Why the NFL Coach of the Year Award is a Two Coach Race

Unquestionably, this season in the NFL has seen its fair share of ups and downs for some franchises. Some teams are leading their respective divisions as many of us expected and a few that come as a great surprise. A large part of any team’s success (or failure) is coaching. Being a head coach in the NFL is a tough job because they are, in essence, in charge of every aspect of the team like a CEO of a company. The football team itself would be the company here. Notice that some CEOs stay in power longer than others, and I’ll expound on that point as the piece progresses.

For me, two coaches have exceeded the expectations of their company this year. Below are my two coaches that are the frontrunners for NFL Coach of the Year:

Kliff Kingsbury – Arizona Cardinals

GLENDALE, ARIZONA – OCTOBER 10: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Arizona Cardinals looks on against the San Francisco 49ers during the first quarter at State Farm Stadium on October 10, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Going into the season, the Cardinals were a team that I felt had the potential to be great for a couple of reasons. First, everyone in their division, the NFC West had either made a change at the quarterback position or rumors circling about it. For instance, the Los Angeles Rams traded for Matthew Stafford and the San Francisco 49ers drafted Trey Lance to be the heir apparent to Jimmy Garoppolo. Moreover, there were rumors in the Emerald City that the Seahawks wanted to move Russell Wilson.

It is important not that you never heard anything out of Arizona about Kyler Murray. Before this season, he had a 13-18-1 record as a starting quarterback. The success of Murray was directly attached to Kingsbury since he drafted him number one overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. The job that Kingsbury has done is equally impressive because, as a college head coach, he had a 35-40 record in seven years at Texas Tech. He was fired and was set to be the offensive coordinator for the USC Trojans. Surprisingly, Cardinals GM Steve Keim hired him in January 2019.

Not only did he change the team but he also changed the culture in Arizona. This is just as important as the year before, they were 3-13. In his third year as a head coach, Kingsbury has this team poised to win the NFC West. Certainly maybe a run in the postseason as well.

Bill Belichick – New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 10: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on against the New York Giants during the first quarter in the game at Gillette Stadium on October 10, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

To explain why I have Belichick here, I want to circle back to the point I made earlier as to why CEOs stay in power longer than others. The answer can be found in a word: adaptability. Some companies either fail to adapt or outright refuse to do so, leading to significant turnover or no company. In the case of the Patriots, business has been good as Belichick. He has been the CEO of the New England Patriots for 22 years. In that time, he has won seven Super Bowls, 17 playoff appearances, and two losing seasons.

What has made this Patriots team different from previous years is that no one expected them to win the division. The Patriots have won the AFC East 17 times since 2000. Belichick went with a rookie quarterback in Mac Jones after releasing Cam Newton. He bucked the trend of being frugal and spent money, adapting to the NFL of today. Every year he could be Coach of the Year but he adapted to the culture. Belichick did it while doing it the Patriot Way. It almost makes me forget Super Bowl LI (check that it does not).


Twitter: @ladarius_brown

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