Call it the great coaching divide. That Ãs what we have in the NFL today. There Ãs New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, and the rest -- no matter how you stack them -- are way, way, way behind.
Belichick is arguably the greatest coach of all time, a sentiment bolstered by continued success in the era of free agency and roster turnover. Of course, Tom Brady cures almost any ills and allows Belichick to be bold with his roster, but even so he is a detail freak who gets the most out of his players and is unreal when it comes to game planning.
Add all that to his five Super Bowl rings and Belichick is the obvious No. 1 on my list ranking current coaches from 1-32. Nobody else is in the conversation and it's not because there aren't plenty of good coaches in this league.
Belichick drives fantasy players nuts because they never can tell what the Patriots will do on offense from week to week. And on defense, Belichick's hybrid unit is as unpredictable as they come. It's all testament to his greatness: You never know what Ãs coming.
He Ãs not afraid to take chances. Those Super Bowl rings -- including the latest, the epic comeback vs. Atlanta after trailing 28-3 in the second half -- are his skins on the wall. They allow him freedom to gamble, though any risk is always calculated.
I can't read enough about Belichick and his philosophy. Books or stories about him are textbooks on coaching and team building. This might sound like I am slobbering about the guy, but he has made some bonehead decisions late in games -- which I am quick to point out, much to the chagrin of Patriots nation -- though none of them diminish his football genius; it just shows that even the best can screw up situational coaching.
Even though he got lucky getting Brady in the sixth round -- that's the only way to describe drafting the greatest of all time that late -- Belichick also has helped mold Brady into the player we see today.
It's always a treat to log onto Patriots.com and watch Belichick break down tape of players and plays. I recommend it to anybody who wants to take a look behind the curtain at this football savant.
For this list, I'm ranking 27 coaches who have experience, with the five first-time coaches tied at No. 28. It wouldn't be fair to rank them since they have yet to coach a game. They have a long way to go to sniff Belichick territory. Then again, so does everybody else.
1. Bill Belichick, Patriots
Five Super Bowl victories solidifies this spot. It's hard to consider any conversation about the best ever without his name coming up. How much longer will he do it is the question. He has a winning percentage of .673, which is 11th all time, one spot behind Don Shula. He has 237 regular-season victories, which is fourth all time, and he can tie Tom Landry for third if he wins 13 next season. Shula appears to be out of reach with 328, but he did it in 33 seasons. Belichick has done it in 22, although 14 of ShulaÃs seasons came with a 14-game schedule and one shortened to nine because of a strike. The guy is legend, and it Ãs a treat to watch him work -- even when he blows the end of games. Yes, that's another dig.
2. Mike McCarthy, Packers
There were some who wanted him fired the past two seasons. That was purely absurd. He has the second-best winning percentage (.651) of any active coach, behind Belichick. He has had double-digit victories in eight of his 11 seasons with the Packers, with only one losing season. He also has a Super Bowl win, but gets dinged some for his 10-8 playoff record. With Aaron Rodgers, some expect more. Maybe one more ring ends the debate.
3. Andy Reid, Chiefs
He has had three losing seasons in 18 as a head coach, one of those in his first with the Eagles in 1999. He has had 11 seasons of 10 or more victories, including the past two seasons with the Chiefs. He has been to the playoffs 12 times, but reached the Super Bowl only once and has an 11-12 postseason record, which hurts. Even so, he's a damn good coach. I know he doesn't have a ring, but he has done some amazing things, which is why he's in this third spot, above some guys who have won rings.
4. Pete Carroll, Seahawks
He has been an NFL coach in three different spots, totaling 11 seasons. His has a .588 career winning percentage, but he has a .629 percentage in his seven seasons in Seattle, with one Super Bowl victory and was a yard away from a second. He has at least 10 victories in each of the past five seasons. His easy-going approach with players has paid off big. It's hard to believe he turns 66 this September, but there is a lot of good coaching left in him.
5. Mike Tomlin, Steelers
In his 10 seasons with the Steelers, he has never had a losing record. That's impressive. He has seven seasons of double-digit victories and is 1-1 in Super Bowls and 8-6 overall in postseason play. There are some who question whether he's just a guy who oversees everything rather than a hands-on coach. I don't buy that. He knows what it takes to win, no matter how he gets it done.
6. Sean Payton, Saints
There are some who will say three consecutive 7-9 seasons should drop him, but I don't buy it. Take a look at the roster. Yes, he's responsible for some of it, but I think the blame goes above him. The defense has lacked play-makers. Payton is still one of the league's best offensive minds. If he were a free-agent coach, he would be signed in an instant. He has five seasons of double-digit victories and no season worse than 7-9. He also won a Super Bowl. If they fix the defense this season -- and they've made strides -- they will be in the mix again to get back to the Super Bowl.
