Ranking the NFL coaches: No surprise at No. 1; NFC West well-represented in top 5

There are so many ingredients to consider when compiling a midseason power ranking of NFL head coaches: How much do you weigh past success versus current reality? How much credence do you give longevity? Does postseason failure completely make sustained regular-season success meaningless?

And on and on.

Here are my conclusions (from bottom to top). Please feel free to chime in and let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comment section or via Twitter (@realshaunking):

32. Tony Sparano, Oakland Raiders
This was easy because although Sparano is a good coach, interim coaches are rarely retained. So in essence this is a team ranking as much as a coach ranking.

31. Gus Bradley, Jacksonville Jaguars

Gus Bradley's Jaguars are 1-7 this season. (AP)
Gus Bradley's Jaguars are 1-7 this season. (AP)

Gus is a helluva coach. The passion and energy the Jaguars play with is a testament to the job he is in the process of doing in Jacksonville. He has the most upside of anyone on this list. However, the NFL is a bottom-line business and 5-19 is hard to defend.

30. Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings
After many years as an outstanding defensive coordinator in Dallas and Cincinnati, Zimmer has finally gotten an opportunity to test his abilities as the head man. He has been thrown right into the fire having to deal with the Adrian Peterson situation and play a rookie QB. It will be interesting to see what he does with a good group of young talented defensive players moving forward.

29. Jay Gruden, Washington Redskins
Jay, the younger brother of former coach and current broadcaster Jon Gruden, has been around the game for a long time. He did an excellent job in Cincy getting the most out of Andy Dalton. He also has been thrown right into the fire, losing his starting QB in Week 2. Let's see if he can turn around the Redskins' season after Robert Griffin III returns and fully take advantage of the many elite offensive weapons at his disposal.

28. Marc Trestman, Chicago Bears
Did a solid job in his first year, leading the Bears to an 8-8 mark and the verge of a playoff berth. This season has been quite different so far. The train appears headed off the tracks: bickering within the locker room accompanied by some extremely bad performances on the field. This wasn't a rebuilding project; he inherited a 10-6 team from Lovie Smith. We will find out soon if he is the right person to put the train back on the tracks.

27. Mike Pettine, Cleveland Browns

Mike Pettine's tough decision at QB is working out for the Browns. (USA TODAY Sports)
Mike Pettine's tough decision at QB is working out for the Browns. (USA TODAY Sports)

Did an excellent job last year as defensive coordinator for the Bills. He used that success to assume the mantle of the Browns. He has kept his team focused despite major distractions throughout this past offseason. He chose Brian Hoyer over the more heralded Johnny Manziel. If he is right about Hoyer, the Browns could be knocking on the playoff door in his first year.

26. Joe Philbin, Miami Dolphins
A game below .500 through his first 39 games with the team. Miami has improved under his leadership, but I still have issues with him not knowing what was going on in his locker room last year.

25. Bill O'Brien, Houston Texans
Very well respected around league circles, O'Brien has already doubled the Texans' win total from a year ago. Probably an upgrade away at QB from skyrocketing up this list.

24. Jeff Fisher, St. Louis Rams
Quality head coach but lately his ability never seems to correspond with his team's production. Going on fifth straight season since he took a team to the playoffs. Has led a team to the Super Bowl ('99 Titans) and is still highly regarded in league circles.

23. Ken Whisenhunt, Tennessee Titans
Although he is off to a rough start with the Titans (2-6), don't forget he led the Cardinals to their lone Super Bowl appearance and also did a great job of helping Philip Rivers resurrect his career last year in San Diego. If he can do the same with Jake Locker, we will all be very impressed.

22. Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers
Made great strides last year leading the Panthers to a 12-4 campaign. Has held the company rope in 2014 but he has to be fish grease hot that Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell aren't still in Carolina uniforms. And don't forget he lost his best defensive player (Greg Hardy) essentially to indefinite suspension.

21. Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons
Did a remarkable job turning the Falcons around in the post-Mike Vick/Bobby Petrino era. Having said that, the Falcons are currently the classic NFL underachievers. The second half of this season may be put up or else time in Atlanta.

20. Rex Ryan, New York Jets
Ryan can be a polarizing figure but at the end of the day he is a really good ball coach. Two AFC title games are on his résumé. Sure, the Jets are 1-7, but ask yourself this: Outside of Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, who are New York's really talented players?

19. Lovie Smith, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Smith's résumé says he is an outstanding football coach. The first seven games in Tampa say something different. I believe Lovie will eventually get things fixed in Tampa.

18. Doug Marrone, Buffalo Bills
One of the up-and-coming stars in the NFL coaching ranks. Made a big-boy decision to sit his 2013 first-round pick at QB and start Kyle Orton. The decision has saved Buffalo's season. Are the Bills finally ready to challenge the Patriots for AFC East supremacy?

17. Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys
If not for the Cowboys' 6-2 start, Garrett would be lower on this list. Question now becomes can he get the Cowboys to finish the season as strong as they started it? Garrett is the coach with the biggest swing ratio on this list.

