Let’s rank the top-5 head coaches in the NFL and see why Jim Harbaugh, with all due respect, doesn’t yet make the cut.
I base my rankings on productivity and evaluation and utilization of personnel in good times as well as bad. Who gets the most out of what they have and who can motivate the players to be the best they can be even when times are tough or when the team is beset by injuries or other factors is critical?
- Bill Belichick – Despite “Spygate” and alleged videotaping of Rams and Panthers pre-Super Bowl practices, he has earned his stripes for his cumulative successes. Demonstrates tremendous creativity with his roster and utilization of players and continues to win despite coaches leaving the organization for other jobs. Ironically, despite the fact that owners and/or GMs think the personnel they are hiring from the Patriots will bring the success of Belichick with them, the departing coaches and front office people have not been able to come close to the success they had when coaching or working for Belichick (Scott Pioli, Charlie Weiss, Josh McDaniels, Romeo Crennel, the Ryan brothers, etc.)
- Tom Coughlin – Has been in the league since the early 1980s as an assistant coach and has had success as a head coach with two franchises despite a lot of media hype about his lack of being a “warm and fuzzy” type of coach. He is resilient and gets his players to win in “must-win” situations. People continue to write him off and desire to send him out to pasture, but like the Phoenix, he continues to rise from the ashes. Is a very disciplined person, and despite the media’s impression and perspective about his demeanor and firm methods, the players respect him and his word.
- Mike Tomlin – Although the Pittsburgh Steelers currently are going through a transformation and transition primarily because of aging coupled with some critical injuries, Tomlin gets them to play and to play with an “edge.” It will further solidify his credentials if he can continue to win, although it may not be in as dominant fashion, as the club works its way through this refurbishing phase.
- Sean Payton – Although he deservedly is on the sidelines this year because of a variety of well-documented issues, the performance of the Saints so far this season definitely validates his impact and value on the franchise. Notably cocky and arrogant, often to an extreme, he has the ability to instill confidence and motivate his players. Maybe this “timeout” will enable him to mature and not define him but serve to redefine him as a person and as a coach.
- Mike McCarthy – Has earned his stripes during his tenure at Green Bay, and although known mostly for his offensive expertise, has worked hand-in-hand with the front office and with his defensive coordinator, Dom Capers, to make sure that both sides of the ball have talent.
As far as Jim Harbaugh is concerned, one year does not constitute a resume, so although he was successful last season, one year, even though it was a terrific year, does not put him in the same categories as the top 5 coaches. Obviously, based on his first year, there is optimism that the club will continue to experience its rebirth and again qualify for the playoffs and eventually get to and win another Super Bowl. Harbaugh has tremendous upside.