.
They took a safety who everyone said was washed up, and turned him into a superbowl.

They took a runningback everyone said was done, and was a malcontent, and got 1600+ yards out of him the next year.

If it was just one case, I'd say yeah, luck. BUt bellichek has proven to me that he knows EXACTLY what hes doing, and him and his staff are phenomenal judges of undervalued talent.

94
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 08/30/2006 - 6:03pm

re:90

Why? Why would they have drafted him in the 3rd round? They knew no one else was going to draft him at that point.

95
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 08/30/2006 - 6:13pm

I agree you have to take some account of the time belicheck spent in clevland.

The problem there, is he had very little control as far as personell, etc goes. Now he has all the control. He did poorly for the same reason that everyone does poorly, and will continue to do poorly, in Oakland: An overactive owner who has no idea what hes doing trying to create the team.

Whereas, in New England, hes got the situation every coach wants: The owner basically makes no decisions. He lets Bill do whatever he wants.

yes, the 2001 pats were a team who caught some good luck. The 2003 and 2004 pats were the best teams in the league, and by a large margin, and were both built from the ground up by Bill.

As to him being an "average" coach, I view coaches as having 2 roles: 1) The General Manager role, where he makes player decisions, etc. Hes been very good at that. and 2) The on the field coach, the one that calls plays, and sets up game plans,etc. Hes the best at that.

Look around the league. There are plenty of coaches who are good at 1), but awful at 2). (Shottenheimer, Dungy, Mike Martz,etc) IE the guys who can put together a team that just out talents everyone else on the field, but as soon as they hit similar talent, they fall apart, because the game planning just isnt there.

Theres very few who do both 1 and 2 well.

96
by Mike D (not verified) :: Wed, 08/30/2006 - 7:00pm

94 - "They knew no one else was going to draft him at that point."

So we can add omniscient to the list of adjectives that describe Bellichick?

97
by RIch Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 08/30/2006 - 9:25pm

mike,

no, we can add an ability to pick talent out of areas that other people werent looking at.

Brady was evaluated as being a 6th to 7th to undrafted pick. Generally guys who are rated 6th to 7th round dont go in the 3rd. THats pretty friggen obvious.

Thats like saying the pats should have picked Randall Gay in the 3rd round. No, that would have been a waste of a pick. No one was going to draft him that high. You use your draft picks as low as you think you can get the player. You play the market. You dont spend a first on a guy when hes still going to be available in the 5th.

98
by thad (not verified) :: Wed, 08/30/2006 - 9:36pm

re 96
I can't believe we haven't allready.

99
by Mike D (not verified) :: Wed, 08/30/2006 - 11:17pm

97 - I basically agree with the theory you don't draft a 6th-rounder in Round 3.

But it's disingenous to suggest Belichick didn't get somewhat lucky with Brady. Just as Shanahan got lucky with TD. Both coaches saw something they liked, that fit their system, and could eventually contribute to their team.

But if they were really that omniscient, why not take Brady or TD in the 5th round (or with whatever their last pick before the 6th round was)? If Brady had a round 6 projection, why risk it? Are you really suggesting that not only was Belichick aware that Brady was gonna be the player he is, but that he also knew no other team was gonna take a flyer on him?

Shanahan himself has said there was luck involved with getting TD because if he had known exactly what he was getting, he would have taken him earlier.

And I stress Shanahan's track record is sufficiently similar's to Belichick's in terms of player evaluation.

This isn't to dispute Belichick (and Pioli) are good player evaluators. This is merely to suggest that Belichick hit it big with Brady.

To offer a lame analogy, Belichick played whatever your Vegas game of choice. He played it perfectly, to maximize his odds of a maximum payout. But there was (is) still luck involved.

100
by oppenheimer's pen (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 2:05am

would there be a way of seeing an assistant/head coach's effect in overall team DVOA by comparing the change after adding or dropping them to a team, or would it be impossible to establish discernable correlation/causation for any fluctuation ? If possible, would it be easier to gauge defensive co's. due to the D's tendency to regress/progress to the mean?

