Posted February 27, 2014

Bill Belichick, Jim Harbaugh among the NFL’s most indispensable coaches

AFC East, AFC North, Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, NFC South, NFC West, NFL Coaches, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks
It's tough to find a coach more valuable to his team than Bill Belichick.

It’s tough to find a coach more valuable to his team than Bill Belichick. (Gerry Broome/AP)

In the reports of tension earlier this week between San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and the team’s front office (specifically general manager Trent Baalke), there was this interesting tidbit from NFL.com’s Mike Silver:

As much as [CEO Jed] York and his top executives value Harbaugh and appreciate the swift and sublime success he has enjoyed since arriving in 2011, a stretch that has included three consecutive NFC Championship Game appearances and a near-miss Super Bowl defeat, they are not inclined to beg him to stick around, either through words or emphatic financial gestures of support.

Yes, they like him, and acknowledge that he’s very good at what he does. Sure, he is high-maintenance and at times demanding — but they can live with that. What Harbaugh’s bosses won’t do is panic in the face of reports that he might be wooed to greener (as in the color of money) pastures, be they the University of Texasthe University of Southern California or the Capital of Creative Combine Questions.

“We didn’t do that when we hired him in the first place, either,” one top Niners official reminded me on Saturday, referring to the team’s refusal to raise its offer to Harbaugh in the face of a late push (and reportedly sweeter deal) from Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross. “Why would we run scared?”

Well, one reason to run scared would be the Dolphins’ current situation under head coach Joe Philbin, or any number of scenarios in which teams are blown apart by the simple fact that the man in the most publicly prominent leadership role doesn’t know how to lead.  And the Cleveland Browns’ recent attempt to trade for Harbaugh got us to thinking — who are the league’s most indispensable coaches? The coaches without whom NFL teams would be lost? Harbaugh’s on that list, but there are a few names above his.

Bill Belichick, New England Patriots

Since he became the Patriots head coach before the 2000 season, Belichick has been the only constant through a decade and a half of unrivaled success. New England has won at least 10 games in all but two of Belichick’s Foxboro seasons — one was his first season there, and the second was 2002, when the team won nine games. The Pats managed to win Super Bowls in the years on either side of that “disappointment.” You can talk about Spygate and the fact that there hasn’t been a Super Bowl win since the end of the 2004 season, but Belichick has cycled through players, assistants and front office talent, with plenty of in-season success to show for it. And for that reason, no NFL head coach is more indispensable to his team.

MORE: 2014 NFL Mock Draft | 2014 NFL Draft Big Board | More 2014 NFL draft coverage

Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks

Here’s an amazing stat: If the Seahawks cut defensive end Red Bryant in the next couple of weeks to alleviate their salary cap issues, nose tackle Brandon Mebane would be the only player left on the defensive side of the ball from before Carroll came to the Emerald City in 2010. That means Carroll and general manager John Schneider built the league’s best current defense, and one of the best in recent years, from the ground up over a four-year period. One of the most underrated points about Carroll’s current success as an NFL head coach, and perhaps where he failed in the 1990s with the New York Jets and the New England Patriots, is that his decade at USC allowed him to get a sure bead on the best college players based on his own thoughts about them when they were high-school recruits. From Percy Harvin to Richard Sherman, several key cogs on the Seahawks’ roster are kids that Carroll wanted, but didn’t get, out of high school.

Schneider is the personnel guy, but Carroll calls the shots, and he’s assembled the youngest Super Bowl-winning team in NFL history. The way he’s done it makes him just about impossible to replace.

Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints

It’s a football truism that people, at times, show their true value in their absence. That was certainly true of Payton when he was suspended for the entire 2012 season for his role in the BountyGate affair, and the Saints plummeted from 13-3 to 7-9 in the year their head coach was gone. Payton has a rare and extremely productive relationship with quarterback Drew Brees, and that’s no accident — he understands the position as few coaches do, and his advanced route concepts allow just about any receiver to come into New Orleans’ offense and succeed. Payton is probably the most indispensable offensive coach in the league today, and his control over his team adds a lot to the picture. When he hasn’t controlled things — well, you get what got him booted from the league for a season.

Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers

So … contrary to what Baalke may believe, you can’t just throw any half-decent coach at the 49ers and make them win. Because before they hired Harbaugh in 2011, management had thrown several half-decent coaches at the problem, and had little to show for it. The franchise hadn’t had a winning season since Steve Mariucci’s last year in 2002, and three men — Dennis Erickson, Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary — tried and failed in the decade after. Harbaugh, who had turnarounds at San Diego and Stanford on his resume, brought offensive coordinator Greg Roman and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio with him from Stanford, and immediately created a culture of success. In his three seasons, the 49ers have 41 regular- and postseason wins, tied with New England for the NFL lead. Harbaugh’s personality may be grating, and he may not be long for the Bay Area as a result, but there’s no denying his effectiveness as a head coach. And if the 49ers think they can plug another guy in without a diligent search, they’re fooling themselves.

Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals have been eliminated in the wild-card round of the last three playoffs, but Lewis still gets the nod here because it’s tough to imagine too many coaches would put up just three losing seasons in 11 years with an owner/general manager like Mike Brown, and a scouting department that only recently went beyond a pathetically low-staffed scouting department. In addition, Lewis has the rare ability to take character risk after character risk and have it work out — for the most part. Few NFL teams rest more on their head coaches. And when you consider what the Bengals were before he showed up — a franchise that couldn’t manage a winning season from 1991 through 2001 — Lewis’ value becomes even more clear.

125 comments
MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

Wait...another SI article is reporting that the ever-present Harbaugh's act is "growing thin" with the mysterious but ever-present "some players."

Consistency, thy name is NOT SI.

jutah
jutah

Peyton manning should be in this list

RaoulDuke
RaoulDuke

If you want a coach who can go 11 years without winning a playoff game, Marvin Lewis definitely is indispensable

GTT
GTT

Mike Smith of the Falcons. He put up five winning seasons in a row, when no other coach in franchise history has even two. He will have them back in contention this season.

runaway06
runaway06

This list fails on so many levels. Thank you for the high-quality trolling. Harbaugh has a super bowl with the Ravens, Tomlin has 2 with the steelers and made it to another one, but Marv makes the list? Im shocked you didn't put Mike Pettine over Bill Bellichick

Rem
Rem

As a Cinci fan... Marvin Lewis??  Marvin Lewis????  MARVIN LEWIS??????  Lewis has won exactly ZERO playoff games in over a decade as the Bengals Coach.  You give me ANY coach and I guarantee he will find at least the same success.  Give me a break.  


The only reason Cinci keeps him around is our owner is cheap as hell, and Marvin Lewis is decent for bargain basement prices.

aberdynaj
aberdynaj

Indispensable in losing to the Giants!


ENOUGH WITH BELLICHEAT


He has not won a thing since Spygate. And was beat TWICE by a guy not on this list...


Bellichick and his "classy org" has preduced the biggest scandal in 30 yrs, and  convicted murderer


Coughlin and the Giants?  BEAT his arse twice and hey NO MURDERS!

MartyMoyer
MartyMoyer

I like Marvin Lewis, but he shouldn't be on this list, a little above average but hasn't done much in Cinci, but I do hope Marvin and the Bengals do well every year--

Ed16
Ed16

If there is no Coughlin, the list is invalid. Another dumb exercise by a CBS writer.

HarryLeague
HarryLeague

What about John Harbaugh of the Ravens. They were only an average team till he took the reins. He took them to the playoffs 5 out of 6 years and has won one Superbowl title. Brother Jim is very good but he still hasn't beat his brother in a real game. 

David G
David G

Pete Carroll, the guy just one step ahead of the enforcement at USC, is on this list?  He is sitting on a team that plays with the rules every minute of every day.  He will be forced out or outright fired shortly.  Good coach?  Yes.  The rest is what will cost him and the team.

WilliamCross
WilliamCross

Marvin Lewis is the third most accomplished coach in his division, and the guy he's ahead of is brand new.

Frank14
Frank14

i am just thankful KC's A. Reid is omitted from the list.

dbum
dbum

as several others have mentioned, marvin lewis, does not belong on this list. his team was the measure of mediocrity for years until they hired Jay Gruden. And even since they that the team has made the playoffs but failed to advance. 

