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Thursday, June 10, 2010
Time to weigh in: Best coach in history?

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

I was browsing through my mailbag and saw a question that I think is more than worthy of standing on its own. In fact, it’s one of the most thought-provoking questions I’ve ever received (and you’ve always provided very good questions).

The question is so good, I don’t have an immediate answer because there is so much room for debate. That’s why I want to throw it out to the readers and your opinions.

Here’s the question:

Stephen in Houma, La., writes: I’ve seen the question who is the best coach of all time -- Bill Belichick or Bill Parcells? How about an article on the best NFC South coach of all time -- Sean Payton or Jon Gruden? Would you add Jim Mora to that list or is there anyone else I'm missing? The coach that led Atlanta to its first Super Bowl?

All right, the coach that led Atlanta to its Super Bowl berth was Dan Reeves and he at least belongs in the argument. Let’s set some parameters here. The NFC South didn’t come into existence until 2002, but let’s leave this open to all coaches who ran a team that now is in the NFC South.

Payton’s got to be near the top of the list, even though he’s been a head coach for just four seasons. He’s got a Super Bowl win. So does Gruden. I could end up going with one of them and my gut leans toward Payton because of where his franchise was at when he took over. But I want to ponder this one a bit more and consider guys like Reeves and Mora (the one that coached the Saints, not the one who coached the Falcons).

I also want to step back a bit from my days as a newspaper beat writer because part of my initial reaction to Stephen’s question was to think about the two coaches I covered the most on a daily basis -- Tony Dungy and John Fox.

I think they both belong in any list of top-five coaches in NFC South history, but I want to consider their accomplishments from a bit of a fair distance and compare them to guys like Gruden, Payton, Reeves and Mora. Heck, I’m even going to factor in John McKay, who definitely was the most quotable coach in the history of the NFC South teams. I’m going to go ahead and scratch George Seifert, Sam Wyche, Ray Perkins and Mike Ditka from the list right now.

Go ahead and send your opinions to the mailbag. I’ll share some of your opinions in a future post and, sometime in the next few days, I’ll finalize my list of the best coaches in NFC South history.