101
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 5:56am

Re #92: Andrew:

Account, statistically, for the differences between cap and non-cap eras in a general sense and then the similarity assessment will have some merit. Until then, it’s a pretty subjective argument. Which can be fun, no doubt. :)

If anything, the salary cap hasn't made Belichick's job tougher... it's made it EASIER. While it's harder for him to assemble extreme talent, it becomes harder for everyone else to do it, too. The bad teams you face are tougher under the salary cap, but the good teams you face are easier under the salary cap, and the competition in the SB is a relative pushover compared to those overstacked dynasties of the 80's and early 90's that were so deep they had HoF QBs backing up other HoF QBs.

Everyone talks about how the salary cap has made Bellichick's feat so incredible. I disagree. Most salary cap teams stick together for 3-5 year runs- which is exactly what Belichick has produced. If he can pull a Cowher or a Shanahan and keep this team successful for another 5 years after extreme roster turnover, then we'll talk. At the moment, he had a huge run with one core nucleus, and hasn't done diddly without it- compared to Mike Shanahan, who has turned over probably 95% of his roster from the SB champion teams and still made the AFCCG last year.

102
by Andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 7:03am

Rich Conley #97:

Brady was evaluated as being a 6th to 7th to undrafted pick. Generally guys who are rated 6th to 7th round dont go in the 3rd. ... You use your draft picks as low as you think you can get the player. You play the market. You dont spend a first on a guy when hes still going to be available in the 5th.

You are reading way too much omniscence into the draft system here. "Everyone" doesn't always rate out players the same way. If a player is rated 6th round to undrafted by consensus, and you absolutely positively want to assure yourself of getting him because you know he is a definite hit, you must pick him before the 6th round, otherwise you risk losing him. Lets not forget that New England didn't pick him until their 2nd 6th round pick, after 24 selections had already been made that round, and that other teams were looking around for scrub late round QB's in the 6th and 7th rounds, so the Pats definitely risked losing him to these other teams.

Clearly, they picked Brady late because they didn't feel he was worth picking earlier. The same reason they misjuged the value of JR Redmond vs. Patrick Pass for being a fullback. If they were so knowledgeable of the value of Patrick Pass and his availability in Round 7, they wouldn't have even bothered drafting Redmond in the 3rd, and would have used that pick on other needs (say, a wideout like Darrell Jackson or Laverneus Coles).

It is not at all uncommon for teams to pick players who supposedly are "consensus" late round picks in the 2nd or 3rd round, because they discover or think another team is also interested in that player.

Of course, if the Patriots were absolutely certain Brady was a hit, why wasn't he made the starter at the beginning of 2001, instead of having to wait for Bledsoe to get a fortuitous injury? That he was not was clearly because they considered Bledsoe the better QB, and Brady merely a back-up who might figure into things in the future. Did it help their season plan to lose the first two games in 2001 with Bledsoe at the helm?

Come on, the assertions you are making are just silly.

Brady was on the Patriots radar as a back-up QB, and they planned on trying to get a back-up QB in the 6th or 7th round going into the draft. If someone else had graded him 5th round material, say Pittsburgh, who instead selected the immortal QB Tee Martin in round 5 in 2000, the Patriots would have had to go to plan B for a back-up QB, and undoubtedly they had somebody in mind.

Philadelphia has seen how this works this year. The Eagles had both Jason Avant and Hank Baskett graded as wideouts worth a 4th round pick. They planned on taking Baskett in the 4th round if Avant was already gone (or possibly higher if Avant went before the 4th round). As it was, Avant was available, so they took him in the 4th round, and let Baskett slide. So did everybody else, none of whom had Baskett graded high enough to beat out their other wideout selections, and Baskett ended up an undrafted free agent. Now fast-forward to present. Baskett is ahead of Avant on the depth chart and will be the 3rd wideout for Philadelphia this year. If they knew that Baskett would turn out to look better than Avant, who they had graded out higher, why wouldn't they have chosen Baskett in the 4th round, or even earlier? Because if they had known then what they know now, Baskett would have graded out higher than Avant on their draft board.

