If you had to win a game tomorrow, who do you want coaching your team? Not five years from now, not five years ago. Tomorrow. That’s the guiding principle behind our second annual coach rankings.
This is not an exact science. No good coach has ever won without good players. No bad coach has ever gone 2-14 all by himself. Coaches are overpraised and underappreciated in equal measure. But time sorts coaches the way it does anything else. Patterns emerge. The passing years reveal who is lucky and who makes their own luck. Of course, the briefer the career, the more projection is required. That’s where “inexact” comes back in.
What effect does Chip Kelly seem to have made in two years? Are Gus Bradley’s losses all his roster’s fault, or is there something it appears he could be doing better? We’re not positive, so we have to make an educated guess. With that settled, here’s my stab at the league's best -- and worst -- coaches...
Jack Del Rio, Raiders
Career Record: 68-71 (.479)
If you’re looking to inspire, you don’t hire Jack Del Rio. But inspiration is pretty low on the Raiders’ to-do list. The Silver and Black have 56 wins in 12 seasons since appearing in Super Bowl XXXVII. That’s an average of 4.6. Reggie McKenzie’s teams have gone 2-22 on the road since he took over as general manager in 2012. So, no, Del Rio is not being brought in as a savior who can win hearts and minds. He’s being brought in as a competent coach who can win a few games. It’s a task he should be up to. Del Rio won fewer than eight contests just three times in eight full seasons as Jacksonville’s head coach. He was a fine guiding hand until Blaine Gabbert came along. Del Rio’s ceiling is not the Sears Tower, or even the Eiffel Tower. He is not a championship hire. He’s an order restorer, one who should make the Raiders watchable every couple of Sundays. Even a baby step like that is a big step for the second-worst organization in football.
Jim Tomsula, 49ers
Career Record: 1-0 (1.000)
Jim Tomsula is an interesting story. He is not an interesting interview. Will he be an interesting hire? The man Tomsula is replacing, Jim Harbaugh, was ranked No. 3 on this list last year. Harbaugh is one of the brightest minds in all of football. He is not the kind of coach typically forced out of his job, let alone replaced by a man with no head-coaching experience at any level. Tomsula’s lone coordinating experience came with the Berlin Thunder. He is a shot in the dark for an organization that had grown tired of Harbaugh’s attitude (and salary), but wants to somehow sustain his winning. The 49ers are basically hoping they’re doing something so crazy — and cheap — it works. That’s an easy way for the front office to take control of the bottom line and the locker room, but a curious approach to competing with the Seattle Seahawks. Maybe brain trust Jed York and Trent Baalke have found a diamond in the rough. More likely, they’ve found their Jim Zorn.
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