Ultimately, every football coach is judged by how many he wins and loses.
He may be a “great leader,” or a “defensive genius.” He may be an “innovator,” or a guy that “all the players love.”
He may be “great with the media,” or a horse’s posterior. He may have “Purple People Eaters” on defense, or his offense may showcase the “Greatest Show on Turf.”
It all comes down to how many he wins and when he wins them.
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Which is why, love him or loathe him, New England’s Bill Belichick deserves to be at the top of any NFL coaching list.
Twenty seasons, 13 trips to the playoffs, 12 seasons with 11 or more victories, six Super Bowl appearances, four Lombardi Trophies.
It couldn’t have all been because he videoed a Jets practice or let the equipment guys soften a few footballs.
And where, therefore, does the Dallas Cowboys’ Jason Garrett rank among the NFL’s 32 head coaches?
Major props go to Elliott Harrison of NFL.com for attempting to compile such a list.
Elliott may want to tread lightly through his email over the next week. NFL fans tend to be fiercely loyal and defensive about their head coaches.
He has Garrett ranked No. 14, right behind the Eagles’ Chip Kelly and just ahead of the Rams’ Jeff Fisher.
Me? I would rate Coach Red a sturdy 16th — right in the middle of the pack.
I had him No. 16 with a bullet until Thursday’s news about linebacker Rolando McClain, after which I removed the bullet.
Frequent foul-up McClain’s suspension is four games, and it adds another layer of uncertainty to a season in which Garrett and his owner were said to have all their bases covered.
Coach Red keeps defending not only the play, but also the presence, of guys like McClain and Greg Hardy, and thus a screw-up by them should reflect on the head coach as well.
Some of us are not wise enough to rank the NFL coaches from 1 to 32. Please accept, therefore, my abridged list rated by categories.
Head of the Class
(always in the Super Bowl hunt)
▪ 1. Belichick, Patriots — He’s already got the Canton hallways bugged.
▪ 2. Pete Carroll, Seahawks — Yes, he’s the hipsters’ favorite. But his players play ferociously for him.
▪ 3. Mike McCarthy, Packers — Wait, the guy has had both Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers? His record stands on its own.
▪ 4. John Harbaugh, Ravens — Six playoff appearances in seven seasons, with three trips to the AFC title game.
Solid Second Choices
(Super Bowl experienced)
▪ 5. Sean Payton, Saints
▪ 6., Mike Tomlin, Steelers
▪ 7. John Fox, Bears
▪ 8. Tom Coughlin, Giants
(or maybe down)
▪ 9. Andy Reid, Chiefs
▪ 10. Chuck Pagano, Colts
▪ 11. Ron Rivera, Panthers
▪ 12. Mike Zimmer, Vikings
▪ 13. Bruce Arians, Cardinals
▪ 14. Gus Bradley, Jacksonville
▪ 15. Joe Philbin, Dolphins
▪ 16. Jason Garrett, Cowboys
▪ 17. Chip Kelley, Eagles
▪ 18. Jim Caldwell, Lions
▪ 19. Bill O’Brien, Texans
Wrong Time And Place
(in more or less this order)
▪ Marvin Lewis, Bengals
▪ Jack Del Rio, Raiders
▪ Lovie Smith, Buccaneers
▪ Jeff Fisher, Rams
▪ Rex Ryan, Bills
▪ Ken Whisenhunt, Titans
▪ Mike McCoy, Chargers
▪ Gary Kubiak, Broncos
▪ Mike Pettine, Browns
▪ Dan Quinn, Falcons
▪ Jay Gruden, Redskins
▪ Todd Bowles, Jets
▪ Jim Tomsula, 49ers
Philbin over Garrett? I answer that by asking who has done more with less? Miami adds Ndamukong Suh to its defense this year, and under Philbin’s tutelage quarterback Ryan Tannehill has improved every season.
This is a critical year for Garrett, meanwhile, whether owner Jerry Jones wants to admit it or not.
Garrett won enough games last season, but the Cowboys fell one short. Play that game in Arlington, instead of Green Bay, and the outcome could well have been different.
But that’s how head coaches are judged.
Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697