Now think about this with Brady. If the Patriots had known for certain that Brady would become a superstar, they would have and should have drafted him early because he would have graded out as worth a high pick, and they would have feared they weren't the only ones seeing him as worth higher value. OTOH, if they had thought, well, he looks like a nice back-up who's worth the 1 in 50 chance he might turn into something, lets make him our first QB option for our second pick in the 6th round if he is available, its clear that they valued him so little that they were willing to let around 195 choices by other teams occur, any of which might have been "With the [any pick before 201] in the draft, Team X selects Tom Brady" before they secured they man you theorize they knew would be a superstar.

If you really believe they knew he was going to be a big superstar and so they waited until their 2nd 6th round pick to select him because they were willing to trust no one else could see what they saw, you just don't understand the draft at all. You don't wait for certain talent you feel is misjudged to fall to you at the level it is being misjudged at.

103
by Andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 7:31am

CaffeineMan #92:

Account, statistically, for the differences between cap and non-cap eras in a general sense and then the similarity assessment will have some merit. Until then, it’s a pretty subjective argument.

Actually, since you are making the assertion there is a significant difference that drastically effects the ability to win between pre-1994 and post-1994, why don't you explain what it is to say why it is invalid to compare coaching achievement before and after.

Because everything we have seen post-1994 says that wise salary cap management allows for the same sustained winning and the retention of the core of the team that we saw pre-salary cap. Otherwise, the sustained success of Bill Cowher's Steelers, Mike Shanahan's Broncos, the Patriots (9 playoff appearances in 12 years under Bob Kraft's ownership), the Eagles (7 playoff appearances in 12 years under Jeff Lurie's ownership), etc. wouldn't be possible.

104
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 10:37am

102, 101,

You're reading too far into what I said. I was not saying that the Pats knew brady was going to be a superstar. What I'm saying is that Belichek/Pioli's record at this point is too strong to say it was entirely luck. They saw something in him, and believed he was going to be good.

Andrew, you're missing the point with 103. It IS harder to maintain a great team under salary cap conditions. The reason those teams have stayed around is that they great owners, great coaches, and great talent evaluation. The've all stayed around despite losing tons of talent. They find new talent.

Thats the problem, the salary cap can't help a team with an awful GM, and awful coach win (cough, detroit, cough). Those teams have all spent as much as they can, where theyre allowed to: The coaching staff.

Look at baseball, there are teams with low payrolls that are consistenly good. There are teams with low payrolls that are consistenly bad.

Salary Cap evens the playing field. It doesnt make it a crapshoot.

105
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 10:44am

re:101

Kibbles, salary cap.

Kibbles, up until the Kraft administration, the Patriots were a have-not team. They spent NO money. They were spending a fraction on players that teams like Green Bay, etc were spending.

Belichek will never have the talent advantage that some of the teams in the 70s had. Those teams had so much better players than their opponetns that on field calls really didnt matter all that much.

I think thats what makes Bill such a great coach. That he continues to beat other great teams. Unlike some of the older coaches, who were basically the equivalent of USC playing arkansas. Theres such a talent disparity that the game is a joke.

106
by Andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 12:49pm

Rich Conley #104:

Did about 15 spots on roster not turn over annually prior to 1994? Did football players somehow have a longer playing career than the typical 4 year average now?

I think there is an exaggerated notion of roster stability pre-1994 because of a lack of free agency and no salary cap cuts. OTOH, it was harder to come back from injuries 20 years ago than it is with more modern medicine. The draft was what, 13 rounds back then, so you had more players coming in every year. And there were still players cut and traded.

The major pieces of continuity between the 1981 49ers Super Bowl team and the 1989 Super Bowl team just 8 years later was QB Joe Montana, DB's Ronnie Lott and Eric Wright, and LB Keena Turner, and they were only still around because their careers started in the 1979-1981 period when the run began. Certainly a few bottom dwellers on the roster such as WR Mike Wilson were also still around, but mostly there was a complete roster turnover in just 8 years.

