Overall, it's Belichick
If you were looking for the coach who has overachieved the most, you would choose among the Chiefs' Todd Haley, the Bucs' Raheem Morris and the Falcons' Mike Smith. If you were looking for who overcame the biggest challenges, you would choose among the Saints' Sean Payton, the Eagles' Andy Reid and the Steelers' Mike Tomlin.
But if you simply chose the coach who coached the best, you would choose Bill Belichick. As usual, Belichick has gotten more out of less with his team than any coach in football. It's true he probably has the most valuable player, but he has been winning with unheralded players around Tom Brady such as BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Eric Moore, Gary Guyton, Danny Woodhead and Kyle Arrington.
That is good coaching. On the Patriots, it's the system that is the star.
Smith finds balance
There are plenty of candidates in this category. Raheem Morris in Tampa Bay and Todd Haley in Kansas City have revived downtrodden franchises. Say what you will about the Patriots' tradition, but Bill Belichick winning 12 games so far with that lame defense is almost astounding.
In Philadelphia, Andy Reid corrected an early mistake at quarterback and may ride Michael Vick to the Super Bowl. Lovie Smith has done a superb job in Chicago.
But the guy who did the best job is Mike Smith in Atlanta. In a division with the defending Super Bowl champs, Smith not only has virtually locked up the No. 1 seed in the NFC but has made the Georgia Dome a prohibitive home-field advantage. The Falcons are probably the most balanced team in the NFC.
Falcons have a winner
The best coaching job in the NFL has been done by Mike Smith of the Falcons, who have clinched a playoff spot. Smith was an unheralded coordinator when the Falcons hired him to pick up the pieces from the Vick self-destruction and the Bobby Petrino
Smith forged an immediate turnaround — a lot of coaches do that — but he has also built a durable foundation. He has overseen the development of a young quarterback, Matt Ryan, without the usual growing pains. And the Falcons (12-2) have played consistent football, winning a division in which the defending champion Saints play.
The Falcons win because they prepare better, block better, tackle better — winning habits instilled by a coach short on flamboyance, long on fundamentals.
Patriots always impress
Los Angeles Times
Todd Haley has turned around the Chiefs. Mike Tomlin put the Steelers in the driver's seat in the AFC North despite going without his Pro Bowl quarterback for the first four games. Mike Smith has been spectacularly steady in Atlanta. The Eagles' Andy Reid, the Bears' Lovie Smith and the Rams' Steve Spagnuolo all deserve coach-of-the-year consideration.
But I have to go with the Patriots' Bill Belichick, who has consistently built a winning franchise. Everyone can point to Tom Brady and say any coach could win with him, but Belichick has overhauled his defense, retooled his running game, dumped Randy Moss at the right time, made do without his best offensive lineman and his top cornerback and developed a defensive rookie-of-the-year candidate in Devin McCourty. He gets my vote.