16. Mike McCoy, San Diego Chargers
McCoy quietly has built the Chargers into the biggest threat in the AFC West for Peyton Manning's Broncos. His calm, consistent leadership is a perfect fit for San Diego.

15. Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts
Took over a 2-14 team and has proceeded to go 27-13 with an AFC South title and two playoff appearances. Did all this while also battling cancer. The Colts sit atop the division this year as well. A deep playoff run will catapult him way up this list.

14. Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles
Many questioned whether Kelly's high-tempo scheme would work in the NFL. So far, so good. His Eagles finished second in total offense and fourth in scoring offense last season. That production led to an NFC East title and a home playoff game. They are on the same path in 2014. But can Kelly's system win a playoff game this year?

13. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals
To appreciate where someone is, you have to understand where he came from. Lewis turned a moribund, awful franchise into a perennial playoff team. Having said that, if Marvin ever wants to move higher on this list, winning a playoff game would help.

12. John Fox, Denver Broncos

Much of John Fox's success with Denver is attributable to Peyton Manning. (Getty)
Much of John Fox's success with Denver is attributable to Peyton Manning. (Getty)

Fox probably should be higher on this list. He reached a Super Bowl with the Panthers, and won a playoff game in Denver with Tim Tebow as his QB. His ranking suffers because of the tremendous job John Elway has done in providing him with the most talented roster in football.

11. Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers
Model of consistency in Green Bay. A Super Bowl title, four NFC North crowns, and six playoff berths. However, with Aaron Rodgers as his QB, doesn't it feel like McCarthy has underachieved a little? Another Super Bowl berth would push him into the top 5.

10. Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions
Led the Colts to a Super Bowl berth following the 2009 season. Took over as the offensive coordinator in Baltimore and coaxed Joe Flacco into his best stretch of games in his career, culminating in the Ravens winning a title. Currently has a previously immature, underachieving Lions team at 6-2 and atop the NFC North. Has done this without Calvin Johnson for most of the first half of the season. Open your eyes folks, Caldwell can really coach.

9. Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints
The most innovative offensive mind in the game. With a Super Bowl already on his résumé, he is widely regarded in league circles as the best in-game play-caller. Can move higher on this list if he can get the Saints to take their show on the road and be just as productive. His offenses haven't been the same away from the friendly confines of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

8. Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs
Inherited a 2-14 team and proceeded to lead the Chiefs to an 11-5 record in his first season in K.C. Reid seems to be getting better with time and that's saying a lot considering he went to five NFC title games and a Super Bowl at his previous job.

7. Tom Coughlin, New York Giants
Tom Terrific. He continues to defy logic. From leading the expansion Jaguars to two AFC title games to winning two Super Bowls with the Giants. Coughlin just gets it done.

6. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers

Mike Tomlin is trying to keep the Steelers back in the right direction. (USA TODAY Sports)
Mike Tomlin is trying to keep the Steelers back in the right direction. (USA TODAY Sports)

One Super Bowl title, two Super Bowl berths, three AFC North titles, and four playoff berths in his first seven years as Pittsburgh's head coach. The most underappreciated coach in the NFL. Can you believe some people have him on the hot seat? Hilarious! Did I mention he is also 32 games above .500 during his stint with the Steelers?

5. John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens
Tremendous leader of men. Has done an outstanding job in Baltimore in the midst of the national scrutiny surrounding the Ray Rice situation. His teams are always prepared and mentally tough. He also excels at developing young players, a trait not always present in today's win-now environment. Could leap to No. 1 on this list if he can lead the Ravens to a post-Ray Lewis title.

4. Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals
A lot of projection here but can you blame me? Arians immediately turned Arizona back into a contender last year, finishing at 10-6. Midway through 2014 in the ultra tough NFC West, he has them in first place at 6-1, the best record in the NFC. Add in what he accomplished as the fill-in head coach in Indy and as offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh, and you should start to see why I am so high on him.

3. Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks
After failed stints with the Jets and Patriots, one had to wonder was Carroll cut out to be an NFL head coach. The third time has been the charm for Carroll. He learned from his mistakes and has taken full advantage of this opportunity. The defending Super Bowl champion has the best mix of knowledge, personality and creativity on this list. He knows how to get the best out of his players. I still think the road to Glendale for Super Bowl XLIX will go thru Seattle when it's all said and done.

His way has led to nothing but wins for Bill Belichick. (AP)
His way has led to nothing but wins for Bill Belichick. (AP)

2. Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers
What can you say: three years, three NFC title games. Both losses were to the eventual Super Bowl champ that year. I know it's a small sample size but it's unmatched in NFL history in its production. You may not like him but you have to respect his results.

1. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
Three Super Bowl wins, five Super Bowl appearances, eight AFC title games and 11 AFC East championships. The longest-tenured head coach in the National Football League for a reason. Belichick the gawd!