That really isn't more continuity than between the supposedly salary cap and free agency hampered 1996 Patriots and 2003-4 Patriots - the team core of LBs McGinnest, Johnson, and Bruschi, K Adam Vinatieri, WR Troy Brown, CB Ty Law were all on both teams. If SS Lawyer Milloy hadn't been so greedy, he would have been on both teams too.

The teams that Walsh took to the Super Bowl in 1981 and 1984 were not the teams Walsh and Seifert took to the Super Bowl in 1988, 1989, and 1994.

Even the 1990 New York Giants had a pretty different roster than the 1986 Giants.

107
by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 1:09pm

Rich, Andrew,

Wanted to set the record straight about drafting Brady.

(1) The Pats did not know how good Brady was, or could be, at the time. They admit this. Scott Pioli says he keeps a photo of Dave Stachelski on his desk and looks at it any time he starts feeling cocky. Who is Dave Stalcheski? A TE out of Boise State who was the Pats 5th round pick, taken about 40 picks ahead of Brady. Stachelski was cut after training camp and went on to play for Cleveland the following year, netting 1 catch for five yards--his entire career total.

(2) Brady was not a sure thing. He was a young, fairly unpolished QB who had a lot of upside. Not physical upside as is normally thought of--a cannon arm, or quick feet--but upside in his work ethic and decision making skills, which, as it turns out, are what makes Brady great.

(3) You do have to give Belichick and Pioli credit for looking at that upside when so many other teams would ignore it and go for physical stats. Actually, Brady was dead even on the Patriots draft board with Tim Rattay, and I think they were leaning towards Rattay for a while on the basis of more traditional physical ability scouting reports. But someone convinced Belichick that Brady's work ethic and football IQ were worth taking over Rattay (I've heard rumors that the Niners actually perferred Brady between the two, but picked after the Pats. You have to wonder how things would have turned out).

(4) Belichick did recognize something special in Brady after training camp and did "develop" him when a lot of teams would not have. In 2000, Brady was the #4 QB on the roster, behind three players that were, at that time, better. Most teams don't carry 4 QB's, and would have cut Brady at that point. But something about him convinced Belichick to waste a roster spot to hold on to him and continue to develop him with the team. That I totally give Belichick credit for. Brady wasn't picked in the 6th round and immediately showed everyone how wrong they were. It took about a year and a half before he could challenge for starting, and Belichick gave him that time at a potential cost to the team's winning chances in 2000 and to his own career (remember, he had washed out in Cleveland and had he not had pretty quick success with the Pats he might have been in trouble). It helped that the 2000 Pats were a talentless mess left by Pete Carrol and Bobby Grier, but it still took good reconitions of talent and tough coaching decisions to let Brady stick around and develop into a starting QB.

(5) As has been mentioned, it did take guts start Brady over Bledsoe in 2001. But it wasn't quite like has been portrayed. Belichick had decided by the beginning of 2001, when Brady won the backup job, that he was probably the QB of the future, and was planning on, or at least leaning towards, letting Bledsoe walk when his contract was up. Belichick wasn't a big Bledsoe fan. He had done something similar with Bernie Kosar in Cleveland, which was unpopular but turned out to be the right thing to do. Bledsoe's injury hastened the decision, and Brady wasn't really ready yet, but it gave Belichick the excuse to start the QB he liked over the one he had inherited that he didn't like so much. The "controversey" manufactured by the media that existed in the eyes of the fans was never there, once Brady showed that he could handle being a starter. At that point, Bledsoe had no chance of winning back the starting job. Good coaching is putting your guy out there to give your team the best chance to win (and, of course, being right about it), not letting the fans and the owner dictate what you do.

