Who Leads the 2019 NFL Coach of the Year Race Right Now?

Several head coaches stand out through seven weeks this season, but two—Frank Reich and Sean Payton—are distinguishing themselves, playing at a high level despite being dealt difficult cards when it comes to their quarterbacks. Who is the frontrunner for the Coach of the Year award?
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Sean Payton, Frank Reich

If you had one vote for the 2019 Coach of the Year, who would it go to right now?

While I would probably lean toward Ravens’ John Harbaugh (in my mind, what he’s doing this season has more far-reaching consequences down the road), the football guard seems to be settling on a pair of coaches that are winning despite similar circumstances. 

Frank Reich and the Colts (4-2) just took sole possession of first place after a win over the division-rival Texans this weekend, while Sean Payton the Saints (6-1) put some serious distance between themselves and the rest of their division with a convincing win over the once-dangerous Bears. Both franchises are operating at an extraordinarily high level without their franchise starting quarterback. Drew Brees went down Week 2 with a broken thumb and New Orleans has gone undefeated in that time. Indianapolis, meanwhile, lost Andrew Luck in Week 3 of the preseason to early retirement.

While one required more of a heavy lift emotionally, the Saints losing Brees came on the heels of a gutting loss in the NFC Championship game a year ago and a few lingering officiating issues at the beginning of the 2019 season. In both cases, there was a chance for a tidal wave of negativity to take them out.

Do you give the edge to the Colts because they are slightly better offensively? Jacoby Brissett is tied for second in touchdowns (14), they’re 15th in points and 10th in total rushing. The Saints, meanwhile, 16th in points and passing yards. Teddy Bridgewater has nine touchdowns and two interceptions through six games.

Or do you give the edge to the Saints because, theoretically, they’ve had less time to prepare for the loss of their franchise cornerback? Certainly Sean Payton has gotten recognition for the heavy schematic lift he’s made over the last few weeks. There is a bit of showmanship in these wins that is evident to the outside world. The Seahawks game, for example, was a masterclass in game-planning, both in the actual architecture and understanding what your quarterback can handle. You could also argue that Teddy Bridgewater post surgery was a lesser-known commodity than Brissett, who had an extended run as a starting quarterback recently.

One thing we can agree on: These last few years we’ve seen coaches distance themselves when it comes to emergency situations like this. Those who throw up their hands and complain about not being able to “run my offense” are being exposed at a significant rate. The same can be said for general managers who don’t see the value in upgrading at the backup position, content with the old football platitude that, without your starter, you’re not going anywhere, anyway.

The ones who make it work find themselves at the forefront of the highest honor in the business.

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PRESS COVERAGE

1. Marvin Jones ruined your fantasy league this weekend with four touchdown grabs. He says he’s excited to look back on it when he’s old.

2. Saquon Barkley sprinted back from a high ankle sprain. How did he feel on Sunday?

3. Hours after the game, the spiraling Chargers remained stunned at how they lost again

4. Washington is, for some reason, not punting on 2019 and will keep Case Keenum under center

5. Carson Wentz was there in Dallas, but felt as though the Eagles didn’t show up. Very meta.

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THE KICKER

My challenge to you today: Reach out a helping hand to someone in need. Get to it.

Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.