7. John Harbaugh, Ravens
He has five seasons of double-digit victories in nine with the Ravens, and he has one Super Bowl victory, that coming in the 2012 season. He has had only one losing season, a 5-11 stinker in 2015, and he's only 13-19 the past two seasons without a playoff berth. It hasn't helped that he has changed offensive coordinators like he changes underwear. That makes Ravens fans a little jumpy when it comes to their coach. This could be a big year for Harbaugh and his job status. Three non-playoff seasons would be tough to overcome.
8. Adam Gase, Dolphins
He is a star in the making. Gase took over the Dolphins last season and got a team hardly stacked with talent to 10-6 and into the playoffs. He has great give-and-take with his players, knowing when to push and when to pull back. He is also a great offensive mind, which you need in this league today. One more thing: He is a maniac when it comes to working, which can be seen in his preparation. A few years from now, he might top this list when Belichick retires if he can keep it going forward.
9. Bruce Arians, Cardinals
He had his first losing season as Cardinals coach in 2016, going 7-8-1 in what can only be described as a major disappointment. But, counting his interim stint with the Colts in 2012, Arians has a .648 winning percentage, third best among active coaches. His players love him, and he's a keen offensive mind. If there's one criticism, he needs to fix his special teams.
10. Bill O'Brien, Texans
O'Brien has gone 9-7 in each of his first three seasons with the Texans, making the playoffs the past two and winning a playoff game last season. That's unreal considering the quarterback situation since he has been there. He has coached the heck out of this team without a true franchise passer. Imagine if he gets one? He's a smart offensive mind who plays without a true weapon under center. That's the definition of frustration. Yet he's 27-21 over three seasons (.567). That is coaching.
11. Chuck Pagano, Colts
Does this seem high for a guy on the hot seat after last season? Maybe, but he has a .613 winning percentage and still hasn't had a losing season in five with the Colts. This is a team that hasn't had a lot of talent, yet it has been to the postseason three times during Pagano's tenure. The past two 8-8 seasons, coming in a bad division, don't help his ranking. But the talent level wasn't good and Andrew Luck has suffered nagging injuries. If he had been fired, I think another team would have hired him quickly.
12. Dan Quinn, Falcons
He took the Falcons to the Super Bowl in his second season, and was a blown 28-3 second-half lead away from winning a ring. The decisions made late in that game will help him grow, and he has shown amazing maturity getting past it. One of the hidden stories behind last season's Super run was how he became more involved with the defense in the second half of the season, spurring the turnaround. He has a great temperament to be a long-term success. In two years, I bet he's much higher on this list.
13. Mike Zimmer, Vikings
It's hard to evaluate him based on an injury-decimated 2016. No coach, not even Belichick, could have sustained success through that, and yet Zimmer got the Vikings to 8-8. The year before, Zimmer led the Vikings to a division title in his second season. I think that's more of who he is as a coach than last season. His fiery approach is perfect for the modern NFL player. The offensive coordinator issues last season -- with Norv Turner walking away -- stain his rÃ©sumÃ© a little.
14. John Fox, Bears
In his 15 seasons with Carolina, Denver and Chicago, he has been to two Super Bowls, losing both, and has five seasons of double-digit victories. He has had a rough go of it in Chicago the past two seasons, going 6-10 and 3-13, but he has had some injury issues. Even so, his belief that running the football wins games is out of date. Failing to change with the times on offense has held his teams back. His .533 winning percentage isn't that impressive, but he was 38-10 in his final three seasons in Denver. If only they had won a Super Bowl.
15. Marvin Lewis, Bengals
He has the exact same winning percentage as Fox (.533) but has never reached a Super Bowl. In 14 seasons with the Bengals, he has six seasons with double-digit victories and four losing seasons, including 2016 when his team went 6-9-1 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010. There's pressure to win this season, or he could be out. There are a lot of Bengals fans who want him out, but ownership has been patient, and understandably so until last season. It's hard to argue with his record the past six seasons.
16. Ron Rivera, Panthers
He led the Panthers to an NFC title in the 2015 season before a Super Bowl loss to the Broncos. Carolina had a Super hangover last season and fell to 6-10 after going 15-1 the previous season. In five seasons with the Panthers, he has two seasons of 10 or more wins, but losing records in the other four. His winning percentage is .557, thanks in large part to the 15-victory season. He is a defensive-minded coach, and he loves to run it and play great defense to win games. That's his style.
17. Jason Garrett, Cowboys
Garrett has a .558 career winning percentage and led the Cowboys to a 12-4 record and a division title last season. He has had only one losing season in seven as Cowboys coach, including his interim stint in 2010. He is 29-19 the past three seasons and overcame the loss of quarterback Tony Romo in training camp last season to make the playoffs with rookie Dak Prescott. That was impressive. Early in his Cowboys career, he was criticized for game management and play-calling, but he has improved those areas the past few seasons.
