CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera and Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid are among the favorites to win the Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year award on Saturday.
Rivera took a Carolina team that hadn't been to the playoffs since 2008 from a 1-3 start to a 12-4 regular-season record and the NFC South title. Reid took a Kansas City team that had the worst record (2-14) in the NFL in 2012 to an 11-5 record and second place in the AFC West.
Both lost in the playoffs, Carolina 23-10 in an NFC divisional game against San Francisco and Kansas City 45-44 to Indianapolis in a wild-card game.
Rivera and Reid are in New York City, where on Saturday night the NFL will salute the best of the 2013 season with "NFL Honors" at Radio City Music Hall.
New England's Bill Belichick and Philadelphia's Chip Kelly also are under consideration for Coach of the Year. ESPN.com NFL Nation Panthers reporter David Newton and Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher are here to tell you why it's a two-man race:
Adam, first of all, do you agree this should come down to Rivera or Reid?
Teicher:Those are the two strongest candidates. Some others deserve consideration. Think it was a strong year in this regard. Mike McCoy in San Diego, Bill Belichick in New England and Chip Kelly in Philadelphia did a nice job as well. But when you boil it down, Reid and Rivera are the two best candidates. The Chiefs had too much talent in 2012 to win just two games, so maybe this speaks to what a lousy job their previous coaching staff did. The Chiefs weren't just bad when Reid walked through the door. They had been blown out in most of their games in 2012. They didn't have many narrow losses. I know how far the Panthers have come as well. They were so bad in 2012 that they were one of the two teams to lose to the Chiefs.
Which way would you go with your vote?
Newton: I could see it going either way, but I'd have to say Rivera. The Panthers started 0-2 and then 1-3. There was speculation there could be a coaching change before the bye week if they went to 0-3. It's tough enough to turn around a team that is used to winning. Rivera did it four games into the season with a team that hadn't had a winning record in five years. Winning eight straight and 11 of the final 12 regular season games -- including back-to-back wins against San Francisco and New England -- was impressive. That the Panthers really had to win all those games to win the division and even make the playoffs with New Orleans, San Francisco and Arizona breathing down their backs for the final two spots is a testament to the work ethic Rivera instilled. That he didn't panic or make changes to what he was doing when the season was on the brink made the turnaround possible. That the players fought for him when he didn't have a track record for winning -- as Reid did -- also speaks volumes.
So who do you think deserves it more?
Teicher: It's a tough call. No doubt there's more to like about Carolina's body of work this season. Kansas City was 10-0 against non-playoff teams and 1-5 against teams that made the postseason. But I still believe the Chiefs travelled a longer distance. Reid did more than help the Chiefs win games. He helped change what had been the miserable, rotten culture that permeated the entire organization. When he walked in the door, the Chiefs were infested with people who pulled in different directions and were out for themselves. He got everybody to believe in the greater good. He was able to get a lot of players to put aside personal goals for those of the team. That's a long-winded way of saying I would vote for Reid.
Having said all this, it seems every year this award goes to a coach whose team has an amazing turnaround. Do you think it's unfair to coaches like Belichick that win all the time?
Newton: Miserable? Infested? Rotten? You trying to make me change my vote? The culture wasn't that bad at Carolina, but the losing was and Kansas City had more talent to start with, which again sways me back to Rivera. But to the question, I agree coaches like Belichick get overlooked because they do such a good job every year. I compare it to Dean Smith when he was the basketball coach at North Carolina. It took him 16 years to finally win the national coach of the year award even though year in and year out he had one of the best programs in the country. People overlook the obvious. Belichick doesn't get the credit because people see he has Tom Brady and forget how he meshes sometimes average players into a playoff team. Having said that, I'd still vote for Rivera this year.
Note: Carolina middle linebacker Luke Kuechly is up for Defensive Player of the Year and outside linebacker Thomas Davis is up for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles is up for the Offensive Player of the Year Award.