Coach of the Year: Sean Payton or Chuck Pagano?

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It is Week 17 in the NFL and postseason awards will be handed out soon. The MVP is up for grabs with Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson, and Matt Ryan having career years. The Offensive Rookie of the Year is a toss up with three quarterbacks (RGIII, Andrew Luck, and Russell Wilson) possibly taking their teams to the playoffs. Oh, and toss in running backs Alfred Morris and Doug Martin as well. And the Comeback Player of the Year is easily down to Manning or Peterson based on their statistics fresh off of major surgeries.

But to me, Coach of the Year comes down to two candidates–and they were barely in the stadiums when their team kicked off. Put aside the Mike Smiths, Bill Belichicks, and Pete Carrolls of the NFL and you will find two coaches who are vital to their team’s success.  Those coaches are Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints and Chuck Pagano of the Indianapolis Colts.

As most of you know, neither of these coaches called plays this year while Sean Payton was suspended for the season due to the bounty scandal surrounding the Saints and Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia at the beginning of the season and forced to give up the head coach position due to health reasons. However, without the presence of these coaches, their teams had wildly different seasons than in 2011.

Last year, Sean Payton and the Saints went 13-3 eventually losing to the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional Playoffs. This year, however, without the presence of Sean Payton (except for one brief time in a loge to watch Drew Brees break a long-standing Johnny Unitas record) they are a mere 7-8 and need a win against the Carolina Panthers to secure a .500 season. I am willing to bet if Payton had been on the sidelines calling plays the Saints would be in the playoffs and definitely would not have lost their first four games. For goodness sake they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs at home. That should not happen to a team that has become quite a powerhouse in the past few seasons. He may not be the Coach of the Year for his alleged actions, but just as Peyton Manning may have been the MVP last year when the Colts went 2-14 without him, Payton may be the Most Valuable Coach.

Speaking of the Colts going 2-14, that record earned them the number one pick overall and the Stanford Cardinal, Andrew Luck. Chuck Pagano came into the Colts organization with a new franchise quarterback and an attitude of overcoming circumstances. Their biggest circumstance? They were not very good. But Chuck’s biggest circumstance? He was diagnosed with leukemia and had to hand the clipboard over to Bruce Arians. While Pagano was battling his illness Arians, Luck, and the Colts were fighting to turn the franchise around and make the playoffs. Well, last week they accomplished that feat. The Colts stand at 10-5, a full eight wins better than last season with one game left to play. They hold the fifth seed in the AFC playoffs. And they accomplished it all while their head coach fought for his life. Pagano may not have been game planning and making halftime adjustments, but you can be sure he was at least advising his staff in the right direction and more importantly motivating his players and coaches to ‘overcome circumstances.’

So maybe neither coach qualifies as coach of the year. But you can see how important they are to their team and franchise’s success. Pagano’s interim head coach, Arians, is undoubtedly in the running for Coach of the Year in my opinion. For Payton and Pagano, though, they can be proud of how much they truly mean to their respective teams.

Which coach means more to his team? Who is the Coach of the Year? Let me know in the comment section or on Twitter @Believelander.

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