For years under his leadership the team had serious problems with discipline on the field and suspension worthy conduct off it.


id pick john harbough, bruce arians and mike mcarthy before him.

pickle
pickle

Marvin Lewis does not belong on this list. The Bengals are actually a very talented roster and all he does is get them to the playoffs and then they severely under perform every season. I agree with most people that John Harbaugh should be on here. Also, it's too early to tell, but I think Bruce Arians might be a really good coach, the Cardinals were way better than anyone expected this year.

gyffesme
gyffesme

Cowboys fan, delighted you included Lewis. As Kalzy's insightful analysis demonstrates, he doesn't get much credit for what he's managed for as long as he's managed it with what the Bengals give him. I'm not sure he's the dude to take them to the promised land, but they'd be way way worse -- perhaps not even up Dallas' epic 8-8 average the past 20 years -- without him.

Kalzy
Kalzy

Lewis? hilarious.


Willis
Willis

Belicheat is a joke. He cheated to win early. Once he won he used the reputation as a winner to get top free agents on the cheap (Harrison, Adaleus Thomas etc) & talented disgruntled players refusing to be traded elsewhere for far less than market value (Dillion, Moss) to continue winning even after he was caught cheating. It's all based on lies. Without cheating to build up his credibility he fails just like he did in Cleveland.

MartyJenkins
MartyJenkins

To all you people who can't read, and keep asking for Harbaugh


" — who are the league’s most indispensable coaches? The coaches without whom NFL teams would be lost? Harbaugh’s on that list, but there are a few names above his."

Hes on the list, these are just the other guys on the list also.... my goodness reading comprehension is at a low these days

opaque2
opaque2

Find another coach who can do as much given what working for Mike Brown means.

Cheab0521
Cheab0521

@runaway06 Mike Tomlin has only one Super Bowl....On that note, I believe Tomlin is a good coach but is far from irreplaceable.  Harbaugh is an ok coach, but his brother is a much better coach than he is.  If I were posting a list it would include Peyton, Cheating Hoodie in NE, Harbaugh (SF), and Reid because of the amazing job he did in KC.

opaque2
opaque2

Ask Cleveland how that "any coach" thing is working out. Given what working with Mike Brown means who could do better?

MarkPeters
MarkPeters

Who has been convicted of murder? And he has won TWO AFC title games, owns the AFC East, been in the playoffs almost every year that he has been in NE, and done it with an ever changing roster. Oh and you are an idiot.

MichaelWallis1
MichaelWallis1

@Ed16 I didn't see him on the list either nor John Harbaugh both Super Bowl winning coaches. I didn't see Andy Reid either. I guess his six NFC title game appearances don't count nor the quick turn around he did for the Chiefs.

ianlinross
ianlinross

@Ed16  It's a long way to the draft. The sumb*tch has to write something.

Scramble
Scramble

@HarryLeague They were a good team when he became coach. The veteran players ran the team for five years. You saw what happened this year when he actually had to make coaching decisions with not enough veterans to cover his butt. The Ravens were an excellent team in 06 and just had a lot of injuries and Boller leading them in 07. They probably would have beaten the Patriots if not for the NFL's desire to keep them undefeated until the Super Bowl.

Rumrunner11
Rumrunner11

@David G Uh....what?

Turned the team around in 4 years; 3 playoff appearances, one Superbowl, one of the best defenses the league has seen in a long time.  

Sorry, WHY will be be forced out shortly?

Seatown
Seatown

David, your post is just the same ol' sour grapes rhetoric.  The Seahawks defense plays too rough and tests the limits of the league.  Are you a broncos fan?  whiners fan?  Or a saints fan?  Wait?  Is that you Jimmy Graham?  I read your cry baby quotes about how the Seahawks were too physical for you.  Listen, if you can't handle the force that is the mighty Seahawks, maybe you should consider the CFL?

therednorth1
therednorth1

@David G  I should point out that both Belichick and Payton are not only still with the same teams, but are also on this list.

John4
John4

@Willis  Belicheat is a dbag and a tool.  Also, his career playoff LOSSES keep piling up post Spygate, which is interesting considering he has had the same HOF QB the whole effing time.

qt3dot14
qt3dot14

@Willis you guys gotta know what you're talking about before you bash belichick.  techinically according to the letter of the law, he broke no rules.  he found a loophole in the actual wording of the rule that he expoited.  


he did however violate the spirit of the rule.  but what got him in the big trouble was that goodell was a lawyer and got busted at his own game by belichick.  in essence the discovery of the technicality allowed an nfl head coach to out-lawyer a highly-paid high profile lawyer and that really p/o'd goodell.  so goodell zapped belichick and the patriots with a huge fine but they couldnt fight it because GODell could have levied a much bigger fine as there were no checks and balances in the disciplinary proceedings.  Goodell had unlimited power in the process so belichick had no leverage to present or fight his case.


