Monday, January 10, 2005

NFL Coach of the Year 

I didn't get a chance to post my reaction to Marty Schottenheimer winning C.O.Y. My take: He's not undeserving, but Cowher (who came in 2nd) deserved it more.

The Chargers turned a 4-12 record upside-down in one season. Everyone seems to think this is quite magical, despite the fact that the Steelers' turnaround was actually a larger swing -- from 6-10 to 15-1.

Marty also gets credit for Drew Brees' turnaround. Fair enough. But is that more or less impressive than a 22-year-old QB breaking every rookie record there is? Ben's a phenomenal athlete and obviously a cool cat. But he wasn't self-taught. He didn't make the decision to pare down the playbook once Maddox went down. Could Ben have done what he did with a different coach? Maybe, maybe not. But in my book it's still more impressive to guide a rookie to success than to guide a Drew Brees, who's been around the block.

Then there's the matter of keeping a team together that was a huge mess from Day 1. When guard Kendall Simmons went down in training camp, the team was pretty bummed. By the time Maddox got hurt and Alan Faneca made a snide remark about playing with Roethlisberger, everyone assumed it was all over. The clubhouse could have -- maybe should have -- fallen apart then. Or after Ben threw an INT on his first pass attempt. Or after Duce Staley, Casey Hampton, Kendrell Bell, and Clark Haggans went down. Cowher kept 'em together.

And shouldn't this award take into account staffing decisions like bringing back Dick LeBeau as defensive coordinator, and changing the entire focus of the team back to the running attack? What about the personnel decisions, the preparation, and the mentality that helped 2nd and 3rd team guys to step in and perform like all-pros?

Maybe if I followed the Chargers like I follow the Steelers, I'd feel differently. But I can only say that Cowher made one of the strongest cases I've ever seen.

Of course, I could give a rat's ass about that award. What I want is three... more... wins.

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