If you had to rank the top head coaches in the NFL, chances are you’d have Mike McCarthy in your top 10. McCarthy has routinely taken the Packers to the playoffs and won a Super Bowl as well. Though the Packers lost last weekend to the Cardinals, most would still have him ranked highly. For a bit of a baseline, let’s take a look at this October ranking from USA Today.
The first thing that jumps out to me in that ranking is the location of guys like Tom Coughlin and Andy Reid, both of whom fall inside the top 4. Now, there’s no denying Tom Coughlin’s ability to get the most out of teams, as his two Super Bowls are evident of that fact. Likewise, Andy Reid made the Chiefs a true contender in just a few short years and had a good run with the Eagles. But clearly the list — and most I’ve seen — gives too much weight to past accomplishments and not current ones. Such is the case of Mike McCarthy at number 6, especially when you consider Panthers coach Ron Rivera came in at number 11.
Most simply refuse to give Rivera — and by extension, his staff — much credit, even as they head into the NFC title game. The credit instead often goes to Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly, or the team in general. But it’s Rivera who has shown the ability lately to get the most out of his team, in ways that Mike McCarty has failed.
The reason I feel this way has a lot to do with McCarthy’s post-season press clippings where he blamed much of the Packers failures on the absence of All-Pro wide receiver Jordy Nelson. Now, make no mistake about it, Nelson’s absence was a massive blow to the Packers, but the Packers also failed to adapt.
On the flip side, the Carolina Panthers not only adapted to the loss of their young rising star wideout (Kelvin Benjamin), they actually thrived. While tight end Greg Olsen having a career year might not be a surprise as the tight end enters his prime, the shocking emergence of Ted Ginn as a legit, consistent threat speaks volumes to the coaching and play-calling by the Panthers staff.
Plenty will be said about coaches this week, but one person who will likely be overlooked is Ron Rivera. Whether it’s Bruce Arians dominating the coverage (and Arians certainly deserves plenty of it), Gary Kubiak’s quarterback decisions, or about Bill Belichick’s continued greatness, it’s worth remembering that the Panthers are 16-1 on the year not by luck, but through a combination of great play and equally great coaching.