had it been a legal thing in court, goodell the lawyer would have had his butt handed to him and belichick would have walked clean, albiet they would have closed the loophole at that point.


what belichick did was no where near the magnitude of what sean payton and the saints did to "win" their super bowl.


belichick technically broke no rules and certainly never ended or encouraged his players to intentionally end someones career by physically maiming them completely outside of the written rules or outside of the spirit of the rules.


and understand that im a panther fan and im saying all this even though his exploitation of the wording of the written rule was the difference in the patriots winning that very tight super bowl game against the panthers.  


we should have won anyway but those films he had of the panthers defensive signals allowed the pats offense to keep our defense at bay all game.  and thats what kept it close enough for the pats to win at the end.


if they dont know exactly every single play we were blitzing on, the panthers win in a blow-out.


and although im not happy about the panters losing or losing in this manner, its a lesson for everyone.  when in comes to contracts and money, technicalities matter!



tstormchaser
tstormchaser

@Willis @Willis : So, let me get this straight.  You say they cheated to win their Superbowls, how do you explain that they won Superbowls from the 2001, 2003, and 2004 seasons yet didn't make the playoffs in 2002?  Are you saying they just decided to not cheat that year or they sucked at cheating that year but not the others?  What is your basis to say they cheated?  What rule did they violate?  Do some research before just throwing out a headline and making it seem like fact.  For instance, I could easily say you're an idiot.  But I back that up by pointing others to read any of your posts and note the lack of intelligence and facts in those posts, thus proving that you are indeed an idiot.  If you are prepared to present facts to your arguments, I welcome the discussion.  Otherwise, go troll the entertainment forums on some other site.  It's Oscar time and I'm sure you could falsely accuse some actors and keep yourself busy for the afternoon.

MartyJenkins
MartyJenkins

@Willis you are based on lies... and your whole argument is biased and wrong... couple of plays go different and Pats are 5x champs, tons of success since spygate just got unlucky in 2 SBs

imthinhvu
imthinhvu

It says JIM Harbaugh is on the list, but gives no mention of JOHN Harbaugh... It is true that reading comprehension is at an all time low these days...

Scramble
Scramble

@therednorth1 @David GBelichick cheated his way to three super bowl victories, one coming at a bad call on the tuck rule. What would he be without Tom Brady.

MarkPeters
MarkPeters

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! You said "losses keep piling up". That's funny.

Willis
Willis

@qt3dot14 @Willis  Here is the rule for you:


From the NFL's Constitution & Bylaws (article 9): "Any use by any club at any time, from the start to the finish of any game in which such club is a participant, of any communications or information-gathering equipment, other than Polaroid-type cameras or field telephones, shall be prohibited, including without limitation videotape machines, telephone tapping, or bugging devices, or any other form of electronic devices that might aid a team during the playing of a game." 



Willis
Willis

@qt3dot14 @Willis  No! Everything in your post is incorrect, because you start with the false premise that he didn't break a rule. He broke a rule, a very specific rule & was caught doing it. He claimed to have "misinterpreted" the rule which was laughable because the rule is so very specific. By definition breaking a rule = cheating.


Willis
Willis

@tstormchaser @Willis  Here is the rule they broke:


From the NFL's Constitution & Bylaws (article 9): "Any use by any club at any time, from the start to the finish of any game in which such club is a participant, of any communications or information-gathering equipment, other than Polaroid-type cameras or field telephones, shall be prohibited, including without limitation videotape machines, telephone tapping, or bugging devices, or any other form of electronic devices that might aid a team during the playing of a game." 


As for the mysterious 2002 season, I'm glad you asked because there is a very simple explanation. See when Belicheat started this in 2000 he & some of the coaches were the only ones privy to what was going on. In 2000 they were building up the video library, By 2001 Belicheat was ready to see how well it was going to work, but he ended up having one small problem, his QB. See Drew Bledsoe was a veteran QB who had even led a team to the Super Bowl, so when the play call came in from the sidelines if Drew got to the line & saw something in the defense that made him think it was a bad call he would audible. He didn't know the fix was in & that regardless of the defense might show the coaches knew what defense was called so Drew just needed to shut up & run the play. But as an experienced QB he wasn't going to do that. Pats fans will tell you that Belicheat was looking to make the change even before Drew got hurt. Why? Because he could tell a 6th round 2nd year player (with merely decent physical skills) to just run the play called. So that is what he did. And it worked like a charm, all the way to a Super Bowl title & even  an MVP for that 6th round 2nd year QB. That's where the problems for 2002 started. See now Brady is "veteran QB". Hell now he is a Super Bowl MVP. & he didn't know the fix was on yet either so in 2002 he starts doing his own thing at the line & screwing it up. So after the 2002 season Belicheat realizes the only way to make it work is to bring him up to speed. & that is why 2003 & 04 go as some as they do all they way to 2 more stolen titles. So in short the mystery of the 2002 season was simply Tom Brady believing his own hype because he didn't know the coach had been cheating to make him look that good.


