Patrick Dougherty from Rotoworld ranked all 32 current head coaches in the NFL based on a variety of criteria, and the results may be a bit surprising to you unless you really hate Mike Smith.
Dougherty's criteria were pretty reasonable. He considered these specific things when making the final decision on each coach's ranking on his list.
- Who would I want coaching my team right now? Not five years ago, but now.
- What exactly does the coach do? Does he call plays, or just stand on the sideline and clap?
- Does he put his team in the best position to win? For example, does he hire the right assistants?
- What's the effect, both tangible and intangible, he has on his team?
- Are his best days behind or ahead of him?
- Tenure, to an extent, does matter. For all his promise, Gus Bradley can't yet be considered a top-10 coach.
Based on these criteria, Dougherty would rank Mike Smith 19th out of 32 head coaches in the league. Technically, Smitty is ranked 19th out of 25, because Dougherty ranked the new hires around the NFL in a separate list.
It's a little surprising to see a head coach with a .625 winning percentage ranked so low on a list of head coaches around the league. It's more surprising still to see that coach--with four playoff appearances and five winning seasons in six years--ranked below several coaches entering their respective second years as head coaches in the league, like Jacksonville's Gus Bradley, San Diego's Mike McCoy, Chicago's Marc Trestman, and Philadelphia's Chip Kelly. Neither Bradley nor Trestman even put together winning seasons in their first year.
Dougherty cites Smitty's bland philosophy and lack of aggression--things that I don't necessarily disagree with. But if I were applying the same criteria to Smitty as Dougherty did to come up with his list, I think I'd have some different perspectives.
Do I want Mike Smith coaching my team right now? Yes. Coming off of a bad season, that continuity is important, especially considering that all indications out of Flowery Branch suggest that Mike Smith has not lost the control or respect of the locker room.
What exactly does the coach do? While Smitty's not calling plays, to my knowledge, if you've ever seen him wired with a microphone during a game, you know that he's actively engaging with his offensive and defensive coordinators to keep a handle on the game throughout. He's an active participant on game days, as far as I can tell.
Does he put his team in the best position to win, and does he hire the right assistants? Well, Mike Mularkey and Brian Van Gorder were not great, and Dirk Koetter and Mike Nolan seem to be upgrades. Overall, the best way to assess this question fairly, in my opinion, is to look at the win-loss record, and Mike Smith's puts him near the top of active coaches. Eight of the 18 coaches ahead of Mike Smith on this list have a win percentage equal to or greater than Smitty's. He has put his team in a position to win 62.5% of the time, and that's pretty solid.
What is the effect, both tangible and intangible, that he has on his team? Well, this is where things get a little more difficult to establish. The public persona Smitty puts out there is the guy who sits in press conferences and says the same things--technically the "right" things--each week. But the recent ESPN The Magazine article on Tony Gonzalezpaints a different picture, an image of a fiery locker room leader--a guy who told the team to suck it up and quit feeling sorry for themselves. That's not the guy who takes the podium after games and says, "We just didn't get the outcome that we wanted." It's hard for anyone outside of the locker room to get a good handle on the impact Mike Smith really has on this Falcons team.
Are his best days ahead of him, or behind him? I don't know, I'm not clairvoyant. Honestly, I think this question is kind of stupid. How do you know if his best days are ahead of him or behind him? Do you know if he would have coached the Falcons to an 11-5 record and a wildcard bid if there hadn't been so many injuries? The 2013 season, without the extenuating injuries, might give some justification to the idea that Smith's best years are behind him, but when you consider all of the factors, I think that's an exaggeration, and there's no way to know until the games are played.
And tenure does matter--okay, but not enough to not rank Marc Trestman and Gus Bradley ahead of Mike Smith, which makes me question this entire ranking, if I'm being entirely honest.
Many people turned against Mike Smith during this past season. Some people turned against Smitty prior to the 2013 season, and all those who have turned against him generally cite some semblance of Dougherty's reasoning as the justification. I get that. There are things that Mike Smith does, and things that Mike Smith doesn't do, that are maddening. There are flaws this Falcons team has had since Smith's first season that seem to never get addressed. Mike Smith is not a perfect coach.
But Mike Smith is a very good coach, and if I would apply the same criteria as Dougherty did and rank these coaches the same way, Mike Smith would be ranked much higher on this list.
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