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Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Best of NFL: NFC South coaches

By Pat Yasinskas

Best of NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

As part of Best of the NFL Week on ESPN.com, here are five bests for the NFC South:

Best delegator: Mike Smith. The Atlanta head coach is not an ego-driven guy. He has a great defensive background and easily could run this team’s defense as some other coaches handle play-calling duties on that side of the ball. Smith certainly has some input on the defense, but he lets defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder run the show. Given his defensive background, Smith felt it was important to hire a strong offensive coordinator when he first arrived. He went out and got a former head coach in Mike Mularkey, who has done a masterful job of developing Matt Ryan.

Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris
Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris is a favorite among reporters.
Best postgame interview: Raheem Morris. The Bucs' head coach is animated and doesn’t hold much back. There are some in the organization who wish Morris would throttle it back a bit. But, from a media standpoint, there’s not another NFC South coach who is nearly as good a quote as Morris. There aren’t too many coaches around the rest of the NFL who are in his league.

Best at telling it like it is: Ron Rivera. Fans and media are still getting to know the new Carolina coach, but, so far, he’s come across as a very straight shooter. Unlike predecessor John Fox, Rivera actually answers questions. He’s not the dynamic quote that Morris is, but he doesn’t follow Fox’s lead and turn interview sessions into dodgeball games.

Best X's and O's: Sean Payton. If you had to take one NFC South coach to win one game, Payton is the guy. If you expanded the field to the entire NFL, he still might be the guy. There’s not a coach and quarterback more on the same page than Payton and Drew Brees, and that’s why the Saints have become a consistently good team. It also doesn’t hurt that Payton went out and got Gregg Williams to handle the defense a couple years ago.

Best motivator: Payton. He’s done things like hand out baseball bats as a reminder for his team to “bring the wood’’ and brought back Deuce McAllister as a ceremonial leader during the playoff run at the end of the 2009 season. Payton seems to pay a lot of attention to the mood of his team and knows what buttons to push and when to push them.