So in summary, Belichick is not a fantastic coach because he drafted this amazing QB in the 6th round, maximizing his return on his draft investment. It was luck. But he is not a bad coach because he was lucky. The late round picks are all about luck. You pick players who aren't ready to start but who have a lot of upside, and some of them work out and others don't. If you're good, more of them work out for you than for most people, which I would say is the case with Belichick and Pioli. But Belichick did "develop" Brady in the sense that he recognized his talent potential, kept him on the team, and gave him the opportunity to develop, win the backup job, and win the starting job, even at a potential cost to the team's immeidate winning ability and his own career. Hence I do consider Brady's development to be a mark of Belichick's good coaching.

(All the facts and assertations in this come from ESPN interviews with Brady and from The Education of a Coach and Patriot Reign, so I didn't just make them up).

108
by Oswlek (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 1:09pm

101 Kibbles,

You just fell into one of the biggest traps out there today; the "NE has had the same guys out there for their run" fallacy.

The following players were key contributors to the 2001 and 2004 teams:

Brady
Brown
Patten (maybe)
Light
Faulk

Seymour
The LBs I will grant you

That's it. So, the team had 6 starters carry over from 2001 to 2004. NE has been quietly turning over the roster and adding quality players, which is why they are likely to not see the big drop-off that previous dynasty-ish franchises saw.

109
by Fnor (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 1:24pm

Andrew is absolutely right. Players' careers were generally shorter, injuries were more devastating, and non-top flight players were still traded (just as they are today). The "core" of the teams, the people everyone remembers, would still be held on to (as we see today, with important receivers, tailbacks and quarterbacks generally being locked up by their franchise).

#83: The point is that there is still the fundamental problem looking at that few games. You could scheme beautifully, but a couple CBs slipping on a wet patch could ruin your entire game, both by giving your opponent a larger advantage than his plan would've given him, but also seriously impairing your ability to strategize. There are just too few games against generally even opponents to say with any sort of authority that the coach is a very strong factor.

110
by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 1:30pm

We see coaches only in games. But remember, even when a coach does not take part in GM activities, he organizes, directs, and coordinates all training activities, assigns the players which film to watch , etc. Coaching is a six-and-a-half to eight day a week job, even though we only see three hours of it.

Fnor, to use your example, a CB with a good coach is less likely to slip on a wet patch of grass because they have been well trained to cover in a way that minimizes that, and if they do slip, the other players will be more likely to be able to cover for one freak accident.

In other words, a mark of a good coach is the ability to reduce the chance that bad luck will adversely affect your game, and increase the chance that good luck will help you.

111
by sippican (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 1:35pm

I'm convinced now. All this brilliant analysis got me.

Belichick just has the big key ring at the stadium to the locked closet where the footballs and stationery is, and picks up hitchhikers and 6th round picks by the side of the road, rolls the ball on the field and has a rabbit's foot.

It's an easy game, really.

112
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 1:36pm

Fnor, yes, objects of luck can be huge outliers in playoff records. Like you said, one slip can invalidate an entire game plan.

But look at it another way, most of the "great ones" have pretty close season records, so while a slip in the regular season affects the total number less, theres less variance between them, so I think luck has just as much an effect.

I think we need to split coaches up by two things: Team building, and Game design.

Playoff records are more indicative of good game design, whereas regular season games are more indicative of team building.

With the belichek example, the 2001 superbowl is an example of a good amount of luck, and very good game design.

The 2003/2004 superbowls on the other hand are examples of him building a very talented franchise. The game planning because arguably less important those years because the team was no longer greatly overmatched in the skill department.

113
by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 1:43pm

Andrew and others, about differences pre and post salary cap:

My point is that it IS in fact a subjective discussion and I'm not convinced Andrew has true similarity data on Levy and Belichick. When I say "account, statistically, for the difference", that accounting may be to demonstrate that there is no difference between the pre and post-cap era, which means the numbers don't need "translation" across eras. But to simply state that there is no difference across eras is interesting, but not convincing in the same way that DVOA can be convincing. I happen to think there are significant differences in the roles of head coaches, the makeup of teams in the pre and post-cap eras and that comparison of wins across those eras is problematic. But there's nothing out there (yet) in terms of data that lends weight to either side, so it's down to statements of differing opinions.

