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Who Wins the NFL’s AP Coach of the Year Award in 2020?

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Who Wins the NFL’s AP Coach of the Year Award in 2020?
Mike McCarthy the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Andy Lyons/Getty Images/AFP

Fans naturally focus on the athletes on the field as opposed to the strategists roaming the sidelines. However, let’s break with tradition and predict which NFL head coach will be named the best in the business this season.

Winners Only

Good coaches on bad teams need not apply because history has proven that in order to be considered for Coach of the Year honors, a team’s regular-season record is the ultimate litmus test. Over the last 10 seasons, the average number of regular-season wins for the NFL Coach of the Year Award winner is 12.6. Furthermore, the only coach ever to win the award with less than a .500 record was Jimmy Johnson in 1990 when he coached the Cowboys to a 7-9 record, which may not look like much but it was a stunning reversal from the team’s 1-15 season a year earlier.

That little piece of information gives us fertile ground to go forth and multiply – ah, subtract actually. Yes, as we look ahead to the upcoming season, we should toss out the coaches who have no shot at winning this award for no other reason than they coach mediocre or poor teams. They might be terrific with X’s and O’s but all the halftime speeches and sis-boom-bahs in the world won’t even get them a look if their record isn’t at least 11-5 when the season wraps.

We can predict which teams won’t get a whiff of at least 11 wins so when you hear your name called, step to the nearest exit and keep walking. That’s right, I’m talking to you Adam Gase (Jets), Brian Flores (Dolphins), Bill O’Brien (Texans), Matt Rhule (Panthers), Matt Patricia (Lions), Doug Marrone (Jaguars), Ron Rivera (Redskins), Zac Taylor (Bengals), and Joe Judge (Giants).

Okay, nine down and 23 left. Now, remember, the coaches we have nixed has nothing to do with their abilities or lack thereof, but everything to do with their present situations. Some could very well improve their team’s record but if they don’t accrue 11 wins, at the very least, they won’t be bringing home the hardware. And for all of you Bill O’Brien fans out there (in other words, Bill’s immediate family), the group he has this year won’t be sniffing last season’s 10 wins, especially after he traded arguably the best wide receiver in the game, DeAndre Hopkins, for the corpse of David Johnson.

Head coach Bill O’Brien of the Houston Texans. Tom Pennington/Getty Images/AFP

The Pretenders & The Contenders

Alright, let’s continue to whittle down the field and we’ll begin with Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin. He’s been in the Steel City for over a dozen years, won a Super Bowl way back in the day when Ben Roethlisberger was just a pup but that ship has sailed. I am highly dubious of the Steelers doing any better than 8-8 this year with Big Ben hanging up the cleats after the year is done.

Let’s go to the other end of the spectrum and eighty-six last year’s winner, John Harbaugh. His Ravens went 14-2 last season and expectations are now so high that the only chance he has is if his charges go undefeated. That won’t happen so let’s remove him from the list.

After taking a shredder to the rest of this crop, it’s clear that we are left with four or five solid candidates and San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan is not among them, as he is entering the season as the Super Bowl runner-up and coming off of a 13-3 season. Therefore, he has little room to elevate that record and is working with one of the most talented teams in the league. Shanahan has a better chance of winning the Super Bowl than this award. The same goes for Kansas City’s Andy Reid.

If we take a look at the NFL odds for this award over at BetOnline, we see that the four favorites are as follows:

Bill Belichick (Patriots) +1200
Bruce Arians (Bucs) +1400
Mike McCarthy (Cowboys) +1400
Frank Reich (Colts) +1600

This year we’ll see how much of a genius Bill Belichick is without his ace in the hole, Tom Brady. However, now that New England procured the services of Cam Newton, the likelihood of Belichick winning the award has been diminished because even if he tallies 11 or 12 wins with a former MVP under center it’s not earth-shattering. Yet, had he done the same with a second-year pro, Jarrett Stidham, well, that’s another story.

My logic runs parallel when considering Tampa Bay’s Bruce Arians. Granted, his club was 7-9 last season but now he has the GOAT, Tom Brady, at the helm and added another impressive piece to their offensive puzzle in Rob Gronkowski. I’m not sure even a dozen wins would guarantee the award for Arians with this infusion of talent, but 13 or more definitely would.

And I’m tossing Frank Reich out of the mix because I don’t believe Philip Rivers will do anything more than Jacoby Brissett did last season for the Colts. If Reich is lucky, he will take his 7-9 team from 2019 and get them to 10-6 this year but that won’t be enough to cop him the award.

Drum roll, please! Your 2020 NFL Coach of the Year is Dallas’s Mike McCarthy, formerly of Green Bay, where he babysat Aaron Rodgers for 13 seasons! This is a perfect opportunity for the talented McCarthy as he takes command of a highly skilled team that woefully underachieved last season under the not so watchful eye of Jason Garrett.

The Cowboys have arguably the best runner in the game with Ezekiel Elliott and now a trio of explosive receivers with the arrival of CeeDee Lamb joining Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. At odds of +1400, he is my choice to win this coveted award and will be included in my NFL picks before the season kicks.

Mike McCarthy+1400
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Travis Frederick of the Dallas Cowboys greets Head coach Mike McCarthy of the Dallas Cowboys following a press conference at the Ford Center at The Star on January 08, 2020 in Frisco, Texas. Tom Pennington/Getty Images/AFP