Conference Championship Sunday is coming and as every football fan knows, the game will be about more than the action on the field. The coaching staffs of the four remaining teams will also have a major impact on who will be punching their ticket to the Meadowlands for the Super Bowl.
Several coaches will be trusted more than others on Sunday, there are many factors that go into earning that trust. Experience, playoff success, offensive and defensive schemes all go a long way into determining which two teams will be on that field come February 2. Which staff has earned the most trust and which one leaves a lot of doubt and uncertainty? Let’s rank them from 4 to 1!
- 4. Seattle Seahawks coaching staff. Seattle’s staff being ranked fourth is by no means saying I don’t trust Pete Carroll at all in the NFC title game. Carroll has done an excellent job as Seahawks coach, transforming them from the little team that could to a powerhouse team with an incredible defense and solid offense. Darrell Bevell is a great offensive coordinator and he and Carroll make some excellent and gutsy playcalls over the course of a game. The defense is fierce and has allowed the fewest net yards in the league. So why are they ranked four out of four? It’s simple: the only thing that can stop Seattle from winning against San Fran, which they are certainly expected to do, might just be the play-calling with the team under pressure and the game on the line. Last year, in the Seahawks’ Divisional Round loss to the Falcons, the poor first-half play calls dug them in a 20-0 hole. Too many passes on first down and not enough handoffs to one of the best running backs in the league (Marshawn Lynch) forced Seattle to attempt a furious fourth-quarter comeback where they just fell short. This time around, Carroll and his staff must learn from their mistakes. Give Lynch the ball and you’ll be Super Bowl bound. Keep throwing on running downs and you’ll be embarrassed on your home field. I just don’t know if Carroll’s staff can be trusted in the conference title game.
- 3. Denver Broncos coaching staff. John Fox had the best team in last year’s playoffs and they bowed out in the Divisional Round against Baltimore. He may have prepared his team for four quarters, but he and Peyton Manning failed to close the deal in overtime. He and his staff have had a history of having talented players who couldn’t win the big one. Some of that simply comes down to chance and poor execution, but in the end you earn trust in this league by winning the Lombardi Trophy. A lot will be on the line for Fox and his crew on Sunday as they hope to beat a team that is always prepared to rise to the occasion in the Pats.
- 2. San Francisco 49ers coaching staff. Jim Harbaugh is building a very impressive coaching resume and is accomplishing things in his first three NFL years that not many coaches can claim to. A 36-11 regular season record, a 5-2 post-season mark and a Super Bowl appearance have already put him in the upper echelon when it comes to current leading men. The Niners have fought hard all season, surprising me with their play in the Green Bay game and dominating the Carolina Panthers last Sunday. They may not have enough to beat Seattle at CenturyLink Field, but one thing’s for sure: Harbaugh will have his team prepared and ready to go. They will not lose because of him.
- 1. New England Patriots coaching staff. This one is no surprise, as Bill Belichick is clearly the most accomplished coach in the whole NFL, let alone the final four teams. With a 19-8 playoff record, five Super Bowl appearances and three Super Bowl wins, you can trust the NFL’s top boss to get everything out of the Patriots on Sunday as they try to win at Mile High and go to the big game for Belichick’s sixth time. Like Harbaugh’s Niners, they may not win, but they will not lose because of him.
Agree? Disagree? Drop a comment or tweet me @chuckiemaggio