114
by Andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 3:05pm

CaffeineMan

I happen to think there are significant differences in the roles of head coaches, the makeup of teams in the pre and post-cap eras and that comparison of wins across those eras is problematic.

Would you care to spell some of this out? For example, in the make-up of teams, was there not a 53 man roster in the 1960's, 1970's and 1980's? Did teams then tend to keep different quantities of types of players from your typical totals of today? I.e., did teams keep more or less than 8-10 O-lineman? More or less than 5-6 wideouts and 5-6 fullbacks and running backs? More or less than 8-10 defensive backs? Etc., Etc.

And I don't buy into the notion at all that it was impossible for the bottom-feeders of the league to compete in the pre-1994 circumstances. In the 20 years prior to 1994, even such perennial bottom-feeders of the era were able to win and make the playoffs when they had decent to good coaches. Such as the St. Louis Cardinals (Don Coryell), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (John McKay), Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts (Ted Marchibroda), New Orleans Saints (Jim Mora Sr.), and even the New England Patriots (Chuck Fairbanks and Raymond Berry), who despite all the bellyaching here from Patriots fans made the playoffs 5 times in 11 years from 1976 to 1986, and just barely missed them in 1980 when going 10-6.

So I believe it is really exaggerated to say there were tremendous differences pre and post 1994. There were much larger differences pre and post 1978, with the changes in passing rules and the expansion of the playoffs, and the change to a 16 game schedule, than there were pre and post 1994. And this is borne out by the statistics of the game between those eras.

Again, make your case by saying what the real changes were in 1994, and just how they affected the things you cite.

115
by Fnor (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 3:16pm

#112: Those can be indicators, yes, but I believe there are better ones I listed above.

Rather than looking for team-building through playoff record, consistancy (consistant at a high level) would do this much better; you have more games, more insight into team depth (more games with more backups), and the ability to look at year to year trends (less attention to the first few years as opposed to the middle, where personnel decisions can be pinned on that coach + front office).

Strategy can be more easily glaned from record against superior (though not too superior, as schemes are not miracles) and similarly-skilled opponents, where the coach's game planning is most important. This would encompass playoff games on that level, but there are enough regular season games to remove the problem of randomness and still have enough to make a decision on without the inclusion of the postseason.

116
by Andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 3:18pm

MJK #107:

Thank you for amplifying my points.

Late round picks (and undrafted free agents) are a crap shoot, and the occasional blossoming of one into a mega star does rebound to the credit of the coaches and personnel people. But it is also a lot of luck. If luck were not involved, people like Tom Brady, Terrell Davis, Trent Green, Rod Smith, etc. wouldn't have been in those situations.

For that matter, if you really look over a team's roster in a long term manner, even 3rd and 4th round picks who turn into hits appear to be mostly a matter of luck. If you get one guy from each of those rounds who is a solid hit every 4 years, you are probably ahead of the game. Surely the 49ers, for example, (and every other team), did not think Terrell Owens and Joe Montana were absolutely certainties when the 49ers took them in the 3rd round of their drafts. If they had known what they would turn into in the right circumstances, they would all have taken them with their 1st round pick if possible.

Joe Montana could have just as easily turned into a Bobby Hoying type of 3rd round QB had his circumstances been different.

New England is lucky it took Tom Brady and not Tim Rattay, or that San Francisco did not make a small trade to move up and take Brady.

Similarly, the failure of the immortal Arther Love to develop into the Tight End New England was looking for after he was drafted in the 6th round of 2001 does not mean Belichick is a bad coach or evaluator of talent. It mostly means that most 6th round guys just aren't good enough, and that's why they are picked in the 6th round.

As an aside, looking over 6th round picks from 2001, is any one of these guys still in the NFL? I don't recognize a single name there.

117
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 3:53pm

As to discussions here, hopefully we can stick to discussing objective measurements and backing them up with good reasoning

It was claimed that there was no way that Belichick was 'arguably the best of all time,' so I am arguing it. The kind of arguments didn't have to be specified.

And Belichick had the Browns on the right track, until he was fired.

