National Football Authority

Many NFL head coaches did a tremendous job this past season, but we managed to whittle the best of the best down to six stand out coaches who should be AP Coach of the Year candidates.

6. Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills

Did anybody see the Buffalo Bills coming this year? And if so, was their arrival supposed to hit in the form of 10 wins?

Didn’t think so.

Sure, they didn’t make the playoffs. That happens when you win 10 games yet still play in the same division as the New England Patriots. But the Bills still pieced together a damn impressive season.

Quarterback Josh Allen made some real strides as the year went on, and more notably, the defense was almost impossible to outdo. Pro-Football-Reference uses Defensive SRS to measure the quality of a team’s stopping power against their quality of competition and actual performance. The Bills ranked second overall in defensive SRS, behind only the Patriots. Sean McDermott deserves some love.

5. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots

Yes, the Patriots had a very crummy end to the 2019 season. Jokes are flying. A dynasty has fallen. We get it.

Still!

Few head coaches could have guided this version of the Patriots to 12 wins. Tom Brady isn’t what he was; people in New England aren’t even sure the team wants him back. The Patriots won thanks to their top-ranked defense, and an offensive scheme that was just creative enough to get by.

Let’s not forget that New England started the year 8-0. There were people who believed they might go undefeated. That matters.

4. Mike Vrabel, Tennessee Titans

Mike Vrabel’s candidacy is a given.

He coached the Tennessee Titans to the playoffs despite having to navigate a hellish quarterback dilemma. Ryan Tannehill was under center for them by season’s end. Seriously.

That’s enough to make Vrabel’s case in its entirety, but his appeal received a boon once the postseason got underway. Because, as you know, the Titans dispatched the Patriots in the Wild Card round, shocking pretty much everyone, but most of all Bill Belichick.

3 (Tied). Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints and Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers

Talk about your close calls.

Kyle Shanahan’s case rests on the back of the San Francisco 49ers’ balance. They had one of the league’s top defense to go along with the absolutely most potent offense. Some had high expectations for them, but they turned in 13 victories, exceeding even the most optimistic projections.

The same goes for Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints—only more so. People understood the 49ers were for real after a while, and their season was never really in jeopardy. The Saints, meanwhile, lost Drew Brees for basically half the year and still managed to churn out 13 wins. Their loss in the first round of the playoffs notwithstanding, Sean Payton did one helluva job.

1. John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens

Who else?

Even before the Patriots fell to the Titans in the Wild Card round, the Baltimore Ravens were considered their heir apparent to the throne of “Best Team in the League.” It’s not hard to see why.

Quarterback Lamar Jackson is an MVP favorite, and no team in the league notched more impressive offensive numbers. Their defense isn’t quite the best, but it was among the top three in the AFC.

John Harbaugh, while not solely responsible, has overseen it all. He’s your NFL Coach of the Year.

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