Earlier this week, SBNation gave out a handful of midseason NFL awards (excluding rookie of the year), which included a nod for Kansas City Chiefs head coach Todd Haley for the midseason coach of the year. It's hard to argue with that given the turnaround the Chiefs are having this year. However, the season doesn't end for another seven weeks, and one name that could be in the mix for coach of the year is St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo.
Homer-istic? Perhaps a little bit, but there's a point made in the post about Haley that stands also applies to Spags:
The defense was among the worst at stopping the run last year and now they're a top 10 unit. The defense hasn't changed much from last year which is a nod to the coaching staff's work.
If I hadn't already told you that quote was from a post about Haley, it could easily have been about Spagnuolo and the Rams. In fact, the Rams' defense tops the Chiefs' in average points per game - 17.6/6th versus 18.1/7th - and in average yards per game - 313.9/9th versus 331.2/15th.
Haley's team bests the Rams' numbers on offense, but the difference in overall record is just one more win for the 5-3 Chiefs. But enough about the Chiefs, let's talk about Spagnuolo's odds of winning coach of the year.
Though personally I think he'd be a finalist at this point in time, there's a couple issues he needs to address before taking home any hardware.
Road wins - This is a hump the whole team has to get over, and thus Spagnuolo's own personal hurdle as the man who pulls it all together. Wins were close at hand in Oakland and Tampa Bay, but the team was unable to lock it down. Spagnuolo gets a fresh start tomorrow against San Francisco, a division game that the Rams really need to win if they're going to have a shot to surprise the world with an NFC West crown.
Putting away inferior teams - So far, the Rams haven't had the toughest schedule; in fact, it might have been the league's easiest to date. Beating San Diego still qualifies as the team's most impressive, beating the odds victory of the season, but it's been too close for comfort in some games that shouldn't have been as close as they were, particularly those road losses. It was never in doubt against an inferior Carolina team, in the team's last game, and that's a good sign that maybe things are going in the right direction.
Fluke factor - As mentioned earlier, things get tougher for the Rams in the second half, with a road-heavy schedule, lots of division games and matchups against some vastly more talent teams like Atlanta and New Orleans. Spagnuolo's Rams have gotten better, tighter as the season has progress, a good sign. They have to build on those improvements in the second half to establish themselves as legit.
Spagnuolo's Rams and Haley's Chiefs square off in week 15 at the Dome, but the Rams have to pick up some wins before that game.
Spagnuolo's work and the Rams' record is even more impressive considering just how lacking they are for playmakers on the offense, mostly at receiver, though nobody's really overly impressed me at TE. They'll have to continue to play with that limitation.
If the Rams do win the NFC West, something that has to start with a win this week, Spagnuolo should easily be a finalist for coaching honors.