118
by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 4:49pm

Rodney Bailey is still around. He was a 6th in 2001. There are a couple more that look familiar, but none of them play for any team that I follow closely, and I'm too lazy to look them up at the moment.

I'm actually working on a personal project to objectively look at some interesting draft statistics, like how common it is for a pick in each round to succeed, and which recent GM's/coaches have statistically had the most success early in the draft and late. If I ever get anywhere with it, maybe I'll see if FO would be interested in linking to it or something. The big problem is defining "success" with some sort of qunatifiable means, because I'm not intimately familiar enough with all 32 teams to make subjective calls.

119
by Fnor (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 5:11pm

We have DVOA and DPAR back to, what? 1998? I'd imagine people performing over replacement level are "successes." Seems pretty easy to me, provided Aaron is okay with collaborating.

120
by Andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 5:16pm

MJK 118:

Sounds like an interesting project.

I'd define success by:

1) Is the guy a starter (rounds 1, 2, 3)?
2) Is the guy still in the NFL after 4 years (rounds 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
3) Did his original team get anything out of him or did he have to move on to succeed? (all rounds)
4) How many undrafted free agents were developed each year both for the team originally signing them after the draft, and for other teams claiming them off waivers after their original preseason?
5) Is the team a net supplier or net taker of free-agents to the rest of the league (i.e., does the team consistently find and develop surplus talent?)

I've got a little bit of this sort of data for the Eagles if it interests you. Let me know.

121
by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 6:02pm

A lot of positions there isn't DPAR data for particular players, just units as a whole. As far as using stats and starts, well, some positions are easy. OL or QB, for example--does the player start or not? Does he stick around with the team, or not? Etc. It's easy to judge a career that way. But it gets harder with other positions. Take fullback for example. Not every team uses a fullback as part of their base offense, so "starts" are a deceptive metric. You can look at rushing totals, but how do you judge teams where the Fullback always blocks? If his stats don't list any starts, and only occasional rushes, was he a vital part of the offense as a blocker or a backup RB who never saw the field because the starter stayed healthy? Same issues for #2 TE's or #3 WRs--some teams use a base 2TE, and some a base 3WR, while others don't, so "starts" is deceptive. How about a running back back in a team that uses RB by committee approach? What about a team like the eagles, where the RB doesn't get so many rushing attempts, but ends up being a team leader in receptions? Some teams don't have a clear set starting 11 defenders, but rotate through 5 or 6 DB's or DL's who all get more or less equal playing time. Was drafting one of these players worth as much as drafting an every down defender? Probably not, but they're worth more than drafting a backup, which is what they look like from their stats.

I won't go into detail of how I'm trying to go about it here, but it's an interesting problem. I'm trying to come up with a quantitative metric that can rate a the value of a player to a team over the course of his rookie contract relative to average performance at his position.

122
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 6:26pm

"3) Did his original team get anything out of him or did he have to move on to succeed? (all rounds)"

If you want to talk about developing players, yes, you should use that.

BUT, if you want to talk about how well each guy drafts, that shouldnt come into play. Sometimes teams draft GREAT players, but dont have the staff to develope them. That doesnt mean the pick wasnt a good pick.

123
by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 9:03pm

Andrew, I'm not making a case. I've got an opinion and I've stated it, but I've got no hard data to back it up, so that's as far as I'm willing to go. You asked for responses from Pats fans to your statement that Belichick and Levy were similar and I said I wasn't convinced. I think there's a lot more work to be done to demonstrate what differences, if any, there are between the pre and post-cap eras before any of the numbers you've used can be used in the same manner as similarity scores.

124
by Jake (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 5:31am

Bellichick is absolutely the best HC. Will the Coordinators weigh him down? I don't think so.

125
by stevea48 (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 10:32pm

Re: Coaches rankings.

Joe Gibbs is the only other active coach (approaching 70 yrs old) who has won 3 Super Bowls. Anyone going to bet on the Redskins to win it all this year? Belichick has not only won 3 on his watch, but has participated in how many? 5 or so? How well has Parcells done without Belichick? Try 15 years from his last SB win.

