By Tony Massarotti
If the NFL has found parity, they have discovered it in every area but one. So tell me, my friends: who is the second-best coach in the league?
No. 1? Oh, that’s Bill Belichick, of course, as if there were any doubt. Belichick has won five Super Bowls, more than any coach in the history of the game. Belichick has been to seven Super Bowls, more than any coach in the history of the game. In the postseason, Belichick has coached (36) and won (26) more postseason games than any coach in the history of the league, which doesn’t merely make him the consensus choice as best active coach in the NFL.
It makes him, arguably, the greatest coach in the history of the game.
So back to the question:
In the current NFL, who’s No. 2?
Sadly — and laughably — there is no right answer. Think about it. Pete Carroll of the Seahawks? His team is now 1-2, and he may forever be remembered as the coach who bypassed Marshawn Lynch and instead threw the ball at the goal line with a championship at stake, costing himself a second straight Super Bowl title. Mike Tomlin? Please. His Pittsburgh Steelers can’t even decide whether to stay in the locker room together during the national anthem. John Harbaugh? His Baltimore Ravens team is 41-39 over the last five seasons and has missed the playoffs three times in four years since winning the Super Bowl in 2012. On Sunday, the Ravens got poleaxed. By Jacksonville.
We’ve said this before, and we’ll say it again. The NFL has a coaching problem, though the last two years have brought a crop of optimism in the form of Vance Joseph (Denver), Adam Gase (Miami), Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco) and Sean McVay (Los Angles Rams), among others. Maybe Doug Pederson has a chance in Philly. Or maybe Dan Quinn has a shot in Atlanta. Of course, in Quinn’s case, his team had the Super Bowl all but won last year … then crumbled in an avalanche of questionable decisions that included passing instead of running while well within range of a championship-clinching field goal.
But then, O’Brien worked under Carroll, which brings us back to the whole notion of overthinking when all you really have to do is hand the ball off.
Even Belichick’s disciples are falling on their faces. On Sunday, with his team trailing by three, Houston coach Bill O’Brien failed to call a timeout, allowing 10 seconds to run off the clock following a completion that placed the ball near midfield. Instead of having 13 seconds left to run a play or two and get into field goal range, the Texans ended up with three. Houston was forced to throw a Hail Mary that was intercepted, dropping a three-point decision to a New England team that was ripe for the picking.
“Yeah, I screwed that up,” O’Brien said. “My mistake.”
Yes. It was.
Does Belichick make mistakes? Of course. He once went for it on fourth-and-two on his own 28-yard line late in a game against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, turning the ball over and handing Manning a victory. He once elected to kick off in overtime after winning a coin toss against the New York Jets, leaving Tom Brady on the sideline as New York drove for a game-winning touchdown. But Belichick has racked up so many wins and so many titles that he has earned extraordinary latitude.
Everyone else? They fall on their faces, week after week, unable to make the simplest decisions and choices under what is standard NFL pressure.
So again, ask yourself:
Who is the second-best coach in the NFL?
Tony Massarotti is an avid Boston sports fan and has covered sports in Boston for more than 15 years for both the Boston Herald and Boston Globe. He now serves as a co-host on afternoon drive on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston. He was a two-time Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year as voted by his peers and has written four books, including “Big Papi,” the New York Times-bestselling memoirs of David Ortiz. You can follow Tony @tonymassarotti.