Ranking the 8 Coaches in the NFL Divisional Round

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Bill Belichick
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 13: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on in the second quarter of the AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium on January 13, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Yes it is Bill Belichick and everyone else but the seven other coaches coaching in the NFL Divisional Round are very intriguing. With these eight coaches, it is a mix bag of newbies (Mularkey, Marrone, and Pederson), a little experience (Zimmer and Quinn), and SuperBowl winners (Payton, Tomlin, and Belichick). The ranking below are based on coaching experience, playoff appearance and confidence.

Ranking the 8 Coaches in the NFL Divisional Round

8. Mike Mularkey

Head Coaching Experience: 6 years  (36-53 record)
Playoff Appearances: 1 (1-0 record)
Superbowls Appearances : 0
Confidence level: 0

Mularkey started his head coaching career in Buffalo, but only lasted two seasons. Then, he spent one year in Jacksonville going 3-13. He took over the Tennessee Titans in 2015 as the interim coach. It was a shock to many when he was given the full-time gig after the season. He was on the hot seat late in the season and some insiders thought he might be fired if the Titans missed the playoffs. He was fortunate to be playing in the worst division in the NFL (the AFC South). The big criticism of Mularkey has been the development of Marcus Mariota who has not looked good this season. Lucky for Mularkey, the Chiefs last week had a major choke job and the Titans were able to advance to the Divisional Round.

7. Doug Marrone

Head Coaching Experience: 4 years (26-24 record)
Playoff Appearances: 1 (1-0 record)
Superbowl Appearances: 0
Confidence level: 2

Like Mularkey, Marrone started his coaching career in Buffalo. He also lasted two seasons but after the 2014 season, he decided to opt out of his contract due to the uncertainty of the Bills ownership situations. Before that, he was the head coach of Syracuse. Also like Mularkey, he took over the Jags on an interim basis in 2016.

The reason for the confidence level of two has more to do with his defense more than anything. Coming from an offensive background, Marrone’s offense hasn’t been much to write home about. With Blake Bortles as his quarterback there isn’t much he can do. The Jags are an upcoming team with a young defense and a rookie running back but is Marrone the coach to get them over the hump.

6. Doug Pederson

Head Coaching Experience: 2 years (20-12 record)
Playoff Appearances: 1 (0-0)
Superbowl Appearances: 0
Confidence level: 3

Pederson is in his second year as head coach of the Eagles. In his first year, he led the Eagles to a 7-9 record with Carson Wentz. Earlier this season, it was looking like Pederson was leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl. But with the Carson Wentz’ injury, the Eagles have become an afterthought in these playoffs. With the Eagles having a bye last week, Pederson will be coaching in his first playoff game this Saturday. It will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure of the playoffs. Also, how will he use Nick Foles? Who has come in for the injured Carson Wentz. Coming from Andy Reid’s coaching tree, he has some experience coaching in the playoff but will he wilt in the postseason pressure like his mentor. We will see on Saturday.

5. Dan Quinn

Head Coaching Experience: 3 years (29-19 record)
Playoff Appearances: 2 (3-1 record)
Superbowl Appearances: 1 (0-1)
Confidence level: 4

Dan Quinn will always be known as the coach that blew the 28-3 lead in Superbowl LII. Coming off last season, many people will interest to see how Dan Quinn would navigate this season. He did a good enough job getting the Falcons to the playoffs. The offense has struggled with the loss of offense coordinator Kyle Shannan. Since taking over the Falcons in 2015, Quinn’s team has blown seven fourth-quarter leads. Some see Dan Quinn as a Mike Smith 2.0, the Falcons previous coach. A great defensive coordinator but sometimes makes head-scratching decision when the game is on the line. His confidence level is at 4 because with all of that he did lead his team to a Superbowl last year.

4. Mike Zimmer

Head Coaching experience: 4 years (39-25 record)
Playoff Experience: 2 (0-1)
Superbowl Appearances: 0
Confidence level: 5 

Zimmer is one of the best defensive minds in football. He also has the best defense in the league. Before taking over the Vikings in 2014, he had many years as a defensive co-ordinator with the Cowboys and Bengals. In his lone playoff appearance, the Vikings lost a heartbreaker to the Seahawks 10-9 on a Blair Walsh missed fieldgoal. Zimmer is a very conservative coach which could help or hurt the Vikings in a tight playoff game. He might coach to not lose a game but they could come to bite him down the stretch. That’s why he is in the middle of the rankings.

3. Mike Tomlin

Head Coaching Experience: 11 years (116-60 record)
Playoff Appearances: 8 (8-6 record)
Superbowl Appearances: 2 (1-1)
Confidence level: 7

The next two coaches are almost interchangeable but Mike Tomlin comes in at number three. Tomlin has the experience and Super Bowl ring. Since taking over the Steelers in 2007, he has constantly had them in the playoffs. He has coached in five division games and will have a distinct coaching advantage with this week. The only concern is sometime his team doesn’t play up to its competition but in the playoff his team should not have that problem.

2. Sean Payton

Head Coaching Experience: 12 years (105-72 record)
Playoff Appearances: 6 (7-4 record)
Superbowl Appearances: 1 (1-0)
Confidence level: 8

Sean Payton is back and back in a big way. After three consecutive 7-9 seasons, Payton has the Saints in the playoffs. The gutsiest coach in the NFL has pushed all the right buttons this season. Going for it on 4th down last week, Payton showed the NFL that he will not coached scared and play for the win. This week’s match-up with Mike Zimmer is a battle of two totally different coaches. Payton is an offensive genius who will coach to win and be overly aggressive. Just like Zimmer, this could be a good or bad thing. He has the franchise’s only Super Bowl and only road playoff victory. It will be interesting to see what gutsy call he will have this week. His confidence level is 8 because he coaches fearless and that goes a long way in the playoffs.

1. Bill Belichick

Head Coaching Experience: 23 years (250-118 record)
Playoff Appearances: 16 (26-10)
Superbowl Appearances: 7 (5-2)
Confidence level: 10 

A surprise to no one, Bill Belichick is ranked number 1. He is the greatest coach of all time. No one is better in the playoffs. Unless the Steelers beat them next week, it is looking like a third consecutive trip for the Patriots to the Superbowl. Until someone beats the Patriots, Belichick will be ranked number 1. He will always have his team prepared and will not be out schemed. It is as simple as that.

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