Wednesday, April 6, 2011
AFC North head coach rankings
By James Walker
This week ESPN.com put together its ranking of the 10 best NFL head coaches. Two from the AFC North made the cut: Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 2) and John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens (No. 10).
Here is how we rank the division's coaches:
1. Mike Tomlin, Steelers
Analysis: Despite just four seasons, Mike Tomlin is already considered one of the NFL's best head coaches. He's the only coach to lead his team to two Super Bowls since the 2008 season. Tomlin won his first trip to the big game and came within one drive of winning a second this past February against the Green Bay Packers. He masterfully handled quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's suspension and did his best coaching job last year. Tomlin has a .672 winning percentage in the regular season and a .714 winning percentage in the playoffs.
2. John Harbaugh, Ravens
Analysis: Harbaugh has been a stabilizing force in Baltimore, making the playoffs in all three seasons. The Ravens have a lot of strong personalities in their locker room, and Harbaugh usually finds the right combination of letting players be themselves without being detrimental to winning. The next step is for Harbaugh to find a way to consistently beat Pittsburgh. Two of Baltimore's playoff losses under Harbaugh have come against the Steelers (2008, 2010), who went on to advance to the Super Bowl both times.
3. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals
Analysis: Many Bengals fans rolled their eyes when Lewis returned to Cincinnati. The Bengals were an abysmal 4-12 in 2010 despite high expectations. But Lewis is not a bad head coach. I've said for years Lewis is a decent coach working for an unstable organization, and he would probably be more successful if given the proper resources most coaches get around the league. Occasionally things work out for Lewis, like it did in 2005 and 2009. But most years that uphill battle is too much to overcome. Lewis has a career record of 60-67-1. But examine the records of the three coaches in Cincinnati before Lewis, and you will have a better appreciation for where he stands.
4. Pat Shurmur, Cleveland Browns
Analysis: Shurmur may climb this list or remain at the bottom. It's too early to tell. But the rookie head coach will first have to prove he's the right guy for the job in Cleveland. Browns president Mike Holmgren believes in the former St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator. But a tough job awaits. Four games per year against Pittsburgh and Baltimore has been a headache for Browns coaches in the past. Cleveland also will be a team in transition while trying to learn Shurmur's new West Coast offense and switching to a 4-3 defense.