Belichick runaway winner in AP’s NFL coach rankings
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer
With five Super Bowl titles and the third-most wins in NFL history, the comparisons for Bill Belichick are with the all-time greats in the game rather than his current peers.
Belichick’s unmatched 18-year tenure in New England made him the runaway winner in in The Associated Press’ top 10 rankings of NFL coaches released Friday.
Belichick received 10 of the 11 first-place votes and 105 of a possible 110 points from a panel that included Hall of Fame receiver James Lofton and 10 AP football writers.
“He’s the GOAT,” said Philadelphia-based Rob Maaddi. “It might be sacrilege to change the name of the Vince Lombardi Trophy, but Belichick ought to have his name on an award for all his incredible accomplishments. And, he’s still adding to the list.”
Belichick won his record fifth Super Bowl last season and has the Patriots (12-3) in position for another run at the trophy with his record eighth straight 12-win season. He moved past Tom Landry on the all-time wins list earlier this season with his 275 combined victories in the regular and postseason, trailing only Don Shula (347) and George Halas (324).
“Best coach of this era and it’s not even close,” said New York-based editor Simmi Buttar. “He’s playing chess and the rest are on checkers.”
The only coach besides Belichick to receive a first-place vote was Sean McVay of the Rams, who was picked by Lofton based on an impressive one-year turnaround in Los Angeles that has featured the development of quarterback Jared Goff and the resurgence of running back Todd Gurley.
McVay finished 10th overall after leading the Rams to the NFC West title and their first playoff berth since 2004.
“Revived No. 1 pick and figured out how to use Gurley,” Lofton said.
While no one else ranked McVay higher than sixth, he appeared on nine of the 11 ballots.
“He has to make this list after what the Rams have done in his first season,” Dallas-based Schuyler Dixon said. “Doesn’t matter whether he’s a flash in the pan, and he sure doesn’t look like one.”
Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin was the only other coach named on all 11 ballots and finished second with 81 points. He has won six division titles, two AFC championships and one Super Bowl since replacing Bill Cowher in 2007.
“Game strategy is not a particular strength, but Tomlin is bold, energetic and his teams always play hard,” said AP lead NFL writer Barry Wilner, who is based in New York.
Three other Super Bowl-winning coaches were also in the top five with Seattle’s Pete Carroll getting 62 points, Baltimore’s John Harbaugh receiving 53 and New Orleans Sean Payton tying Minnesota’s Mike Zimmer for fifth with 44 points.
Zimmer was the highest-ranked coach without a championship as he got credit for his success this season in Minnesota with third-string quarterback Case Keenum and after the departure of running back Adrian Peterson.
“Peterson’s gone, quarterback changes, even personal health issues. Yet Zimmer has pushed the Vikings to a place few thought possible once Teddy Bridgewater went down,” said Teresa Walker of Nashville, Tennessee.
Washington-based Howard Fendrich ranked Carroll second based on his years of success with the Seahawks that could have had even more accolades if not for an ill-fated decision to pass at the end of a Super Bowl loss to Belichick’s Patriots following the 2014 season.
“Innovative and a terrific motivator and but for one play call from the 1-yard line, he’d have two Super Bowl titles,” Fendrich said.
The only other active coach with a Super Bowl title, Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy, finished just outside the top 10 at No. 11.
The other coaches to crack the top 10 were Kansas City’s Andy Reid in seventh place, Carolina’s Ron Rivera in eighth and Philadelphia’s Doug Pederson in ninth.
In all, 18 coaches got votes with Chicago’s John Fox the only one with a Super Bowl appearance who failed to appear on any ballot.