The NFL’s Coach of the Year award is always one of the most intriguing awards handed out. While fans can usually get a good feel for who’ll win awards like Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year, the Coach of the Year award can come down to the home stretch. The 2016 NFL season is no different, as there are four coaches who really are leading the pack for the award, and multiple others who could work their way up into the top of the mix as well. Let’s check out the four names leading the way to this point.
Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
No Tom Brady? No problem. Belichick handed the keys to the car over to Jimmy Garoppolo, and then he got hurt. So, it was onto third-string quarterback and rookie Jacoby Brissett, which apparently didn’t matter either, as the Patriots won again, moving to 3-0 on the season. The only loss the Patriots have suffered to this point was a Week 4 game against the Buffalo Bills in which they literally didn’t have a healthy quarterback. Brissett started the game, and afterward almost immediately went on injured reserve.
It’s hard to say that Belichick doesn’t deserve this award for the work he did without Brady, and if the Patriots roll right along as many believe they will with him, then he’ll be the front-runner at the end of the season.
Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings
If any one coach in the NFL can rival Belichick, then it’s Zimmer. Not only did the Vikings coach win a game with Shaun Hill, but he also is reeling off wins left and right with Sam Bradford under center, while making him look like a very good quarterback in the process. While Bradford seemed to be unwanted by multiple other teams over the past few seasons, the Vikings wanted him bad, and we’re seeing why.
Even more impressive is the fact that Zimmer has his Vikings playing at an elite level without star running back Adrian Peterson now as well. Peterson suffered a torn lateral meniscus and is on the injured reserve currently. Even still, the Vikings are undefeated through five games. Obviously, the Vikings are going to lose a game eventually, but if they can keep up this high level of play, the debate between Zimmer and Belichick is going to be a tough one.
Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons defense hasn’t been great, allowing 140 points this season, but they’re leading the league in points per game, and it’s not really all that close. Quinn and the Falcons have now reeled off four-straight wins and look to be the real deal. Quarterback Matt Ryan is a front-runner for the Most Valuable Player award, and the team’s two-headed monster of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman looks nearly unstoppable at this point.
The Falcons proved with their Week 5 victory on the road against the Denver Broncos that they’re the real deal, and now it’s about holding onto their lead in the NFC South and continuing to reel off big wins.
Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys
While both Doug Pederson (Philadelphia Eagles) and Jack Del Rio (Oakland Raiders) were in consideration for this spot, there’s one thing that bumped Garrett into the mix as a sleeper. It’s that the Cowboys have not only won games with a mediocre defense and very little pass rush (until Week 5), but they’ve done it with a rookie duo in the backfield in fourth-round pick Dak Prescott and No. 4 overall pick Ezekiel Elliott. If you don’t want to buy-in based on that alone, then look at the fact that the Cowboys are now even winning games without Dez Bryant as well.
It’s hard to not put Garrett’s name in the mix for this award, even if he’s still behind the three names listed above.
So, how will the NFL’s Coach of the Year race play out? For final predictions, the edge is going to go to Zimmer and the Vikings. While the Patriots are going to be probably the top seed in the AFC this season, and the job that he did was amazing, seeing what Zimmer has done to this point is nothing short of a miracle. The Vikings lost two of their top offensive weapons, yet are 5-0 on the season and are only getting better.