WilliamCross
WilliamCross

Fact: the New England Patriots were caught cheating. I mean, really? You're throwing around the word "idiot"? Maybe you should just concentrate on your performance in the Special Olympis.

WilliamCross
WilliamCross

Yeah, I see what you're saying, but the guy cheats and doesn't get "unlucky", and then when he's forced to quit cheating he does. We know one difference, the cheating, so why shouldn't we question how much was coaching and how much was cheating? You won't try to tell me a genius like bb would break the rules and not benefit, right?

Willis
Willis

@MartyJenkins @Willis  You are suffering from the reading comprehension thing you accuse others of. I explained he had success after Spygate because by that time he was able to collect top talent. Top free agents signed for less with N.E. to play for a "winner" & others held out for trades & refused to be traded elsewhere & then even took paycuts after the trade (Moss). Without Moss 16-0 (18-1) never happens. 

MartyJenkins
MartyJenkins

@imthinhvu John Harbaugh rode a cadre of HOF players to a ring, and otherwise has been solid.... I cede your point about the names, but I dont think its a given for John to be on here either

therednorth1
therednorth1

@Scramble @therednorth1 @David G  Congrats on understanding my point.  The OP said that Carroll was gonna get "forced out" because he cheats.  Clearly that stopped Belichick and Peyton.

tstormchaser
tstormchaser

@Willis: I'll respond to your first part.  The rule you've stated is not the rule they broke.  Teams still videotape opponents during every game even today.  What the Patriots did was to videotape from an unapproved location.  From the memo that was sent out by Ray Anderson, NFL President of Football Operations, "videotaping of any type, including but not limited to taping of an opponent's offensive or defensive signals, is prohibited on the sidelines, in the coaches' booth, in the locker room, or at any other locations accessible to club staff members during the game."  This was a memo to remind all teams of the following NFL Operations Manual rule, ""no video recording devices of any kind are permitted to be in use in the coaches' booth, on the field, or in the locker room during the game." Furthermore, all video shooting locations for coaching purposes "must be enclosed on all sides with a roof overhead."  What that means is that videotaping is legal for coaching purposes (game film to review) but only from approved locations.  The Patriots violated that rule by taping from the sidelines, an unapproved location with no roof or protective sides.  No where in any of the NFL rules does it say you can't videotape the opposing teams signals.  Teams still do it today.  As long as you do it from approved locations for "game film" review, it's legal.  What the Patriots did was test Roger Goodell and his authority and they paid the price of ignoring a power monger.  As for your interesting piece of fiction about why they didn't win the 2002 season, well... the only way you could know all those facts (assuming you didn't just make all that up) is that you were, in fact, a part of Bellichek's inner circle.  Which means we really can't believe anything you have written here as you're a liar and a cheater (at least that's what you call Bellichek). 

tstormchaser
tstormchaser

@WilliamCross  

Caught cheating?  What rule did they violate?  You haven't offered any facts, just your opinion.  If you're going to debate something you should do some research, not just offer up you opinion with nothing to back it.  Have you ever even read the NFL rule book?  You see, I have.  And, I've researched this topic extensively so I welcome your comments and if you did the research I've done, you wouldn't be making such bold statements that are false.  But,  based on what you've posted so far I suspect you'll just continue to offer your "expert" opinion with nothing to back it up.  There are tons of people like you on the internet.  They're known as trolls in slang term.  Some are just bored teens.  Others are adults who's educational level never went past their teen years.  Whichever one you happen to be I still suggest you go to a forum more of your background and bother someone else.

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

@MartyJenkins @imthinhvu  Well, he beat his brother with a talented roster too. And nobody thinks the Ravens were the best team in football either, so he stole a ring. Good on him...