I’m not a major fan of everything ESPN does — I’m not sure the Worldwide Leader itself is a major fan of everything it does — but I do enjoy those features where anonymous coaches/executives share their thoughts. Regarding college football, Travis Haney does these on a regular basis for ESPN Insider; regarding the NFL, they’re the province of Mike Sando.
In July, Sando polled his nameless electorate and found that Matt Ryan was considered the NFL’s eighth-best quarterback. (That sounded a tad low to me, especially considering there was a four-way tie for eighth, but what do I know?) This week Sando applied the same treatment to coaches, and the Atlanta Falcons’ Mike Smith fared … er, less well than his quarterback.
Per Sando’s rankings, Smith is the 18th-best coach. In a 32-team league. Writes Sando:
There’s a strong feeling the Falcons should have fared better in the playoffs than they have under Smith. “He is an interesting one only because I like him and thought he was really good,” one long-time evaluator said. “I’m not sure what happened there last year, but the mark of a good one is how they bounce back from that. Right now, you probably have to say (Tier) 3 for him. That could go either way, and that is crazy because they have won a lot of games.
Well, yes. Even after going 4-12 last season, Smith’s career regular-season record is 60-36, which is a winning percentage of .625. Pete Carroll, who’s ranked No. 2 behind Bill Belichick in Sando’s survey, has a career winning percentage of .555. Yes, Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks did just win the Super Bowl, but he has had — over three stops — four winning seasons in eight tries. Smith has had five in six.
Such ratings are invariably a function of what-have-you-done-in-the-playoffs, but here are men ranked above Smith: No. 12 Chip Kelly, who has worked one NFL season and hasn’t won a playoff game; No. 13 Bruce Arians, who has worked one full season — plus 12 games of another as an interim head coach — and hasn’t won a playoff game; No. 15 Marvin Lewis, who has worked 11 seasons with a winning percentage of .514 and hasn’t won a playoff game, and No. 16 Chuck Pagano, who has worked one full season and won one playoff game.
I’m certain that if Smith’s one losing season had come in Year 1, as opposed to Year 6, he’d have been in the top 10. Still, I’m not sure one down year should override five consecutive winning ones. Not faulting Sando here — he’s going on what his unnamed voices tell him — but this seems way low to me.
Oh, and one thing more: At No. 18, Smith is ranked one spot ahead of Jacksonville’s Gus Bradley, who has worked one NFL season and whose Jacksonville Jaguars went 4-12.