I was reading Clark Judge's article about Coach of the Year candidates over at CBS Sports, and it seemed the list was a bit screwy. He mentions Atlanta's Mike Smith and Green Bay's Mike McCarthy as top candidates to win coach of the year honors. Also mentioned is Indianapolis' Bruce Arians for the job he's done filling in for Chuck Pagano, and rightfully so.
My problem with his list is how far down he has St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher. While he credits Fisher with turning the team around, he doesn't really grasp the incredible job the long time NFL coach has done in such a short time. To me, lauding McCarthy and Smith is like giving a Ferrari an award for going fast. Green Bay and Atlanta are teams little changed from their 2011 versions. To me, it should be between Jeff Fisher, Bruce Arians and Seattle's Pete Carroll. Of course, my vote would go Fisher's way, but the other two have done remarkable things in 2012.
Arians took a Colts team's reigns when first year head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with Leukemia early in the season. He helped a young team ride an emotional roller coaster while bringing rookie quarterback Andrew Luck along. There's virtually no one in the NFL's mainstream media who picked the Colts to make the playoffs this year, but they did. The Colts have made - what must be a league high - 251 roster moves since November 28th. He and his coaching staff have built the Colts as the season progressed. Not an easy thing to do and still make the playoffs.
While many love poking fun at Pete Carroll, what he's done with the Seattle Seahawks is worthy of remark. His team is quite literally the hottest in the NFC right now. At the very least, he gets the "Golden Balls" award for making Russell Wilson his starting quarterback at the beginning of the 2012 season. After spending big money on free agent Matt Flynn, he made a move he felt gave the Seahawks the best chance to win over the long haul. Wilson's rise as the season's worn on showed me Carroll has an eye for talent, and the courage to go with his gut.
Jeff Fisher is my top candidate for NFL Coach of the Year. He's brought not only his football savvy to a moribund Rams team, he's also conveyed his personality too. Fisher has transformed the Rams into a winner while being the youngest team in the NFL. Without the addition of huge numbers of high dollar free agents, he's taken a cloud of inexperienced players and made his team viable. He's beaten the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals twice, the Seahawks once (so far), and earned the unofficial NFC West title the Rams haven't seen in over a decade. Fisher has taken flyers on red flag rookies in the draft, and teamed with Rams general manager Les Snead to make the next two NFL Drafts franchise changers. If I were the owner of an NFL team, Fisher is the guy I'd want running the show, pure and simple.
So who would you pick to be the NFL's coach of the year and why?