The point about the Patriots is that it is not only the coach, but the organization which wins in the NFL. NE has, without question, the best overall organization (read Schefter's recent SI article)in football, if not in sports. The Kraft family, father and son, have built, yes, a dynasty in an era (are you listening SF, Dallas, Pittsburgh, et al), of salary cap and free agency which Lombardi, Gibbs, Noll, and Landry never had to deal with. Dallas stopped winning when they had to stop overspending on players, as did San Fran and others. NE doesn't overspend on a few big names, but buys value across the board (ask the immortal Tom Moore to display his rings). Ask any NFL team which is the most envied and emulated organization, and it is the Pats.

At any rate, Belichick is a very, very good coach in a very, very good organization. This is why the Pats contend and win. Parity is the goal of the NFL, and NE consistently defeats parity

126
by Moses (not verified) :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 1:05am

How is it on one site we have an article explaining why teams run and pass in the proportions they do, then this silly column attacking coaches for doing what they have to do with bad personnel leading them to pass in desperation?

127
by IfXThenWhyNot (not verified) :: Tue, 09/05/2006 - 8:04pm

I definitely agree with Scott de B in 117. Right after Bill Belicheck left, Cleveland had the best three years of football in the city's history.

Now that it is obvious that I'm a Steelers fan, I want to make a point about the importance of stable coordinators. Look at the record Bill Cowher has earned since he has been in the league. The reward of that success is other teams picking apart your coaching staff. The Steelers had a new offensive or defensive coordinator every year between 1995 and 2001, most leaving for head coaching positions. But the Steelers didn't pull it together for a Superbowl run until they kept both coordinators around for a few years. I think that's the way it is gonna stay for a while, as LeBeau had his head coaching fling and Whisenhunt is eyeing Cowher's job.

Belicheck hasn't done anything without Crennel and Weis yet, except sneak into the playoffs atop the worst division in the AFC and lose immediately. I won't entertain a thought of Belicheck as near the best coach status until he strings together some wins with different coaching staffs.

128
by Eric P (not verified) :: Wed, 09/06/2006 - 11:33am

re 127...

The Pats did win a playoff game last year. I don't think that qualifies as "lost immediately". He also won a playoff game in Cleveland, beating Parcell's Patriots. That's 3 completely different staffs with at least one playoff win. Seems like he "strung together some wins" to make the playoffs and win at least one game once there.

I too think it's premature to hang the "best ever" label on BB, at least as a HC (as a DC I think it would be hard to argue against him.), but let's not start down the "without Weiss and Crennel, he's nothing" road. OK?

129
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Sat, 09/09/2006 - 3:59am

Re #128: I too think it’s premature to hang the “best ever” label on BB, at least as a HC (as a DC I think it would be hard to argue against him.)
I don't think he's even the best defensive coordinator of the past decade. That would go to either Monte Kiffin or Buddy Ryan.

Bellichick was a phenominal DC, but it takes an extremely rare individual to be "inarguably the best" at anything in the NFL. We're talking Jerry Rice here (and even he'll get the occasional protest from Don Hutson supporters).

130
by fromanchu (not verified) :: Sun, 09/10/2006 - 11:52am

that last comment reminds me of something we use to talk about in college. my position was that jerry rice was better atwhat he does than anyone had ever been at anything. ie, rice was better at receiving than jordan was at basketball or gretzky was at hockey. was jerry rice a better wide receiver than gladstone was a prime minister or einsteine a physicist?

131
by steelberger1 (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 2:50pm

RE 108:

6 players? C'mon now, dont you think you are fudging the numbers just a bit? I count at least 13 "key contributors" that were on both teams and I dont think that covers all of them.

132
by jetsgrumbler (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 6:08pm

i am certainly happy that you don't rank the JETS at the bottom of the league, but your confidence in Tony Wise might be misguided. Yes, he had some success in Dallas, but his results in Miami were poor, at best.

follow the link in my name to an article in the sun-sentinel about Wise's job performance in Miami. it makes me nervous.