18. Jack Del Rio, Raiders
Del Rio has turned the Raiders into a legitimate Super Bowl contender. If quarterback Derek Carr didn't go down last season, they could have pushed the Patriots in the AFC. Del Rio was previously the coach in Jacksonville and led the Jaguars to the playoffs twice in nine seasons. He has a .509 career winning percentage, but expect that to go up the next few seasons with this young, talented team.
19. Dirk Koetter, Buccaneers
He went 9-7 in his first season with the Bucs, justifying ownership's decision to fire Lovie Smith and make Koetter the coach after he served as offensive coordinator in 2015. Koetter is a bright offensive mind who has nice give-and-take with players. I always expected him to be a better NFL coach than college coach, where he served stints at Boise State and Arizona State. That's because he's a true football guy. He has no time for glad-handing the alums. I think Tampa Bay is finding that out, and his young team should push for a division title next season, which should move him up the list. I think he's the right guy and will have long-term success in Tampa.
20. Jay Gruden, Redskins
He has done a nice job turning the Redskins around, going from 4-12 in his first season in 2014 to 9-7 the next and 8-7-1 in 2016. He made the playoffs in 2015, but missed out last season with a Week 17 home loss to the Giants that hurts him some on this list. His winning percentage is .448, which isn't pretty, but the first year drives it down. He is a smart offensive coach who needs to figure out how to get his team to play better defense. A change in coordinators this season might help.
21. Jim Caldwell, Lions
Going into 2016, many expected Caldwell to struggle and maybe get fired with first-year GM Bob Quinn bringing in his own guy. But Caldwell got the Lions to the playoffs, where they lost a wild-card game to the Seahawks. If not for a late-season collapse, they would have won the division. They finished 9-7. In his three seasons with the Lions, he is 27-21. Before that, he was coach of the Colts when they went to the Super Bowl in 2009, his first year with the team. They lost to the Saints in that game. The Colts let him go after they went 2-14 without Peyton Manning in 2011.
22. Ben McAdoo, Giants
He took the Giants to the playoffs his first season as coach in 2016, going 11-5 before losing to the Packers in the wild-card round. McAdoo, who was the offensive coordinator before taking over for Tom Coughlin, continued as the team's play-caller. The offense struggled in 2016 with McAdoo handling both roles. That will be something to watch going forward.
23. Mike Mularkey, Titans
The Titans are Mularkey's third team after previous stops with the Bills and Jaguars. Those two stints didn't end well. He was 14-21 in two seasons with the Bills and 2-14 in one season with the Jaguars. After taking over as interim coach of the Titans in 2015, he was hired as the full-time guy last season and led the Titans to a 9-7 record. His outdated belief in running the football paid off last season as the Titans nearly won the division. The question is whether this team can continue to push for a playoff spot with that style.
24. Hue Jackson, Browns
It's unfair to grade Jackson by his first season with the Browns. They had little talent, quarterback issues and understandably finished 1-15. He was 8-8 in his only season as the Raiders' coach in 2011. I still think he can be a darn good coach, but the body of work is so small. The Browns need to be patient and let him coach a few more seasons before passing judgment.
25. Doug Marrone, Jaguars
He was 15-17 in two seasons with the Bills, including 9-7 in 2014 before he quit. He was 1-1 as Jacksonville's interim coach after taking over for Gus Bradley last season, which led to his hiring on a full-time basis. He is a no-nonsense guy who will bring discipline to the team, but how much is he going to be a puppet for Tom Coughlin?
26. Doug Pederson, Eagles
When a guy starts a rookie quarterback his first season as coach, it's tough to evaluate him. But Pederson did a nice job getting the Eagles to 7-9, although they did start fast before fading. Even so, the former quarterback who learned under Andy Reid seems to have a good feel for being a head coach. As quarterback Carson Wentz improves, Pederson will look a lot better as well.
27. Todd Bowles, Jets
In 2015, it looked like the Jets struck gold with Bowles when he led them to a 10-6 record in his first season as their coach. He did it with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, which is even more impressive. But then last season, it all came apart. The Jets finished 5-11 and many were questioning Bowles. Can he turn it around? The talent isn't good on his roster, and the quarterback situation is a mess. It will be a miracle if he does -- no matter what type of coach we think he can become.
28. (tie) Sean McVay, Rams; Anthony Lynn, Chargers; Vance Joseph, Broncos; Kyle Shanahan, 49ers; Sean McDermott, Bills
We have no idea how these first-year guys will perform, even if you think you do, so they land here. There is a lot to be excited about in these cities, but isn't it always that way for first-time coaches?