What defines "Coach of the year"? According to NFL.com's latest Coach of the Year power rankings, success in the face of adversity is barely a spit in that ocean, because Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin isn't in the top six -- or even among the five listed under Honorable Mention.
It's a purely subjective ranking, of course, and it's really only one man's opinion until the actual voting is tallied. But it certainly shines a light on how important statistics and wins are in the eyes of pundits these days, even in a subject that is best defined as "the person who has done the most outstanding coaching job with the resources available."
I'm certainly not making the argument that Tomlin deserves the award. For one thing, the 2015 body of work is still incomplete for all coaches. Tomlin could stink it up from here, just as much as he could knock it out of the park. He, like all coaches, is human, and prone to err.
But when looking at some of the other names on the list, it's hard to not at least scratch your head.
Ron Rivera tops the list. His team is undefeated through eleven weeks. To say that he isn't deserving would be to tragically overlook how well his team is playing this season.
Bill Belichick is second, and this is where things get interesting. For as well as the Patriots have played at times this year, the last two games have revealed that the team is as shaky as any other when it comes to depth behind its superstars. They've lost two in a row since Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman went down with injuries. They were as flat as the Cleveland Browns on a bad day for most of Sunday's loss to the Eagles -- a team that is only in the playoff hunt because their division is once-in-a-generation bad. The Patriots have been dominant at times, but without two offensive weapons, a coach and a quarterback who can allegedly win with anyone have done anything but.
Bruce Arians is next, but after two straight seasons of being considered for Coach of the Year due to the team's turnaround -- and with virtually no adversity this season -- what is there to be lauded, really? It certainly helps his team that they play in another bad division, with the 49ers and Rams both looking less than average this season.
Marvin Lewis has the Bengals poised to win the AFC North this year, possibly as soon as this weekend. He's done little to show he is not deserving of consideration for the award. This weekend's game, though, will go a long way toward showing what this team is actually made of -- especially considering it's at home. But until Lewis can coach Andy Dalton to a playoff victory, the idea of giving him this award is a little dubious.
Andy Reid's Chiefs currently have the inside track on the AFC's number-five seed. They have now won six in a row, the second-best streak in the NFL, and it could easily be 10 in a row by the time week 17 is in the books. But how can we discount how bad this team looked for the first six weeks? Points must be given for the dramatic turnaround, but they must be discounted for the early struggles, as well, considering they have gotten better since losing star running back Jamaal Charles.
The Broncos have played well under Gary Kubiak, but the defense hid what may have been a huge mistake on Kubiak's part. Consider that he continued to roll with Peyton Manning at quarterback, despite Manning having not just his career-worse season, but one of the worst seasons for a starting quarterback around the entire league in 2015. It wasn't until Manning had what could be the worst half of his career that Kubiak made the change to Brock Osweiler who has been solid.
Tomlin's season hasn't been without its warts, to be sure. Time management continues to be a problem, and the offense has underperformed at times. The decision to cut Dri Archer -- who was in the top ten in kick-return average at the time -- and sign Jacoby Jone, who was cut from San Diego after struggling for weeks, remains a huge head-scratcher of a decision. Archer wasn't setting the world on fire, but he was improving each week.
What should have Tomlin on the Coach of the Year watch list is what he has done despite a ton of adversity. FIve of the season's 11 projected regular starters have missed at least four game, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and team MVP/All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell. Bell, Kelvin Beachum and Maurkice Pouncey have either not played this year or are out for the season, Roethlisberger missed all of four games and parts of three others, and receiver Martavis Bryant missed the season's first five games.
None of that even mentions the defense, where at least six players have missed entire games due to injury, or special teams. Unless you've been living in the Fort Pitt Tunnel since late July, you are fully and painfully aware that the Steelers are on their fourth kicker of the year due to three season-ending injuries.
There's also that whole rookie-defensive-coordinator thing.
Despite all of that, the Steelers are number two in total offensive yards, number six in points scored, number 11 in yards allowed and number seven in points allowed.
As I've already said, I'm not implying I think he deserves the award right now. Missing the playoffs would probably be the dagger in his chances. But until we know how the final quarter of the season unfolds, he sure deserves to be a part of the discussion.