Two years ago, Bruce Arians won NFL Coach of the Year as the interim head man with the Colts. He is the heavy favorite to capture the award again, this time after leading the Cardinals to the playoffs despite a rash of injuries.
That being said, New England’s Bill Belichick has led his squad – which is not the most talented in the league – to the best record in the NFL, again. Belichick is a three-time winner and a fourth trophy would tie him with Don Shula for the most all time.
Pete Carroll isn’t getting a ton of love in Seattle but, a year after winning the Super Bowl, he weathered an early storm and is positioned to earn home-field throughout the NFC Playoffs for the second straight season.
Below, we take a closer look at the top-three candidates and set the odds to win NFL Coach of the Year.
Odds to win NFL Coach of the Year (2014-15):
Bruce Arians (2-7) – When the NFL season began, the Cardinals were 40-1 to win the Super Bowl and picked universally to finish third or fourth in the tough NFC West. For much of the year, Arians’ squad dominated the league in spite of key injuries on defense (including tackle Darnell Dockett and safety Tyrann Mathieu).
Then the offense took some huge hits. Not only did quarterback Carson Palmer go down but so too did backup Drew Stanton. Starting running Back Andre Ellington was also lost for the season.
Despite the adversity, Arizona began 9-1. With a litany of injuries late in the year, the Cardinals beat Kansas City and St. Louis to clinch a playoff birth. They have won despite the second toughest schedule in the NFC, and a very average +14 point differential. In games decided by a touchdown or less, Arizona is 5-0. Coaching has been the one constant for Arizona this year, and Arians deserves a ton of credit for the team’s success.
Bill Belichick (12-1) – Belichick’s Patriots lost on opening day in Miami, and started 2-2 after after getting destroyed 41-14 at Kansas City in week 4. One month into the season, their best win was at Minnesota and questions lingered about whether Tom Brady was finished. Three months later, Brady is an MVP candidate, the Pats are a win away from home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, and the team has won 10 of its last 11 including blowout wins over several playoff-bound teams (Cincinnati, Denver, Indianapolis, and Detroit).
New England leads the NFL in point differential by a wide margin, and are unbeaten at home. They are also the highest scoring team in the NFL. Perhaps the best argument to be made for Belichick, though, focuses on the Patriots dominance in the second half of games. The coaching staff has done a tremendous job at making adjustments at the break and turning once close games into laughers.
Pete Carroll (15-1) – Carroll, who Belichick replaced in New England, has been terrific in Seattle after leaving the University of Southern California. Like the Patriots, Seattle started slowly this year. The team was just 3-2 entering week 6 and the powers-that-be decided to deal apparently cancerous (but inarguably explosive) receiver Percy Harvin to St. Louis.
When Seattle lost to St. Louis and fell back to .500, many questioned the decision to trade Harvin. However, the team went 8-1 thereafter, dominating division rivals Arizona and San Francisco (twice each) and earning an impressive road win in Philadelphia. The defense has been the biggest reason for the turnaround, allowing seven points or fewer in four of the last five and limiting opponents to a league-best 248 points for the year. With a win on Sunday the Seahawks will be the top seed in the NFC playoffs.
Carroll was a worthy Coach of the Year candidate in 2012, when the Seahawks went from seven wins to 11, but Arians scooped the trophy that year. Last year, Carolina’s Ron Rivera was honored after leading his team to a 12-win season. This year, it looks like Carroll will fall short again. He is likely a victim of the copious talent on his team, especially on defense.
Check back this Friday when we set the odds for the grand-daddy of all the individual hardware, NFL MVP.
(Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)