1. Ron Rivera
Can this be won by default? That's what happened here. Most people would lean toward Mike Smith. I wouldn't. I'll get into the reasons I'm not the biggest Mike Smith fan in his section. As for Rivera, he's a solid coach that players will get behind. Perhaps the most important thing in the NFL is having a coach that players trust and can rally behind. Look what happened in San Francisco in Year One. Yes, their roster is loaded but you can't have a turnaround that quickly without a head coach having a huge impact.
Rivera is a defensive mastermind, he's just missing the pieces. Drafting Luke Kuechly is a solid start, it gives them a tackling machine at MLB. While Kuechly won't make a ton of plays behind the line of scrimmage, he's a sound tackler in the middle of the field and the Panthers have needed that, especially with the Beason/Davis injury problems. If I were to place a bet on which coach in the NFC South sticks around the longest, I'd go all in on Rivera.
: Leading 2005-06 Bears Defense to the Super Bowl while This Guy
led the offense.
: 1 Year
2. Mike Smith
There are plenty of people out there that are huge, huge Mike Smith fans. The person writing this article is not one of them. Last year, Mike Mularkey took a lot of the heat and deservedly so. However, everything is within reach of the Head Coach and the philosophy is coming from Smith. At times, the offense was simply mind-boggling. Atlanta made a habit out of passing when they should of ran and running when they should of passed. Is Smith entirely to blame? Of course not, but he made a boatload of questionable calls, even when it came to throwing that little red flag.
If you're looking for the coach with the hottest seat in the NFC South, you'll find him in Atlanta. This core will contend yet again this season... but for how long? The offense should be right there for awhile, despite the overrated Matt Ryan, aging Tony Gonzalez and rapidly declining Michael Turner. Roddy White isn't going anywhere and Julio Jones will only get better. As for running back, they should be able to find one with relative ease to fit into that offense, although probably not the workhorse that Michael Turner has been. The defense is what worries me the most. How much can we expect from Asante Samuel? Will they be able to get after the QB well enough? How will they deal with the (big) loss of Curtis Lofton? We'll see. If it doesn't go well, Smith may be looking for a new job.
: Winning 2010 NFC South Title despite This Hat
: 4 Years
3. Greg Schiano
Obviously, there's not a whole lot you can say here. I was a fan of his at Rutgers and I think Tampa Bay fans should be pretty excited. While it's generally a good thing that a new coach isn't afraid to clean house and do things "his way" right off the bat, it's also not very uncommon for college coaches making the leap to the NFL. The most recent example would be Pete Carroll and the jury is still out there. The most important thing he has done so far in Tampa is change the culture. We're talking about a team that flat out quit down the stretch last season, and it's takes a lot to erase that from the minds of a group.
However, the fact that Schiano came in right away committed to a vision and has not wavered from it in the least bit, it's definitely encouraging. The job security of Greg Schiano will come down to the success of Josh Freeman. He'll need Freeman to be much better than last season. While I think he can improve from last year, I'm not sure he's going to fulfill the potential that many think he has, I just don't see it. Finally, Doug Martin will need to turn into a big-time talent and Vincent Jackson will need to be more consistent than he was in San Diego. The pieces are there, it's up to Schiano to put them together.
: Signing Eric LeGrand
. Seriously. Well done, Mr. Schiano.
4. Saints Coach X
Not much I can say here, I'm not even going to put a name, list stats, etc. because it will be a revolving door all season. If Sean Payton weren't suspended? Yes, he would be at the top of this list. Speaking of Sean Payton, is anything else already tired of seeing these
There you have it. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the NFC South is probably the toughest division to rank the coaches. An overrated veteran coach, another coach with only a year under his belt, another with no years under his belt and the mess in New Orleans. Is this list pretty? Not really. Then again, neither is this
but it seems to work.
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