Each year, one NFL coach is honored with the Coach of the Year award for being the best coach in the league. In 2012 the winner of that award was in Indianapolis, as Bruce Arians won it as the Colts' interim head coach that season (Chuck Pagano finished second). Usually, the award is given to the coach of a team that exceeded expectations.
Arians had a very strong case to repeat as the award winner last year in his first season as the Arizona Cardinals' head coach, though the award ultimately went to the Panthers' Ron Rivera. This year, Arians is yet again the frontrunner, and he's joined by another former Colts coach: Jim Caldwell.
If you were to ask people who the coach of the year should be this year, odds are Arians would be the first choice and that Caldwell would be either the second or third - depending on where Cleveland's Mike Pettine would place (as those three would definitely make up the top three in my voting). So get this: the Colts, who are a very respectable 6-3 and who hold a two and a half lead in their division, have two former "head coaches" who are among the frontrunners for the NFL's Coach of the Year award.
Bruce Arians' Cardinals boast the best record in the NFL, as they improved on Sunday to 8-1 with a 31-14 win over the division rival Rams. Arizona played a good all-around game, scoring two offensive touchdowns and two defensive touchdowns in an impressive game that quickly turned into a rout in the fourth quarter. The win could prove very costly, however, as their starting quarterback, Carson Palmer, went down with an injury that initially looked bad. The early reports last night said that it is feared he tore his left ACL (the same one he tore years ago), which would end his season. Drew Stanton has played well this year in a relief role and as a spot starter, but can he keep it up all year? With how the Cardinals have looked so far, while losing Palmer is a huge loss, they're still a very good team. Arians was the Colts' quarterbacks coach from 1998-2000 (with a young Peyton Manning) and then the team's offensive coordinator in 2012 (with a young Andrew Luck). That year Arians also took over for head coach Chuck Pagano as Pagano battled leukemia, and under Arians the Colts compiled a 9-3 record and earned a playoff berth. He was named the coach of the year for that season and was hired by the Cardinals the following offseason.
Jim Caldwell's Lions are tied for the second best record in the NFL, improving to 7-2 on Sunday as they beat the Miami Dolphins on a fourth quarter comeback, 20-16. It was a very well-played game by both sides throughout, but a great two minute drive by Matthew Stafford that resulted in a game-winning touchdown pass with 29 seconds left. Caldwell served in a couple of different roles (quarterbacks coach and assistant head coach) for the Colts from 2002-2008 and then was promoted to head coach upon Tony Dungy's retirement, a role he filled from 2009-2011. He led the Colts to a 26-22 record in three seasons, and he notched both a 14-0 start and a 0-13 start in different seasons as Colts' head coach. Caldwell guided the Colts to an AFC title and a Super Bowl appearance in addition to two AFC South titles in his time as Colts head coach before being fired following the 2011 season in the Colts' rebuilding process. He was hired by the Lions this offseason to be their head coach.
Will either Arians or Caldwell end up winning the Coach of the Year award this season? There's still seven weeks to go in the regular season and a lot more to still develop, but currently I think Arians is the leading candidate and Caldwell is near the top of the list as well. So two former Colts "head coaches" (though Arians has never called himself the Colts' head coach for 2012) are both in the running for the NFL Coach of the Year award right now through ten weeks, and both men are great guys and coaches and are deserving.
Oh, and next week? Arians' Cardinals take on Caldwell's Lions in what should be a great game.
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