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Of all the annual NFL awards, coach of the year is the most vague and amorphous. Typically, the prize goes to the coach whose team most exceeds its generally accepted preseason expectations.
This year, there are plenty of viable candidates for coach of the year. The favorite, in our view, is Browns coach Kevin Stefanski.
Look at what the Browns have done this season, a year after yet another wave of dysfunction allowed the expectations to become unreasonably high. Freddie Kitchens lost his job after one year due in part to his failure to reel in the belief that playoffs would be automatic and the Browns had an outside chance at getting to Miami for the Super Bowl. (He also lost his job due in part to the fact that he wasn’t very good at it.)
This year, no one expected a playoff berth from the Browns — not in a division that includes the Steelers and Ravens and a conference that has plenty of other viable wild-card contenders. At best, the Browns would do what they did last year. Win some, lose some, and potentially land on the fringes of playoff contention.
Instead, the Browns stand on the brink of 10 wins with three games left. They should win the next two (Giants and Jets), and they have an outside chance at stunning the Steelers in Week 17 to get to 12 wins.
The Browns haven’t won 12 games since 1986. If they get to 12, Stefanksi is definitely the coach of the year. If they get to 11, Stefanski still has a great chance at winning it.
Regardless, a prime-time win tonight will boost the possibility of the first-year coach winning the award, in one of the more wide-open races in memory.
Other candidates include, in no particular order, Bills coach Sean McDermott, Dolphins coach Brian Flores, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, Chiefs coach Andy Reid, Washington coach Ron Rivera, Giants coach Joe Judge, Packers coach Matt LaFleur, Saints coach Sean Payton, and Rams coach Sean McVay.
Rivera has won it twice before. Only three coaches have won it three times: Bill Belichick, Chuck Knox (who won it with three different teams), and Don Shula, who has four.
For Stefanski, he could go one for one on the front end of a head-coaching career that could last a long time.
Kevin Stefanski can strengthen his case for coach of the year tonight originally appeared on Pro Football Talk